After a great time in Glacier National Park, we decided to spend a few days in Island Park, Idaho on our way back to Utah. We first went to Island Park last year on our way to Yellowstone and really enjoyed our stay there. Once again I was impressed with our visit and just how relaxing it is. I would really like to plan a future trip where we have much longer in the area. Several of the campers we spoke with were staying for several weeks and come to the area several times a year.
One of the attractions in the area is know as Big Springs. In the past, there have been some huge fish in the area, which is off-limits to fishing, and you can view them from a bridge right above the water. Well last year the numbers of fish were way down apparently due to some people illegally remove them from the water. Well this year the numbers were even lower. Talking to one of the frequent campers, they pointed us to “the bridge” on the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway. So we headed off with very little in the way of direction to see if we could find the bridge. Fortunately there is only one bridge so it really want hard. The water was way more rough so it was hard to see the fish but they were jumping and surfacing regularly so you could see just how big they actually were. After checking out the fish we decided to find a place for lunch. We came across the Frostop Drive-In located in Ashton, ID. The location has been in operation since 1965 and it is clear why. The food was great and the staff was really friendly. You can eat in your car (tray on the window style) or at one of the tables. Lily loved all the animals on the property and insisted on getting pictures with each of them.
It has been a great trip and now we must return back to our normal lives. It is always sad to see these trips come to and end, but we have satisfaction knowing that there is another one around the corner.
Until next time…
One of the cool parts about traveling into our national parks and to various campgrounds is getting the opportunity to see wildlife. Since sightings are never really guaranteed it is hard to really set your mid to seeing something. However in the days leading up to us going to Glacier National Park, I decided that we would have a high likelihood of seeing Mountain Goats. Sure I have seen them before through binoculars but I wanted to see them up close (25 yards away according to the rangers). The best place I could find in the park to have this opportunity was at Logan Pass on the Hidden Lake Trail.
To get up to Logan Pass you need to venture along the Going To The Sun Road. I had read about this road and how amazing it was. It might have been that I was paying a lot of attention to my driving, but after driving along the road, I really want all that impressed. It might be that it is very similar (although tighter) to some of the canyons that we have here in Utah so I was kind of already familiar with this type of trek.
Once we arrived at Logan Pass we set out along the Hidden Lake trail. The trail ascends up a mountain valley that is very reminiscent of scenes from The Sound Of Music. There were many wild flowers and some really spectacular views along the way.
As we continued up the trail we started to encounter a bit of snow still left over from the winter. Of course this spawned some fun play time and mini snowball fight. As we continued to climb some of the people coming down the trail would mention the Goats, which got me all excited. Then all of a sudden I heard somebody say, there right here. With a bit of added spring in my step I crested the hill and encountered my first Mountain Goat.
I was surprised how unafraid he was of me. I am sure that it is because humans pose very little threat inside the park. We ended up seeing several goats while at the overlook. A good portion of them were wearing radio and gps tracking colors. The University of Montana and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks are doing a multi-year study to see how mountain goats are affected by roads, people, and trails near Logan Pass. The actual hidden lake overlook was really cool and again takes a minute to let the magnitude of the surrounding sink in. The actual trail from the overlook to the lake was close due to grizzly activity near the lake.
After the fun hike and the great time with the goats Lily wanted to cool off in Lake McDonald. The rest of us thought she was crazy, but she had a blast!
For our first day in the park we figured it was best to get out a stretch our legs a bit. Earlier in the year we started to prepare Lily for longer hikes and this hike was going ot be the real test. The Avalanche Lake hike is about 5 miles round trip and has been the longest hike we have done as a family.
The hike starts off on the Trail of the Cedars which take you through a forest of hemlock and red cedar trees. While they might not compare to the giant redwood trees found in California these are mighty large. At the half way point on the trail you find the trail head for the Avalanche Lake trail. The water in this area is by far the most amazing that we saw during our entire trip.
Glacier National Park is largely considered a rain forest and is the farthest east part of the Pacific Northwest. As such there is a lot of vegetation that grows on the ground and things are very green. The rest of the hike up to avalanche lake is a steady climb along a tree covered trail. We made it up to the lake (the turn around point) where we had the lunch that we packed in. The lake itself is surrounded by large mountains that have several waterfalls cascading down them and flowing into the lake. The visual magnitude of the lake is quite impressive and you really just have to site for a minute to take it all in.
Lily did amazing and finished the entire hike with virtually no complaining. After a long day hiking it was back to the camp for dinner and then off to the Lake McDonald lodge for a boat tour. The lake is totally amazing. It is by far the smoothest water I have ever been on. The tour guide gave a great history overview and even pointed out a few of the extremely rare privately owned sections of land along the lake and well withing the national parks boundary.
