Montana to Black Rock – October 2021

Autumn colors in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana

After the trip to Wallace with my sister Nancy, the next few days are spent reorganizing Suburban and Cougar in preparation for leaving Montana. Clifford and I want to be on our way before the weather turns colder than it has been. The autumn colors are at their best in the nearby woods. Nancy and I walk to the side channel of the Bitterroot River one more time.

Autumn in Montana
Side channel of the Bitterroot River
River Reflections

Thursday, October 21, Clifford and I finish packing and leave Florence a little after noon. The autumn colors along the Clark Fork River are quite striking as we head east from Missoula toward Butte.

Autumn colors along the Clark Fork River
Autumn Color along the Clark Fork River

Although we usually stop at the rest area south of Butte on I-15 or at Divide Bridge Campground, this time we push on through to the rest area at Dubois, Idaho, arriving at sunset, 284 miles, a very long day for us.

Southwest Montana landscape
Dubois, Idaho, rest area

The next day is windier, so not as easy driving, and we stop at the Devil’s Creek RV park in southern Idaho around 3:00. We set up on the far end of the reservoir rather than in one of the RV sites. I have time to post photos to the RV Bunch on FB, play fiddle, and make dinner before heading to bed. A good productive day despite the hours on the road.

Devil’s Creek Reservoir, Idaho.

Drizzle and rain in the night and the misty morning provide some photo opportunities for me.

Misty morning at Devil’s Creek Reservoir

We take time to repair the rear view camera and leave Devil’s Creek about 2:00 in the afternoon.

Still a grey day at Devil’s Creek

Construction as we approach Salt Lake City slows us down, but we arrive at the Perry, Utah, Walmart about 4:00 and are happy to get a spot along the median with grass and a tree.

The next morning is Sunday, October 24. We always plan our drive through SLC on Sunday so there isn’t as much traffic. We are up early enough to do a bit more shopping and leave by 10:00, but we are disappointed that the rear view camera is still not working despite our working on it. Driving through SLC is taxing enough, but doing it without a camera makes it even worse. As we drive through Salt Lake City, we feel the wind starting to pick up.

Heading southwst on I-15
Utah landscape

By time we get to Beaver, 200 miles to the south on I-15, we pull off and find a place to park in a trashy dirt lot behind the Flying J. It is very windy now and we are both glad to be off the highway and parked for the night.

Monday is much too windy for travel and despite putting down the stabilizers, which we don’t usually do for an overnight stop, we are rocking and rolling in the wind all day. We bundle up against the wind and walk to nearby Denny’s for a meal. We keep busy the rest of the day with our various projects.

Working on projects on a windy day in Beaver, Utah

Our friend David calls to see if we are still in Montana. He informs us that the campground in the Virgin River Gorge where we had planned to go, which also happens to be where we met him several years ago, is closed. That is disappointing to us, but David encourages us to go to Black Rock Road and camp there near where he is set up.

When I open the door the next morning, I am surprised and delighted to see a landscape covered with snow. Trash has disappeared under white fluffiness.

Surprised by snow at Beaver, Utah
Trash has disappeared
A grey sky morning

As the sky clears, snow on the nearby mountains is quite scenic.

By afternoon, blue sky has returned

We are not traveling today, waiting for the roads over mountain passes to clear. Cell service is good here, so both Clifford and I work on our projects, mostly editing for me, and for Clifford, whatever he has going on.

By Wednesday, the 27th, the snow is mostly gone and the highways are clear, so we leave Beaver and head south through St. George, and cross the border into Arizona.

Southern Utah landscape

With David’s directions, we find our way to the spot he has suggested for us on Black Rock Road. There are desert views in every direction and gently rising hills in this valley basin, sloping down to a wash and upward to nearby mesas, but not a single tree. The acres and acres of creosote are green and alive, but without trees, it feels kind of exposed and barren to me.

Cougar at Black Rock

I appreciate the views, and how peaceful and private it is here, but coming from the mountains, trees, and rivers of Montana, Black Rock will take some getting used to for this Mountain Girl.

Late afternoon sunlight on creosote with mesas on the horizon, peaceful and private

Wallace and the Pulaski Trail – October 2021

Autumn colors along I-90

Despite the chilly nights, I spend a couple more days visiting my daughter Ang.  The western larch turning gold and a dusting of snow is a reminder that winter is just around the corner.

Western Larch turning gold
A dusting of snow on Lolo Peak and surrounding hills.

In mid-October, my sister Nancy and I make a trip to Wallace to visit Katie. The drive to Wallace is quite beautiful with the cottonwoods along the Clark Fork River and the western larch on the mountainsides all dressed in their autumn colors.

Chilly day along the Clark Fork River
Travel to Wallace, Idaho, over Lolo Pass
Western Larch on the mountainsides turning gold

Upon our arrival in Wallace, my daughter Katie shows us the apartment that she has renovated for her family above the historic Metals Bar, which she now owns.

Katie and Finley B
Big brother Jude with his furry pal

We have a tasty lunch at the Blackboard Cafe and stroll around Wallace admiring the autumn colors and the historic buildings, many of which were built out of brick after the infamous forest fires of 1910 destroyed part of the town.

Wallace buildings date back to the early 1900’s
Trees tower over the buildings on Bank Stree

Then Nancy and I go for a hike on the Pulaski Trail. That trail was one of my favorite places when Clifford and I lived in Wallace. Nancy and I hike a half mile to the waterfall that I used to call Fairyland Falls.

View from the bridge over Placer Creek on the Pulaski Trail
Fairyland Falls on Placer Creek

After the hike, we say good-bye to Katie and head back to Florence.

Nancy and Carol on the streets of Wallace, Idaho
Carol and daughter Katie

A stop at Elmer’s Fountain, a natural artesian well just a few miles from Wallace  finishes off a full day-trip and we arrive back in Florence just before dark.

Elmer’s Fountain – source of artesian water near Wallace, Idaho
Elmer’s Fountain

Visit to Giant Springs – October 2021

Travel to Great Falls and Sun River – Blackfoot River

The morning after my daughters and I arrive in Great Falls, Katie gives Becka a ride to Centerville, a small town out in the prairie about 20 miles from Great Falls where Becka went to high school. Becka has timed picking up her truck and visiting family to coincide with her class reunion. While she is at her reunion and Katie is on her way back to family and job in Wallace, Ang and my grandson, Oden, and I entertain ourselves by walking to nearby Gibson park to see the ducks and geese before we find a nice restaurant and treat ourselves to a good lunch. Later, back at the B&B, Matt joins us for a homemade dinner.

A swan glides by at Gibson Park

Sunday morning is centered around getting new tires on Becka’s truck, and then we go out to Giant Springs State Park, well known as one of the largest fresh water springs in the country and famous for the Roe River, once listed as the shortest river in the world. It is a beautiful park and we enjoy wandering about, glad that the weather is pleasant enough to do so, despite being a bit on the chilly breezy side.

Chilly walk along the Missouri River at Giant Springs
Becka at Giant Springs
Water tumbles down from the springs and into the Roe River before…
…rushing under the walkway and out into the Missouri River beyond
Becka enjoys the sunshine and the view at Giant Springs
Creek crossing at Giant Springs
Walking through the woods at Giant Springs
Good-bye to Oden before we travel on

Leaving Giant Springs, Becka, Ang, and I stop again at Sun River to see Matt and his kids. It is too late to go fishing, but we walk through the woods to the Sun River and hang out awhile, enjoying the time together.

Matt and his kids, Aurora and Orion
Matt, Ang, Becka, and Carol down by the Sun River

Since it is a long drive back to Alberton, Becka, Ang, and I stop in Lincoln for dinner on the way, a nice break from driving/riding. It is very late and quite chilly by time we arrive back at Ang’s place.

Long drive back to Alberton

The next day, Becka heads back to Wallace where she will have a warm and comfortable bed, but I spend another night in Terry and find out later that the temperature dropped to 15 degrees that night. Brrrr!

Sculpture in the Wild – October 2021

Clifford and I have enjoyed the past couple of months camped in western Montana and we will soon be making preparations for the journey to Arizona for the winter. But first, I have a couple more get togethers with family on my horizon.

