August 28, 2013 Ennis to Palisades BLM Campground

Moving Day

Time to finally leave the Ennis RV Village, a nice place to stay, featuring the only truly usable Wifi I have ever encountered, clean and well kept, quiet and convenient, with a reasonable price of $35/night. Filled up the motorhome with gas and propane and then headed south to Palisades BLM Campground on the Madison River, only 24 miles south of Ennis on 287.

Palisades BLM campground
Palisades BLM campground

My hoped for spot on the turnaround was taken so I settled in on Site #3, unhooked the dolly so I could park head first in facing the river and angled to accept the cooling breezes. Since there are no hookups here, I will be living off solar only, if possible.

My site at Palisades BLM campground
My site at Palisades BLM campground
The view out the front windshield
The view out the front windshield

 

 

 

 

 

A very nice large, flat gravel space with a picnic table, bear proof storage compartment, and a metal fire ring with cook grill make this space, less than 30 feet from the river’s edge one of the nicer spots I have encountered yet. Oh, and the price of $4/night, with my senior discount, is pretty hard to beat. Two small tent campers about 100 yards upstream and the pickup truck camper the same distance downstream, are the only other people here.

Read for a few hours and took off south down 287 around 5 Pm to see if there were any roads heading east into the hills above 287 ( there aren’t ).

Madison River ospreys
Madison River ospreys

Got some nice shots of an osprey pair in their nest on a nesting platform along the highway just south of the campground.This Madison River valley must be paradise for these fish eaters.

Madison River ospreys
Madison River ospreys

I continued down 287 looking for a gas station so I could fillup the Prius before I headed into West Yellowstone with its inflated prices.Only problem was that I had to go all the way into W. Yellowstone before I came across a gas station.

Since I was already there, and since I already had made this a much longer trip than I had planned, I decided I may as well venture into the Park to see if the elk are gathering yet in the meadows on the road on the way in from W. Yellowstone. An absolutely gorgeous evening as I drove along the Madison River inside the park. Quite a bit of traffic heading out of the park, but very little going my way. One small band of cows and calves with an escorting bull were plodding along the edge the river bringing traffic to a standstill with people simply parking their cars in the middle of the road, getting out and taking photos, completely ignoring park rules, of course. There being no shoulder to park on, I did not take any shots since I couldn’t stop and besides, the lone bull with this band really wasn’t that great a specimen, I would doubt that he will be holding on to this little harem when the big guns get here.

It is encouraging to see at least one group of elk here, maybe by the time I get into the park, there will be more. The outgoing traffic was backed up, parked, for more than half a mile, and since I had to reverse direction and retrace my steps back to the campground, I decided to continue on into the park, rather than just sit in that line of parked cars for the next half hour, so on I went. Nothing more to be found, though, so I finally turned around hoping that the traffic jam would be breaking up by the time I got there.

My little jaunt to find gas turned into a 4 hour 150 mile trip, not what I was planning to do, but it was beautiful evening for a ride, even though it didn’t produce any great photos. Got home around 9, turned the inverter on and watched a movie. Took the dogs out around 11 to do their thing and marveled at the moonless night sky. With no street lights, houses, or other campers leaving their outside lights on, it was absolutely dark and you could see forever in the overhead sky. Makes me think about doing some night sky photography, if only I didn’t have this bear proof food container sitting here reminding me what can be out and about on these pitch black evenings. Maybe tomorrow night.

August 30, 2013 Day trip to Red Rock National Wildlife Refuge

Decided today was the day to take a trip to Red Rock Wildlife Refuge on the border of Montana and Idaho. Initially set up to help the then endangered tundra swans, I had read that the refuge was a great place for all kinds of birds, especially ducks. The refuge is accessed off of route 20 by a 30 plus mile gravel road suitable for regular vehicles, but rough and dusty. What the online info did not specify was that nearly all the waters in the refuge are off limits and you really can’t even think about shooting with a large telephoto because you are so far away and the fields between the road and the ponds and lakes are closed to foot traffic.

 

Juvenile Mountain Bluebird
Juvenile Mountain Bluebird

Juvenile Mountain Bluebird

Juvenile Mountain Bluebird

 

All I got to show for my efforts are some shots of juvenile mountain bluebirds and sandhill cranes along the road, and a very dusty car, both inside and out. It was certainly interesting to see this broad expanse of meadows and lakes at an elevation of 7000 or so but I don’t think I would make the trip again, too much pain for not enough reward.

