Arrival at Great Basin National Park – October 2019

Thursday October 3: It is 26 degrees this morning at the wayside pull-out north of Wells, Nevada, off US highway 93, where we spent the night. Clifford is still sleeping, which gives me time to take a few photos and write in my journal. We are off to a bit of a late start this morning, but only planning on going to another wayside stop near Ely, Nevada.

Wayside pull-out – Highway 93

Heading south, still on 93, a small rest area is also the site of the Schellbourne Pony Express stop, back in the day. Several kiosks and displays recount the short but lively history of the Pony Express, most notably how very dangerous it was.

Pony Express – Schellbourne, Nevada

As we continue, we note the impressive mountain ranges: the Ruby Mountains, the Schell Creek Range, and the Snake Range, which includes Great Basin National Park with Mount Wheeler being over 13,000 feet.

Impressive mountain ranges in Nevada

After getting gas in Ely, instead of stopping at the wayside pull-out, Clifford decides to push on to the park in spite of the windy conditions and the lateness of our start this morning. So, on we go, arriving in late afternoon. We stop at the Visitor Center in nearby Baker to pick up a brochure and get information on the campgrounds.

Mount Wheeler in the distance

We try Lower Lehman Campground first, but every site is taken. The road is steep, very hard on our old Suburban, both up and down. Then we drive out to Baker Creek Campground on the Baker Creek Road. This late in the afternoon there are not many sites left and these are not very level, but we find a spot that will work nicely. After we get set up and leveled, I walkabout to explore while Clifford naps after a long day of driving. Dinner is late, but we are happy to be here!

We found a site that will work nicely (notice slope both behind and in front of Cougar)
Baker Creek
Autumn foliage at Baker Creek Campground

Chilly Day at Craters of the Moon – September 2019

Monday September 30: It is a chilly day at Craters of the Moon National Monument in southern Idaho where Clifford and I are camped. The storm we were staying ahead of caught up to us here yesterday with a skiff of snow and today the chilly temperatures remain: 26 degrees this morning, even though it is still September.

Views from the trail to the lava knoll

I go up to the lava knoll, but it must be too cold for my cell to work and no texts are sent. But I do take photos of the snow on the surrounding hills.

Snowy hills

We had planned to drive up to Stanley to explore the countryside, but after cleaning up mouse droppings (ugh!) and scouring pans and counters, we don’t have enough time for a drive. Instead, we walk over to the Visitors Center to watch a movie on Craters of the Moon. We see that this area does get a lot of snow in the winter.

Walk to the Visitors Center

We work on inside projects, and since Clifford was able to get his hotspot to work, we even get on the net for awhile to check email. I make another trip to the lava knoll just before sunset. Chilly, but the light is pretty.

Late afternoon hike to lava knoll
View from lava knoll

After dinner, I pack up the kitchen as much as possible, as we plan to leave in the morning. It has been fun here, but we want to get to Great Basin National Park before the weekend crowd arrives.

Family and Friends at Bass Creek – September 2019

Friday September 13: My siblings and I and our significant others are getting together here at the Charles Water Campground in the Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana. Clifford and I arrived yesterday afternoon, and my brother Rollie arrived soon after. Even though Clifford and I had to run into Missoula for errands today, we are back in time to join in the potluck at Rollie’s campsite, where we all gather around a big campfire for conversation and good food. It is such a joy to spend time together with these people!

Because it is already near dark when we gather, no photos are taken except for attempts at catching the beauty of the rising full moon.

An attempt to catch the rising moon

Saturday September 14: The high point of today is getting together with Rollie and friends of his to play bluegrass music and share dinner around another campfire. The low point is finding that mice have gotten into Cougar, which means scouring stove, pans, counters, and so on, and setting traps in the evening.

Sunday September 15: My siblings, by good luck and some finagling manage to get together again for photos, since we didn’t get group photos on Friday. We take photos of each other as couples and the sibling group, but enlist the help of a neighbor camper to take photos of the whole group of us. Quite the deal with the sun casting bright lights and shadows, as well as the humans being their sometimes goofy selves! We have a good time and lots of photos to sort through.

Clifford and Carol
The bunch of us

Shortly after that, dear friends of mine come out to visit. We hike up the Bass Creek Trail and chat about all our projects and the meaning of our lives. It is great to see them and I manage a few photos of the creek as we walk and talk.

Bass Creek
Bass Creek
Getting my photo taken at Bass Creek

Wednesday is a day of more bluegrass music with Rollie and his bluegrass friends, as well as the usual activities around camping.

Thursday morning is rainy and I enjoy the opportunity of taking photos of the creek before my sister Lillian arrives.

