One More Outing – November 2019

Wednesday November 20th, the day after our return from the Colorado trip, it rains all day, and by Thursday, the rain has turned to snow, but not a lot of snow, just icy.

Rain all day and the birds come for seed

By Saturday, with a sunny sky and warmer temperatures (43 degrees), we decide to explore boondocking spots past the Wind Whistle Campground where we stayed on our way back to Monticello in October. It is too chilly to sit out for a picnic, so we have our picnic in the car, but we happy to be out and finding new places to camp.

Exploring in the Canyon Rim Recreation Area
Snowy LaSal peaks seem to float above the valley

On Monday, we make a trip to Blanding, where I ace my Utah driver’s test. Stopping briefly at Recapture Reservoir on the way home, I take photos of the reservoir with the snowy Abajo Mountains in the background

Recapture Reservoir with snowy Abajo Mountains in the background

Walking to the post office on Tuesday is darn chilly, with a high of 28 degrees and a stiff wind. I’m eager to mail the San Juan calendar to family, as two of my photos were chosen as insets to the main pages.

A cold day for walking

Thursday, Thanksgiving, I send photo greeting to family and friends via text and messenger. Dinner is a little fancier than usual, but not the huge production that it was when I had a family at home. Light snow falls all day.

The photo used for Thanksgiving greetings

Snow continues on Friday. We drive to the market for a few groceries and the Merc for more birdseed. I enjoy watching the birds through the sliding glass doors and the birds are glad to have the seed. In addition to the usual juncos, sparrows, and finches, there is a flock of red-wing blackbirds. Even the ravens come to the yard and when they drop down, everyone else leaves.

At first light, the birds start coming, mostly the redwind blackbirds here
Ravens are King

This past week has been focused on pre-travel preparations, cleaning and reorganizing inside Cougar, paperwork, and preparing house and yard to be left for the winter. In addition to travel preparation, I’m also focused on writing blogs and editing for three authors, trying to get as much done as I can while internet and power are readily available. Although Clifford’s ear has bothered him a lot, he continues with his projects and his packing for the winter journey.

Happy to have a warm home on these chilly days

And thus ends November 2019.

Last Days at Seeley Lake – September 2019

September 10 & 11 are our last days at Seeley Lake Campground in the Seeley-Swan Valley of western Montana. We’ve certainly enjoyed our beautiful and peaceful spot here, but we have to move on so we can see family and friends before we head back to home-base in southeast Utah.

The great trees at our campsite

On one of these days we visit a friend who lives in the valley. He sure knows about good food and we have a superb lunch. It is a really good visit.

An outing up the valley

On the way back to our campsite at Seeley Lake, we explore another lake and at a pullout alongside the highway, I have only one minute to take photos as the last light of the setting sun is reflecting off the water.

Reflection of the setting sun

The next day, I have a campfire in the morning, my last chance here.

Coffee and journal at the campfire

During the day, I spend as much time as possible at the lake. I love seeing how the light changes the look of the lake and the mountains.

Midday at Seeley Lake

It is also a good day to play our instruments outdoors.

Afternoon light begins to color the clouds
Evening light across the lake

In the evening, we pack up as much as we can so as to get an early start in the morning.

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!

Arrival at Seeley Lake – September 2019

Thursday September 5, Clifford and I leave our campground at Swan Lake Recreation Area in northwest Montana, heading south on Highway 83 through the lovely Seeley-Swan Valley. Great mountains rise up on either side of this valley, the Mission Range to the west and the Swan Range to the east. Our destination is the Seeley Lake Campground, about 60 miles down the valley from Swan Lake.

Mission Range in the Seeley-Swan Valley

We arrive before noon with numerous sites to choose from, although the three sites right along the lake are taken. We decide to look more closely at the loop where we have not previously camped, as the level sites were always taken. However, this morning, this loop is open and we pick a really great spot, level and spacious, with tall western larch and Douglas fir, and a view of the meadow.

A great spot at Seeley Lake Campground

Although I loved our spot at Swan Lake and thought nothing would compare to it, this spot at Seeley Lake, being more natural and wild is every bit as inviting to me. As soon as we are set up, I explore the lake closest to this loop, which happens to be where the water lilies flourish.

Seeley Lake

Friday morning is overcast with a drizzle, which doesn’t keep me from walking down to the lake for photos.

Drizzly morning at Seeley Lake
Drizzle turns to rain

As the drizzle becomes a steady rain, it turns out to be a good day for inside activities. Clifford works with his ham radios and I edit my daughter Ang’s novel Regent’s Way and write blogs. Cougar is cozy and we are comfortable.

A good day for indoor activities, cozy in Cougar

Last Days at Swan Lake – September 2019

Clifford and I close out August and begin September at Swan Lake Recreation Area where we have been camped for two weeks.

A favorite spot at the Swan Lake day-use area

One day we make a trip to Bigfork to the laundromat and a stop at Harvest Foods Market, which is a way bigger and better store than any other Harvest Foods I have ever seen.

Sign at the laundromat

On our way back to our campground, we go exploring. We find our down to Swan River where three young women are putting in kayaks to float the river. They ask me to take photos, which I do, of course.

