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

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 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

 

 

Returning to Home-Base

Arizona Landscape on the Journey North

Our time camped south of Ash Fork, Arizona, goes by quickly. The last days there are not very comfortable for me due to the wind and the stress of being on the move again and my heart feels a bit uneasy, but I am happy to be alive! We have enjoyed this peaceful location situated among the junipers, but it is soon time for us to take the next leg of the journey back to home-base in Utah.

Our first destination is a forest road north of Flagstaff. We are up early and ready to go, planning on getting out ahead of the wind, but by time we are on I-40 heading east, the wind, the semis, and the uneven terrain make for very difficult driving conditions. Had we known how much the wind was going to pick up, we would probably have stayed at camp longer, but after a stressful drive, we are relieved to arrive at the forest road north of Flagstaff where we spend a comfortable night.

Forest Road North of Flagstaff, Arizona

The next morning we leave for Monticello.

Elephant Feet Alongside US Highway 160, Arizona
Northern Arizona Landscape
Northern Arizona Landscape
Northern Arizona Landscape

With the wind and traffic, it is a long drive, but by mid-afternoon we are back in Monticello.

There are big changes ahead in the next weeks, but for a few days I just enjoy having the space of the home-base, especially my writing table at the east-facing sliding glass doors….

Tea at the Writing Table

and time in the enclosed backyard.

View from the Deck

On to Ash Fork – April 2021

Camping South of Ash Fork, Arizona

Right when our two-week time limit at Powell Springs is up, Clifford is sick and the wind is blowing up a big storm, so consequently we end up staying longer. The ranger who stops to check on us is very nice about it.

Where to go next has been the question, and even with our exploratory drives and studying the maps, we have not come up with a good next destination until we hear from Tony, who invites us to join him on a forest road south of Ash Fork, Arizona. He left Powell Springs a couple days ago. Before he left we tried to figure out where we might both go, but things didn’t seem to be working out, wind and weather being an issue. However, his suggestion works for us, and we head north on highway 89 to the forest road turnoff. It is a nerve-wracking drive on highway 89 with way too much fast traffic for this highway. It is a relief to arrive at the forest road and find Tony, and we soon get ourselves set up nearby in a stand of pinon pine and juniper.

Setting up in a Stand of Pinon Pine

We are grateful for our spot here, despite the trash left by others. I pick up around our campsite, but disposing of trash is problematic, so I have to let much of the rest of it go.

Sunset from Forest Road 4

I go walking most days, just because it is part of the regimen established for stabilizing the heart. I’m always on the lookout for flowers on my walkabouts, happy to find a few here and there.

Happy to Find Flowers
Flowers on FR4

The Daily Walkabout

Daily activities include music and editing and visits with Tony while we are camped in this peaceful location.

Clifford Playing Dulcimers
Carol Editing and Studying Energy Medicine

We drive to Prescott Valley, about 30 miles to the south  from where we are now camped, and more work is done on the Suburban . Several days and many $$$ later, we have important repairs done that, while expensive, are very important for the safety factor involved in towing an RV.

Peaceful days on FR4

After we spend two weeks here, we make plans to begin the journey back to Monticello homebase.  It has been a good and peaceful spot on the route northward and we look forward to perhaps coming this way another time.

Good-bye to Forest Road 4

Hiking With Clifford – April 2021

Hiking With Clifford

When I am not out sauntering about the forest near our campsite at Powell Springs, I have a favorite spot under the alligator juniper near our front door. It is a great place to read, write, and enjoy a morning cup of coffee or afternoon tea. There are days when I play the cello outside. Along with these activities, domestic chores, editing and blog-writing fill my days.

Sauntering in the Forest
Forest Treasures

Clifford works with his ham radio and he also has a favorite outdoor spot where he spends as much time as possible playing the dulcimer and singing, the secret side of his life after 20+ years as the scientist devoting hour upon hour to his research.

Favorite Music Spot

Over the two weeks that we camp near Powell Springs Campground, along with the usual camp activities, Clifford and I go hiking a couple times, not with any particular destination in mind, except for one hike looking for and finding Powell Spring.

 

Hiking near Powell Springs Campsite

We also go for a couple drives to explore the general region to have ideas of future camping spots. On one of these outings, the Suburban starts making a rather unpleasant sound, but we make it back to camp and then to Big O in Prescott Valley. The immediate problem is taken care of, but other issues will have to be taken care of as soon as possible.  But in the meantime, we will enjoy our last days camped at Powell Springs, grateful for having found this beautiful camping area.

Exploring