Friday, August 1, 2014

First Day of Exploring in Glacier National Park

Posted from Corum, MT   (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

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To see additional pictures not included in this blog:
         Click on Howe Lake Hike
         Click on Avalanche Lake Hike
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As nice as Theodore Roosevelt NP was, we were truly looking forward to our next stop at Glacier National Park in northwest Montana.  We overnighted in a Walmart in Havre, MT on the way here and are now staying for the next couple of weeks in Coram, MT at Sundance Campground & RV Park.  We are only about 5 miles from West Glacier, the western side entrance to Glacier National Park.

We settled in for a couple of days then decided to go to the nearest NP visitor center to orient ourselves to the park and make a plan for exploring.  Apgar Visitor Center is just inside the western entrance to the park and is relatively new.  There is plenty of parking for both cars and RVs in their lot.

One nice feature we discovered is that they run a free (once you've entered the park) transit system in an attempt to lessen the number of individual vehicles going up the Going to the Sun Road (main road thru the park).  We discovered that they have express shuttles which head directly from the Apgar Visitor Center to Logan's Pass, regular shuttles which make various stops along the Going to the Sun Road, and limited stop shuttles with transfer points all the way to Saint Mary, the eastern entrance to the park.

For our first hike, we wanted a relatively short one with easy access from the western entrance.  Well, we got half of that at least.  We chose a 3 1/2-mile hike to Howe Lake.  It looked easy to get to on the park map, but we found that the trailhead was 6 miles of dirt and gravel on a single lane road.

We made it ok in the Honda Fit (read low clearance vehicle) and started the hike on what appeared to be one of the less used trails.

The park suffered a huge forest fire in 2003 called the Trapper Fire.  It burned 133,000 acres within Glacier NP, or 10% of the park. Fortunately, signs of forest re-growth are evident among the still standing charred trees.

After a pretty easy hike we reach Howe Lake. No wildlife spotted, other than a few deer grazing on the other side of the lake.

There were absolutely NO other hikers at the lake.  We ate lunch on a few downed trees and started back.






Even a burned forest can be beautiful.  We saw many wildflowers growing along the trail.

We drove back to the Apgar Visitor Center and decided to try out the transit system.  We wanted to get in another short hike before the end of the day.  The Avalanche Lake Trail was right near the transit stop at the Avalanche Campground, so off we went.  Here's Karen standing near the trailhead at Avalanche Creek.

This hike began on the Trail of the Cedars Trail (about .3 miles) before connecting to the Avalanche Lake Trail.  The latter is about 2 miles each way. The Avalanche Creek flows along much of the hilly trail.

A lot of the trail was under dense tree cover and the moist ground seems ideal for the moss which covered the floor.

As we got closer to Avalanche Lake the walls of the nearby slopes became quite steep and the views kept getting better.














We knew we were getting close as we could see several waterfalls streaming down the mountains in the distance.  Notice the spots of icy snow still on the slopes.

Finally, the payoff of the hike!  Lake Avalanche. The water was beautiful (and chilly), but the setting was just amazing.  Just another reason we love to hike in our NPs.  If our first day is any indication, then our stay and visit to Glacier National Park is going to be a good one.

Thanks for dropping by to take a look!


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Theodore Roosevelt National Park- Part 2

Posted from Corum, MT  (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

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To see additional pics not included in this blog: 
                Petrified Forest Hike
                Buck Hill Hike
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Let me begin by saying that there are many more things to see and do in Theodore Roosevelt NP, but maybe just writing these two blogs will make you want to come and visit.

One very interesting hike we took was to the Petrified Forest.  The only way to get to the trailhead for this hike is to initally leave TRNP and take a graveled road of approximately 7 miles to the west of the park. The road is easily navigated by any vehicle, even our Honda Fit, but always check with the NP folks for road conditions first.

The complete hike is 10.3 miles, but the trail splits a few miles out and visitors can choose to go either left or right.  After doing some research we chose the trail to the left because it allows you to see a greater number of petrified specimens and the distance back to the trailhead is only a bit over 3 miles. The trail climbs for the first 1/2 mile or so.

It was a beautiful day when we made the hike and the initial climb rewarded us with a great view.

The next portion of the trail leads thru a flat prairie land covered with beautiful yellow flowers everywhere.

After stopping to eat lunch along the trail, we made it to an area with a large number of petrified specimens.  This NP contains the third largest collection of petrified trees in the US (according to their literature).

Some trees stumps and logs are easier to identify than others as the soil beneath many have eroded away and only stumps laying sideways are visible.

Notice the minerals which have displaced the wood many years ago to petrify this piece.

Many more pictures of this area are contained in the picture link at the top of this blog.  It was time to hike out, but you always need to be on the lookout for wild animals as this is their land out here. When it comes to bison, there are two sure signs to watch for.  The first is a "bison wallow" where they roll in the grass to create a cleared dirt area.