Women on Swan River

Then on we go to a fishing access, which turns out to be a small lake in the mountains, Horseshoe Lake. The water is kind of murky along the shoreline, but there are turtles on the logs, which are fun to see, and the reflections on the water make it quite a pretty place.

Horseshoe Lake

Another day, since we will soon be leaving the area, we go to Bigfork again, this time to check out the brewery, having a local on-tap beer with our lunch, sitting out on the outdoor patio overlooking Flathead Lake. This is quite the lark for us, since we seldom eat out and seldom have beer. But it was fun!

View of Flathead Lake from patio at the brewery

The other days at the campsite are full of our usual activities: research, dulcimer, flying, and ham radio for Clifford; walkabouts, photos, blogs, editing, journal writing, and viola for me. Soon it will be time to move on, but for the moment, we are enjoying the peaceful beauty of this campground and nearby Swan Lake.

Sunset at Swan Lake

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

Diamond to Southern Idaho – July 2019

Sunday July 14: As soon as we get up, I make tea and coffee for the thermoses. After yogurt and fruit for breakfast, we pack up the little that needs packing – we weren’t here long enough to really unpack much. Everything is in place and we are ready to leave Diamond Campground, south of Spanish Forks, Utah, by 9:00 a.m. This was such a beautiful spot, I am sad to leave.

Packed and ready to leave Diamond Campground, south of Spanish Forks, Utah
Leaving the campground toward Highway 6

Heading north on Highway 6, we soon enter I-15 and everything is good until we get to Provo. Without warning, we enter a construction area where the lanes narrow and curve this way and that, and the speed limit does not slow traffic down nearly enough. We are nearly side-swiped by a semi trying to come alongside, but he pulls back and we make it through okay. After miles and miles of fast-paced traffic, it is such a relief when we finally make it through the Salt Lake City complex.

We stop for lunch at Tremonton, Utah, then continue on north, still on I-15 until we reach the Devils Creek Reservoir, north of Malad City in southern Idaho.

Southern Idaho landscape north of Malad City

We pull off to check out boondocking here, and driving past the marina and the RV park, we find a fishing access at the far end of the reservoir. We park here and while Clifford naps, I walk down to the reservoir to take a few photos. The water is low, but the hills are very green for this time of year. I talk to a nice family of grandparents, parents, and kids playing and fishing at the water’s edge.

Devils Creek Reservoir

Clifford is refreshed from his nap and we continue on.

Heading north on I-15

A big thunderstorm near Pocatello, Idaho, cools the air from upper 90’s to mid 70’s, but once we are out of the storm, the temperature climbs again.

Thunderstorm near Pocatello, Idaho
The landscape changes as we near Idaho Falls
Beneath the sagebrush are glimpses of great lava fields

We are grateful to arrive at the Idaho Falls Walmart and find a spot to park along the edge of the lot where there is strip of grass, a few trees, and thistles blooming on the ridge above. We stock up on supplies and sundries at Walmart, then walk to the nearby Panda express for dinner.

Thistles bloom at the edge

Back at Cougar, we sit outside to enjoy the lovely sunset and the pleasant coolness of the evening, chatting as we watch the moon play hide ‘n seek with the clouds.

Great sunset seen from Idaho Falls Walmart parking lot

A hiss gives us but a second warning before the sprinkler system comes on. Our backsides are soaked by water hitting us full-blast as we dash inside, rescuing cell phones and books as we go.

It is not a restful night, as each time the sprinkler comes on, the water hitting the side of Cougar is deafening. There is also a lot of traffic, lights, and city noise – but it is convenient and free.

Diamond Campground-Utah – July 2019

Saturday July 13: Clifford and I are spending today camped at Diamond Campground off highway 6, south of Spanish Forks, Utah. This is a beautiful campground and a day here is a day of restoration before we continue the northward journey for the summer.

For a morning walk, I hike to the bluff above the campground, walk the length of it, enjoying thistles in bloom and various meadow grasses that live here. In the distance are the mountains of northern Utah.

Bluff above Diamond Campground
Mountains of northern Utah in the distance

Eventually I find a trail that leads down off the bluff, coming out at the far end of the campground. As I walk back to our campsite, I notice the great variety of trees that grow here, providing beauty, shade, and privacy for all of us who are camped here. After breakfast, Clifford and I hike a ways on the Discovery Trail, which runs along the creek and parallel to the campground. Kiosks along the way provide the history of the area, as well as describing the plants and animals that live here.

A trail off the bluff to campground below
Discovery Trail

In the afternoon, while Clifford works with his ham radios, I edit manuscripts for the authors I am working with. Sitting outside, Clifford plays his dulcimer and I review photos taken this morning. A thunderstorm with wind and rain causes us to take the awning in and move our activities inside. However, after the storm passes, we are treated to a most gorgeous double rainbow.

Double rainbow after the thunderstorm

Right at sunset, I head out for one more walk, taking the Discovery Trail up an incline to a different bluff. My feet and legs are thoroughly wet from the grasses along the trail, but it was well worth the effort for the view.

