Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Campground Shuffle: Finding a Campsite in a Well-Loved Ares

Finding a campsite in a well-loved area can be a challenging task.  The more popular the destination the more likely especial strategies will be necessary to ensure you have a place to sleep.  Our national and state parks are seeing increasing popularity and usage as more people are discovering the great outdoors.

Find a Room with a View

I should preface this post with the information that I generally do not make reservations at campgrounds.  I can see that there are locations that this would be necessary and I have in fact encountered difficulty at a number of National Parks and a location such as Florida.  But so far I have been able to work around these difficulties.  (I have not yet been to Florida and may have to make some adjustments to how I travel when there.)

There seem to be three main categories of campers.  Planners, Non-planners and Combination Travelers.  Each category of travels will have advantages and disadvantages in their mode of travel.

    Planners generally have an itinerary that covers their trip that includes reservations where they will stay each night, and sights they will see.  Advanced planners may even have planned where they will eat and pre-booked sightseeing opportunities.
    Non-planners (this is where I fit in) generally are spontaneous and rarely have more than a vague idea of the path of their journey.    With no commitments of reservations they are able to spend as much time in a location as desired and are free to add new discovered destinations at any time.
    Combination Travelers Mostly travel without reservations unless going to a high use area such a lakes near a city area or a major National Park. While I rarely make reservations, when entering a high density city or high usage area we often call ahead to find out where vacancies can be located.

We have been struggling through a combination of both in Montana near Glacier Park and another high use area, Flathead Lake, a stop-off area near West Glacier, which has resulted in a Perfect Storm where finding low cost sites has been at a premium.     

 But on to the Lessons...

- Check out campgrounds of interest on line if reservations are utilized and find out what % is by reservation only. If the campground is 75% reservations, there will be very few sites that will vacate on any given day.....increasing the chances you will need alternative options.

- When in high use areas find out the check out times of campgrounds you are considering.  Most of the movement out of the campgrounds will happen up to two hours prior to check out to allow campers to relocate to the next campsite.   It is best to be at the entrance booth prior to check out to obtain a site.

At Many Glacier, the ranger stands at the entry gate to the campground and the wanna be campers form a line...when a site becomes available in one goes.  On the morning this pic was taken there were more than 12 campers lined up hoping for a spot.

- Once in a high use area, check with rangers or camp hosts to discover strategies that may assist you in obtaining a campsite.  Those friendly little chats can be very helpful AND make their jobs easier.

 - Check on availability of private campgrounds near high use areas.  Using campground apps such as AllStays or campground web sites such as are extremely helpful.  Try to have a backup plan in all areas you are traveling.  Most National Parks have private campgrounds nearby on private land to accommodate overflow travelers.  But they aren’t always cheap.  We called a KOA near Many Glacier in Montana that was nearly $80 before all of the extra charges....but there were other options available.
Campground outside Glacier National Park near Many Glacier
 -Even if a campground posts a sign saying that it is full, ask anyway.  There are often surprise departures and we have found several spots at campgrounds when the full sign was up.  Desperate times require desperate measures.  Some campgrounds also have overflow spots but these are rarely advertised.  You must ask. 

- Consider taking a site that may not be perfect for you for one night and then do a walk about for other vacating sites for additional days.  I always carry leveling blocks to accommodate less than perfect campsites.

- Talk to everyone about locations of other nearby spots that they have found available, waitresses, gas station attendants and especially other campers.

- Do not forget about other options that are available in towns such as WalMarts, Cracker Barrels, or a variety of Rest Areas and Truck Stops or other businesses that welcome travelers for a few hours of rest.  Plan on patronizing these businesses to thank them for their hospitali

ty.  When using these businesses for sleeping only, plan on visiting neighboring fun spots during the day while searching for your perfect spots.

Remind yourself Not every spot has to be that SPECIAL Spot!

Now if I could just find those special spots without the morning jitters and anxiety that I will find that a spot to rest each night.

Happy Hunting!!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Following the Nez Perce Trail and Bannack Ghost Town

From the beginning of our thinking about Montana as a destination for our summer 2016 travels, Bannack State Park was one of the top desired stops.  We have been to other Ghost towns but Bannack is touted as one of the best preserved Ghost Towns in the country.

