The East Side of Glacier NP

Tuesday June 20th 2017

Today was the day to see the east side of Glacier National Park. The visitor center in St. Mary is about 100 miles away by going around the park. It would only be about sixty miles if the Going to the Sun Road through the park was open. I was slow getting started this morning. The affects of yesterday’s unexpected hike in the park were lingering in my leg and back muscles this morning.

It took two and a half hours to get there. I encountered several areas of construction with large sections of single lane road requiring a pilot car to escort you through the construction area. One six mile construction zone required a wait of fifteen minutes for the pilot car to get back from the other end. Some of the roads were also attached to the side of cliffs climbing over and around the eastern foothills. The trip really had me wondering on the value of the excursion to the east entrance.

The eastern side of the park starts very different. The prairie comes right up to the start of the National Park on the east side. The west side is all forest. Once you get into the east side of the park you start to climb right away. On the west side it is a very gradual climb for the first 20 miles or so of the park. In general the east side is more remote and seems to be less visited.

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Grizzly Bear and Cub running up the road.

Shortly after I got into the park I was rewarded for my efforts. A mama Grizzly bear and her cub were in the road to greet the arriving park visitors. I was a few cars back, but got to see her run up the road to find a place to get the cub off the road and back into the woods. By the time I drove by the area she left the road, there was no trace of her or the cub.

The prominent feature on the east end of the park is Saint Mary Lake. The Going to the Sun Road runs along the cliffs that boarder the lake for the first nine miles. The mountains and a couple of the glaciers on them are visible across the lake. The road is open for thirteen and half miles on the east side. At most of the pull offs it was a challenge to find a parking space.

I only took 70 pictures today. Some of the better ones are included below. I have been having internet issues so I haven’t uploaded all of the pictures to Google Photos yet. I’ll do that in the next couple of days and post the link.

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Saint Mary Lake looking west

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Saint Mary Lake looking east

Tomorrow is my last full day in this area. I need to stock up on supplies, but may make one last trip into the park.

Around the Next Bend

Monday June 19th 2017

The sun came out this morning. I took full advantage and returned to Glacier National Park. After passing through the toll booth at 10AM, I went straight to the end of the road. The Going to the Sun road is currently closed at the Avalanche visitor area. The plowing crews are still working on Logan Pass sixteen miles further up the road.

Today was a picture taking intensive day. They really don’t do justice to the beautiful scenery I was seeing. I’ve included a few in this blog entry. All of the pictures can be found in my Google Photos shared album called Glacier National Park June 19 2017. Click on the link to visit the album.

The closed Going to the Sun Road is open to hiking and biking. I started up the road with the plan to go a few hundred yards around the first bend. At the first bend I pushed on to the next bend. The pattern was set. I kept going around the next bend until there was a very long straight section through the forest. It was boring enough to get me to turn around. When I checked Google Maps later, it turns out I walked about six miles up the road. By the time I got back to the Avalanche visitor area I’d walked twelve miles over three and a half hours. Not bad for a hike I didn’t intend to take.

All of the pictures that follow were taken along the road. I took far more pictures than I would have if I’d had to stop the car. Most of the pictures are just the things I was seeing, they don’t have any particular significance. I didn’t manage to see any animal life other than bugs and birds.

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Panorama of the cliff side the road to Logan pass follows. This picture was taken near the end of my hike before I turned around.

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Log ram in a small water fall.

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The only snow I saw near the road.

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Tomorrow I may go around the park to the east entrance.

More Wet Montana Weather

Sunday June 18th 2017

Yesterday ended with improving weather. There was an actual visible sunset at 9:40 last night. It looked like the forecast for warmer and sunnier weather today was on track. Unfortunately something went wrong. I heard rain on the roof overnight and woke up to very dark skies caused by a thick low cloud layer.

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One of the mountains around the campground with the clouds below the peak.

