Deadwood

I have never been an aficionado of the old west. While I’ve enjoyed my share of spaghetti westerns, I’ve never seriously studied the history and lore. The HBO series Deadwood did spark my interest a bit since it takes pains to try and incorporate historical details into the series wherever possible. Plenty of liberties were taken but it was one of the few westerns that got me googling the names and places from the show.

While I hadn’t considered looking for it in our travels, it turned out Deadwood was pretty central to our exploration of the black hills. Since we had to drive through it many times in our journeys, we decided to stop, look around, and enjoy what the town had to offer.

Deadwood viewed from the boot hill graveyard. It's actually a bit smaller than in its historic photos.

Deadwood viewed from the boot hill graveyard. It’s actually a bit smaller than in its historic photos.

Casinos Ahoy

Our first stop was the main commercial drag in deadwood. According to the many interpretive signs, much of it had been preserved from the turn of the century. A lot of what you’d have seen from the frontier days was burned down and long gone but many of its early stone buildings are still standing and in use. Unfortunately for us, most of them are in use as small Bar/Casinos or tourist shops filled with cheap T-shirts or plastic trinkets. The restaurants were either all fast food or crammed with slot machines. The best I can say for it is there were many Pokestops along the avenue so we got in some good Pokemon Go time.

It always saddens me in these kinds of strips that cheap and gaudy places crowd out any kind of genuine restaurants and stores that have local crafts. It always seems like if there is gambling at the heart of an attraction in a small town everything gets turned into a bland, cheap cookie cutter business with no heart or soul. I don’t really understand why that is but it seems consistent in our travels.

The museum was closed when we visited the town but it looked nice from the outside.

This museum was closed when we visited the town but it looked nice from the outside.

Desperate for some decent food, we left the historic strip and headed over to where the government buildings were. More cheap Casinos greeted us but we did eventually find an old Gas Station turned bistro that turned out to have excellent sandwiches and zero slot machines. It was nice to find something that felt authentic and heartfelt in this town. With our batteries charged (both figuratively and literally as there was a cell charger built into the bar), we decided to pay the Deadwood boot hill graveyard a visit.

Better Off Dead

The graveyard is up on a hill overlooking the town of Deadwood and is a stark contrast in character from the tourist trap below. If you come during normal hours there is a small $2 charge to enter which goes towards maintaining the grounds. You get a great map of the site including all the most famous graves as well as a history of the graveyard and the people of the town. It was clear right away that the money is put to good use in keeping the graveyard in good order.

Even on a gloomy clouded day, the graveyard has a very pleasant atmosphere.

Even on a gloomy clouded day, the graveyard has a very pleasant atmosphere.

The terrain is hilly so you are in for a bit of a hike wandering amongst the graves. I was expecting old tombstones and a relatively simple graveyard but over they years it has been lovingly kept and even upgraded. Nearly every grave includes a well cared for marble headstone. While they are not original headstones, they are all done in styles evocative of the period. The variety is impressive and the overall feel of the place has an enchanting quality to it. It is the picture perfect graveyard.

One part of the site offers a fantastic view of the town and features photographs of how this view looked at different times in the town’s history. It was great to look down and note the similarities and differences comparing the photos to the town before you. We visited the graves of a number of deadwood characters. Wild Bill Hickock being the most famous followed by Calamity Jane who was moved nearby in more modern times. It really felt like this was where the history of the town was remembered and loved.

Wild Bill Hickock's grave and shrine. It is the only site that is fenced off.

Wild Bill Hickock’s grave and shrine. While not from Deadwood originally, he was murdered there in 1876 and figures prominently in local legend.

 

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Loveland RV Resort – Loveland, Colorado

We stayed at Loveland RV Resort while visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The park is about an hour’s drive from the city of Loveland. We were pleased to find Loveland RV a well-run park with some fun amenities and attractive grounds.

Nights: 7
RV Park Cost: $322 ($46/night)
Discounts Used: Good Sam
Address: 4421 E U.S. Highway 34  Loveland, CO 80537
GPS: 40.409132, -105.012778
Website: www.lovelandrvresort.com

Pros

  • Pretty grounds
  • Full hookups, including cable
  • Nice Clean Facilities
  • Convenient location

Cons

  • Somewhat expensive
  • Some Traffic noise
The clubhouses was just right, behind this shot is an open area with large tables.

The clubhouse is excellent, behind this shot is an open area with large tables.

The Details

Loveland is a city rich with strip malls and department stores so there was plenty to eat and plenty of shopping nearby. The downside is that it’s on a major roadway to Denver so traffic gets pretty bad around rush hour and there is always some traffic noise in the park from the road. While it is set in a commercial and residential area, the resort is surrounded by small trees and within hosts many towering giants that give the park a much more natural and serene feeling that you might expect.

Loveland RV is a pretty big park and the lots are a little close for comfort but due to the nice open lawns and trees, it still has a nice peaceful feeling to it. Unlike some places we’ve been, Loveland RV does qualify as a resort, if only just. They have a large rec room with leather couches, a bit TV, fireplace, and even a few video game cabinets. There is a decent sized pool, though it was closed for the season when we arrived. They have a small store. There is a swing set and playground for kids, the usual horseshoe pit, and even a 9 hole mini-golf course in pretty good condition.