 

Madison River Ospreys
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Ospreys
Madison River Osprey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best shots of the day were taken about 6 miles from my campsite on 287 at the osprey nest platform I visited the other day. They obviously have not read the signs about “catch and release “ you find all along the Madison River. It was pretty neat to watch this pair fly down to the river, about 200 yards away, patrol only a short section, maybe 200-300 yards only, make a few dives, and then come back to the nest to devour their trout, some fairly good sized. They gave me a great opportunity to capture them in flight as they landed and took off from the nest.

Disaster Strikes

After my mostly unfruitful, very hot day trip out to the refuge, I was looking forward to getting back home to stretch out in the shade or in front of a fan. But when I arrived back at my campsite, I found my passenger side mid coach window shattered and laying on the ground, in a million pieces. I have single pane safety glass sliders on the motorhome and this has never happened before. maybe a bird hit it or some other kind of freak occurrence? I don’t think it was a breakin because the RV wasn’t missing anything and nothing was disturbed inside, so who knows?

Big trouble, broken window
Big trouble, broken window
Big trouble, broken window
Big trouble, broken window

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I do know is that this was the last thing on earth I wanted to deal with on a 90+ degree afternoon after an eight hour fruitless, frustrating road trip. Then it dawned on me that this was really bad, this being the Friday of a long Labor Day weekend when everything was going to be closed up for three days and me sitting here in a remote BLM campground, in bear country with a 24” x 28” opening in the side of my motorhome. My first thought was to call Tiffen Industries, the manufacture of my coach and see if they could ship out a replacement piece of glass before they closed up today. It was 2:30 here in Montana which meant 4:30 in Red Bay, Alabama where Tiffen is located, and that meant I had to get a call in quick before they closed.

Of course, with no cell coverage here in the campground, I wold have to scurry quickly to higher ground, so I headed back up 287 towards Ennis, searching for a signal all the way. At 2:42, I finally got one and pulled off the road to call Tiffen service, got put on hold by their automated call system ( aren’t they just what you want to hear when you are sweating it out in somewhat of an emergency? ) for the next ten minutes, 2:52 now and I am assuming they close down at 5:00, their time, so I give up and call their parts number and once again am put on hold for what seems like an eternity as the clock ticks towards the magic hour, 5:00, when finally, just exactly at 5 someone picks up.

I explain my situation, bear country, severe afternoon thunderstorms, being out in the middle of nowhere with this gaping hole in my motorhome’s side, and could they ship out a piece of replacement glass before they close up for the weekend. He explained to me that all they could do was manufacture me a full new window frame with components and that would take about two weeks to make. I got the distinct impression that my predicament really wasn’t a big concern to Tiffen, and after my experience at their maintenance facility in Red Bay last December, I kind of assume they really aren’t all that concerned anymore with maintaining their formerly great reputation for treating their customers right. Well, it doesn’t make much sense to me to wait 2 to 3 weeks for a full replacement window at a cost of probably a couple of grand ( I am guessing, I didn’t ask a price ) when I need something NOW and for a whole lot less money. A piece of replacement safety glass, there is no frame on the glass panel, surely can be come by somewhere at a much lower price than $2000 and a lot sooner than 2 or 3 weeks.

So, first things first, I rushed up to Ennis to the lumber yard to get a piece of 1/4” luan plywood cut to my window size that I could take home with me to temporarily close up the gap. They were very helpful there and for $7 I was out the door and headed back home in just a few minutes. Once there I took out my screen, used it as a pattern to trace out the rounded corners on my plywood, cut the corners out with my trusty utility knife, and then was able to bow the 1/4” material enough to get it snuggly back in the track of the now missing glass. Not much to look at, but now I can at least keep the rain out.

I will have to backtrack to Bozeman on Tuesday and try to find a glass shop that can custom make a piece of safety glass for me, I hope! If not, I will then try to get a piece of 1/4” acrylic ( plexi ) cut to use as a semi permanent solution until I can figure out what to do.

Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison

 

 

 

 

 

For the next three days, I guess I will just stay put here on the banks of the Madison River and enjoy my peace and quiet and watch the fisherman go by.

As always click on any image for a larger version.

Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison
Staging area for Madison River fishing trips
Staging area for Madison River fishing trips
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey

 

 

 

 

 

Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey

 

 

 

 

 

Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 27, 2013 From Ennis to Bozeman, Montana

A side trip to Bozeman via Route 84

Headed north up 287 to Norris, then east on 84 for a quick day trip into Bozeman for supplies and just because I always like visiting Bozeman. I kind of hate all cities, but little city Bozeman is the exception. Another gorgeous day with blue skies and white puffy clouds.

Montana Whitetails
Montana Whitetails

 

 

Spotted a couple of deer in a field on the way and got a long range shot of a buck and his companions.

 

I stopped and explored the Red Mountain BLM campground on the Madison River about 8 miles east of Norris. A sort of developed campground with a camphost on the 287 side of the river and then another undeveloped set of 8 campsites stretched along the opposite side of the river. Either would make a good choice to stay, though the sites on the opposite side were all occupied today, so they are apparently quite popular.

White pelicans over the Madison River
White pelicans over the Madison River

As I was driving along the river, I spotted a flock of white pelicans taking off, spooked by one of the many fishing dories plying the river. I found a pullout and watched them float in circles, riding the wind currents to gain lift. While I still find it odd to see these birds I continue to associate with the ocean, here 1000 miles from the sea, it really strikes me as odd to see them feeding in fast moving river waters.

Montana horses
Montana horses

The 30 or so miles from Norris to Bozeman is a very scenic road, following the Madison River about half way, and then going through open range and then vast farmland. Then, bang, you are in the city. A nice, small city, where 5 miles from the city center, you can be in open country, probably not a bad place to live.

 

August 26, 2013 Ennis,Montana

Whitetail fawn
Whitetail fawn

Got out before sunrise again this morning and went north on 287 out of Ennis to explore the area around Ennis Lake, a lake formed by the damming of the Madison River.

1941 Plymouth
1941 Plymouth

 

Next to a ramshackled dwelling, near a small fishing access recreation area just a mile off 287, I stumbled on a great old 41 Plymouth, a great watercolor possibility.

 

 

Mule deer Doe and fawn
Mule deer Doe and fawn

A little further north on 287 was the road that looked like it would go around the east side of the lake. There was another boat access recreation area on the east side of the lake with several nice looking sites right on the waters edge, but when I got out to take some photos of them, and the mule deer feeding in the willows along the lake, I was engulfed in a cloud of mosquitos and had to quickly retreat to the car. The campsites look quite nice, but I’m not sure about staying here if the bugs are always this bad. Incidentally, this is the first place I have encountered bugs of any sort in my week long stay around Ennis, not too surprising I suppose, with the constant 20 mph breezes.

 

The road around the lake soon crossed a concrete bridge and split left to the dam, and right to continue around the lake and eventually reconnect with 287 south of Ennis. I took the road to the left and went about three miles down to the dam and then a little beyond until you are not allowed to go any further. The road runs down through a narrow canyon reminiscent of a miniature Grand Canyon of the Gunnison, steep black rock walls towering above both sides of the water, where it looked like bighorn sheep should pop up at any moment, though none did. I could see a bald eagle floating way up above the opposite cliffs, and all kinds of small fish breaking the surface of the water. A sign along the banks of the river below the dam said the river here contains arctic grayling, along with the west slope trout, brookies and browns.

I had to be back at my campsite for the mobile tech by 9 AM, so I wasn’t able to wait for some sunlight to make it’s way down into this canyon and be able to get some shots, so no images, but if you are in the area, it is a definite must see.

The tech replaced two burnt out solenoids that were the root of my front jacks problems and it was determined that the springs that retract the jacks were not fully retracting them and that is what most likely caused the solenoids to burn up. I decided to bite the bullet and replace all four sets of springs as a preventative maintenance measure. The solenoids were a couple of hundred dollars each ( ouch! ) and the springs $30 a pair. Add in 4 hours of labor at $100/hr and I have pretty much blown my motorhome maintenance budget for this year, sure hope nothing else major goes wrong.

Pronghorn buck and harem
Pronghorn buck and harem
Pronghorn mom and fawn
Mom and fawn

 

 

 

 

 

Today, with only scattered afternoon showers, I had an opportunity to make an early evening photo trip and found a few more pronghorns and this lone whitetail fawn grazing in a crop field, no mom anywhere that I could see.

Osprey on fence post
Osprey
Young mule deer buck
Young mule deer buck