Two days spent exploring the gold rush towns of Virginia City and Nevada City
Took off at 6 AM for some soft light, no traffic photos in Virginia City and Nevada City. Ran into a mule deer family, a nice buck and some does and fawns right on the side of 287 barely out of the commercial strip in Ennis, but unfortunately wasn’t ready for them and so got no decent photos. I really need to be prepared for this sort of thing because you just never know what you may run into every time out.
( As usual, click on any image to get a larger version )
Getting to Virginia City before the people were up and about yielded some nice opportunities to get the shots I was looking for when I came here yesterday a little later in the day. It also was a bit cooler here at 7 AM than yesterday at noon when it hit the 90’s.
These two towns and Adobe City ( a mile out of Nevada City ) had a population of over 20,000 during the 19th century gold rush. A very interesting stop for any history loving travelers.
In addition to many old buildings, Nevada City has several old railroad cars and a rail station to investigate.
Washed the car and the motorhome first thing this morning to try to remove whatever the clear glaze that was sprayed all over both while going through the construction zones yesterday ( calcium chloride? ). Fortunately, though hardened and yet still sticky to the touch, it did seem to come off. Kind of neat to be able to wash vehicles in a campground, especially since this campground’s well sits above a geothermal hotspot and the water comes out of the spigot warm, works well for car washing but would take some getting used to for drinking.
Decided to head to Yellowstone to check out if there would be any chance of getting into Mammoth Hot Springs campground for the next couple of weeks. I knew it would make for a long day, but with the temperature hovering around 90, I figured why not spend the day in the air conditioned car. So I took 287 south to 191 south into West Yellowstone, a very pleasant and interesting route, especially along the shore of Hebgen Lake. Then 20/287/191 into the west entrance of the park, then north up 89 ( Grand Loop Road ) to Mammoth Hot Springs Campground.
Checked out two National Forest Campgrounds on the way in just north of West Yellowstone to see if they might be viable options. Spoke with the attendant at Mammoth and she said it normally is not a problem getting in if I were to show up at 11 AM . Looks like there are a few nice sites for rigs my size here.
On the return trip home I stopped for a bull elk shot, but couldn’t help but notice the lack of all types of wildlife while driving through the park today. I assume the elk are just now probably starting to descend to the lower meadows for the breeding season. I have never been here this early before so the lack of elk and bison was a bit of a surprise ( did encounter one bison grazing along the road ). I was also a little surprised that the traffic in the park really wasn’t all that bad at this time of year.
Stopped at a beaver pond on the way back home for some shots on what I think are Lesser Scaup, a new duck to me.
Back on 287 about 25 miles south of Ennis, I drove into a couple more National Forest campgrounds to check them out. One was completely empty and the other had but two tent campers set up.
One was on a bluff looking down on the Madison River ( this is where I was surprised by the sandhill crane pair ) and the other had sites that back directly up to the Madison River. Also stopped to check out one private campground of Hebgen Lake that had full hookups for a now shoulder season rate of $35.
Well, finally it’s moving day so off we go towards Yellowstone. I figured to try to make it to Ennis, Montana for today and then have just a short trip to the park left for another day. Weather has turned quite a bit warmer and as I headed south, it became quite hazy and downright hot, low 90’s.
Took 464 back to Browning, then 89 south to Choteau, where I picked up 287 south to I-15 south to Helena. Route 287 had a 5 or 6 mile stretch of construction where you were traveling on fairly rough gravel detour road, otherwise not a bad road for big rigs. Stopped at the Walmart Super Center in Helena ( easy access right off Exit 192 ), without a doubt the largest, most highly stocked Walmart I have ever been in, and stocked up on staples for the next month of camping in Yellowstone. There is a 5 mile stretch of construction on I-15 as you approach Helena where you are forced to drive on the rumble strip for the entire 5 miles. This zone has several spots where it really gets quite narrow for a big rig and it is a little stressful trying to avoid the freshly sprayed oil and the guard rails while rattling along on the rumble strip.
Stayed on I-15 until I picked up 69 south and then 359 south that once again connected to 287 south and took me to the Ennis Rv Park, right on 287 just short of the small town of Ennis. It was very interesting watching the terrain and geology change as you proceeded south on this route, and, other than the construction zones, the roads were in pretty good shape.
This fairly new RV park turned out to be a very nice place to stop and I probably will stay here a few days to ride out the heat wave. This place is very well thought out, sites are still fairly close, but there is well maintained small grass lawn on each site, a choice of two sewer connections ( for the convenience of different length RV’s, I presume, but a nice touch ), picnic table, actual usable Wifi, a great laundry room, a very friendly and helpful staff, and the absolute cleanest restroom and showers I have seen anywhere. And all this for $33/night with my Good sam discount. The owners obviously take pride in this place. The place is pretty full and there are a lot of what appear to be seasonal rentals, I assume staying here mostly because of the proximity to the ( famous for its trout fishing ) Madison River, since I do see a lot of dories and float boats on trailers in the park.
Decided that today was the day to zip up to Waterton Lakes National Park ( Canada ).
Couldn’t help myself and drove into many Glacier ( since it is on the way ) to check on any early morning bears.
Had a very close call on the road back out of Many Glacier when a cow moose trotted full speed down a hill toward the road ( from my left ) keeping her eyes on me as she came close and not watching for traffic approaching her from the opposite direction. A small motorhome was approaching from that direction and it looked like a collision was unavoidable, but the moose, at the last second saw the motorhome, reared up on her hind feet and turned, all in one motion, and retreated back up the hill. She stopped at the top of the hill as if trying to figure out what just happened and then retreated back in the woods.
Weather was great and traffic up to the park almost non-existent. On the drive in, I had to stop for a shot of an osprey family on their nest.
Paid my $7.80 park entrance fee and poked around the small tourist trap village for a bit, then checked out the in town campground. Campground appears quite nice for what it is, in town, and would be able to handle big rigs, sites fairly close together, but appeared well kept and clean.
Took some shots of the Prince of Wales Hotel and then headed out to Red Rock which happened to be the only place you could go since the other main drive ( Akamina Parkway ) in the park was closed for construction. Didn’t find any wildlife or breathtaking scenics going to Red Rock, so decided to head back to Glacier.
Not much question that the Glacier Park portion of the International Peace Park is where you want to be.