Our Chalet Truck Camper

Our Chalet Truck Camper

Saturday, June 06, 2009

June 4 to June 6 Glacier National Park

June 4 - Fort Peck to Great Falls, MT
June 5 - Great Falls, MT to Glacier National Park
June 6 - Many Glaciers, MT to Polson, MT

June 4 - Morning came early again and we spent the time before places opened, doing
basic maintenance on the TC. The gas hot water heater was not working, giving a
constant reset light. Joe called our TC friend Mikeee who can fix just about anything
in the HVAC line. Joe had already done most of what Mike suggested but he gave a few
more hints and one of them worked. Probably a loose wire by the tank where I had put
in paper towels - where I wasn't supposed to store anything. Well paper towels are
light right? Mike's "payment" of a box of Klondike Bars will go to him next we see

We toured the Fort Peck dam area and learned the story of how the dam was built
during the 1930s depression. There was a catastrophic and deadly collapse before it
was finished. At the base of the dam is the Fort Peck Interpretive Center which lays
out the discovery of dinosaur remains and traces their history and the ecology and
geography of the area. Excellent exhibits and well worth the time to go there.

There was also an art and sculpture exhibit. I liked this one thinking of all our TC
friends who hike deep into the wilderness.

We travel led on Route 2 today and whoever said this part of Montana is called the
Big Empty was absolutely correct. Between Big Sky and Big Empty there is nothing but
grass, horses and cattle. We think the vast planted fields are wheat but not sure.
You have to be a hearty soul to live out here especially during the winter.

At Malta we stopped at the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum. They had one real intact
skeleton which was interesting but what was more so was the county museum. There were
photos loaned by local families from early pioneer times through the Great Depression
up to current farming. Quilts, a roster of those who have served in the wars, class
photos, exhibits of old kitchens, parlors, etc. Fascinating to tour and you felt as
though you were sitting in your grandmother's parlor looking at family history.

At Havre, we switched over to Route 87 south to go to Great Falls. This road is two
lane, no shoulders and 70 mph. I have to hand it to those who live here and put up
with the tourists who know one wrong twitch of the hands and you end up in a ditch.
Actually not bad driving, much more civil people who pass a TC going 62. The tip of
their hat is better than the hand wave back east.

We're in a tiny campground just prior to Great Falls but amazingly there is internet.
We're feasting on corn husk covered tamales, fresh salsa that is a bit hotter than we
are used to and local nacho chips. When in the country, eat like a native.

Tomorrow our choices are the Memhke Steam Museum (tractors not trains), the CM
Russell Museum Complex, Malmstrom Air Force Base museum and a second Lewis and Clark
Center. We are close to museum done and time to head for Glacier. I keep checking the
"Going to the Sun Road" and know it is not open yet. But there is so much else to
see, do and hike that it won't matter in the long run. We'll take 89 north and wander
to see what there is to see.


June 5 - Great Falls, MT to Glacier National Park

Started the day looking for the a Steam Engine Museum. Finally found it and we both
broke out laughing. It was basically a collection of old rusted farm engines out in
some man's front yard. We kept going. Route 89 through Great Falls was pretty busy
with AM going to work traffic but thinned as soon as we hit the outskirts.

First stop was at a small but excellent dinosaur museum in Bynum, MT. No one else
there and the young lady took a lot of time with us discussing the exhibits and how
they find and collect dinosaurs. She took us into the lab and showed us a piece of
dinosaur bone embedded in rock. We couldn't tell the difference.

You have to stay alert when driving Montana roads. Once there was a herd of horses
standing and laying by the road, another time a huge bull just glaring as you went
by. Somebody left a gate open!

At Browning, we kept on route 89 instead of taking the straighter 460. We like windy,
curvy roads where you never know what is going to be around the corner. In this case,
a lot of burned forest. Looks like the Glacier area had a large forest fire not that
long ago as nothing has started to regenerate yet. We saw coyote, deer and an eagle
but no bear.