Mini Golf seems like a big thing in the interior western states. Trail beat me by two strokes on this course.

Mini Golf seems like a big thing in the interior western states. Trail beat me by two strokes on this course.

The bathrooms were not only very clean, but the even smelled nice and fresh. It was clear all around that the owners of the park take very good care of it and their customers. Wireless internet at our site was great as we had an antenna just outside our trailer. Like nearly all parks the usefulness of it drops significantly in the evening as everyone starts accessing it at once.

Unfortunately, Loveland RV is not a bargain. The price is not outrageous for a resort class park, but it was definitely higher than I’d like. Normally I’d take a pass on a park at this price but we couldn’t find other decent accommodations for the week we wanted to stay. Still, if you aren’t on a tight budget you do get your money’s worth as they run a very nice park.

The spaces are a bit close due to the dual sided utility posts. This massive Class A's slide-out is nearly half as bit as our whole trailer.

The spaces are a bit close due to the dual sided utility posts. This massive Class A’s slide-out is nearly half as big as our whole trailer.

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Glacier: Lake McDonald Valley

Many visitors to Glacier National Park use the Lake McDonald Valley as a hub of activity on the west side. Massive glaciers filled the area thousands of years ago, slowly carving that broad u-shaped valley that one can see today while looking out from the lake shore. People flock from all over to witness spectacular vistas, hike various trails, and chance to peek at elusive wildlife.

For our last final visit to Glacier National Park, we took half day to hike Howe Lake Trail and then explore Lake McDonald.

Howe Lake

No wildfire season in Glacier Park has been as big and historic as 2003, when 13 percent of the park burned

Howe Lake

We drove about five miles from Lake McDonald along the Inside North Fork Road. The drive on the dusty narrow road left our truck covered in a fine coat of dirt. The trailhead only offered four parking spots, with only one spot occupied.

The hike is a mild 4-mile in-and-out trail and a nice easy capstone to our visit. Lush undergrowth seemed to consume the narrow trail in the first quarter mile to the lake. Then the way opened up to reveal a forest recovering from a forest fire in 2003. Bright patches fireweed dotted the landscape, while ferns, trilliums, and beargrass scattered beneath the conifers. The thick smell of pine and wildflower reminded of the Pacific North West.

Howe Lake Trail

Howe Lake Trail is one of the easiest hikes in Glacier National Park

During the hot mid-day, we scarcely heard any birds along the trail. But upon reaching Lower Howe Lake, I spotted a few loons skittering the shimmering waters. A marshland grass surrounds much of the lake and connects it with Howe Lake proper, which can be reached by hiking another 1.8 miles upward.

We sat on a log near the shore and listened for wildlife. I saw a few ducks on the lake. We heard the calls of a few chickadees, titmice, and thrushes. We even had a brief visit a hummingbird.

Beyond the lake, I can see where the trail connects with Howe Ridge Trail. Rangers use Howe Ridge Trail is a secondary fire access trail. Hikers can use it to cross along with an eastward ridgeline from the Howe Creek bridge to its junction with the Trout Lake Trail, just above Kelly Camp Trailhead.

Howe Lake Pano

Watch for Loons nesting in the area

Leaving the solitude of Howe Lake, we make our way back to the truck and head toward Lake McDonald .

Lake McDonald

The Kootenai Indians call Lake McDonald “The Place Where They Dance.” For generations, the Kootenai returned to the foot of the lake to dance and sing songs, invoking wisdom and guidance the spirits. The ancient tradition ended with the arrival of homesteader Milo Apgar and other white settlers in the early 1890s.

Just before the arrival of European settlers, several different tribes inhabited the Glacier National Park area. The Blackfoot Indians mastered the vast prairies east of the mountains, while the Salish and Kootenai Indians occupied in the western valleys. Each tribe traveled over the mountains in search of game and to hunt the great herds of buffalo on the eastern plains.

Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald – the largest lake in Glacier National Park.

Today, the Apgar area is filled with tourist and gift shops. During the summer at the nearby at the campground amphitheater, Blackfeet, Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreille tribal members share their perspective on the meaning of the place we today call Glacier National Park. The Native American Speaks program bridges the gap and teaches non-natives about local tribal culture.

Upon the lake shore, we ate a simple picnic lunch then rented a double canoe. Lake McDonald is the largest lake in Glacier National Park. The waters that feed the lake come from rain water and glaciers found deep within the park. At 10 miles long, and over a mile wide and well over 400 feet deep, the lake fills a valley formed by a combination of erosion and glacial activity. Grizzly bears, black bear, moose, and mule deer tend to occupy the north shore of the lake, away from where tourists tread.

Colored Rocks Of Lake McDonald

Colored Rocks Of Lake McDonald

Looking down into the clear blue waters, we spotted numerous fish, probably several kinds of trout, whitefish, and salmon. Even on the water, I can spot several types of spruce, fir, and larch. A wonderous lake view scene, and a perfect way to end our final day at Glacier National Park.

