Our Chalet Truck Camper

Our Chalet Truck Camper

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 7, 8,9 - Missoula to Billings MT to Custer State Park SD

Got wifi again! We are usually on such back roads it is far between.

May 7 and 8 - Missoula to Billings MT

Were travel days in the rain to do distance and not penalize ourselves missing the outdoors trekking. Took Route 90 out of Missoula but got over onto Route 12 as soon as we could at Garrison. The railroad tracks follow 90 and you frequently see long coal trains. There are some fairly steep grades along here also.

Love the names of the tiny towns along Rte. 12 such as Checkboard and TwoDot. Rte. 12 follows a pass through the mountains in the Helena National Forest and the Lewis & Clark National Forest and a good thing since we could see it snowing higher up. Even at roughly 5000 feet the snow was close to slush.

So many roads beckon like Sixteen Mile Road which was just a loop off and onto Route 12. It was corrugated gravel and we skipped it. We did stop quite often at the Montana Fish & Game Sportsman Access sites. These are little turnoffs that lead to water access either stream or lake for fishing. Turning around was a challenge a few times but we made it and enjoyed walking along the water with no one, no buildings, nothing in sight but scenery and cattle.

Western people seem so much friendlier than our eastern folk. At Harlowton, an elderly lady (relative term!) was trying to pump her own gas. It was obvious she had never done so and was totally confused. Three people came out of the store to help her before we could even get out of the truck. Most everyone waves hi on the back country roads. We always wave or flick our lights at truck campers. Amazing how many Arctic Fox we have seen on this trip and they always seem to be hauling either a boat or ATVs.

We’d planned on going from Missoula down into Yellowstone entering at W. Yellowstone. However the weather was for a total of 6-8” of snow with temps in the 30s. Since we had enough snow this past winter, we are headed in the general direction of Custer State Park in South Dakota. That is hands down the best state park I’ve ever been in.

We ended the day trekking down a sixteen mile corrugated road after all. This is the shake down cruise for the Chalet TC and we have been shaking it a lot. The road is called Shepherd Acton Road and runs between Acton and Route 87 just outside of Billings. I’ve finally seen the Montana cowboy countryside I’ve read of. It takes hearty people to live in there in the winter.

May 9 – Billings MT to Custer, SD

Heavy rain all day but no snow. This was another travel day but very easy since the roads in the west are long, straight and mostly empty except close to the “big cities”. We dread driving in the east around a city again.

We skirted through the top left corner of Wyoming which is a real injustice since there is so much to see and do in this vast and varied state. I-90 was empty and at Moorcroft we cut over to Rte 16 to head into South Dakota and Custer State Park. Again we saw long trains pulling mostly coal cars. All along I-90 there are well heads and small pumps on service roads that look like a tic tac toe game. We never found anyone to ask if these were for propane, oil or water but they must make up a significant industry in this region.

Our first west trip we spent several days in Custer State Park. If you have never been here it is a must see.

The park is huge and wildlife is varied and abundant. There is something just so fascinating about buffalo and I never tire of watching them – from the safety of the truck. This year it is pre tourist season and it was easy to park by the road, turn off the engine and just watch.

This enormous buffalo kept getting closer and closer along the side of the road. He was keeping an eye on Joe but seemed to know we weren’t about to get closer.

There are also donkey, elk, deer, turkeys, eagles and blue birds.

Tonight we are in Game Lodge Campground, part of the campground system within Custer. Pretty fancy sites with paved parking, aluminum picnic tables and hot water for the showers. There are only six other people camped here and the quiet is absolute – except for the turkeys gobbling. Unfortunately it is raining again so we can’t see the night sky. Of those six others, two are fellow truck campers. We are everywhere!

No comments: