A Travellerspoint blog

2017 Happy Trails - Week 02

May 28 thru June 3 Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana

Map of Week 02 Travels:

Sunday, May 28

Drove 291 miles.
Route: NE2 west to US83 north to I90 west to Exit 109 at Wall, SD

Campground: Sleepy Hollow Campground Wall, SD $36.60

We were heading west into stiff winds today as we left the campground on NE2. Tim noticed on the truck display that we were only averaging 7.2 miles per gallon! When we reached the turnoff for US83 north we stopped at the Historic Marker there where we learned more interesting facts about the Sand Hills.


The drive along US83 was quite beautiful even though there were no distinguishing features among the Sand Hills but barbed wire fencing, cattle, the ubiquitous water pump windmill, and occasionally a sole, lonely tree.


Our next stop of the day was in the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge at the Sand Hill and Marsh Lakes Overlook where we hiked out to the Overlook to take a few pictures. Wow was it windy! I could hardly keep the camera steady. In fact some of the photos of the wildflowers were nothing but colorful blurs. Oh well.

There are hundreds of lakes in the Sand Hills because the water table is so high. They make a wonderful estuary for the summering water fowl.


When they say these are the "Sand Hills" they are not lying. This is a picture of the "soil" - it is pure sand. Nothing but prairie grass grows on it for miles and miles except near the lakes where there are a few trees and marsh grasses.

On the trail from the overlook to the road.

After passing through the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge we continued north on US83 into South Dakota, immediately coming to our first Indian village at the Rosebud Indian Reservation and Casino. Every single house (about 30 of them) was an identical little saltbox with a solar panel on the south side and all were painted a similar dull blue, green or pinkish shade. Depressing. The landscape changed from the Sand Hills of Nebraska to flat prairie as far as the eye can see.

We continued a long day of driving proceeding west across South Dakota on I90 to Wall, SD, home of the famous Wall Drugs. We’ve been in this area of the country before and there is so much to see and do, but as the saying goes, “Been there. Done that.” There are the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Monument, Hill City, steam train ride to Deadwood, the Badlands, Custer State Park and Eye of the Needle and of course there is Sturgis. In fact now that I’m remembering all of this from our 2007 trip, we very well may come back this way on our way home when we have more time to spare. We really love this area of the country.

It was unbelievably windy when we stopped for the night and just as we were ready to set up camp it started to pour rain. But not to worry, it passed over in a short while and we were able to walk into town to the infamous Wall Drugs for the requisite souvenir retail therapy. LOL


Monday, May 29th – Memorial Day

Drove 233 miles.
Route: I90 west from Wall, SD through Rapid City, SD to SD34 west at Whitewood, SD then thru NE corner of WY into SE corner of MT to US85 north connecting us to US212 west.

Campground: Wayside RV Park Broadus, MT $33.00

Once into Montana the scenery was beautiful. And there were antelopes! Hundreds of antelopes! At first we were each exclaiming, “Look, there’s an antelope!” and then eventually we only pointed out when we would spot a herd of them. LOL

I was taking pictures along the way but with no shoulder on the road we couldn’t pull over and it was a challenge to get a good shot - out the window of a moving truck around the side mirror with antelope off in the distance, trying to focus and at the same time get the horizon level.


As we pulled into the campsite at the Wayside RV Park (a little Mom and Pop affair outside of the little town of Broadus, MT) we were greeted by this huge rabbit. Seriously, I think he was as big as Sprocket!

We selected the end site (there were only 7 and all were vacant when we got there) which gave us a nice rural view out of the back and side window.

Tim was going to take Sunshine for a walk but before he could get the leash on her she spotted another bunny and off she went! I thought we would never see her again. In this picture she is patiently waiting for a bunny to come visit with her. Note - she is tied securely to the table.

Once settled in at the campground we did our WOD 3.1. After a short recovery (LOL) we backtracked a little on US212 in search of a few antelope to pose for pictures.

We didn’t find any that would be still and pose but we did find something unique – a mama antelope with twins, off in the distance! Just a second after I got the shot, mama took off with the two little ones leaping along behind her. All I could see through the lens of the camera was one white butt bobbing up and down with two little white butts bobbing up and down behind her as they ran off over the hill. So cute!

After our picture taking adventure we went into the little town of Broadus to the Stockman’s Club for dinner.
They had an interesting "brand" display.

Beef. It's what's for dinner.

Tuesday, May 30th

Drove 345 miles.
Route: North on MT59 to Miles City, MT then I94 for 45 miles to Forsyth, MT and the Lewis and Clark Highway, US12 west.

Campground: Conestoga Campground White Sulphur Springs, MT $37.56

Had a wonderful day of driving through scenic MT off the beaten track. Of course we never really stay on the beaten track unless we have to, usually preferring to drive along the US and State Highways whenever possible, avoiding the Interstates unless there is no reasonable alternative (around and through big cities, for example). The US and State Highways afford the best opportunity to see the countryside and are usually the most pleasant for driving when towing the 5th wheel.