Dusk on the hillside above camp
Fading colors of sunset

On the Road Again – July 2019

Thursday July 11: I am up early this morning for last preparations before leaving on our summer trip northward. I make coffee, write in journal, and prepare thermoses of tea before Clifford gets up. After smoothies, we finish packing the last minute items, making sure bathroom, kitchen, and lab are in good order.

The to-do list has been very helpful, as most everything has been taken care of ahead of time and what’s left is on a check list so we don’t get down the road and wonder if we remembered such-and-such. It is 1:45 p.m. by time we finally pull out of base-camp, as I like to call our place here in Monticello, Utah.

I take photos as we travel, saying good-bye to the southeast Utah canyon country. It is 100 degrees by time we reach Moab and hot all the way to Price. Increasing winds make the last portion of the journey harder and we are very grateful to pull into the Walmart parking lot, driving around to the far side to park out of the way. Although it is still hot here, it is not as windy in town.

Castle Rock – Highway 191 north of Monticello, Utah
Wilson Arch – Highway 191 north of Monticello, Utah
Approaching Moab & LaSal Mountains in the distance – Highway 191, Utah
Southeast Utah Canyon Country – Highway 191
Utah Badlands near Price

I’m too tired and hungry to feel like shopping, but after taking time for a late lunch, I go in to buy supplies while Clifford naps. It is dark but still warm outside when I finish up in Walmart. I put perishables in the fridge, but let the rest go and head to bed.

Friday July 12: This morning we pick up a few more supplies, and after fruit & yogurt for breakfast, we are on our way. The wind is not so bad this morning, but there is a crazy amount of traffic on highway 6, and we are very relieved to get off this busy winding highway at the turnoff to Diamond Campground, south of Spanish Forks, Utah.

Central Utah Canyon Country

Diamond Campground is one of our favorite overnight places, being located in a scenic valley off the highway. The downside is that most sites are reservation only. We consider ourselves fortunate to find a really great spot with shade on a Friday. It is one of our easiest set-ups with the pads being level enough to not even need the levelers.

Diamond Campground
A great spot in the shade

After lunch, Clifford gets his ham radio set up and I spend most of the afternoon walking around the campground, hiking the Discovery Trail, and hiking to the bluff above the campsite near sunset.

A creek runs through the campground and it so GREEN here
Milkweed gone to seed
View from the bluff near sunset with Cougar below

After dinner I edit today’s photos, grateful that we will be here another day, a day to relax before the big push to Montana.

Canyonlands Here We Come – June 2019

Wednesday June 19: Clifford and I enjoy a leisurely morning with our friends, Kaylee and Ren, who are here visiting us on their way to Arizona in preparation for their upcoming wedding. Clifford and Kaylee work on the Carnicom Institute website, while Ren I visit and drink her delicious coffee substitute.

Even though they have to leave this evening, we decide on an outing to Canyonlands National Park, as Ren has never been there. We are taking the road over Abajo Mountain and our first stop is a viewing area on the far side of the mountain. The wildflowers are in bloom and it is really lovely here on the mountain.

View of LaSal Mountain from Abajo Mountain
Wildflowers on Abajo Mountain
Kaylee and Ren on the sagging bench
The viewing spot on Abajo Mountain – bench to the right looks out to Canyonlands

Our next stop is “Newspaper Rock,” a rock panel covered with petroglyphs. There was vandalism at some point, but the panel has been protected and is in very good condition, for the most part. It is fascinating to look at all the etchings, recognizing what some are and trying to guess at the meaning of others.

Newspaper Rock
Newspaper Rock
View from the parking lot at Newspaper Rock

From there we continue west through BLM land until we arrive at Canyonlands National Park. It was quite warm on the mountain, but much more so here in the lower elevation of the canyons. We stop at the Visitors Center to see the displays, then continue on the scenic loop.

Scenic drive through BLM land toward Canyonlands National Park
It is very surprising to see this pond in the otherwise arid region
Scenic drive through BLM land toward Canyonlands National Park
Iconic formation seen from Needles Visitor Center

We stop at Pothole Point to hike the loop. Even though Clifford and I have hiked this loop before, it seems the cairns have been moved and a portion of the loop is missed. However, it is much too hot to go back and redo it. As it is, we appreciate the unique formations and the shade of rock overhangs.

Kaylee, Ren, and Clifford on the Pothole Point Trail
Looking toward the Needles District from the Pothole Point Trail
Formations seen along the Pothole Point Trail
We missed part of the loop, but too hot to go back
Where did it come from?
Enjoying the shade of an overhang

Our last stop is a side road that gives us a closer view of the iconic Wooden Shoe Arch.

Iconic Wooden Shoe Arch in Canyonlands National Park
Good-bye to Canyonlands for this trip

Back at home base, the guys nap (Kaylee has a long drive ahead yet tonight), while Ren and I chat as she writes wedding invitations and I edit photos. For dinner, we all sit outside at one our bistro tables, enjoying the mild evening temperature. Then our friends finish packing their car and are soon on their way. We wish them well and look forward to seeing them on our journey south next winter.