Hitch on the Howe Lake Trail Howe Lake howelake-grasslake Howe Lake I'm so happy to be at Howe Lake

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The Crazy Horse Memorial

History of the Memorial

The Crazy Horse Memorial is sort of the Native American answer to the Mt. Rushmore monument. A Lakota Chief by the name of Henry Standing Bear spearheaded the project in the late 1930s. While Rushmore was still under construction he and his father lobbied for the sculptor to include Chief Crazy Horse on the memorial. When that failed to come to fruition Chief Standing bear decided to work on creating a separate statue of the legend. He commissioned Korczak Ziolkowski, a Polish-American sculptor to design and oversee the project. Standing Bear also traded his own 800 acres of land for the site in the black hills where the statue was to be created.

Korczak began work in 1948 with a meager budget of $147. One of his volunteer assistants became his wife, Ruth Ziolkowski. The two of them and their ten children turned the project into a family enterprise over the ensuing years. These days the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation heads the project, though many of Ziolkowski’s children are still part of the effort.

I was only roughly familiar with the project when we decided to check it out on the designated anniversary of Crazy Horse’s death. I’d seen a documentary once about the project and the artist Korczak who dedicated much of his life to doggedly working on it. I knew it was yet a very long way from completion but that at least some of the face and head of the statue were in place.

This plaster model gives you an idea what it should look like at completion.

This plaster model gives you an idea what it should look like at completion.

What you will find

Entry was $11 per person to what turned out to be a pretty large compound a good distance from the statue itself. If you pay a bit more you can take a bus tour out to the statue, and yet more if you want to go stand right up at the face on top of the mountain. We decided to pass on these offerings and look around the extensive visitors center and view the statue from a distance.

The center was big and packed with all manner of curiosities. There was a large theater showing a movie about the monument. They have the Indian Museum of North America here. There is a very large gift shop. A large open air Viewing Veranda offers a good view of the statue. On this occasion, there were live Native American dances and history presentations. There is a cafeteria as well as a formal restaurant, both with a lot of Native art on display. There is a large gallery dedicated to the creation of the statue and its history where you can take home pieces of rock blasted off the statue.

They have preserved the interior of the Ziolkowski home along with many pieces of antique polish furniture and sculpture by Ziolkowski and others. Then there is his studio which features more of his work, a preserved workshop and even a large and beautiful stage coach. Then there is the Native American Cultural Center which is yet another museum that also features modern native craftsmen and women who sell their wares and teach about the traditions they work from. In the basement of that is a great exhibit dedicated to Bison. There is even a 9/11 memorial outside in a sculpture garden/park.

This statue is quite large and has some fantastic detail.

This statue is quite large and has some fantastic detail.

It really is an incredible hodge-podge of interesting stuff and I enjoyed looking around and exploring the compound since you never knew quite what you would see next. Much of Ziolkowski’s work is compelling. My favorite was the huge bronze statue of fighting stallions in the park area. Of the museum exhibits the Bison exhibit was probably the most well put together. While there are many great artifacts and artworks on display, the organization and presentation leave a lot of room for improvement. Collections from different donors are in different areas so you get a disjointed and jumbled view of different native cultures with minimal context.

The statue itself is far from finished. Wisely, in the late 1990s they focused on completing the face of the statue so there is something striking to look at now. The whole project is immense, the world’s largest mountain carving should it be completed. In addition to Crazy Horse himself, there is a whole horse to carve out of the mountain. Should it ever be finished, it will be a very impressive sight.

An interesting piece from inside the artist's family home, preserved on the site.

An interesting piece from inside the artist’s family home preserved on the site.

My reflections

Like Mt Rushmore, there are qualities of the Crazy Horse memorial that didn’t quite sit right with me and it is not a project free of controversy within the Native Amercian community. In celebration of a culture steeped in harmony with nature, they’ve built a gaudy complex and blasted away a mountainside. Further plans for the area include a sports stadium and an airport. It is a grand monument to the spirit of Crazy Horse, but is it in keeping with his spirit? Some say no, others yes. I’d tend to say no.

Personally, I was impressed by the vision and dedication of those who brought this whole thing to life. Crazy Horse himself is passed and his spirit in truth is whatever people who still live make of it. Clearly, it has inspired many to try and do something of epic proportions to demonstrate the significance of the man himself and the culture of Native Americans. I don’t begrudge people wanting to take a single mountain and make a monument of it. And I respect their big dreams and dedication.

Part of the museum. The interior is quite pretty but the displays kind of haphazard.

Part of the museum. The interior is quite pretty but the displays kind of haphazard.

I can also recognize the need for the tourist milking station here to raise money for the project, though I really wonder how much of it goes to the statue and how much feeds upon itself only to build more facilities to collect money from tourists. Some of what they have done feels very heartfelt while other aspects very commercial and thoughtless. You can tell it is a sort of democratic collaborative effort rather than a single unified vision. That has its charms but also its drawbacks.

