Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Idaho-Montana Trip 2018 Part 1

Our big trip this summer was to Montana to the National Speleological Society (NSS) Convention. I took some extra time off so we could sightsee along the way. My husband had to stay home and help run the ranch, but the kids and I were free to go explore. 

We headed north into Idaho. The skies were really hazy from all the nearby wildfires. 

I was awed by the Snake River as we got a little farther north in Idaho. So. Much. Water. I guess you can tell I'm from the desert! Our first stop was the Hagerman Fossils National Monument Visitor Center. And because it was so hot and late in the day and most of the national monument is not really open to public access, that's all we saw. They have a cool visitor center, though, showing off the skeleton of the Pliocene Hagerman horse. They've also found about 200 other species that lived in the area long ago, like saber-toothed cat, mastodon, and camels.

We continued on to Craters of the Moon National Monument. The lava was so cool! Actually it was blazing hot after a day close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 

We pulled into the campground at 8 p.m., and I did not expect to find any campsites open. But there were several, including this awesome one up and over a little rise that made us feel like we had the lava field to ourselves. Sweet! We also did the loop and a short hike, but mostly just relaxed. It was still quite warm even after the sun set.

The next morning we got up early and did the loop drive again. This time we walked to the top of a cinder cone...

...and then headed to the lava tubes. Of course. I really wanted to see the one with ice in it. Lava Beds has a policy of not wearing any clothes or other soft goods into their lava tubes that have been in ANY cave before. So I had to get creative. The kids thought I was an eyesore.

From there, we went up to Salmon, Idaho and had lunch with friends (unfortunately I didn't think to get any photos!). We continued on to Montana. I'm guessing this sign is so high due to winter snows.

We made a very fast stop at Big Hole National Battlefield. I didn't know the story at all, about how the Nez Perce were ambushed and so many killed. We have some really ugly moments in our country's history, and this is one of them. And even though it's uncomfortable to remember these moments, it's important not to sweep them under the rug and forget them. We can learn from these incidents, and hopefully become better people.

Looking out at the battlefield. It looks peaceful today.

It was a longer drive than I thought to Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site. Our friend was acting Superintendent there, and we were hoping to meet up with her. But with the longer driving times, we arrived just as she had to go to a meeting.

We had about fifteen minutes to look around the park, a beautifully preserved ranch that was donated to the NPS, before the park closed. But there was an evening program, and after a dinner out, I decided that I needed a break from driving, so we went to the program.

It turned out to be painting with watercolors. Sounds easy, right? Well, we all found it harder than we expected, but did our best. I don't think any of us are going to become award-winning painters. But it's good to step outside your comfort zone and give new things a try. Plus the ranch was so beautiful with the evening light.

We drove more that night, slept at a campground with showers, then got up the next morning and kept heading north towards Glacier along the east side. I loved seeing the Great Plains undulating until they got to the Rocky Mountains. Near here is a special paleontological site where they found the Maiasaura, or duck-billed dinosaur, state dinosaur of Montana.


I didn't really have a plan for Glacier. I looked a the map and thought the Many Glacier area sounded cool. So we headed there. The road was absolutely terrible, dirt in places, huge potholes, crumbly asphalt. I thought we were on a back road.

Imagine my surprise when we came to a huge hotel, packed parking lots, vehicles parked for miles along the roads. I obviously hadn't done my homework! We found a parking spot, but the kids really didn't want to hike. I talked them into a short one. We found a dock, and they wanted to go jump off it. Why not? It made them so happy! We hiked a bit further, then turned around and came back to the dock and jumped off some more. Even I did it, and it felt great. Eventually the tour boat came and we had to clear out.


Glacier was obviously crowded, so we decided to head north to Canada. Desert Girl had been asking repeatedly to do this, so I had brought my passport and the kids' birth certificates, plus a letter from my husband saying it was okay to take the kids across the border (I didn't think this letter was a big deal, but they did ask to see it.)

Woohoo, they let us in! The kids were so excited. Waterton Lakes National Park boundary was right there on the other side.

Since we were already in the habit of taking photos by signs, we jumped out by the Alberta Provincial sign.

We stopped at a campground and were extremely lucky to get the last campsite at 3 p.m. The views were great!

Then we headed into the heart of the national park, to the town of Waterton. Instead of having concessionaires, Waterton Lakes National Park has a small town that provides services. It seems rather free market to me, and I like it. Banff seems to be much the same way, with a national park surrounding the town of the same name. (I haven't researched all this, just my observations.)

About half of Waterton Lakes NP was closed due to a wildfire last year. That meant we couldn't do the scenic drives. So we opted for the water. The kids were glad to get wet, but said it was cold! We ate a picnic dinner near the water.
 

 Then we boarded a boat for a tour of Waterton Lake. It seemed a good way to see a lot (and the kids were very agreeable since it didn't involve hiking!).

We headed south, which meant we went back into the U.S. We were amazed at the International Boundary, a swath of greener vegetation among the trees.

We pulled up at the dock at the south end of the lake and were able to get out and wander around for 15 minutes. The backcountry was sure calling me, but this wasn't the time.

 We were hoping for some exciting wildlife sightings from the boat, but the most exciting we saw was this beautiful bald eagle.
 

 Here's a very happy Desert Girl, excited to be in Canada!
 After the boat ride, it was time to drive back to our campsite to spend the night in Canada. We needed a good night's sleep, as we had a big adventure planned for the next day...
To be continued

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