The second is pretty obvious. (This bison "remains" is older, however.)

Sometimes, you might get lucky and spot one of these great animals, although we saw none on the Petrified Forest Hike.

Another interesting area is again outside of the TRNP "proper".  It's called the Painted Canyon Visitor's Center.  This is actual a "rest area" off of Interstate 94 located at Exit #32 (5 miles east of the exit for Medora).

There is a NPS limited visitor's center, a regular parking lot, some picnic areas for travelers, an overlook into the painted canyon, and a trailhead for a hike down into the canyon.

A bit of a strange rest area as tractor trailers and cars share the area with folks starting out on hikes and others horseback riding.

We were here for the hike.  The Painted Canyon Trail is .9 miles in length and takes about 45-60 minutes to complete (depending on stops for pictures).

Sure, it's easy going down into the canyon, but you still have to climb back out again.

It really is a beautiful park and the panoramas of more beauty is everywhere.



We finally arrived at our last day in the Medora area to explore as we were leaving on Monday, so we decided to take one more drive around the 36-mile scenic drive inside the park.  Took it in reverse this time to see things that we hadn't previously.

A very short hike up Buck Hill takes you to the highest point in the park. It's only .2 miles so this one was a necessity for us. Quite a view from up here!

I wish that we had planned to spend more days in this area.  Who would have known there was so much to see and do in Medora and in TRNP.




I didn't include these attractions in our last few blogs, but a trip to the old Billings County Courthouse (now a museum) was very informative and they present a live narrative between characters of the era which was enjoyable.  I also didn't blog about the Chateau de Mores.  This is a very nicely done exhibit which contains the house belonging to the Marquis de Mores (founder of Madora), a museum, an live narratives as well. Both of these attractions are administered by the North Dakota State Historic Society.

If you would at least like to see some of the pictures for the Chateau de Mores and the Interpretive Center Museum click here.
For more pictures on the inside of the Billings County Courthouse Museum click here.

If you've managed to stay with me this far in the blog, thanks for taking a look!


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Written from Medora, ND   (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

NEW: Beginning with this blog, I am including a link to the relevant Google+ Photo Album. There are usually MANY pictures in the album which are never used in the daily blog.

I might be doing multiple blog posts on Theodore Roosevelt National Park as there are just too many things to do and to describe in a single post.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) is divided into three main areas. These include the North Unit, South Unit, and Elkhorn Ranch and Petrified Forest. To be honest we only explored the South Unit and the Petrified Forest during this visit.  The main reason is that the South Unit Visitor's Center is entered from Medora (only about 1 mile from our CG), but the North Unit is approximately 70 miles away.

It was also time to renew our annual National Park's "America the Beautiful" pass (can't wait for age 62) so a stop at the Visitor Center enabled us to take care of this. A NP Visitor's Center is always a great place to pick up a visitor guide and become oriented to the park.  This visitor's center had a small museum detailing TR's involvement with the Medora area.

TR first came to the Medora area (actually known as Little Missouri at that time) as a young 24 year old in September of 1883 to hunt bison.  He loved this area of the Dakota Territory and invested in a cattle business by purchasing the Chimney Butte Ranch, approximately 7 miles south of Medora.  During the first winter, TR's ranch hands built a cabin later named the Maltese Cross Cabin along the Little Missouri River.

The cabin has actually been moved several times since it was built.  Its' finally home in the TRNP came in 1959.  This is the original cabin built for TR, but there are only a couple of items inside the cabin which are original.  The rest are period pieces. Most of the history surrounding this cabin and TR were learned while attending an excellent ranger-guided talk.  Several different programs of this nature are given daily.

We left the visitor's center and began the 36-mile Scenic Drive Loop of the South Unit.  There are ample pullouts along the route to view the beautiful landscape and wildlife within the park. This view is from the Skyline Vista pullout, one of the first.

The Little Missouri River winds its' way thru the park.  It's usually muddy and was sometimes known as "Little Misery" because of the hard times in the Badlands of the area. This area can be accessed from the Wind Canyon Trail.

Here were a couple of interesting looking rock formations we encountered along Wind Canyon Trail.




We honestly did not see many bisons in our multi-day exploring into the park, but this guy was certainly "up close and personal" as we came around a curve in the road.

There are many, many prairie dog towns in TRNP.  We saw the ones in Custer State Park, SD, but the areas are much larger and spread out here in TRNP.  They are never too shy for passing motorists.

TRNP also has a good number of wild horses in the park.  Best sightings are usually in the southeast portion of the South Unit.  This looked like a "family".

There are so many beautiful vistas to be found in TRNP.  Rather than become too wordy, I'll just post a few pictures.  Don't forget to take a look at today's Google+ Web Albums for many more pictures.



















That's enough for this installment of TRNP.   Stay tuned for Part II.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!