My rough plan for the day was touring to the south about fifty miles in the Flathead Lake area. After yesterday’s washed out pictures, I wanted sunshine to get good pictures of the lake and surrounding area. I decided to wait until the sun came out. It still hasn’t happened as I write this blog entry. There are a couple of hours until official sunset, but the dark clouds don’t provide a great deal of hope for sun today.

The weather has been pretty bad since I left Yellowstone a week and a half ago. Only one day has been sunny, but it was cold and windy. The forecast is for temperatures near 80 by Wednesday of this week so there is hope. The only problem is I’m not sure I can believe the forecasters.

I spent most of the day watching the US Open Golf on television interspersed with walks around the campground. The golf kept my attention even though I’d only heard of a handful of the players before. Most of the elite golfers didn’t make the cut.

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One of several rosebushes in full bloom.

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One of many planted flower beds in the resort.

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This West Glacier KOA is very nicely landscaped campground. Each of the sites has nice green grass and there are planted flower beds at most of the intersections. The sites have reasonable separation and the utilities are located well. Overall it is a very nice resort style campground. It wasn’t full over the weekend which is surprising. They had a fathers day special of pay one night get one night free going on. That probably tells you the place is too expensive, but you’re paying for the location.

The dark clouds I wrote about three paragraphs above just turned into rain. I hope mother nature gets it out of her system before tomorrow. I want to do some more touring in nice weather.

This concludes another blog entry about the weather. When I don’t do anything during the day it is usually because of the weather so that’s often all I can think to write about. I remain committed to writing a blog entry for every day of my Rambling Road Trip.

Glacier National Park Day 1

Saturday June 17th 2017

It rained off an on all night. This morning it was dry and looked like it was clearing up. The sun didn’t peak through the clouds until after 4PM, but I was in Glacier National Park by 10AM expecting it to clear at any moment.

I took 55 pictures of the scenery, but none of animals. I saw the back end of a white tailed deer as it ran away, 2 squirrels and a few birds. All of my photos from today can be found in my Google Photos shared album called Glacier National Park June 17 2017. Click on the link to see them all. The cloud cover makes some of the pictures look washed out. On the other hand the cloud formations are interesting to look at.

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There were thousands of these white flowering plants on the floor of the pine forest. I’m still trying to figure out what they are called.

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I traveled all of the paved roads on the west side of the park that are open. The Going to the Sun Road is closed 15 miles into the park at the Avalanche area. I stopped at every significant area that I could find a parking spot. There were a lot of people jammed into the small part of the park that is open. At Avalanche, where the road is closed, the lack of parking and traffic jam is particularly annoying. It took twenty minutes to get turned around and out of the area. During the whole exercise I never saw an open parking spot.

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Panorama of Lake McDonald.

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High meadow on the northwest side of the park.  

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McDonald Falls

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McDonald Creek above the falls

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Lake McDonald looking southwest.

I took one side road that started out fine. It turned into a wide gravel road then something else. The road became one lane with a few wide spots to pass if you meet other cars. That’s exactly what happened. On my way up a hill, three or four cars started down the hill right at me. I had to back down the hill around a bend to find a wide spot in the road. Halfway down the hill a vehicle came up behind me. Luckily it was a park ranger that saw what was going on. He ended up giving me hand directions to the wide spot in the road. I turned around and got out of there. Why I was on the road, and so many others, is a mystery to me and the park ranger. Apparently there is nothing on the road but a fishing spot. There weren’t any signs.

I’ll return to the park during the week when the sun is out. I still hope the Going to the Sun Road opens while I’m here. The more unique parts of the park are on that section of road. I will also drive around to St. Mary on the east side of the park if necessary. It is about 100 miles around vs. 55 miles through the park if the road was open.

Tracing Wires on a Rainy Day

Friday June 16th 2017

Simply stated, today was a rainy day. It started raining Thursday night around 11PM and has rained off and on since. The periods of rain and calm are about equal. You just decide it’s starting to clear off when more dark clouds bring more rain. Overall it was the kind of day you want to snuggle down into the couch with a good book.