She and I are going to drive over the mountain to visit my daughter Ang. As always, Ang has huge projects going on, and she is waiting for our arrival with a fire in the firepit, steaks and wine ready, as well as fresh veggies from her greenhouse.

I have learned that there is an app called Snapseed that a cell phone users like for editing photos. Since I have largely switched to using my cell phone as my main camera, Ang downloads Snapseed for me, and then we have fun trying out some of the tools that it offers.

Daughter Merri arrives and we have a great meal and a good time talking. Since I have to drive, wine is exchanged for tea, and the lively conversation carries on. Lillian takes photos of my girls and me before we reluctantly pull ourselves away from the campfire and head on back to Bass Creek.

Me with two of my girls

What a great fun day!

Seeley Lake to Bass Creek – September 2019

Thursday September 12 is our last morning at Seeley Lake Campground in the Seeley-Swan Valley of western Montana. I am awake and up before Clifford, and there isn’t any more packing I can do until he is up and showered. A heavy mist is rising from the meadow and the lake, so it is a great time for a last lake walk. I take photos of trees in the mist, and as I return to camp, the mist is lifting above the meadow and the sun is coming through, bringing bright color to the land.

Mist over the meadow
Mist rising from the lake
The mist is lifting and color returns to the land

Once Clifford is up, we have a light breakfast and finish packing and are on our way by 10:00 a.m. Our destination today is the Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley south of Missoula, Montana. We arrive there in the mid-afternoon and are really pleased to find that the site where we camped in July is available.

Happy to have this site at Bass Creek Recreation Area

We get set up and shortly afterward, my brother Rollie arrives in his class A and finds a spot on the opposite side of the loop. After he gets set up, I make a late lunch for all of us. Later, Rollie and I play bluegrass music with Clifford as our appreciative audience. I miss the lake, but this is a good spot and it is especially good to have a few more days to see family before we head back to Utah.

Lakes and More Lakes – September 2019

Saturday September 7: It is a cloudy drizzly morning here at Seeley Lake Campground in the Seeley-Swan Valley of western Montana where Clifford and I are camping, having arrived just a couple of days ago.

Campsite at Seeley Lake Campground

I make coffee and then walk to the lake, taking the trail past the beach and along the shore to the woods. I have my journal and sit on the bench that overlooks the lake, but is too drizzly to write, so I just read a poem by Mary Oliver and listen to a morning meditation on my cell. It is a nice peaceful way to start the day.

Trail along the lake to the woods
My favorite bench

By time I get back to our campsite, Clifford is up and we have breakfast. Today we need to go to Seeley Lake (town) to pick up our mail, so we decide to take the opportunity to explore a bit, going first to Lake Placid, discovering some dispersed camping spots on the way to this lovely mountain lake, and then taking the loop back to Seeley Lake.

Creek crossing on Lake Placid Road
Lake Placid
Lake Placid

The only problem is that what is on the map and what is on the ground don’t relate much and we end up at a place called Hidden Lake. It is an okay place for tent camping, but we wouldn’t try bringing Cougar here.

Hidden Lake

The road back to Seeley Lake is sketchy and we are not even 100% certain we are on the right road until we reach the outskirts of town. We pick up a few groceries at the market, then head back to camp. I play viola while Clifford naps, and later, after dinner, he plays dulcimer while I get the next photo/travel blog ready to post. It certainly was a fun day!

More Swan Lake Days – August 2019

August 26th through 30th are full days spent at our campsite at the Swan Lake Recreation Area in northwest Montana. Being retired, we are busier than ever with our projects. Clifford is doing some research in connection with his non-profit – Carnicom Institute, flying via flight simulation software, working with his ham radios, and playing the dulcimer. I walk around the campground and down to the day-use area alongside Swan Lake to take photos, write blogs, edit books for a couple of authors, and play viola. Now and then we get a bit of rain, and for the most part, the weather is mild for August.

Sunrise at the Swan Lake
Leaves after the rain
One of my favorite spots at Swan Lake day-use area

Every morning I sit out to write in my journal, sometimes going down to the lake and sometimes making a campfire at our site. A book of poems by Mary Oliver is a daily inspiration to me.

Journal and coffee at a morning campfire

A couple of times we drive to the pull-out about a mile from the campground where we can get cell service. I post a blog and send texts to my kids and siblings while Clifford downloads whatever software he needs for his next project.

Swan Lake view at the pull-out

One highlight of these days is a visit from a CI supporter who happens to live in the area and who treats us to a great dinner at a fancy place in Bigfork – Show Thyme. If you are ever in Bigfork, check it out.