If you are in the area, I would suggest checking it out and spending time exploring the compound there. You are supporting someone’s dream made real and you will probably find many interesting artifacts and ideas to examine and ponder.

A face on view of the memorial.

A face on view of the memorial as it looks today.

 

 

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Prairie View Campground – Lusk, Wyoming

Our stay at Prairie View Campground was brief, only two nights on our way to Colorado. This is another campground we chose largely because there weren’t any others nearby. It was a convenient stop half way between the Wyoming Badlands and Rocky Mountain National Park. Our stay was so brief that I forgot to take pictures of the campground.

Nights: 2
RV Park Cost: $67 ($33/night)
Discounts Used: Off Season
Address: 3925 US Hwy 18-20  Lusk, WY 82225
GPS: 42.748436, -104.487421
Website: www.prairieviewcampground.com

Pros

  • Full Hookups
  • Seasonal coffee shop
  • Friendly host

Cons

  • Kind of run down
  • Not a pretty location
This is greener than it was in September when we visited.

This is greener than it was in September when we visited.

The Details

This is the first time we’ve booked at an RV park and they simply said, “Just park in any available spot when you get here.” Indeed when we arrived around 2:30 the manager was out so we just picked a spot and settled in. It’s a small park, some 20 lots or so, and thus it was easy enough to get situated. The proprietor did arrive later in the day and gave us a 10% off-season discount without us asking for it. He seemed a nice enough fellow.

I can’t say as many good things about the park itself. While it wasn’t a mess, it wasn’t a pretty location either. There are some prairies adjacent to the property, there are also some storage yards for u-haul trucks and other old and junky looking equipment. In the time we were there we saw at least 3 other RVers pull up, look around, and then just leave.

There were some rabbits at the site, Trail is badly allergic to rabbits.

There were some rabbits at the site, Trail is badly allergic to rabbits.

The bathrooms on sight were clean enough but old and in disrepair. Lots of peeling paint, broken fixtures, and faint musty smells. I didn’t bother to use the showers but the plumbing seemed to work fine. As far as amenities go, the best they offer is an on-site espresso shop, but it was closed for the season by the time we arrived. They do have a laundry but it is best described as a closet crowded with a few old machines.

None the less, the hookups all worked and the site was fairly level so I can’t say it was a bad park, just one that offers little more than a convenient place to park for a night or two. The price is fairly average for an RV Park, but the park is below average quality so I wouldn’t say it’s a good value.

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Mount Rushmore

On the whole, Mount Rushmore feels like some mix between a roadside tourist attraction and a national monument. Likely that is because it was first envisioned as a roadside tourist attraction and was quickly turned into a national monument. There is no disputing it is impressive, iconic, and significant on the American landscape. Yet for both Trail and myself, there was something amiss about it.

A little history

It was named Mt. Rushmore, long before the carvings, by American explorers and despite already being called Six Grandfathers by the Lakota Indians. The idea for a giant carving started in 1923 with the intent of creating a tourist attraction. Originally it was to be famous figures of the wild west. In 1924 sculptor Gutzon Borglum was brought in to do the work and it was changed to great presidents. Construction ended in 1941 before the full scope of the carving had been completed. Originally the torsos of the presidents were to be carved as well.

The presidents depicted were selected for their contributions to the expansion or preservation of the US. There was also some attempt at party parity with two republicans, one democrat to go along with George Washington. This stipulation came from the president at the time Calvin Coolidge. I certainly can’t fault the choices as all four men were significant and impressive in terms of American History. Each was a leader in every sense of the word and all truly dynamic individuals.

Trail poses with the Mountain. Here you can see the debris from the carving forms part of the mountain now.

Trail poses with the Mountain. Here you can see the debris from the carving forms part of the mountain now.

What you will find

Arriving at Mt. Rushmore you run through something of a gauntlet of toll booths, parking, and a large pavilion before you get to the monument itself. It’s not something you can easily just spy from the roadside at a distance. Curiously, the only charge to get in is for parking. Normally monuments and parks have a general fee, with parking included in that. Our national parks interagency pass covers those charges. Apparently, it doesn’t cover the parking at Mt. Rushmore as officially there is no fee for the park, only a parking charge which was $11.

The pavilion outside the monument is grand and attractive. A grand columned entry leads you into an area with the usual bookstore, gift shops, concessions and the like. Then you pass through a long courtyard flying the flags of all 50 states as well as our territories. I tried to play ID the flags and did poorly. Beyond that is a large viewing platform followed by a large sunken amphitheater overlooked by the monument itself. The design is excellent and highlights the statue beautifully. The amphitheater would certainly be a fine place for a concert.

From there you can head to the underground museum, or follow an interpretive trail that takes you beneath the monument through the wooded hillside. This trail also leads to the artist’s workshop where work on the statue was overseen. Ideal viewing points for each president are accompanied by information about them. At the workshop, you can listen to ranger lectures and examine the plaster models used to dictate the work on the mountainside. They also have self-guided audio tours as well as plenty of information about how and why the monument was created. Much of this was completed in 1998 so it is fairly modern.

