A short move over to Bear Trap Road BLM Campground
Got up early and decided to move across the highway to another BLM campground on BearTrap Road. There I can orientate the motorhome facing east to help a little with the afternoon heat problem ( it has been in the lower 90’s every day but one for the two weeks I have been in Montana ). Because of the unanticipated expense of repairing the jack system and tomorrow’s window replacement, I am cutting back on campground expenses by only staying at BLM campsites at $4/night vs. private sites at $35/night. The only problem with this is the persistent heat since I can’t run the AC when on a primitive site and the afternoons have been pretty much intolerable, although once the sun goes down, it does cool off quite quickly.
While walking around the new campground with the dogs, I watched a mature bald eagle swoop down into the Madison River. Where he landed was obscurred by the river bank, so I quickly walked down to the river’s edge and could see him on a gravel bar on the far side of the river dining on a fish. Needless to say, I did not have my camera and big lens with me since I was just walking the dogs, so no pictures, but kind of neat to watch anyhow.
To avoid the heat today ( 90’s predicted again ),I figured I would do an all day run in the air-conditioned car to check out the northwest route into Yellowstone so there wouldn’t be any nasty surprises for the motorhome’s trip into the park. I also thought I would explore the alternate route down the Yellowstone River Valley, route 540, and a couple of the national forest campgrounds along the way.
Didn’t really see that much that caught my eye, more farmland, cows and horses, with a few mule deer grazing in the alfalfa fields. Stopped short of the north entrance to the park and came back up 89 to Livingston. Looks like a pretty interesting little town meriting a trip there to explore the downtown area and its galleries one day, but not today, too HOT!
Stopped at a Montana Fish and Game campground on the banks of the Yellowstone River right on 89 and drop in to investigate.There are 3 or 4 nice sites on the rivers edge and several more sites away from the river. Probably a nice overnight spot for the future.
Never left the campsite today, just sat back and watched fisherman, finally actually watched someone catch something, and read all day, enjoying the cloud cover that kept a lid on temperatures for the first time in days. It stayed very comfortable all day with the breeze blowing and the sun peeking through only occasionally. By late afternoon, the few other campers that have been here were packed up and gone, leaving the entire campground to me. This has been one of the most peaceful spots I have ever stayed, definitely has the “it” factor going for it, no road noise, wide, level sites, spaced far apart for privacy, clean, well kept, with the river 30 feet in front of your site and the imposing bluff on the opposite shore where eagles and ospreys perch.
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.
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.
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 ).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.