An autumn sunrise in the Bitterroot Valley
Autumn colors starting to show

The first visit is with my lovely daughter-in-law Tammy and two of her and my son Tye’s kids, Luke and Mariah. They have traveled from their home in Belgrade, Montana (near Bozeman) to see us.  After breakfast together at a cafe near their motel, we go to Bass Creek, a short drive from where Clifford and I are parked at my sister Nancy’s place. A pleasant hike up the Bass Creek Trail is followed by a picnic.

Tammy, Luke, Mariah, and Carol on the trail
Bass Creek
Tammy, Luke, and Mariah on Bass Creek Trail

It is quite interesting talking to these grandkids whom I have not seen for several years. They are smart and interesting and we have a good visit while enjoying the yummy food that Tammy brought. The next day, they make the return trip to Belgrade. It was great seeing them and I appreciate the time and effort they made to come.

A couple days later, after getting new tires on my Forester, I take the Graves Creek route over the mountain to visit Ang. It is the first time I’ve driven in a year, so it feels like quite an accomplishment!

That evening, daughters Becka, who is visiting from Hawaii, and Katie, who lives in Wallace, Idaho, arrive. Steaks are cooked on the grill over a campfire. It is great fun to see three of my four daughters all gathered around the campfire.

In the morning, the girls all come for coffee in Terry (the old RV where I stay when visiting Ang) before we head over the Swan Range and Roger’s Pass to Great Falls,  as Becka needs to retrieve her “truck,” which was left there when she moved to Hawaii.

Coffee in Terry

On the way, an interesting sight-seeing stop near Lincoln is a place called Sculpture in the Wild. Large somewhat odd sculptures made out of natural wood products, logs, willows, bound newspapers and so on are found scattered through the forest along a walking trail. This 26-acre sculpture garden is a vision of Rick Dunkerly, a knifemaker/ logger from Lincoln, Montana and Irish silversmith  Kevin O’Dwyer. This sculpture garden features sculptors from many countries and reflects the nature of the Montana landscape and economy near Lincoln.

Teepee burner
Reading the history of Sculptures in the Wild
House of Willow
A scary being guards the willow house
Sisters walk the trail
Tree trunks become giant legs inscribed with a language I cannot read
A forest guardian….
On to the next sculpture
… and there it is.
A peaceful place in the forest
End of the trail

After admiring the sculptures and reading the kiosks along the trail, we head on to Sun River to see my son Matt and his two kids, Orion and Aurora. These grandkids are so grownup now!

Granddaughter Aurora
Grandson Orion
Campfire at Matt’s place

Becka has rented an air B&B for us in Great Falls, a cute little house in the old residential section of Great Falls. After we settle in a bit, we all go to dinner in Black Eagle, a part of Great Falls that considers itself separate from Great Falls proper. At dinner, as I look at this gathering, I realize that they are all blood-related to me except for Matt’s ex who is still very much part of the family.

My Family

Autumn on the Horizon – September 2021

Life in the Bitterroot Valley

After two great weeks camping at Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana, Clifford and I move to my sister Nancy’s back yard, once a horse pasture, now a great lawn surrounded by trees. Not only is it a pleasant place to stay, we have electricity not dependent upon solar panels, a rarity for us.

Camping in Nancy’s Big Back Yard

Sitting in the morning sunshine with our hot coffee, Nancy and I begin looking through the photos albums that were once Mom’s. These albums go back many years, including photos from our childhood. It is fun and interesting to see these photos before passing the albums onto our sister Lillian.

Looking through Mom’s albums
My Siblings: Left to right: Rollie, Eddie Nancy, Lillian, Diana

The morning light is delightful as I walkabout for photos, and sometimes Nancy and I walk through the woods down to a side channel of the Bitterroot River.

Cattails along the road showing autumn colors
Walking to the side channel of the Bitterroot River
Reflections on the side channel of the Bitterroot River

For my daughter’s Ang’s birthday, we have a small family get-together at the Lumberjack for lunch and then we play music on the deck. It is really quite a fun afternoon for all of us.