From the artist's studio you can view the mountain alongside the large plaster model it was designed from.

From the artist’s studio, you can view the mountain alongside the large plaster model it was designed from.

My Reflections

I spend some time reading the bronze plaques created for the monument around the time of its dedication. They emphasize the growth of the nation from its original 13 colonies to its full measure of 50 states. There is a certain sadness knowing that much of that territory was once the home of Native Americans and perhaps appropriately, the site of the monument itself was taken in conquest from the Lakota. America is far from the only country to be built on the foundation of conquest, yet it is very out of keeping with some of our core moral principles as a nation, rooted as it is in self-determination and liberty endowed to all people.

The other thing that feels a little off about Mr. Rushmore is that it has a quality of idolization about it. America’s political core is so rooted in the system of governance, in the idea that government is in service to people, and that we have no kings or monarchs. Making giant images in mountains of our leaders feels a little off, somewhat missing the point of it all. This kind of monument doesn’t make you think of them as giving service to America but the being figures of worship. I don’t think that is at all intentional, but this kind of image harkens to that none the less.

rushmore2

Finally, just the fact it is unfinished bothered me a bit. I’ve got something of a completionist streak in me and it’s obvious looking at it that parts are left undone and incomplete. It’s not small feat creating anything like this and it is a pretty magnificent thing to behold, but it would be all the better were it whole. I’m a little surprised no one has managed to champion the completion of the work. There is probably little incentive aside from artistic desire and at this late stage, many would likely object to changing something so enshrined in the American monument pantheon. Still, I’d have liked to see it as it was originally envisioned. I think it would be an all the more impressive sight from a purely aesthetic perspective.

 

 

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Glacier: Logan Pass

The bright afternoon sun shining over a glossy green field dotted with colorful wildflowers. Turning my head upward, I gape at dozens of craggy mountain peaks and marvel at their dominating majesty. On the ground, half a dozen plump Columbian ground squirrels fearlessly weave through lush plants and devouring the green tips. At over seven thousand feet in altitude, dark subalpine fir, and narrow Engelmann spruce accent this subalpine environment. Logan Pass is a stunning jewel of Glacier National Park in mid-August.

It’s no wonder why this area is a fast favorite for visitors. Hitch and I came here late in the day for two reasons: to watch the sun set over Hidden Lake, and then to watch the Perseid meteor shower later at midnight.

Looking back at Piegan, Pollock, & Bishops Cap on the Hidden Lake Trail Boardwalk

Looking back at Piegan, Pollock, & Bishops Cap on the Hidden Lake Trail Boardwalk

Logan Pass Visitor Center

Located on the Continental Divide, we set out to Logan Pass via Going-To-The-Sun Road; about 32 miles from the west entrance of Glacier National Park. The parking lot at Logan Pass gets full fast, but visitors can take a free shuttle to avoid the hassle. Since we want to stay after dark, we drive. We arrive a few hours before sunset, so we found abundant parking as tourists escape nightfall.

Logan Pass Visitor Center

The Logan Pass Visitor Center – one of the most significant Mission 66 projects

The visitor center itself came into being in 1963, during a ten-year national parks revival program, called Mission 66. Under fire from various media outlets citing serious neglect, the Park Service Director at the time decided to take action. In 1955, congress installed a decade-long program, with all upgrades completed in time for the National Park Services’ 50th Anniversary in 1966. In addition to modernization of visitor facilities, upgrades included employees housing, villages to house visitors, and even expansion to National Recreational Areas, and National Seashores.

Columbian Ground Squirrel

Ground squirrel noms some greens near Logan Pass Visitor Center

Today the main section of the Logan Pass Visitor Center steps up the hillside with two main levels within a single-story enclosure. On the first level, lives an oversized stone fireplace which dominates the room. Also in the room, a ranger will answer all your questions for hiking in the area. The upper level houses the “Exhibit Room,” filled with interpretive exhibits and a gift shop. Semi-separated toilet facilities are below the lower level, facing the parking lot.

Behind the visitor center, folks can walk the Super Powers Exhibit, which describes the subalpine ecosystem and the creatures living there. You can also view the exhibit virtually at the Online Wildlife Superpowers Exhibit via the NPS website.

Hidden Lake meadowsf

The entire length of this trail is completely open and exposed as you proceed through the alpine meadows.

Hidden Lake Trail.

Hidden Lake Trail starts behind the visitor center. Due to its popularity, we decided to take the hike late in the afternoon, when the crowds have passed. I found the hike fairly easy but slow going with the thin air and high altitude.

It all begins with a paved walk then a boardwalk section, which lasts for about a half a mile. Here we found a hoary marmot sunning himself among the wildflowers in a nearby field. Ahead of us, the peaks of Clements Mountain regally towering, and to the northwest, Mount Oberlin.

Hoary Marmot

Hoary Marmot – a large, bulky, ground squirrel, with short, heavy limbs, and a broad head

Viewing directly northward, I can see the Garden Wall. Dozens of flowering plant species carpet this steep alpine area. Hikers can traverse this wonderland via Highline Trail then up Garden Wall Trail and be rewarded with one of the most amazing views in the park at Glacier Overlook. The hike can get brutal, and climbs over thousand feet within one mile, in addition to the 7-mile hike on Highline Trail. Ouch!