It is early in the year as the National Park staff said at the visitor center. We
were the 99th and 100th person in and it was already 2PM. They have seen a big change
from last year due to the recession and people not traveling. No problem getting into
any Glacier campground.

We made the Going to the Sun Road or at least part of it. Looks like it is going to
be a long time before it is open. They are still clearing 20-30 foot snow on the road
plus there was a rock slide they have to clear. We were able to drive the TC up to
the Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side out of Saint Mary. Spectacular scenery
and no way to describe it even in photos. Saint Mary Lake is a beautiful blue and
almost reflective. We took a short hike at Sun Point up on a bluff to look over the
lake and mountains. Sunrift Gorge was quite slippery from recent runoff and we knew
we could get down but not sure we could get back up so didn't.

Made the obligatory stop at Saint Mary to get a few groceries and a T shirt. We were
the only customers in the store and had no problem getting waited on.

We're camped for the night at Many Glacier Campground. There is an Okanagan and
another Host near us but very few people here. We'll short hike in the morning and
then proceed around to Goat Lick Overlook. The rangers say that mountain goats are
spotted there daily. Fingers crossed we see some as we never have.

On the West side we can take the TC up as far as Avalanche Creek. Rangers highly
recommended the "Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail" so we will hike that. Will
probably stay at Lake McDonald campground tomorrow night.

Beautiful country. We are so fortunate that it is preserved and open for all to use.


June 6 - Many Glaciers to Polson, MT

Last night we walked around the campground and got to see an Earthroamer (outside
only as they weren't around) and four other TCs. There were only about 15 campers
here so that is a pretty good proportion of TCs.

Quite the day! We awoke in Many Glaciers Campground to 2" of fresh snow and 29F
temps. The Host TC was warm and dry and cozy as could be. What a great way to camp.
During the night the propane bottle switched itself to the second bottle, nice to
know that it works.

Shelburne Lake and Swiftcurrent Creek were among the most beautiful sights we've seen
on this trip.

We rode out to Route 89 but kept thinking of that twisty, steep ups downs between
Saint Mary and Kiowa. Somehow, I remembered one of our RV.NET TCers who told us about
Route 464 which was the truck route. We took it and eventually were glad after we got
past the climb to 5,200 feet in sleet and hale. Interesting drive with two calves
standing in the road with their moms on the other side of the fence bellowing. Hope
they got back. Diesel in Saint Mary was $3.49. Diesel in Browning was $2.39. Shows
the cost of getting fuel into an out of the way place.

Hooked up with Route 2 again and a much more pleasant drive. Goat Lick Overlook
proved to be true to its name. The mountain goats come down the mountain to lick
salt. We were able to see a goat with cavorting calf.

Along the way to West Glacier we passed many waterfalls and runoffs.

At West Glacier we headed up to Avalanche Lake. This is as far as an over 21' vehicle
can travel. The road beyond this stop is still closed due to snow removal and a
landslide. No date was ever given for when it will be open but they've got quite a
way to go to clear the road. We walked through an ancient cedar forest for about a
half mile and then headed UPHILL to Avalanche Lake. It was a hike and well worth it.
Of course the camera batteries died and the spares were in the camper. Go figure!

We looked at both Fish Creek and Apgar campgrounds for an overnight but both were
very tight in height on the TC and busy. We've gotten spoiled with not many people
around. We're in a KOA in Polson, MT after traveling along Flathead Lake and the
Flathead National Forest. This campsite is quite a difference from the last several.
Huge, gravel, perfectly flat site with power, water, sewer, cable and wi-fi for
$24.00. The view out over the lake to the mountains is awesome. We're considering
staying a second night here to go to a model train store/exhibit and a yarn store.
Probably time for a down day anyway. I look out at these half million dollar A size
bus RVs and am so very happy with our 9.5' TC. It's the only way to go.

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