Music at the Lumberjack: Bebose, Ang, and Carol
Clifford plays his dulcimer at the Lumberjack

Our days are filled with projects. Clifford is reviewing some of his research papers, while I work on edits for a couple of authors, do Qigong, especially appreciating the benefits of the Healthy Heart Routine, and write in my journals.

Writing in the journals

In mid-September there are a few smoky days, but not nearly as bad as what Montana was experiencing earlier in the summer.

Full moon on a smoky night

When the weather cools, misty mornings provide photo opportunities.

Misty morning in the Bitterroot Valley
Mist at dawn
Mist at sunrise

One Sunday, Nancy and I go visit Ang and grandson Oden.

Ang and Oden
Ang, Oden, and Carol

It is delightful to have dinner cooked over a campfire with the ambiance of the mountains and trees all around us.

Dinner cooked over a campfire
Carol and Nancy surrounded by mountains and trees

Nancy and I also admire oil paintings that Ang has completed in recent months.

Original oil paintings

Near the end of September, I  spend several days with Ang, staying in Terry, the old RV that Clifford and I bought after we got caught in a blizzard in our pop-up a couple of years ago.  While I am here, Ang and I enjoy the warmth of the wood stove as we work steadily on the edits for her epic fantasy series, The Novels of Shannon.

Warmed by the wood stove

Soon it is time for me to head back down the mountain.

Autumn coming to the mountain

October is just around the corner and other family get-togethers are in the works before Clifford and I head to Arizona for the winter.

Bass Creek to Carlton Creek – August 2021

Bass Creek

Two weeks of camping at the Charles Waters Campground, tucked into the foot of the Bitterroot Range, south of Missoula, Montana, is a delight to me. We are surrounded by mountains and trees, and Bass Creek is nearby. My idea of a great camping place, for sure, and Clifford likes it here, also.

Surrounded by trees
Bass Creek nearby

Walks at sunrise are a favorite activity for me, especially on the morning when mist hangs low in the nearby drainage. I also find delight in taking my journal and a cup of delicious organic French Press coffee out to the edge of the meadow to sit with the beauty and the silence before other campers begin their noisy day.

Morning walks
Mist in the mountain drainage
Coffee and journal in the morning

One of our first days here, my daughter Ang, quite the handyman, comes with supplies and tools to fix the damage to the underside of the RV caused by the tire blow-out when we were still back in Idaho on our way here. The steel belts of a blown tire cut deeply into the underside of an RV, as anyone who has experienced such an unfortunate event knows. We are glad for her skill and promptness in repairing this for us! Another day, Ang and another daughter, Merri, come for a picnic lunch. It is great to see them after such a long time, since covid prevented travel to Montana in 2020.

Ang repairing our RV
Daughters Ang and Merri come for a picnic

My sister Nancy comes several times and we hike Bass Creek Trail, a great hiking trail that somewhat parallels the creek tumbling down the drainage.

There are subtle signs of autumn as August and our two-week camping limit come to a close.

Sunrise walk showing signs of autumn

Fortunately, Nancy has a big back yard, once a horse pasture, but now a great big lawn area surrounded by trees, where we will be setting up for awhile. I will miss the creek, but Nancy’s place will be pleasant for us.

On the Road – Arrival at Bass Creek – August 2021

Tuesday August 17, 2021

Yesterday afternoon, we discovered that our intended destination, Divide Bridge Camp-ground, has been converted to a forest fire staging area. We continued driving north on I-15 to the rest stop south of Butte, glad to find a place to pull over for the night after a long hot day of driving through the heavy forest fire smoke that has obscured the landscape since we left Provo, Utah, a couple days ago.

Stopping at the rest area south of Butte, Montana – smoke haze in the background

We spend all day (Tuesday) at the rest stop, as it is too windy for safe travel. I help Clifford with rewiring the old backup camera, as the new one is still not working. We are outside with wires and tools spread out when a thunderstorm blows in making the work more difficult, but the cool moisture is much appreciated.