After our overnight stay at the Butte KOA, we headed out to Glacier National Park. It was just over a 4 hour drive and we had planned to make a stop along the way in Arlee, MT. Whats in Arlee you might ask? Well in researching our route, I found a great little road side attraction called Garden of One Thousand Buddhas and knew we had to stop. The garden was impressive, not so much for the scale of it, but that fact that somebody would build and maintain a garden like this is such a small town. It is always inspiring to see this level of dedication. As this was about the half way point we also made a quick lunch stop in the parking lot and then continued on up the road toward the park.
Heading north from Arlee, we passed by Flathead Lake and man was it impressive. The lake is huge and reminded me of pictures that I have seen of the Oregon coast with several islands in the water. It was a place that I am sure would be great to stop and spend some time, but we had to press forward, avoiding the countless roadside cherry stands and make it to our destination.
We camped in the park at the Fish Creek Campground located in West Glacier. The campground is fairly large with several loops and is generally quite busy as it is one of two campgrounds in Glacier that you can make reservations at. The vast majority of sites are pull-through and there are no hookups available. Spacing of the sites was great giving each site plenty of space and privacy. The sites were level and all dirt. The two sites that we stayed in were recommended to us and we were very happy with our choice. There is a ton of shade in the campground which is good for cutting down the heat but no so great for solar.
Comfortable sites with lots of room to stretch out
Look at those trees
Oh good, this campground has wifi
Food storage, its for the bears!
A little crazy after all the time in the car
Tomorrow its off to do some hiking…
For our big trip this year we decided to head to Glacier National Park. In looking at the drive time from Salt Lake City, we were seeing that it was over 10 hours. Given that we are traveling with a 5 year old, we just felt that it was best to break it up into two hops. After a bit of looking we decided to make it into Butte Montana for our overnight and opted to stay at the Butte (Journey) KOA. Back in Episode 41 of the RV Family Travel Atlas Podcast I had made a comment regarding our upcoming trip to the Butte KOA and being so close to our neighbor that I could reach out the window and ask them to pass the Grey Pupon.
The Butte KOA was about what we expected and served as a great stop over location. The roads are all gravel and the sites are VERY close together. Granted we were in the cheep spots, but event the more expensive sites were only marginally better. As I understand it the campground is under new management and they are trying to make up for several years of neglect. The playground is quite dated but served as a good distraction for a few minutes. The highlight for us was the pool. It was a great amenity that we dangled in-front of Lily several times during the drive. She really enjoyed jumping in the pool and I think this was one of her highlights for the entire trip. That night we got a recommendation for dinner from one of the KOA staff members but ended up going to Casagranda’s based on the online reviews and were very happy with our choice.
Good thing I know my neighbor
A much needed reward after a long car ride.
Offensive or unsanitary behavior...
The town of Butte is a very interesting place. We didn’t plan any time to stay and explore, but every one of us was interested in coming back at some point and digging in a bit more. Butte is an old mining town and has produced a large amount of copper over the years. Due to various changes in mining processes the mining industry is all but gone. It seems like there would be a lot of history here and it was neat to get a tiny peek into a huge part of Americas copper production.
Tomorrow we head out for Glacier…
Earlier in the year we were looking for a weekend spot that we could go that we hadn’t been to previously. There are a lot of great Federal and State campgrounds throughout the state so there was no shortage of options. We ended up picking the Green River Campground in Dinosaur National Monument.
The campground is located right along the Green River and is tucked away below the main road. Several Cottonwood trees are located throughout the campground offering the chance of shade at different times of day. While we were here the temperatures were fairly mild, but much farther into the summer and this place would be on fire.
After getting camp setup and exploring a bit we had some dinner and headed out on the River Trail that leaves from the north end of the campground and travels north to the Split Mountain campground. It was a great hike to do in the late afternoon/evening as the majority of the trail is shaded by the mountain that you are hiking along. The trail offers some great views of the Green River and the awesome Split Mountain area. At the half way (turn-around) point you get to the abandoned section of the Split Rock campground. Round trip the hike was about 3.2 mile and well worth the time.
On Saturday we headed over to the Visitor Center for a Ranger lead hike on the Fossil Discovery trail (they do them daily at 10am). Ranger Jim lead us down the trail from the Quarry back to the Visitor Center over the course about about 90 minutes. Ranger Jim did a great job of explaining how things were millions of years ago and then taking you through the various layers of time showing and explaining the changes. The content and visuals were defiantly geared to an older audience as it is really hard to grasp just how long ago millions and billions of years is, however Ranger Jim did a good job at calling out the kid by name and asking them questions along the way. By far the highlight was seeing some of the exposed fossils, most notably a vertebra (pictured below). This trail can be hiked without a ranger but I would highly recommend doing it with a Ranger as they can point out many items that you will likely miss if you go it alone.