I started the day trying to get my Satellite TV to work. The first step was to cycle the power on the satellite receiver with no impact. I also verified the connections on the back of the receiver were tight. The second step was to open the access panel in the closet for the distribution splitters. The splitters distribute the HD signal from the satellite receiver and the Blu-Ray DVD to the three TVs in the RV. Once I removed all of the hanging clothes from the closet I could unscrew the access panel to the spider web of cables.

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Mass of wires and two HDMI splitters in a box on the floor of the clothes cabinet.

I verified all of the connections were tight and moved on to check that power was getting to the devices. There was AC current at the outlets. One of the two AC to 5 volt DC transformers wasn’t working, but it supplied the Blu-Ray splitter not the satellite lines. When I checked the function of the Blu-Ray player sure enough it didn’t work either. I haven’t used the Blu-Ray in months so it could have been bad for a long time. I tried moving the good power to the Blu-Ray player splitter with no success. I move the Satellite HDMI cable to the other splitter also without success. It seems that I have two bad splitters and one bad power transformer. This is not a big surprise. There has been discussion on the Internet Tiffin Forum about problems with these splitters.

To verify that it wasn’t the satellite receiver itself, I connected an HDMI table directly from the receiver to the bedroom TV. I now have satellite TV in the bedroom. This will have to do until I can arrange for new splitter to be shipped from the factory. The trick to this is being in one place where I can receive packages long enough to get this accomplished. On top of all that it’s out of warranty so it will probably cost a not so pretty penny.

The entertainment electronics trouble shooting took place across most of the day. It was broken up by a 35 mile each way drive into the city of Kalispell MT. I bought an HDMI cable to connect the satellite receiver directly to the TV and a few groceries. I also got a little sightseeing in during breaks in the rain.

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Hungry Horse Dam

I stopped at the Hungry Horse Dam. This is a 564 foot height dam on the South Fork of the Flathead River. It creates a reservoir, provides flood control and power generation for the area. The dam was built between 1948 and 1953. Even with all the rain in the area the view on the road to and at the dam was spectacular.

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Lake behind the Hungry Horse Dam.

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South Fork of the Flathead River 564 feet below the Hungry Horse Dam.

Tomorrow is going to be a better weather day. I plan to go into Glacier National Park and start visit some of the scenic areas near the entrance. The Going to the Sun Road still hasn’t been cleared of snow. It is open for 15 miles on this, the west side, and 13.5 miles from the east side.

Travel to West Glacier MT

Thursday June 15th 2017

I woke this morning to a cloudy and cool day. It was a travel day so I had hoped for better weather. As I moved west and north the weather deteriorated.

I had a long way to go today. It turned out that the route I followed was around 270 miles from Butte MT to West Glacier MT. It wasn’t the most direct route, but followed bigger roads and hopefully better roads. I left Butte at ten this morning and arrived in West Glacier at three thirty. In between was a lot of driving.

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Cloud engulfed mountain in front of my RV in West Glacier MT.

As I traveled west the clouds got thicker. The tops of the mountains beside my route became covered in clouds. Just before I turned north in Missoula MT it started to rain. It never got hard enough to require the wipers to be on full, but a sweep of the blades every 20 or 30 seconds was needed. The road went up and down many hills. None of the hills were bad climbs or descents, but they made it undesirable to run the cruise control. The cruise control isn’t smart enough to anticipate the next rise soon enough to add gas when it does the most good. Instead it waits until the speed drops, then causes a downshift usually by two gears before it stabilizes. Controlling the throttle myself takes more concentration but keeps the rig going a more constant rate.

US 93 north from Missoula was a wide road with plenty of slow vehicle lanes so I didn’t have traffic backed up behind me. I keep my speed between 60 and 65 whenever possible, but the speed limit is often 70. The problem with the road was sections of frost heaves that get the back end of the rig bouncing. This has two impacts. First things really get bounced around in the RV and second the motion often causes the auxiliary brake in the towed car to briefly activate.