The rain continues into the night and this morning (Wednesday) there is a drizzle. A photo taken yesterday, pale grey with smoke, is almost indistinguishable from a photo this morning of the drizzle, but the drizzle sure feels better!

Drizzle feels better than smoke

We leave the rest area about noon and as we travel west, the air quality improves and the 90+ degrees of the past days is replaced with a high of 58 degrees.

Smoke gives way to clouds as we travel west
Air quality improves with every mile west

I thought we might stop at a rest area east of Missoula to spend the night, but Clifford decides to push on through to the Charles Waters Campground in the Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley south of Missoula. We arrive about 4:30 with only three sites available to choose from. Although I prefer the creekside camps, we choose a campsite that will receive enough sunlight for the solar panels.

Campsite in the Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana

After a visit say Hello to Bass Creek, I get the kitchen set up while Clifford gets antennas and ham shack functional.

Saying Hello to Bass Creek
Kitchen is set up
Clifford’s ham shack and desk area ready for action
A mix of Ponderosa pines and meadow

This site has a pleasing mix of meadow and tall Ponderosa pines as well as shrubs and other evergreens. It will be a very nice place for us to spend the next two weeks. We are happy to be here!

On the Road to Montana – Hip Camp to Butte Rest Area – August 2021

Smoke Shrouds the Landscape

On Sunday morning, August 15, Clifford and I prepare to leave our Hip Camp as soon as possible to get through Salt Lake City in a timely manner. The further north we go, the smokier and hotter it is.

Smokey Northern Utah Landscape
Wildfire Smoke Dulls the Utah Landscape
Devil’s Creek Reservoir in Southern Idaho Obscured by Smoke

South of Pocotello, Idaho, we experience one of the worst things for travelers – a blow out on the RV. Yikes! Fortunately Clifford is able to maintain control and we get safely stopped alongside I-15. In the 95+ degree weather with absolutely no shade, Clifford begins the ordeal of changing the tire, having to unhitch and jack up the RV, and the whole tire-changing routine is done with semis whizzing by at breath-taking speeds.

Blowout on Cougar on I-15
Beyond Repair!

As he is finishing, a fellow stops to help and even though the tire has been changed, this man is able to take care of the problem we’ve been having with the RV brakes. A piece of serendipity.

Southern Idaho

We arrive at the Idaho Falls, Idaho, Walmart in early evening with the intention of getting new tires. This Walmart does not have the tires we need and we spend the night in the crowded lower parking lot along with other Rvers.

Setting Sun,  Idaho Falls, Idaho

First thing Monday morning we find the Big O Tires and they fit us into their busy schedule. With new tires, we continue the northward journey. It has been a long hot day and we are looking forward to arriving our destination – the Divide Bridge BLM Campground south of Butte, Montana.

We have stayed at this campground along the Big Hole River several times. At the turn off to the campground, we are disappointed to see that it is closed, as it is being used as a fire-fighting staging area. Why was this not posted at the exit??? We have no choice but to continue on up highway 43 until we find a spot big enough to do a U-turn with Cougar and then make our way back to I-15.

Back to I-15, Southern Montana

Hooray for rest areas, especially those that are large with clean facilities. We pull into the one south of Butte and park at the far end as the sun sets red. The smoke is so dense we can scarcely see the surrounding countryside. This will be our spot for tonight and we are grateful for safe accommodations.

Hooray for Rest Areas
Ominous Red Sunset

On the Road Again – Monticello to Hip Camp – August 2021

Provo River

Although it’s only been three months since Clifford and I returned to Monticello from last winter’s Arizona home, it feels longer since so much has happened. We’ve sold the lab/home base and gotten rid of almost everything we own. Even though I was not enthusiastic about moving to Monticello, it is still hard to leave all that was good and stable about being here.

Leaving Monticello

As we leave this time, it is different than ever before, as there is no home base to come home to. Cougar (our 24’ RV) towed by the old Suburban is IT. It is our full-time home now. We finish last-minute items on the final to-do list and are on the road in the early afternoon of Thursday, August 12th. It is a hot (99 degrees in Moab as we go through), hazy (wild fires abound in western US), and dreary drive to Price, Utah.