Located in South West Montana not far from Dillon Montana, it is an easy drive off of I-15.
We came from Darby, Montana coming down Highway 93 which includes a drive through a very scenic mountain pass called Lost Trail Pass.  It was a location of the Lewis and Clark expedition though the exact camp site is not known. 

After turning East onto Highway 43, we stopped at the Big Hole National Battlefield where a battle between the fleeing Nez Perce and the Military charged with moving them to distant reservations, commenced on August 9-10 1877 as part of the Nez Perce War.

Site of the Big Hole Battle

The battle commenced when the 183 soldiers attacked the sleeping Nez Perce killing many while still in their beds, with casualties of approximately 30 soldiers and 70-90 Nez Perce with only perhaps 30 being warriors the rest being woman, children and elderly .   The Nez Perce withdrew after the battle and continued to retreat seeking freedom.

The battle signaled not only a great loss for the Nez Perce but there were for many a realization that their way of life was quickly evaporating and that they would never return to there homeland.  This place forever is a reminder of the lost and the loss of the way of life.

Now they fought for freedom even though in exile.

Though the loss remains with the Nez Perce still, I was impressed by the sentiments expressed on a sign in the visitor center. 

                                                      Lessons for all of us..... still today.

Continuing on in the Big Hole Valley we discover a valley that is labeled not by the names of roads but rather by the name of ranches.  Even the maps list the large ranches that are labeled by the entrance gates.  Ranching is still the main business of the area.

                     Even the maps list the large ranches that are labeled by the entrance gates.

The Big Hole Valley is known as the Land of the 10,000 Hay Stacks.  Before modern equipment, the hay was stacked using the Beaver Slide which hoisted the hay to the top of the hoist then dumping it down into a stack.

Bannack Ghost Town
Beyond the Big Hole Valley is Bannack Ghost Town, a Montana State Park that is dedicated to preserving the first big gold mining claims in Montana. 

Gold was first discovered  on July 28,1862 at Grasshopper Creek, setting off a massive gold rush to southwestern Montana.  The population swelled to over 3,000 by the spring of 1863.  After many boom and bust periods, the town slowly died as the gold was removed.

In Bannack you are free to walk the streets of Bannack and explore the 50 remaining buildings. You will find no cars on the streets only other visitors and maybe a few whispering ghosts. Most of the buildings lack interior furnishing but your imagination fills in the rooms with people and the things they used while living there. 

Miner's Shack
Each building has a story to tell from the decaying buildings to the best preserved.  The wallpaper often visable on the walls, the flooring in many places still in tact.

From to a school and Masonic Temple, and saloon, the framework of the town is visible.


 You can even find yourself belly up to the ole bar

Or in church for a little 'preachin'

Hotel Meade

From simple mining shacks to a five bedroom house,
Cute little houses,  with no two alike....

But very ghost town has its legends and a villain or two, and one of Bannack’s villains was also the sheriff, where it is reported that he lead a gang responsible for up to 100 murders and robbed countless others.  Henry Plummer and two of his deputies were hanged without trial by vigilantes from gallows near the town.
First Territorial jail in Montana

The town began when gold was discovered and it died when gold ran dry.

The fun remains!
 As part of Bannack State Park there is a campground where we stayed the night.  Since we had purchased the Non-Resident Montana Parks pass we were able to stay at the campground for $18.00 which included our $8.00 entrance to Bannack Ghost Town.

Other nearby ghost towns are Virginia City which is more developed and has many commercial activities available  and Nevada City which is made of many buildings that have been moved to the site from around the west.  Bannack is preserved  and without many of the commercial aspects and truly gives visitors a glimpse back into time as it existed during the Gold Rush Days of Montana. 

It may not be the most visited ghost town in Montana.....  But it should be!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Montana - Connecting with Tradition and History

Before leaving Missoula behind we head out to a local Pow Wow in Arlee.  Hailey has never attended a Pow Wow.  This Pow Wow is structured the same as the ones that I have attended for the last 25 years with the Native Children that were living with me.
This celebration like the ones I am familiar with, is a clean and sober celebration. 

