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Week 30: Ending 6/8/2003
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2003 5:27 pm    Post subject: Week 30: Ending 6/8/2003 Reply with quote

Week 30: Ending June 8, 2003

Off to Salt Lake City! We took the campground managerís advice and took advantage of public transit. We park (for free) at exit 297 off I-15 and board the TRAX train at Sandy Civic Center. In about 30 minutes, we are in downtown SLC and Temple Square. Flowers are in bloom everywhere one looks, it seems, especially roses.

We get hear a bit of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearsing, but cannot view the world famous organ, since the doors close rehearsal commences. Temple Square is rather impressive in architecture as well as landscaping.

We proceed to check out SLCís version of Fanueil Hall called The Gateway. It is an interesting multi-level mall, though we are not impressed by the views it commands of the city. They do have a neat timed fountain in which kids and adults are encouraged to frolic.

We get on the road around noon, so we just plan to drive to Blackfoot, ID, about 230 miles away. The passenger windshield gets kissed by an Idaho Star and gives an 8 inch crack. We stop to repair it but it only partially sets.

There are both a WalMart Super Center and a Flying J Truckstop there. Yellowstone National Park is our next destination, but it is too far on secondary roads to attempt so late in the day. WalMart is our chosen stop and we start a trend, with other RVs following.

Northward to Yellowstone! Since we have not slept in Idaho yet, we choose Red Rock RV Park, in Island Park, ID, as our base camp. It is about 25 miles from Yellowstone and very reasonably priced @ $21 for full hookups. Not a lot of amenities, but most campers are here for the prolific fishing or for the National Parks. There is a caravan of about 18 Airstream trailers also camped here for a couple of days. They are from California and en route to Burlington, VT., for a rally.

Several of the Airstream travelers heartily recommend the Grizzly Discovery Center just before the entrance to Yellowstone. Since it is too late to visit the park fully, we drive to the Center. The Center serves as a wildlife preserve, harboring Grizzly bears and gray wolves who are considered menacing to livestock , overly fond of peopleís trash barrels, etc.

While not the same as viewing the bears in the wild, it is rather neat to watch them as they eat and play in a semi-natural habitat. The wolves, on the other hand, slept for most of our visit. As if on cue, however, at 6:30 pm, they all started howling for a good five minutes. They kind of remind us of Jake.

We have read and received numerous warnings about bears: keeping food in bear-proof containers, not wearing fragrant lotions, what to do if a bear approaches, etc. We prepare accordingly, pack only beverages and even bring pepper spray, just in case, for our visit to Yellowstone National Park.

We need not have worried. We did not see any bears. Only 15 minutes after entering the park from the West entrance, we first see elk grazing in a distant field and then several dozen bison with their young. The bison are conveniently grazing in an area adjacent to a rest stop, so there were numerous cars and even RVs parked and people taking pictures.

Throughout the park, bare dead trees and limbs lie on the ground and also stand erect, silent witness to massive fires of 1996. A park ranger later tells us that earlier fires are responsible for the lack of moose in the park, having burned away their favorite vegetation.

Further down the road, warning signs tell motorists not to park, stand or otherwise dilly-dally for some distance. A bald eagle is guarding its nest, and the park rangers are trying assist in the re-establishment of the majestic bird. Ron can not see the nest while he is driving, but Joan can and sees the white head of a large bird in the nest.

The odor of rotten eggs alerts us to the presence of sulphuric hot springs. Old Faithful is scheduled to erupt around 1:40 pm, so we do not tarry long at one of the smaller springs. There are hundreds of vehicles parked at Old Faithfulís Visitor Center and a few hundred people encamped at Old Faithful when we arrive. A few minutes later, the renonwn geyser starts puffing and spewing. The wind was blowing strongly to the right, so we position ourselves to the left. Just as Old Faithful truly erupts, the wind changes, blowing fog and mist directly at us and totally blocking the view of the spouting geyser. Of course, as soon as Old Faithful stops, the wind changes direction again. Luckily, both of us have cameras at the ready. Joan takes blank photos after her first shot with the digital. Ron has better luck with the camcorder, except for the change in wind. Silence from Old Faithful for another 70-90 minutes. We decide not to wait and continue on.

The natural beauty of Yellowstone is truly awe-inspiring and we are only viewing a small portion of it. We stop along a tall wooded hillside still blanketed in snow to throw a few snowballs. Surprisingly, it is only the first of many such snowscapes: this is June! The weathermen have been warning about snowfall in the next couple of days.

We continue the Grand Tour route. Along the way, we stop to see cascades and waterfalls and lots more bison and elk. The mighty beasts stop traffic a couple of times as they amble across the road. Some of the bison are only yards away from the road, so we stop to admire and take photos. Absolutely incredible!

Yellowstone has a couple of campgrounds which are accessible to motorhomes and we check out the more rustic of the two. Decent accommodations for about $18 per night with no hookups.

We had originally planned to drive the entire Grand Tour, but road construction prevents it. Roads are often closed, sometimes due to repair or to weather. Probably just as well, because the trail we followed was over 110 miles. We left the park just about 8:30 pm, daylight still going strong. Yellowstone is truly a National treasure. One could spend
an entire week camped here and not experience everything. We definitely have to return.

We wake up early to howling, gusty winds and raindrops and decide to stay another night. The wind finally dies down and we drive around town. South on Route 20 we find the Sawtelle RV Park. Very nice accommodations, secluded treed campsites, full hookups and amenities for $23 per night. They have been open for several years but just started advertising with Good Sam, which explains why they are not in our directory. Nice place to base camp for our next visit to Yellowstone, if we do not stay at the Park.

A beautiful morning awakens us. We take a shortcut to Rte 87 to hookup with 287 and I-15 again. Patches of violet blue wildflowers dot the roadside of US 287 in Montana, with rolling pastures and distant mountains on either side. The driverís windshield gets kissed by a Montana Star, so now we have matching cracks in our windshield.

Helena, MT, is our next destination. We camp at Helena Campground and RV Park. It is a pretty operation, obviously a former KOA by the building structures and the staff are very helpful.

Downtown Helena has created a pedestrian thoroughfare in its historic section to encourage tourism and revitalize the area. It seems to be working, although many of the historic buildings house M-F businesses, rather than retail shops and restaurants. A crafts Fair is winding down at the end of the thoroughfare which we support with a small purchase. Not enough room in the motorhome for most of their wares!

We discuss staying in Helena another night and decide to move on. We head for the Wal-Mart Super Center in Missoula, MT, only to discover that the town does not allow overnight RV parking. There are quite a few RVs obviously parked for the night, but we decide not to risk it and get back on the highway. We happen upon a spacious rest area on I-90 West at MM58. It is nicely landscaped with rest rooms and picnic tables. We explore a little further and find the Quartz Flat State Campground behind the rest area. The road looks narrow and we do not know the campsite dimensions, so we stay in the rest area. Traffic comes and goes. A few tractor trailers stay for the night as does another diesel motorhome, which pulls in alongside of us. It is a quiet night with no cell phone or TV service, but enjoyable.
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