Sunday, June 4, 2017

Helena to Bismarck

Upon leaving Helena we started our trek east. Next on our list was Bismarck to tour the North Dakota capitol. That was a 625 mile trip so we planned a few stops along the way. We had hoped to see Class of  '07 mates Leland and Kathy in Billings, but they were off on a new adventure in their restored MGB. Maybe the next time.
Our goal was to cross most of Montana on two lane roads so here we are on highway 12. We had one more mountain pass to cross before heading into the plains.
Our first stop was a three-day stay at Conestoga Campground in White Sulphur Springs. The weather was less than ideal but we did get to watch the birds in the park. After so many months in the arid climate of the Southwest, we loved seeing green grass again. People here actually own lawnmowers.
We were treated to a couple of beautiful sunsets.
This was our view from Opus. The snow capped mountains are beautiful, but we are ready to put the snow behind us and get on with more summer-like weather.
The sun came out the last day and we took advantage to check out the hot springs. You know the water was very warm when you get Nanc in a bathing suit on a 63 degree day.
There are three pools at the springs. Each is a different temperature so there is something for everyone. The walls around the pools are covered with neat murals with local animals and Native Americans.
What a bonus!!  A microbrewery in a town of less than a 1,000 people. The 2 Basset Brewery had a great variety of brews. On Saturday the place was packed. We went back on Sunday when it was less crowded to talk to the owner, Barry. Turns out his sister-in-law is a doctor at UPMC in Pittsburgh and he has been to the Burgh a few times. Small world.
The wildflowers were in bloom along the road.
This is the first time we have been across Montana this early in the year and were surprised how green it was. While highway 12 was narrow, this is typical of the traffic we saw. Other than an occasional truck there was almost no one on the road.
No it is not a cowboy on the ridge, just more Western big art.
Our next stop was one night at Rosebud East Campground in Forsyth along the Yellowstone River. This was our 500th stop during our almost ten years on the road. The Yellowstone, which is the longest free flowing river in the country, had plenty of water from the snow melt. This lone white pelican was waiting to fish. 
Our last stop before Bismarck was Medora, North Dakota. The town was dead because it was the week before Memorial Day which is the start of the tourist season. When we were here for a week in August 2011 at the height of the tourist season the place was packed. Here is a link about that visit
On our first visit we visited the south unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The park is the only national park named for a person. Since there was so little going on in Medora we decided to drive to the north unit. We were not disappointed, seeing this big buffalo just inside the gate.
Both units of the park are badlands. In this unit there is a 28 mile round trip drive on a paved road through the park. The colors of the land are unique, but were not very bright on this day because it was overcast.
Both units of the park were shaped by the Little Missouri River. The river originally flowed north into Hudson Bay but that was changed by the glaciers that ended here during the last ice age.
The various colors in the soil is clay that moves when it is wet creating the shape of the land along with the erosion from the river below.
We saw this small flock of grouse along the road.
We like to hike when we are in national parks, but not this time. There are several nice trails we could have used but it was way too windy and cold so we just checked out the park from the car and the overlooks. 
There were signs of buffalo all along the road, if you know what I mean. This herd, that had been bedded down on our way into the park, was on the move when we were driving out.
This picture does not really capture the scene. This lone buffalo was standing high up on the side of the hill. Thankfully, at the turn of the last century people had the foresight to save these wonderful animals that were near extinction.
These "cannonballs" are made from grains of sand that were cemented together by other minerals in the water. As the hill side erodes they loosen and roll to the ground below.
The north unit is almost 70 miles from Medora, but it is worth the drive to see these beautiful badlands.
A major concern at the park and the Little Missouri National Grasslands is the oil drilling in the nearby Bakken formation. The flaring off of gas at the wells has already ruined the night skies in the park. You can see oil being pumped from the north unit. 
From Medora it was a short drive on I-94 to Bismarck. One thing you need to be prepared for when traveling in an RV during the spring in the west is the wind. We really lucked out on this leg of the trip because the 25 to 30 mph winds were at our back. We passed the northern entrance to the Enchanted Highway, a unique North Dakota attraction and one we recommend. Here is a link to our blog post from 2011 when we drove that highway.
An old homestead along the road. You see many of these old places that have fallen into disrepair. It would not be an easy life living on the wind swept plains.
More big North Dakota art. This is Salem Sue in New Salem just west of Bismarck. 

Our next post will be about touring the North Dakota capitol. We have moved on and added the South Dakota capitol to our list. We are heading to Sioux Falls for a few days next week. Planning to just kick back there before going to Lincoln, Nebraska.


heyduke50 said...

looks like you are doing part of the same trek we did last summer but in a different season and in a different direction... enjoy!

Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Nice pic of a mountain bluebird!