The trail then turned slightly southwest and provided us with a great view of Bearhat Mountain, Mount Reynolds, and Heavy Runner Mountain. At mile 1, started up an incline but stopped to view serene shimmering ponds reflecting images of trees and mountains.

Creeklets down a Slope

Rocky slopes, communities of heather and huckleberry, interspersed with small creeklets

Then just beyond the Continental Divide marker, we stopped at Hidden Lake Overlook. I sat in awe of this wonderful sweeping panorama of a blue alpine lake nestled between mountains dotted with white glaciers. Here we stopped and waited for the sun to set. While waiting, a set of mountain goats dropped in for a surprise visit.

As the light dimmed over Bearhat Mountain, the sky turned a pink and purple hue. I then realized that Hidden Lake empties out toward Avalanche Lake, which we visited earlier during our stay in the park.

At dusk, we traveled back to the visitor center, where we could bundle up into warm clothes and enjoy our packed dinner, before the Perseid Meteor Shower.

Hidden Lake Panorama

Hidden Lake Panorama

Logan Pass at Night

Bundled up in our sweaters and coats, we set up our camp chairs and enjoyed some of that famed Montana peace and quite. To the west, we watched a silvery moon dip behind Mt. Oberlin. Then watched shooting stars gash at the big starlit sky. Very romantic and very awesome.

Logan Pass Visitor Center at Night

Logan Pass Visitor Center at Night

loganpass-hiddenlaketrailpond Hidden lake at Dusk Moon at Logan Pass Mountain Goat with Radio Collar Solo Mountain Goat kid Momma Mountain Goat and Kid Hitch at Logan Pass Male Mountain Goat near the Hidden Lake Trail

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Pirates vs. Wenches

Ere we set forth from the shores of Wyoming proper, Trail an’ meself set our eyes on a bit o sport in the landlocked port o Rapid City. There be a fine establishment going by the name of “Pirates Cove” and seein’ as the very next day were Talk Like A Pirate day we rigged up the old Dodge and set sail to try our luck.

As you can see, I donned me finest garrrrrb fer this august event.

As you can see, I donned me finest garrrrrb fer this august event.

Now of the two of us, I be the one that has me a fixation on that time-honored game that goes by the name of Miniature Golf or Put-Put Golf as some are taken to callin’ it. Tis a fitting game for pirate folk. After a hard day o crossin’ sabers and buryin’ treasure the serene pleasure or knockin’ little balls in green carpet boxes is a right balm for body and spirit.

Last time on the wee greens Captain Trail swabbed the deck with me by a yard arm. My thinkin’ is that course were a shoddy affair, me balls dirty and me stick too short; ain’t they always? Well not at Pirate’s Cove they ain’t. They got nice clean balls in a rainbow a colors and sticks fit for giants such as meself as well as those for little swabs.

To put or not to put, that is the question!

To put or not to put, that is the question!

There be 18 holes at Pirates Cove fer ya golfin’ pleasure. All of em are well groomed and accompanied by legends of me pirate ancestors of yore. There was relaxing calypso music piped from the golfin’ shack and many a flowerin’ plant and water feature to please the eyes, ears, and nostril. Their course be outdoors like so you’ll be wantin’ some fair weather. Fer us, ’twas a perfect afternoon with plenty o sun and just enough breeze ta keep the bugs at bay.

So I were sayin’, Captain Trail right crushed me last time and I were determined to make a better showin’. We made the usual wager; that the looser be owin’ the winner a right big kiss with tongue play an all the fixings there with. It were to be Pirate lads vs Pirate wenches in an epic battle, sure ta be legend soon after.

Here I be ragin' against them darn water traps, pesky devils!

Here I be ragin’ against them darn water traps, pesky devils!

Truth be known we both border on the edge of near awful at this game but that don’t mean the fighting weren’t fierce on the greens. Fer me, the puttin’ is near always bad ta middlin’ a consistent streek o missed opportunities and clumsy recoveries with the occasional lucky shot. Captain Trail’s a different story altogether. She strides the winds o fate, fickle as the sea herself. One minute she be knockin’ a hole-in-one off a jump shot dropin’ in the bucket right out the blue sky pretty as shiny as you please.  Next hole she’s battin’ that ball all o’er creation dodging the hole like it were a leper prostitute at a Franciscan monastery.

Here I be enjoyin' the sweet taste o victory beneath the arrrrrrbor.

Here I be enjoyin’ the sweet taste o victory beneath the arrrrrrbor.