I had to deal with the consequences of both of those events when I arrived at the West Glacier KOA. The battery in the towed car wouldn’t start the car. I had to use my jumper pack to start the car. All of the brake applications drained the battery. The bouncing also caused some of the entertainment system electronics to act up. My satellite receiver currently can’t talk to my TVs. It is probably a loose connection, but so far I haven’t found the source.

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Site 204 at the West Glacier KOA.

I am parked at the West Glacier KOA for the next week. Tomorrow and Saturday are not forecast to be very good days, but then it clears up and warms up. I’m looking forward to seeing Glacier National Park. The Going to the Sun road across the park is not open yet. Last year it opened on the 16th but the snow is deeper this year. I hope it opens before I leave on the 22nd.

World Museum of Mining

Wednesday June 14th 2017

Today is my last full day in Butte MT. The weather was sunny and cool, but not uncomfortable for outside activity. It turned out to be a perfect day to go to the World Museum of Mining.

The Museum of Mining is built on the site of the Orphan Girl Mine. The mine was in operation from the 1870s to the 1950s. The miners removed Silver, Lead and Zinc from the ground via the Orphan Girl Mine. The Mining Museum opened in 1965 with artifacts from the old mine. It has been expanded over the years with donations from all over the northwest. A replica of an 1890s mining town has been created on site from original structures moved to the location and new construction from old materials. The town buildings are all filled with period artifacts donated to the museum. They call the town Hell Roarin’ Gulch.

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Replica 1875 bank building at the World Museum of Mining.

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One room school house

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Split log church building.

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Interior of church building.

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Street view in Hell Roarin’ Gulch.

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Chinese Laundry

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Log one room post office building.

The other part of the museum surrounds the Orphan Girl Mine Headframe. This is the structure that lowered people and materials into the mine and brings the raw ore and people back up. They have made it possible to climb the head frame to the area the ore was dumped out of the carts. In addition to lots of neat machinery there is a nice view of the Butte area.

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Orphan Girl Mine Headframe.

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View from the headframe of the mining car track.

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Mountains in the distance from the headframe.

There is a lot of interesting things at the museum. I wish it was a little better curated. The artifacts are from nearly one hundred years of time. Nineteenth century artifacts are mixed with early twentieth century and mid century artifacts. Telling what artifacts are related is often difficult. It’s almost like they’ve had too many donations. Everything is well marked with respect to donor or sponsor, but many artifacts are not labeled for purpose or historical significance.

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One of my old duck friends.

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I believe these are a pair of Cinnamon Teals.

After the museum I returned to the RV park to get ready for tomorrows travel day. I also took one more walk along the creek to visit the ducks and geese. Today there was a mega group of geese blocking the path. I don’t know how many different family units, but there were several big guardians in the lot.

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Back on the path after a swim.

 

Another Wet Day in Butte

Tuesday June 13th 2017

The rain that started yesterday afternoon continued through the night and into the morning. Around noon it stopped for a while. This area is right on the southeastern edge of a flood watch area. The concern is the combination of the rain and the run off from the snow melt in the mountains. The TV news reported several minor evacuations in the Missoula area northwest of here. In this immediate area most of the mountain snow has already melted so it would take more rain.

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View out my front window around ten this morning.

The Yellowstone National Park area, southeast of here, had a winter storm warning the last couple of days. The TV news tonight showed snow covered roads in several of the passes in the park. I guess I lucked out on the timing of my visit. Most of the passes in the park were over eight thousand feet. The snow line for this storm system was around seven thousand feet according to one report.

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Mr & Mrs Duck out of the pond for a walk.

Today was the third day in a row that I didn’t do much outside the rig. In some ways the down time after last week in tourist mode has been nice. Reading and watching TV has been my primary activity. This afternoon after the rain let up I took a walk to check on the water level in the creek and see how the ducks like the weather. The water gauges in the creek appear to be up about six inches from yesterday and I only saw one set of ducks. The others must be hiding out in the grass keeping warm.

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Mr Duck is back in the pond the Mrs is hiding. They may have a nest in the grass.

