As we’ve been visiting big name places and filling in the pages of our National Park Passport, along the way we’ve also had some pretty fun side trips. We always keep our eyes peeled for historical markers because, oh my, oh my, McMartyMan loves historical plaques!!!
Here’s his favorite road sign along with a few other memorable moments along the byways…
Lewis and Clark Caverns is a beautiful spot, even though Lewis and Clark never saw the caverns, but they did camp in the valley nearby! We camped in the valley where we had huge views of the mountains all around and the river down below. In the afternoons the winds would start blowing and we’d get thunder and lightning and even some rain. It was gorgeous. We took a fun tour into the caverns and it was pretty crazy! Up and down steep narrow stairs carved into the rock, with even a few places where we had to slide along on our rear ends. It was beautiful though and definitely well worth the huff and puff uphill hike to get to the entrance.
We also camped at the Headwaters of the Missouri (think LOTS of mosquitoes), and read all the historical plaques before leaving the campground early while we still had some blood. It was a nice area, and we saw our first moose of the trip, but the campground itself wasn’t one of our favorites. Being in the river delta we were surrounded by lots of cottonwoods and willows, so after being in the open valleys of the Caverns area it felt a bit closed in. So we left! Ain’t retirement great?
We took an unplanned side tip to a couple of ghost towns in Montana. We camped at a cute park outside Virginia City, which is a Victorian town from the 1800’s that is frozen in time. When the gold ran out and the town ran dry, the stores and buildings remained exactly as they had been until the 1960’s when Montana declared it a National Historic Landmark District (and added an ice cream parlor). It’s a fun little town with LOTS of historical plaques, but still a bit of a ghost town; in other words, good marketing, not so great in reality. We took the nighttime ghost tour…spooky, and went to see a funny satirical Follies show at the Brewery. A fun side trip but not one that we need to repeat.
We also went to Garnett, another well preserved ghost town up in the mountains. We drove for nearly an hour up this crazy STEEP, bumpy, one lane dirt road, and surprise, surprise, when we got to the top there was a paved road coming up from the other side, and a full parking lot! We had expected to be walking around in the hills finding falling down shacks; nope! Lots more plaques and plenty of tourists – too funny!
So, sometimes we just have to laugh at our adventures, and when we’re feeling silly we take pictures to record the events…
While near Bozeman we went to the Museum of the Rockies and I highly recommend it. The dinosaur complex houses one of the largest and most amazing collections of actual dinosaur bones anywhere in the world. Somehow I’d always thought of dinosaurs as a Jurassic Park creation, but to see the real thing and to see the progression from all the research that is performed is amazing. Since we had been learning all about the geology of the area, it was also very interesting to now place living creatures into the timeline. My brain cells are getting a work out!
On our way south from the Tetons we spent a few days at the Firehole Campground on the northern edge of Flaming Gorge. It was totally unexpected to find ourselves in a landscape full of Monument Valley type rock formations, without a tree in sight, and TOTAL silence. We had two afternoons of wild rain and thunder storms while there, so it was quite a change from Jackson Hole.
Speaking of Jackson Hole, we had our one “oh shit” of the trip while coming down Teton Pass. The pass is a mere 8,432 feet high, and the valleys on either side are about 6,200 feet, so it doesn’t sound too intimidating. The problem is that on the way down to Jackson, the grade is nearly 10% all of the way down. We were keeping a reasonable speed when we started to smell something burning. While trying determine if the smell was coming from us or a nearby truck, the dash light started flashing and an alarm went off with a loud squeal. Marty headed for the nearest shoulder, stopped the truck, and out we jumped to investigate. Yikes; get the extinguisher! In the front wheel well we had a small fire that scared the poopie out of me, but thankfully went out before we even sprayed it with the extinguisher. Long story short, we let everything cool down and got some much needed encouragement from the two Bobs (my bro and bro-in-law) and then we continued down the final turn. We are now the proud owners of four new brake pads! Note to self…next time, go around!
Okay, enough with the crazy photos and silly stories….but hey, I have internet… Tomorrow we go bugle with the elk in the Rocky Mountains!