Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Idaho

Craters of the Moon National Monument has a very different landscape. It is full of old lava flow, spatter cones, cinder cones and lava tubes (or caves). These were produced from a series of fissures known as the Great Rift. There is a 7-mile loop road that has stops along the way to see different aspects of the lava flows, along with hiking trails and caves.

There is a visitor center and campground with water and restrooms. The campground is first come/first served and was close to full every night we were there (3 nights). We were surprised being it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, not on main highways. The campground has 51 tent and RV sites. There’s maybe four sites that would fit our rig. The cost is $10. We were in site #7. It’s near the restrooms, road and trash, but it was big. There’s an amphitheater with ranger talks in the summer. Generator hours 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Our Verizon cell service was sketchy, but good about a mile from the campground at a pull-out area.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Hells Half Acre Trail, Atomic Museum and Post-War Testing

We took some unplanned stops on our way to Craters of the Moon National Monument. The first one was at a rest area on Highway 15 between Shelly and Blackfoot. The landscape changed abruptly and we could see people on a walking trail so we stopped to see what it was about. There were also geocaches there. This was Hell's Half Acre Trail.




INL (Idaho National Laboratory) is an industrial and research complex in the area where there were post-war tests done. On Highway 26 there is an EBR-1 Atomic Museum, only open in the summer though. A little ways past there is a Big Lost River rest area with information boards about the testing. It was really interesting. There were geocaches there also.


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North Bingham County Park, Shelley, Idaho

North Bingham County Park is near the Snake River that runs by Shelley, ID. It has 12 sites with water and 30/50 amp electric and a dump station. There is a restroom/shower building. Verizon cell service worked good, along with our internet. There is a phone number to call for questions and/or reservations, but I think it’s mainly first come/first serve. There are envelopes at the small office building when you drive in; just put your money in and slide it through the slot. If nobodies name is on the clipboard for the site you want, you’re good to go. We were suppose to get some cold evenings so I wanted electricity, needed to wash clothes, and needed to transfer our mail, so we stayed for a few nights. It was at least half full while we were there.
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Monday, September 14, 2015

Jackson, Wyoming and on to Idaho Falls, Idaho

We stopped in Jackson, Wyoming at the Visitor’s Center. It’s a large building with a lot of information and a video to watch about the National Elk Refuge that is there.


We went through another pass. Glad we got through before it snowed. This road is a 10% grade.


The weather is taking a turn for the worse; they’re talking about rain and cold, and snow in the mountains. I’m glad we’re through the passes.  We went to Idaho Falls Walmart and there were 9 other campers there with us for the night. Guess nobody wanted to be on the road. It rained and was windy.  The weather forecast called for some upcoming cold nights so we checked for campgrounds in the area or in the Crater of the Moon National Monument (where we’re going).  We found a county park in Shelley, ID that is $20/night for 30/50 amp electric and water, dump station. It’s about 13 miles south of Idaho Falls.  I’ll do a separate post for that.


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Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

We got to Colter Bay Campground in Grand Teton National Park about 7:30 in the evening as Yellowstone National Park had no openings for a rig our size.  I had been watching their website and the campgrounds weren’t filling up daily, but I guess its different on the weekends. So, that meant we move on to other places. We spent the day driving the loop and other side roads to see what we can see. There were a lot of bison and horses, but no bears.  One of the side roads is closed because there were so many bears in the area eating berries. The weather was great while we were there, and trees starting to change colors. It was hazy though because of the forest fires in Idaho and the one in Yellowstone.

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Yellowstone National Park in a day

We got to Yellowstone National Park northeast entrance about 9 in the morning and worked our way down the east side. We’ve been on the west side of Yellowstone before, seeing the hot springs and geysers. Unfortunately, there were no camping spots for our size rig open any more. I had been watching their campground web site to see how the campgrounds have been filling up and usually it was later in the day or not at all. But, for some reason, this was a busy weekend.  Even when we checked at Flagg Ranch south of Yellowstone, they were full also and said it was unusual. Our first mistake was going on a weekend. Second mistake was not calling to see if there were openings. We checked two forest service campgrounds near the Flagg Ranch, but they were full also. We met another couple at Flagg Ranch looking for a place to stay and ended up parking by them at Colter Campground in the Grand Teton National Park.

We did get to see some animals, but no bears. You can usually tell if there’s animals nearby as there’s vehicles parked along the road, with people taking pictures. Sometimes they cause a traffic jam.

We went to the Upper and Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

There was a fire on the west side that started by a lightening strike. We could see the smoke.

Click here for more pictures, including the brochures and maps of the Park. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Beartooth Highway and Dispersed Camping

We stopped at Lake Ford Road on the Beartooth Highway where there is a meadow/parking area for dispersed camping, free, and stayed for the night. This is only about 9 miles from Red Lodge. We found this through the forest ranger in Red Lodge. The temperatures for this week are supposed to be highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s, so we should be okay. A couple of days ago Yellowstone had a low of 28. Curt did some walking around while I caught up with pictures and the blog and went through the many brochures and magazines we got from the visitor center and ranger station in Red Lodge for the Beartooth Highway and Yellowstone National Park. There is another camper here with us, and a couple that hiked in and are staying in a tent overnight. There was a couple driving ATVs when we got here. The bad thing about this area is, no Verizon cell service. We never stay anywhere without phone service, but decided to try it tonight.



We had no problem going up (or down) the Beartooth Highway. We drove in the morning, which I would advise if you don’t like traffic as there was more traffic as the morning progressed. We’ve driven roads with switchbacks before and you just have to be careful. There are spots to pull over along the way.  The highest stopping point is Beartooth Pass at 10,947 feet. I was surprised it wasn’t cold. We stopped at a dispersed camping area near Pilot Creek Trailhead for the evening. There were a few other campers that night and some cows decided to sleep nearby. The only disadvantage, again, was no Verizon cell service.


The Beartooth Highway officially opened on June 14, 1936. It is open seasonally from May to October, depending on the snow. It is 68 miles.

We didn’t realize there were bighorn sheep there until we saw the picture later! This is the International Summer Ski/Snowboard Camp at 10,737 feet. It has slopes of 15-50 degrees and is one of the North America’s old ski training areas, operated by International Ski and Snowboard Camp. It is generally open for skiing by late April and runs into early July with access to 3,000 feet of terrain unless there is insufficient snow.

We have been in so many national parks and forests in the past 3 years, and still have not seen a bear. We did buy bear spray, just to be on the safe side. Not that I want to come upon one while hiking; on the side of the road while we’re in the jeep would be better!

Click here for more pictures, including maps of the area. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

On to Billings, Laurel and Red Lodge, Montana

After leaving Fort Smith, we headed to Cabela’s in Billings, MT where we would be able to use an RV dump and fill water. But once there, found out that it was going to be hard to get in to and out of, as they’re doing re-tarring of the parking lot. The Cabela’s dump is not free anymore either, $5.00. I looked on the Sani-Dumps app and there is an RV dealership that showed free dump, so I called them and, yup, we can use it with no charge. We were able to dump and get potable water free, and went through their store to see what we could find. A big thank-you to Pierce RV! From there we went to Laurel, MT and stocked up the fridge again at Walmart. On to Red Lodge, which we found was doing construction in town and hard to drive through. Curt filled fuel at the Town Pump while I ran across the street to the Visitor Center and got information on Yellowstone National Park. We also stopped at the Ranger Station and got maps and camping information.  From there it’s on to the Beartooth Highway. We stopped at Lake Ford Road where there is a meadow/parking area for dispersed camping, free, and decided to stay for the night. I’ll do a separate post for that.

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