The La Sal Mountains above Moab are scarcely discernible due to wildfire smoke.
Church Rock with smoke haze.
Wilson Arch

We arrive at the Price Walmart parking lot in the early evening, glad to be off the highway. Going into Walmart is a welcome breath of cool air, but sensory overload. We have not been to Walmart in over 2 ½ years; the well-stocked store is bright with color and sound. Even though I don’t feel great after the hot drive, it is interesting to browse as though I have never been in a Walmart store before.

Sunrise at Walmart

The next morning, we pick up a few more supplies and then head north to Provo where Clifford has reserved a spot at a “Hip Camp.” A hip camp is about what it sounds like, a place between cool and funky, a place where someone can make a few bucks by letting travelers camp in their backyard. This place is, no doubt, the epitome of just that. Our bearded camp host, an old hippie, says we can park anywhere and points out a grassy spot under a big tree next to a mud puddle where ducks are happily splashing about.

Parking in the shade at Provo Hip Camp
Ducks and chickens visit Clifford

Even better, there is a back gate that opens onto the bike trail along the Provo River. A foot bridge gives us access to the Provo City Riverside Park. We spend the next day in the park in a shelter alongside the Provo River, picnicking and playing music. We are grateful for the cool shade of the trees and the ambiance of the river.

Grateful for the cool ambiance of the Provo River
Picnic and music in the Provo Riverside Park

This Hip Camp has been a very pleasant stop for us.

Hip Camp at Provo, Utah

 

 

Last Days at Monticello – August 2021

View of Abajo Mountain at Monticello

It is August now and western United States is hot and dry with many wildfires, but it has not been too bad here in Monticello, Utah. Even though Monticello and nearby Abajo Mountain have thus far escaped the ravages of wildfires, there are a couple of days when smoke lies heavily in the valley, obscuring Abajo from view.

Forest Fire Sunrise
Abajo Mountain is obscured

Clifford and I discuss whether we should stay in Monticello longer or begin the trip to Montana and hope it cools off by time we get there.

The sale of the house is underway, but there are many things yet  to take care of such as moving the last items out of the house and getting Cougar (our RV) ready to be our full-time home, including a major readjustment of living space functionality.

Original Living Space
Redesigned Living Space

Downsizing from this place, once a small church, to a 24-foot RV has been a real challenge. We have given away hundreds to thousands of dollars worth of stuff – furniture, lab equipment, clothing, dishes, books, and so on. There is no turning back at this point, so it looks like we will aim for the small break in the temperature that we see shaping up in Montana in about a week.

My source of greatest peace during these last days is the time I spend in the backyard either on the deck watching the birds, sipping coffee and journaling, or sitting under the pine and spruce trees at the back, grateful for shade and their ambiance.

Coffee on the Deck
Or Under the Spruce Tree

As I journal, I think about the difference between being motivated and being inspired. Being motivated comes from need – the need to eat, the need to have clean clothes, and so on, while being inspired comes from some deeper richer place. I seem to be doing most things based on motivation (need) rather than inner source (inspiration). In sitting quietly with the question of how to move from motivation to inspiration, I find the answer is that feeling satisfaction is the only gauge I need at this time. If the activity is satisfying, do it if I want to (cook, wash dishes, play the fiddle); if not satisfying, let it go for the time being. That makes sense given the current circumstances.

Some days I walk early while it is still cool, one day going as far as the cemetery, a peaceful place where I’ve never been before. Maybe I’ll come here again before we leave.

Cemetery – a Peaceful Place
Wildflower on the Roadside
View of Abajo on the Cemetery Walk

We make the final trip to Clifford’s storage unit in the nearby town of Blanding and stop at Recapture Reservoir on our way back to Monticello – one last chance for me to take photos there.

Recapture Reservoir near Blanding, Utah

On August 10, we do the final walkabout of the house and yard with our checklist, repack the Suburban, and get Cougar ready for travel. I say good-bye to the backyard, the trees, and all that is being left behind.

Saying Good-bye to All That Is Being Left Behind

Tomorrow begins a new stage of the life journey.