Grand Entry signals the beginning of the gathering and dancers of all kinds, dance in following the elders who carry the flags.  Prayers and welcomes are followed by inter-tribal dancing where all who gather can join in the dancing and regalia is not required.   There are categories by age group, gender and style of dance. and the competition lasts for 3 days. 

Then begins the competitions.   We are able to watch several different dance sessions.

It is amazingly difficult to capture the essence of a Pow Wow dance in a photo.  It is really something to be experienced.

In addition there is a competition among the drum circles who are invited from other tribes.

Hailey was particularly interested in the stick games.  A traditional game of skill and chance where two opposing teams hide, among the members who are sitting in a line, small sticks while the other team must determine who holds the sticks.

We met a grandmother who was sitting with her granddaughter who represents a local tribal community.  She asked if I wanted to take a picture of her Granddaughter.

Miss Salish
Love and Pride beamed from the Grandmother.  I love seeing the multi-generational participation at Pow Wows.

The drums are finally silent

The Drums are finally silent.

Blending of the old ways and traditions with a new generation.

The next morning we head out for Hamilton which is located south of Missoula.  A beautiful and fun drive traveling on a road I have never been on before.  Our goal is a mansion built by Marcus Daly to be his summer home in the Bitterroot Mountains. 

Marcus Daly was a self-made man who arrived in this country at the age of 15 from Ireland without and education, money or a trade. Profiting from the mining boom of the west, he became one of the Three well known Copper Kings.  Initially making his money in silver mining, he is most known for the capitalizing on the copper found in western Montana. He is known as the father of Anaconda where he developed a copper smelter and Hamilton, Montana where he developed a saw mill and stock ranch endeavor.  His love for Hamilton became the choice for his summer home, known as the Riverview, Daly Mansion.

He purchased the Chaffin Home in 1886 and then it underwent several renovations. to enlarge it.  The Queen Anne (the third from the right) was much to fussy for Daly's tastes so he had it remodeled again into the final design which was completed after his death.

We visited the Daly Mansion, found in Hamilton.  The 25 room mansion sits in the Bitterroot Mountains.  The 42 room mansion also contains 15 bathrooms and had five fireplaces.  It was the site of his horse ranch where he raised race horses, some of the most famous in the world at that time. 

 He and his wife and four children lived at the Daly Mansion until his death in 1900.  Margret continued to live in the home until her death in 1941.  The Mansion was then boarded up until 1984 when it was donated to a preservation trust. 

Many of the furnishings were auctioned to pay the extensive taxes that were due at the time of the transfer.   Many of auctioned items have been slowly returning as gifts to the Trust.

How much fun for us to walk the halls that early pioneers walked in this western mansion.

The Daly's had four children, three daughters and a son.  They grew up in a different time where children who came of wealth, were attended to by a nanny until they turned eighteen.  Even the children of guests had a nanny assigned to them during there stay. 

The Daly children's playhouse....complete with a kitchen.
Can I play here?

 The son, Marcus II, had a nanny until he turned 18 and then he was married.  

Truly a lovely home and and wonderful gift to be preserved and treasured for years to come.

We had heard of Como Lake that is located between Hamilton and Darby that we wanted to stay from the couple we met at the Cascade Campground .

Though it was on the weekend, we took a chance and found a lovely spot for the price of $4.00 with a senior pass.

One of the nicest beaches we have found.  There are two campgrounds.  One that has electric and one that we stayed at, Three Frogs, without electric.

  A hike goes around the lake for a total of about 8 miles.  There is a beautiful waterfall  but it was farther than I can hike so we went as far I could go and turned around but it's a beautiful hike.

A trip into Darby was interesting.  What a cute little town and they make the most of the Wild West Destination.  A local artist shows his wares at an antique shop which gets a lot of attention.

Leaving Darby we found what looked like a community event.  Checking it out we discovered that it was a the Fire Incident Camp for the firefighters fighting a nearby fire.  

Hamilton Fire  

Yes, Folks it is already Fire Season.....Be careful out there!

However this is how I will remember Como Lake.

What a gem in our National Forest System!!