We had planned to continue our scenic drive west on US212 today but there was a detour sign just past the Wayside RV Park and local information was that the flagman delays for road construction ahead were significant. The detour led us to calculate an alternate route toward our destination of Whitefish, MT.

So we took the detour onto MT59 north to get to US12 west. The state road was in excellent condition, smooth going with no potholes, bumps or expansion joints in the concrete. The only downside was that it was a narrow road with no shoulders so there was no pulling off to take pictures. It was very remote – “How remote was it”, you ask. Well we drove 42 miles before we came to a single cross road or lane and that whole time we only passed 5 pickup trucks from the other direction and without a single vehicle coming up behind us! This is the wide open spaces for sure. As we drove along we crossed the Tongue River and the Yellowstone River. We saw many, many more antelope, two Great Horned Owls, our first Magpie, and our first Prairie Dog towns.

There were some areas where there were these brilliant white strips in the range. It wasn't sand as it was too sharp in its delineation from the surrounding prairie grass. White Clay maybe?

Our first opportunity to pull over was at a crossroads for the remote town of Ingomar, MT. A little history was gleaned from a Historic Marker posted at the crossroads:

In 1908 Ingomar was the hub of commerce when the Milwaukee Road Railroad completed its line across Montana. There was no water however so the town relied on the Railroad to provide 22,000 gallon water tank cars each week for the townsfolk.
In 1909 the Enlarged Homestead Act encouraged settlers to stake 320 acre claims. An average of 2500 homestead filings per year took place between 1911 and 1917.

The area claimed the title of Sheep Shearing Capital of North America with 2 million pounds of wool per year shipped from Ingomar during the peak years of the 1910’s.

Three structures from the original settlement still stand – the original frame school house, Bookman’s Store and The Jersey Lilly Saloon, all on the National Register of Historic Places.

The plaque also states that today Ingomar is one of Montana’s most remote communities. Ya think?!?

While stopped we made lunch then took a few pictures before continuing on.

I came across this Killdeer and took pictures of it as it pretended to be injured, flopping around on the ground leading me further and further from its nest.

And off in the distance you can see the little town of Ingomar, MT. "Remote" hardly covers it.

At Miles City, MT we turned onto I94 for 45 miles to Forsyth, MT where we then began our trek northwest on the Lewis and Clark Highway, US12. The landscape changed from the wide open spaces of the prairie to a more rocky terrain as we drove through a portion of the Lewis and Clark National Forest.

At 2:15 pm we glimpsed our first snow covered peaks of the trip just to the north; map showed them to be the Big Snowy Mountains and the Little Snowy Mountains. Then just a little further along we saw the peaks of the Big Belt Mountains and the Little Belt Mountains.

Except for the short drive on the Interstate, there was no cell coverage at all today so we couldn’t use our RV Parking app to locate a campground. We were getting a little fatigued having driven over 340 miles when we came to the small town of White Sulphur Springs, MT and saw our first blue campground sign (highway signs for campgrounds are blue with a trailer). Having no idea what to expect, but being tired and ready to stop for the night we decided to “go in blind”. Oh my goodness what a surprise! It was a beautiful RV Park. The sites were all huge, level pull-thru and the campground had excellent WIFI plus we had excellent cell coverage for the first time in days. What an unexpected treat.

This was one fancy rig parked next to us.

Wednesday, May 31st

Drove 11 miles.
Route: Into town and back.

Campground: Conestoga Campground White Sulphur Springs $37.56

This is such a picturesque RV Park and the setting is so quiet and peaceful, we decided to relax and stay another night. We're located in the Smith River Valley with vistas to the south, to the west and to the north of snow covered mountains.

We went into town for breakfast at the Branding Iron Café (not your typical yuppie café LOL) and later in the day did our WOD 3.2. We were both wondering why we were so out of breath with the jogging and the workout when we realized – it’s the altitude dummy! We were at just under 6000 feet. Let me tell you, it is no fun doing Burpees at 6000 feet!

Tim spent the afternoon washing the trailer while I updated the blog site. Yea for good internet access.

Thursday, June 1st

Drove 313 miles.
Route: US12 west to MT141 north to MT200 west then north on MT83 along the Clearwater River to Clearwater Junction, MT then west on US2 to US93 north into Whitefish, MT.

Campground: Whitefish RV Park Whitefish, MT $44.00

It was a chilly 37 degrees when we got up this morning. It seems the further west and north we go, the chillier it gets. Imagine that. LOL

We got a nice early start leaving the campground at 9:00 am, said goodbye to the Smith River Valley and the antelope peacefully grazing there, and drove through Helena National Forest to Townsend, MT and across the Missouri River. It was a scenic drive along the huge Canyon Ferry Lake (35 miles long) to Helena, the capitol of Montana.

We’ve not been through here before because the last time we camped in the area of Whitefish, MT we got there by way of Glacier National Park from the north. This time we’re coming in from the south. Of note (and not a good thing, I don’t think), Helena must have 100s of casinos. We passed at least 40 to 50 of them and we only drove through town on one street! Nasty.