But which of these addle-brained strategies would take the prize and win fame forever in the annals o pirate lore? Well, I’m here to tell ya friend that when I tallied the scores I stood dumbstruck by what I saw. So much so I had ta check one more time to be sure it weren’t no trick o the light. Both me and me mate stood right even at 57 strokes each. A bloody tie! Both our old salty hearts were flutterin’ with joy. What a fitting end to a battle of the ages! And the best part, sloppy kisses fer all!

final_score

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Glacier: Many Glacier

Many Glacier in Glacier National Park, feels like the Swiss alps. Extensive mountains, live glaciers, and crystal lakes provide a striking backdrop to any hike, boat ride, or a lounge at the lodge. Here in the Swiftcurrent Valley, you can’t go wrong with any activity you choose, but we’re here for the hiking. We don’t have much time so we go for a quick hike around Swiftcurrent Lake.

Swiftcurrent Lake

Swiftcurrent Lake is located in the Many Glacier region of Glacier National Park

Many Glacier Hotel

In 1915, the great Northern Railway built Many Glacier Hotel up on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake. This old girl consists of a series of chalets and stretches out a good distance along the Northeast shore of the lake. Upon a foundation of stone, the wood structure rises up to four stories tall. The swiss alpine theme prevails the exterior architecture and the interior decorations.

For rustic rooms, the price made me balk: $528 a night for a Lakeside Suite! I guess visitors pay for that view. The value rooms, which face the parking lot, cost almost $200 a night. Yikes!  I guess folks pay for that unique location and a really awesome scenery, but with modest amenities and “old-world” style accommodations.

Many Glacier Hotel

Built by the Great Northern Railway in 1914-15, Many Glacier Hotel is situated on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake inside Glacier National Park

Swiftcurrent Lake

Grinnell Glacier and several glaciers replenish Swiftcurrent Lake with fresh water, along with surrounding snowfields. The lake also provides  the perfect starting point for numerous hikes. Famous trails such as Ptarmigan Tunnel, Grinnell Glacier, and Cracker Lake should not be missed by any long term visitor. I also saw anglers and boaters on the lake, but not without some difficulty due the frequent wind gusts.

Sadly, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the glaciers in the area will completely vanish by 2030. With only 23 glaciers left in the park, that leaves folks with a 14-year or less window to see them all before they melt away.

Swiftcurrent Lake

The mountains immediately west of the lake rise 3,000 feet (910 m) above the lake.

Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail

Near the boat dock just south of the hotel, we started our hike on this flat and easy loop trail. Heading clockwise, we hit the best of the lake first. Each side trail lead to a slice of shoreline with a stunning view of the lake and the surrounding mountains. Nearer to the hotel, there are a few vistas that provide a great view of The Garden Wall, Grinnell Point, and Angel Wing. At the south end, there’s a great view of the hotel, Altyn Peak, and Apikuni Mountain.

Just before we near the hiker’s junction, pass by Chief Two Guns winter boat house and what look to be private residences for boat workers. One of the houses has big bay windows facing the lake. Lucky them!

Many Glacier Ptarmigan

Ptarmigan spotted along the Swiftcurrent Trail

Just as we reached the turn off that leads hikers to Grinnell Lake and Hidden falls, we gingerly passed deer feeding in the thick undergrowth, trying our best not to disturb her. We then crossed a footbridge which leads over a stream that feeds water from Lake Josephine to Swiftcurrent Lake.

We next spotted the south boat dock, where the wooden boat Cheif Two Guns lands to drop off hikers, who then head to Lake Josephine and take another shuttle boat before hiking to Grinnell Glacier. At the dock we sat for a bit, dangled our feet above the pristine blue water while enjoying the view before the boat arrives.

Swiftcurrent Creek

The fast disappearing Grinnell Glacier is one of several glaciers and snowfields that provide water for the streams that replenish the lake

We parted ways with the dock and hiked toward another bridge, which crosses over the Swiftcurrent creek. Just beyond this bridge, we sat on a bench near the bridge and listened to the wind rustle through aspen trees, and enjoyed the view of Grinnell Point and Mt. Wilbur.  I especially enjoyed the sound of the water rushing by, which comes down from a series of lakes, all leading upstream to Swiftcurrent Mountain.

Continental Divide Trail

Past the forest of pine and aspen, we reached the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead parking lot, and to get to the north shore of Swiftcurrent lake proper, we have to cut through and take the Continental Divide Trail.

Swiftcurrent Lake

Mount Gould, Grinnell Point, and Mount Wilbur are the largest mountains immediately west of the lake.

As we continued our hike on the north shore, we got some nice views of the hotel and the bulging ridgeline of Allen Mountain and Wynn Mountain. In the opposite direction, we spot Altyn Peak, where grizzlies and bighorn sheep like to play.

We then reach the north half of Swift Current lake and the road leading to Many Glacier Hotel. We stopped for a bit to enjoy the rapidly flowing water before it reaches Lake Sherburne. In the shadow of Apikuni Mountain, the sun shines bright and let the water spray from the creek cool us.

Lower Swiftcurrent Creek

Just above Swiftcurrent Falls.

We slowly made our way back to our truck, dodging light traffic and a group of tourists excreted from a bus. We try to delay our departure, but we have a long drive ahead of us and must get back. If there’s one thing I come away with from visiting Many Glacier is that I want more time to enjoy this lovely area.

