Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Missoula, Bozeman, & Kalispell

Does this post title sounds like the name of legal firm?

I’m spending a couple of days here in Bozeman gettin’ stuff done before moving on to Yellowstone.  

I’ve spent the past several days roaming some pretty great towns. 

One of the things I love most about traveling across the country is exploring Main Street.  The advantages of traveling in a lean mean cruising machine!  

The GDB does Missoula

What fun to pull into Small Town USA, park the GDB in the shade, and roam the historic streets.  Not only do I get some good exercise, but also a peek at the America we don’t often read about or see on the news.  

Each place offers unique touches.

Want to know how to get there?  When you hit town, search your GPS for courthouse or library.  

I’ve said it before - if you want to know what’s really going on, park yourself at the local library for some eavesdropping.  Oh, the things you’ll hear!  

Tip: Town gossips are like wildlife – one must sit still and silent before they appear. 

What fun to visit the brewer, the baker, the ice cream cone maker.

Bookstores, courtrooms, and post offices. 

Independent shops with delicious items on display always tempt.  

I want to buy everything up!  Then I remember that I’m a minimalist.  

And that I live in a van. 

Although I manage to find room for Tootsie Pops. 

I hit an unexpected bonus National Park site yesterday, only because there is a sign on I-90 (exemplifying how haphazard my trip planning has been).  The 2,000 acre Grant-Kohrs Ranch dates from 1868 and still operates.

It was a welcome stop at which to learn some history, grab a stamp, and take a long stroll in the beautiful scenery I had been admiring all day from behind the wheel.

And the weather has been ideal – sunny in the 60’s.  Yesterday it was 62 while back home the heat index was 102!  A 40-degree differential – enough to keep me on the road for a while longer. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Missoula, MT

Made it to Missoula early this afternoon.  

The ride from Kalispell on US 93 South along Flathead Lake was quite scenic, marred only by rain and holiday traffic. 

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I brake for college campuses.  My main objective for the Missoula visit was to explore the University of Montana (enrollment about 16,000 if you’re counting). 

Fortunately, the only grizzly in residence is this one, the U or M mascot.

Though I did spot some other wildlife on campus.  

She was calmly munching away near the library.

The football team has a lovely stadium.  One in which you can actually see the game (unlike our 100,000-seat monstrosities in the SEC).  

I was delighted with the good timing to land here on a holiday weekend when the campus is virtually deserted and all the offices are closed.  Including the every-vigilant Parking Services (a chief barrier to any carefree campus visit). 

Wild guess - this must be the Forestry Sciences building.

I had planned my usual long self-guided campus tour but you just can’t miss M Mountain from any location.  There it lurks behind the main administration building.  

I spoke with a couple of helpful students who advised me where to park and where to pick up the trail.  Bonus!  I ran back to the GDB, laced up my hiking boots, and was off in a flash.  

The trail is all steep switchbacks.  

It took almost an hour of steady climbing to reach the summit. 

Going down was oh-so-much quicker.  I had left my hiking poles behind and, consequently, had to be even more careful on the steep descent.  I have osteoporosis, so the refrain in my head when I’m hiking on any road trip is: 

Break a hip,
End of trip. 

What a captivating campus!  

Sometimes I think my favorite part about hiking is that I can eat whatever I want afterword. 

I’m at WMT tonight and breaking my rule about always asking permission to overnight.  But there are about a dozen other RVs here at 6 PM.  So I figure it's OK.  And according to the Overnight Parking database: 

City ordinance effective Sept 2007 allows Overnight RV Parking in retail business parking lots with permission of the business. 

I knew I liked this town! 

Look forward to exploring downtown Missoula tomorrow.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Glacier National Park, MT

What can you say about this magnificent place?  Glacier is known as the Crown of the Continent. Descriptive powers fail.   

Apgar Campground

Since arriving on Thursday, I’ve been staying in cramped and crowded Apgar Campground.  The sites are really just gravel pull-outs with no privacy; nevertheless, I feel fortunate to have snagged a spot over Labor Day Weekend.

I'm getting 3 bars of 4G Verizon, but only at the Visitors Center, and no cell service in the campground.  Being unplugged has its advantages, but not when I need to organize a new class and grade mid-terms in another.  

Friend Suzanne arrived yesterday and is just a few sites away in A Loop from me.  Stay tuned to her blog because you know she will have some amazing posts and photos from her time here!

The best feature of Apgar Campground is that it lies along the shores of Lake McDonald.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign ....

A ranger told me yesterday about a recent credible sighting of a mountain lioness and her 3 cubs in the woods around the campground.  Just hours before, a black bear was seen on the campground’s innocuous-looking paved bike path.  Over and over one hears the warnings not to hike alone or without bear spray. 

Going To The Sun

Yesterday offered up some glorious weather so I boarded the park shuttle system

for the trip along Going To The Sun Road.  The road is narrow and steep - a 6% grade for over 11 miles at one point.  The views, however, are incomparable.  

The experience is as thrilling as I imagined and will remain a highlight of my time here.

I spent the afternoon at Logan Pass.  

Climatologists and geologists calculate that by 2030, the glaciers that sustain this ecosystem will have disappeared.  Possibly sooner.  Not that there is any such thing as global warming! Yeah, right.

The Visitors Center hosts a large population of playful acrobatic marmots.

I set out along the Highline Trail – an 11.4 mile stunner.  

At the outset: road to the left, Highline Trail to the right.

I did not come prepared for hiking as I expected more solitude along this trail (and the constant warnings against solo hiking were on my mind).  But there were actually enough people that I hiked for as long as my torn-up sneakers, flimsy flannel shirt, and lack of hiking poles would allow. 

When my fellow hikers thinned out, I turned back.

The hour grew late so it was time to board the shuttle for the return trip.  And more spectacular views.

What next?  Well, with the official end of the summer season approaching, I'll get busy planning my Yellowstone NP adventure.  Any and all suggestions welcome!