After leaving Helena our drive took us through MacDonald Pass with snow covered mountains and we saw our first Bear Grass flowers. The mountain sides were covered in meadows of short Yellow Daisy’s and beautiful tall purple wildflowers. Even though it was a dreary, dark, overcast day the vistas were stunning.

Our drive took us along Nevada Lake on MT141 and along Clearwater River and then the Swan River as we drove along MT83 through the Seeley-Swan Wilderness Valley. Again there were no shoulders or places to pull over so pictures are sparse. There was one pull over at Summit Lake where we took a few.

We stopped at a rest stop at the junction of MT200 and MT83 and learned from the historical marker there that Lewis and Clark first came to the valley in 1806 and it wasn’t until 1853 that another white man returned!

And we encountered our first bad road since leaving Kansas as we drove along a short stretch of US83 through logging country. Those logging trucks are murder on a highway – lots of big potholes.

Our destination over the last few days was the Whitefish RV Park in Whitefish, MT. Up the road a short distance on US93 will be our "jumping off" point for our entry into Canada. Before leaving the states we have just a few more things we need to take care of.

We stayed here at the Whitefish RV Park for a few days back in 2012 when we were exploring this area of the country on our way to attend the 100th year anniversary of the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It is one of the more "yuppified" areas of Montana with skiing nearby and of course Glacier National Park within view to the east. (Our previous visit is covered in our blog at http://www.judyandtim2012.travellerspoint.com Week 04.)

Friday, June 2nd

Drove 37 miles.
Route: North and South on US93 between Whitefish and Kalispell, MT.

Campground: Whitefish RV Park Whitefish, MT $44.00

While we didn’t do much driving today there still wasn’t a lot of relaxing as we had so many errands and things to attend to.
• 1st on the list was a visit to the Ford Dealership in town. The truck display panel behind the steering wheel had malfunctioned and we could not see any of the information, e.g. engine alerts, etc. including trip mileage which we record every day.
• 2nd on the list was a stop at Walgreens. Sprocket takes a painkiller pill everyday but as it is a “controlled substance” the pharmacy in Merritt Island would only give us a 30 day supply. We’ve been gone from home for almost a month and he’s almost out of medication. The nice pharmacist here in Whitefish said he thought he could get an approval to give us the entire prescription amount, 75 pills (Sprocket takes ½ pill per day) total. Sure enough when we came back he had filled the entire prescription. I love “can do” people!
• I’ve been having trouble with one of my hearing aid rechargeable batteries not holding a charge so a visit to the Audiologist was in order. Such nice people and the batteries cost half what I paid in Merritt Island!
• We made a visit to the AT&T store to purchase Passport Service in order to be able to make and receive calls while in Canada. Turns out we got a better deal changing our plan to “unlimited data”/text/and call plan which includes access in Canada and Mexico. I put it in quotations because AT&T reserves the right to slow down the data speed after 22 gigabytes of streamed data per month. Not sure how many movies that might be.
• When we stopped for the night last night we found that the TV in the bedroom was not working. After taking it apart Tim found that the TV had blown a solder in a fuse on the power board. Nothing to do but get a new TV. So off we went to Walmart, then Best Buy. (We needed a 28 inch to be able to reuse the mounting bracket and Walmart doesn’t carry one that size.) While purchasing the TV we also decided to get an Apple Lightning AV Adapter and a HDMI cable so we can now get Netflix while on the road. Yeah!
• We placed orders with Amazon Prime as we are planning on being here for two more days, and since we have excellent cell service here we did a lot of other housekeeping online using my iPhone as a hotspot.

It was a very busy day but in the end, lots was accomplished to prepare us for the rest of our trip through Canada into Alaska.

After all was done we went into the quaint town of Whitefish and had the most wonderful dinner of the trip so far at a small Italian restaurant, Ciao Mamba’s. We brought home enough leftovers for a week! (Well, maybe less.) No cooking tomorrow that’s for sure!

Saturday, June 3rd

Drove miles.
Route: Into town and back a few times.

Campground: Whitefish RV Park Whitefish, MT $44.00

Finally, a warm sunny day. Tim finished up with some of the chores from yesterday. It turns out that while the new TV screw holes were a match for the TV mounting bracket, the HDMI receptacles were covered by the bracket so Tim had to go buy a hacksaw and some fender washers so he could cleverly rework the mounting bracket. Meanwhile I worked up the blog for Week 02.

And like good little bunnies, we both did WOD 3.3.

Tim having cocktails and hors d'oerves with Sunshine and Sprocket.

Tomorrow we set out for entry into Canada so there was some research to be done in the evening. Our crutch, the RV Parking app, does not cover campgrounds in Canada so we’re having to do a little more planning in advance. We’ll see how that goes. Stay tuned. And Happy Trails!

Posted by JudyandTim2015 07:27

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