On the bridge to Many Glacier Hotel

On the bridge to Many Glacier Hotel

Swiftcurrent Creek

Swiftcurrent Creek

Between Lake Josephine & Swiftcurrent Lake

Between Lake Josephine & Swiftcurrent Lake

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First time work camping

As we were checking into Mountain View RV park in Sundance Wyoming, we were asked “the question!.” The one all RVers seem to ask one another: “Where are you from?” We gave our usual answer: “We are nomads, we live in our Airstream full-time.” I always feel proud when I can tell someone that. The proprietor looked pleased and said, “We just lost one of our work camping couples, you can stay for free if you will help us out.”

Would we do it?

We’d only planned to stay a week and they would need us for at least a month so we told her we had to give it some thought. The offer was free parking with cable, free laundry, and a discount on goods from the store and on propane in exchange for working a total of 24 hours a week at the park, generally 8am till noon 3 days a week.

Looking at our plans, we were already going to be in the area for 4 weeks, just not at this campground. It didn’t impact our overall timeline, it only meant we’d have to drive longer distances to the area parks. Looking around Mountain View, I liked what I saw. The park was clean and orderly, including the bathrooms. I’d read some sob stories about working in bad parks and figured that if it was well run there was a higher chance the owners would be good to work with. Making up our minds, we told them “yes.”

Here we are at Mountain View RV, keeping things shiny.

Here we are at Mountain View RV, keeping things shiny. Our park sticker collection is growing! We will add 4 at this stop.

Rolling up our sleeves

Our first day working was the very next morning. We were handed a stack of Mountain View RV T-shirts to wear while on the job and given the run down. Every morning we first check the bathrooms and tidy up any mess. Then we take the cart and drive through the park looking for trash, dog poop, and other detritus. We check trash cans and empty as needed. Then we check the project board and see what needs doing. Typically that involves grounds keeping or cleaning up other parts of the park. At 11am we do another site check to ensure folks checking out have left and that folks staying are still here. We also clean up the checkout sites and inspect the sewer lines for obstructions. Finally, we give the bathrooms a good thorough cleaning and the day is done.

On our first day Barry, one of the owners, spent the morning with us showing us the ropes and where all the tools and equipment were stored. Our project for the day was cleaning the game room. In addition to dusting and sweeping the walls hadn’t been scrubbed down in a while so we gave it a thorough 2-hour cleaning. Our second-day project was touching up on paint. I worked on doorways and window frames while Trail re-did the lettering on the giant “welcome” sign out front.

I was really pleased to be fixing up the kinds of things I so often see let go at other RV parks. I’ve thought many times that the places would look so much better if they just kept the painting up and did some routine cleaning. Here I was doing all those things and the place looked that much better for my brief efforts.

Trail did a great job re-painting this sign.Trail did a great job re-painting this sign.

Bathrooms beware

Of course, cleaning bathrooms is both hard work and not all that much fun. None the less I felt some satisfaction in tackling a problem I’ve found endemic in so many other RV parks, dirty bathrooms. Cobwebs in the shower stalls, dust caked on the vents, the smell of mildew heavy in the air, and strange red-brown stains on the walls. Not here, not on my watch!

Mountain View’s bathrooms were already in good shape thanks to their daily cleanup. All the surfaces get sprayed with Lysol and scrubbed down. All the toilets cleaned. Antibacterial and antifungal agent is sprayed on the shower floors. Then all the floors get swept and mopped. Supplies are replenished, trash emptied and all is well. I decided I’d also hunt down any and all stains on the walls and eliminate them. I also had a go at the air vents as best I could. End product: a super shiny and clean smelling bathroom.

The morning of day 2, I found the men’s bathroom partly flooded. Both toilets were stuffed and overflowing. A double header! I got the plunger, mop, antibacterial spray and cleaned it all up. As Berry came around he was sympathetic and surprised. “Both toilets clogged?” he asked, “that’s the first time in the 10 years I’ve been running this park, lucky you!” Well, that’s just the kind of special snowflake I am!

Trail loves gardening so keeping the flowers and decorative plants happy is as much fun as work.

Trail loves gardening so keeping the flowers and decorative plants happy is as much fun as work.

Reflections on work camping

We’ve got 3 weeks to go but I think all in all it will be a positive experience. I don’t mind doing this kind of work when I know it’s benefitting my fellow campers and I’m being reasonably compensated. We did some math and the “wage” works out to about $12.60 an hour. No fortune to be sure but it’s simple unskilled labor and I think a fair trade. I’m happy to be setting a good example of how such work should be done and making Mountain View a nice place.

I’m sure every work camping experience has some unique elements. I suspect all of them have some common elements in that a lions share of the work is clean up. I think I made a good decision in checking out the park before agreeing to work camp for them. If I didn’t like the owners or thought the park was poorly run, it would make the work a lot less fulfilling and more onerous.

Work camping is not going to make anyone rich, but I do think it is a reasonable way to significantly reduce your expenses on the road and a way to give back to the RV community. If you are interested there are numerous sites that can help you find gigs.

I think our Airstream would just about fit inside this pool.Opening the pool on warmer days is one of our regular duties.

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