A bit of excitement is the bear that was seen by our RV neighbors at the day-use area and then seen at the other loop of the campground. On one of my walks to the lake, I could smell a musky odor and knew that the bear had recently passed by. Clifford, on his bicycle, also smelled the bear and saw fresh scat. The hosts are very attentive and make sure everyone keeps a clean camp, so we don’t expect trouble.

Evening light at Swan Lake

Big Fork – August 2019

Friday August 23: As soon as I get up, I make coffee for the little thermos and head down to the day-use area here at the Swan Lake Recreation Area of northwest Montana where Clifford and I are camped. I find a picnic table in the sunshine where I can sit to write in the journal. The mountains on the other side of the lake are nearly obscured by mist. When the mist lifts and the sun goes behind a tree, I gather my stuff and head back to camp.

Coffee and journal in the sunshine
Mist in the mountains

In the afternoon, an independent film crew comes to our campsite to get footage of Clifford and his research. Hopefully, some of this material will make its way into a documentary on environmental issues.

A walkabout in the later afternoon includes another visit to Swan Lake. I also spend time editing for a couple of authors. Since there is no cell service here, writing blogs, posting photos, and texting family get put on a back-burner.

Swan Lake

Saturday August 24 and Sunday August 25: We meet the film crew in the town of Bigfork, Montana, about 15 miles north of our Swan Lake campground. This gives us a chance to discuss the work that Clifford has done over the last two decades. The place we have chosen to meet serves an excellent brunch. We also have a chance to see a little of Bigfork, an attractive and vibrant town with a resident population of about 5,000 people. Many visitors swell this number at certain times of the year, as there is an active theater group here, as well as many other activities and events.

In the evening, Clifford and I sit at a campfire and relax. It has been a busy several days and it is nice to have a little time to just be.

Campfire at close of the day

Swan Lake – August 2019

Tuesday August 20: Clifford and I arrived at Swan Lake Recreation Area earlier today and were happy to find a great site, which will be home for the next couple of weeks. After getting Cougar set up, I explore the campground and find a path to the creek that I can hear, while Clifford gets his ham radio antennas up and working.

Cougar tucked in with a meadow behind us
A creek in the campground

Then we ride our bikes to the day-use area and up the bike trail to a view point. Hard work for me! Dinner is left-overs warmed up and eaten by lantern light at the picnic table.

Sunset at Swan Lake

Wednesday August 21: After a walkabout, I make coffee and sit outside to write in my journal and read Mary Oliver. My favorite poem “Messenger” speaks of “My work is loving the world….. Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.” I feel like she is my soul-sister.

“Learning to be Astonished”

Clifford and I bike around the campground today, checking things out and getting some exercise. Later he plays his dulcimer and then takes out his microscope in preparation for the upcoming interview to be done here at our campsite. I play viola outside and do some editing and blog-writing.

We have chili for dinner, sitting out at the picnic table. We cover the table and Clifford’s lab gear with a good tarp before I head to bed. Without the distraction of cell phone or family visits (I do miss seeing my kids and siblings!), I am able to focus on better self-care: not skipping supplements and going to bed earlier, for starters.

Thursday August 22: This morning I walk over to the day-use area. A light rain in the night makes everything bright and fresh this morning.

Rain in the night makes things bright and fresh

I find a spot by the lake with a cluster of boulders big enough to sit on and watch the coming of the light on the far shore before it reaches where I am. It is an overcast morning and the light is dull, but I like sitting here anyway.

Boulders to it on
An overcast morning at Swan Lake

Back at camp, I make coffee and write in the journal before making our smoothies. Today we drive down the road to a pull-out alongside the lake, just a mile or so away where we can get cell service. I send texts and photos to family while Clifford downloads a music program for his dulcimer.

View of Swan Lake from the cell phone pull-out

In the afternoon I work on a blog of my trip to Atlanta in February to visit my daughter Becka. What a fun wonderful time! When clouds move in, we cover the picnic table with a tarp to protect Clifford’s lab set-up from rain. Because of the clouds and rain, Clifford starts the generator, which we don’t do very often, but now we can have light and continue with our projects. After dinner, I edit for awhile before getting ready for bed, while Clifford stays up late “flying,” using flight simulator software that allows him to fly anywhere and tonight he is flying over the Appalachian Mountains.

Back to Sloway – August 2019

Thursday August 8: My daughter Becka and I have had a great time visiting long-time friends in Pasco, Washington, but she needs to get back to her summer job in Wallace and it is time for me to see how “holding-down-the-fort” has gone for Clifford at Sloway Campground in western Montana.

When Becka and I leave Pasco, she takes a scenic detour that takes us to a self-serve produce stand where we buy melons, blueberries, and honey, and then to a produce store full of good-to-eat food, where I buy more honey. What a fun detour.