The weather tomorrow is forecast to be much improved. If true, I’ll try and visit the mining museum. It will be my last full day in this area. Thursday I’m moving on toward Glacier National Park.

A Day for the Ducks

Monday June 12th 2017

The sun came up over the mountains to the east this morning, but by 9AM it was blocked by clouds. The weather went down hill from there. First we got occasional showers then around three thirty a thunder storm moved in and sat above for more than an hour. It was heavy rain with occasional lightening and thunder the whole time. The thunder and lightning went away but the rain has continued at a slightly slower pace. According to the TV weather talkers the rain will continue until Wednesday morning.

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Making waves.

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These reddish brown medium sized ducks just landed. I don’t know what type they are.

Before the rain started I got out for a walk along the county trail adjacent to the RV park. The path follows the creek along the edge of a residential area. I walked about a mile to the east until the sky was threatening to open up. The last quarter mile or so of my return hike was in a light rain.

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This duck was coming right in to shore until it saw me.

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It has started to rain, but this guy is still making waves.

I was somewhere between damp and wet when I got back. The thought of putting on a raincoat never passed through my mind. The ducks in the ponds along the creek were very happy with the light rain. They may be the only creatures prepared for this weather. Everybody in the campground was making sure outside things were buttoned down or put away for the storm.

It has been as dark as dusk since four this afternoon. Considering sunset is after 9PM this is unusual. Just as I have come to accept the late night fall this happens. Telling time without looking at a clock is not easy in this traveling life. When you live in one area for a long time you get to know the sun’s cycle. While traveling you need to find other cues. Even the TV doesn’t help me. It is on most of the time, but prime time in the Mountain Time zone is 7-10PM. In the East and Pacific it is 8-11PM. My satellite TV is mostly on Eastern time. I know all this, but I find I’m doing a lot of time zone math in my head. For years my normal bed time was after the 11PM news. Does that mean I should be going to bed at 10:30 in this time zone?

Lazy Day in Butte

Sunday June 11th 2017

I really squandered the good weather today, but I don’t care. I enjoyed the lazy day. It was a bright sunny day with highs in the 60s. Tomorrow through Wednesday is expected to be very rainy. Today might have been my only chance to visit the World Mining Museum on this trip through Butte.

My lazy behavior started as soon as I got up. I put the coffee on and started reading Internet blogs and articles while it brewed. It was better than an hour before I got back to the coffee or any thing remotely resembling breakfast. I continued reading while drinking the coffee and a cinnamon roll. It was mid afternoon before I came up for air.

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Sleepy ducks on the bank of the pond.

To break up the reading jag and I took a walk along the county trails that abut the RV park. There were a lot of people walking dogs and getting some time in the sun along the path. The marsh area also had some wildlife. I saw geese swimming in the ponds and ducks sleeping on the banks.

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This group of geese seems to be two families.

The RV park is nearly full tonight. It has been interesting watching the people arrive and setup. I’m impressed by some, amused by others and ready go assist a few. The seasoned travelers pull in and setup quickly. Each member of the party seems to have an assigned role. The summer vacation travelers are a little more tentative and somewhat confused. They take longer to position the RV on the site, agonized over getting it level and seem to take forever to get setup. They also seem to be the group that has one doer and a bunch of observers in their party. This often leads to raised voices.

The experts are the amusing ones. Three similar RVs from Canada arrived this evening. They’re so similar they may be rentals. A man from one of the three jumped out and started directing the others into the sites. I could see no reasonable reason for his directions. They were long level pull through sites with no backing necessary. When he got around to his rig. He spent ages putting boards under wheels then changing to another combination in an attempt to get level on pretty level ground. None of his companions needed to level and he ended up with next to nothing under a single wheel.

I’m sure people watching me setup might be amused or confused too, but you sure see some odd things. The ones I have helped in the past are the obvious inexperienced or new campers. If a couple is standing around trying to figure out how to do something, I’ll ask if they need help. If someone is trying to connect the water hose to the electric box, I’ll help. More importantly when someone asks for assistance I’m glad to provide what I can.