Hiking with Ranger Jim
After a morning of hiking and time travel we were quite hungry and headed into Vernal to find a place for lunch. We decided on the Plaza Mexicana restaurant and were very happy with the choice. It was a bit higher price then we typically like to spend for lunch but the food was VERY good (I would almost drive back just for the chicken). After finishing up lunch it was back to the Visitor Center and then up to the Quarry to explore the bone wall. While there we finished up our Jr Ranger and Jr Paleontologist books and headed back to the visitor center to be sworn in and collect our (yes adults can be Jr Rangers too) badges.
We finished up the day by hitting a few stops on the auto tour and checking out some of the local petroglyphs which frequently include a lizard figure that is apparently not common outside this area.
On Sunday we packed up and headed back into Vernal to check out the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum. The museum was worth the visit and we enjoyed looking through the indoor exhibits and then strolling through he outdoor garden. The museum has a lot of hands on, which is great for the younger crowd and we ended up spending about an hour checking everything out. I would not say that it is a must see but if you have the time or are looking for some air conditioning it is a good way to kill some time.
For my birthday this year I wanted to head up to Wasatch Mountain State park for a long weekend. Truly I wanted to check out Jordanelle State Park but they were still closed, so Wasatch is where we went. Friday night we basically hung around the campground and got things setup. On Saturday we hiked the Pine Creek trail from the campground. This was a new trail for us and a good test of the training hikes/walks we have been doing with Lily. The trail can be accessed from the campground and is about 2.5 miles round trip with approximately 200 ft of elevation gain. It is all on a well maintained trail and there are various nature signs along the trail that talk about the plants and animals. This hike is one of the activities in the Jr. Ranger Activity book and the signs help you pass of a second activity. At the top of the hike is a glacial outwash (basically a large pile of rocks) that we spent a few minutes climbing on and exploring. At one point while climbing on the rocks Lily said “This is like my favorite part of the day.” She did amazing on the hike and didnt complain once! We realized that on the way down she was not wearing the new hiking boots that we had purchased for her and just her normal tennis shoes. Oh well, I am sure there will be several more hiking adventures.
This weekend I helped support the Salt Flats 100 run which was held out on the Bonneville Salt Flats. A few weeks back I traveled to the salt flats to do some range testing and this weekend was the actual event that we were testing for. My shift started Friday morning and went until about 10PM, then I was to be back on shift at 6AM.
For my overnight accommodations, I could have grabbed a hotel room nearby but I opted to bring my own bed via my trailer. The trailer above was the base of our operations and it was really great to be able to finish up my shift and jump into my own bed with all of my own stuff.
For those that are interested, the first person that crossed the finish line had an elapsed time of 19 hours and 14 minutes.
This past weekend we took the trailer out to the Bonneville Salt Flats for the day to do some range testing with my Amateur Radio. We were testing for an upcoming 100 mile run that I help support where crazy people find enough courage to run 100 miles across the salt covered landscape. The other radio operators were on the other side of the sharp pointy mountain range or the right side of the picture above. We were specifically testing a digital communication path which will enable us to send the equivalent of email over the radio during the event which makes the communication of runners locations and times much easier.
In the days leading up to the testing the other radio operators were questing my choice to bring the trailer due to the distance. I thought for a minute that they might be right and I would just operate out of my vehicle, then it hit me… that is one of the reasons we started looking at and purchased the trailer to start with. Having a place that is comfortable to spend time and out of the elements is a huge thing. My alternative would have been a 10×10 pop-up tent covering the back of my Xterra. So was it worth it to pull the trailer out there, you bet! Ashley and one of our dogs, Livy, joined me (that would’t have happened without the trailer) and when we arrived we actually needed to kick the heater on. Toasty warm and working inside is hard to beat. When it came time for lunch Ash made a couple of sandwiches with chips and diet coke and all was well. It surly beat the gas station hot dogs that one of the other guys grabbed on his way out. All in all the test was very successful and I think we will be better prepared to support the actual event.
With the weather being so warm, we decided to get a jump on the 2015 season with a visit to Antelope Island State Park. This was our 4th time staying here and each time has been a great experience.
The views from the island are really something special. Its amazing that a place like this has been around for a really long time and yet, so many of us that live in the area haven’t been over to see it. Early and late season are our favorite times to visit as mid-summer can get hot and the bugs can get a bit out of control.
This time, Lily was working on her Jr. Ranger badge and so we dove a bit more into the history of the island. We all learned that the name Antelope Island came from a promise that was made in 1845 to the local Native Americans by two explores to pay tribute to the Antelope that they shot on the island. We also spend some good time exploring the Fielding Garr Ranch, which was build in 1848 and is the oldest Anglo built structure in Utah.
It is always good to get back out there and see what we have been missing. I use to really enjoy the 4 seasons but I have to say that now I am really more of a 1 season kind of guy… Camping season! I am really excited about 2015 and all the fun things we have planned.