Self-serve produce stand

When we get as far as Coeur d Alene, Becka takes me to this cool place along Coeur d Alene Lake where we sit on a platform above the water to have our very extra delicious lunch and adult beverages. My goodness, traveling with Becka is So.Much.Fun!

A cool place along Coeur d Alene Lake

Back in Wallace, we unload stuff at my daughter Katie’s Bernard Building, as Becka and I will be moving over there from the 4th Street house where she has been staying. Her apartment is next to the big central kitchen and I will spend tonight in a smaller, but very sweet apartment, just down the hall. Becka’s apartment is topsy-turvey at the moment, full of stuff from the previous owners/tenants. I spend the afternoon, while she is at work, cleaning and reorganizing, so by the time she gets off work, it looks quite nice and homey.

Daughter Merri is also in Wallace, working this weekend as a cook at the same place where Becka works. When the girls get off work, we go up on the roof of the Bernard Building, four stories up, relaxing in the cool of the night as we share a bottle of orange muscato. Too late, too tired for anything else, we soon all go off to bed.

Wallace, Idaho

Friday August 9: Becka makes a really great breakfast for me, Merri, and herself. (Katie is sick, so couldn’t join us.) We run errands around town and had planned to go out to eat lunch before I leave for Sloway, but every eatery is either closed or too busy. We buy food at Harvest Foods and have a picnic in Becka’s front room instead, which worked out just fine.

On the way back to Sloway, I stop at the artesian well, Elmer’s Fountain, not far from Wallace. The water there is so good and the place has a pleasing ambiance. I notice a trail that I have not seen before and am tempted to follow it, but instincts tell me that I should head on back to Sloway.

I have a relaxed drive over Lookout Pass, back to Montana, where Clifford is eager to hear about my travels. Traveling was fun, but it is also good to be back “home.”

Clark Fork River at Sloway Campground in western Montana

Fun with Family Days – July 2019

Wednesday July 17: This morning my brother Rollie and his little dog Ninja come out to the Bass Creek Recreation Area (Charles Waters Campground) in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana where Clifford and I are camped, as of yesterday afternoon. After he arrives and gets his motor home set up, he takes me to our sister’s place where my car has been stored all winter. All we are doing is getting the battery out to trade in on a new one. I say all, as I stand and watch as he wrestles with the tight space and the difficulties of getting the battery out.

Back at camp, we get out our instruments to play some bluegrass music. I’ve gotten better with playing fiddle tunes on the viola, so it is a lot of fun to get together. For dinner, we sit at the picnic table at our site, and I almost get skunked at cribbage.

Getting the instruments out

Thursday July 18: Clifford and I make a trip into Missoula to get a new battery for my car and we go to Barnes & Nobles for our bookstore fix. Back at camp, Rollie and I play music again, dinner at the picnic table again, and I lose at cribbage again. LOL

Friday July 19: Rollie puts the new battery in my car, so now I have wheels. In the evening, several of my siblings and their spouses come to our campsite for a potluck dinner. So fun to chat with all of them, and I am so busy talking and eating that I don’t take enough photos!

The guys at the family potluck

Saturday July 20: Today is Alberton Railroad Days, a money-raiser for the town of Alberton, Montana. My daughter, Ang, is the president of the non-profit that puts on this event. Vendors, music, a parade, an Antique Auto show, and a shoot-out are among the activities. Rollie and I play bluegrass music as our contribution. After he and I play for our allotted time, he goes off to play with the Old Time Fiddlers, while I join up with another daughter, Merri, to look for the Golden Spike, which has been hidden with tricky clues to its whereabouts. No one finds the Golden Spike, so the pot will be bigger next year. It is late by time Rollie and I return to camp at Bass Creek.

Merri and I look for the Golden Spike

Sunday July 21: Today good friends come to visit. Ken and I have been friends since we were in 7th grade orchestra together. Ken, his sweet wife, Shelley Anne, and I hike up the Bass Creek Trail to a lovely calm section below a waterfall. It is so enjoyable to spent time together, having known each other for many decades.

Monday July 22: Today Rollie and I drive out to see our sister, Lillian, who lives not far from where our dad grew up, and about fifteen miles from where we are camped. We have lunch on the patio, appreciating the time together. While Lillian and I do some of my mending, Rollie plays fiddle tunes for us on his mandolin.

Lillian Carol Rollie
Lillian’s daisies

Back at camp, our sister, Nancy, comes out and we hike up the trail, enjoying the sounds of the creek tumbling alongside us. Back at camp, while I make nachos for dinner for all of us, Rollie and Nancy play their mandolins. What fun family days!

Bass Creek tumbles alongside the trail