Sunday, August 23, 2015

Taking Care of Business in Billings, MT

We've spent the past week in Billings, MT catching up on some big city shopping and taking care of minor RV repairs. Fortunately we only had two days of smoke haze from fires in the west so we were able to get out on the local trails.

80 million years ago the Billings area was the shore of the Western Interior Seaway. The sand deposited by that sea is now evident in the rimrock sandstone formations that border the metro area. Many of the local trail systems are located on the sandstone ledges overlooking town, offering up terrific views of the area. The Yellowstone River runs through Billings and several trails can be found along its forested banks.

Links to local trails:
Four Dances Natural Area
Soft Surface Trails
Hard Surface Trails

Cute payload seen on the road to Billings.

Yellowstone River overview from Four Dances Natural Area.

Sandstone bluffs at Four Dances Natural Area.

Checking out the Yellowstone River.

Swords Rimrock Park.

Montana beauty from Zimmerman Park trails.

There are a couple of disc golf courses in Billings. We played the easy nine holes at Pioneer Park on a smokey day, but the Diamonx X course at Phipps Park is supposed to be extremely challenging.

Fun and easy disc golf at Pioneer Park.

We were thrilled to discover Billings has the best farmers market we've seen in months. Held on Saturday mornings, this is a true farmers market...there are no crafts, only produce, homemade edibles, meats and eggs, and ready-to-eat foods. It's big, about six blocks of vendors, and the prices and quality were excellent.

There were several Hutterite Colony farms in attendance, with large spreads of gorgeous produce.

We stayed at Billings Village RV Park. Roads and sites are paved with nice grass between sites. Sites are quite close together, but staggered for maximum separation possible. Verizon signal was decent. There are a couple of clothes lines so you can air dry your laundry, always appreciated! There is some train and road noise. The park is convenient to everything Billings has to offer.

Today we've relocated to Red Lodge, MT and we're ready to explore the Beartooth Mountains, home of the highest peak in Montana!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

We Saved the Best for Last: Lost Twin Lakes

Our month in Buffalo, WY is drawing to a close and we find ourselves thoroughly enchanted with this state. It happens to be the least populated of all the states, leaving lots of wide open country to explore. While the western half of the state is known for its mountains, the east is typified by high plains. Buffalo put us right on the edge where those two ecosystems meet.

For our last hike in the Bighorn Mountains we drove about 55 miles to the west side of the range and the Ten Sleep trailhead. Ten Sleep Canyon and Creek got its name from an old Indian encampment that was "ten sleeps" from important points such as Yellowstone and Fort Laramie.

The 11 mile round trip (out and back) hike to Lost Twin Lakes starts out at 9,250 feet and tops out at about 10,500 feet, making this destination the highest point we've reached in the Bighorns. The trail has a few steep sections, always a bit of a challenge at this elevation, but the scenery is worth every single step. As you'll see, the colors on this day were vibrant (my photos are untouched). Even though after a month in the area we are ready to move on, a day on the trail like this one makes us appreciate the intense beauty of our country and the immense freedom we have to enjoy it in this singular lifestyle we live.

The first couple of miles climb through forest broken up by a couple of lovely stream crossings. 

Breaking out of the forest and leveling off a bit, we came to a meadow of astounding beauty.

We took a short detour to Mirror Lake, while not being very mirror-like at the moment,
was still quite a sight to behold.

We continued on, encountering more colorful, serene beauty every step of the way.

The rocky, rounded peaks of the Bighorns began to unfold ahead of us.

A fly fisherman casts his line in this pristine creek.

About four miles in we started to see the sheer cliffs that surround our destination...

As we drew nearer granite boulders and slabs dotted lush green meadows
and the cliffs grew more imposing with each step.

Lost Twin Lakes in all their glory!
There is a second lake just visible above the one in the foreground.

Looking back at the last valley we ascended.

As we made our way back the way we came the sun lit up our favorite meadow with such perfection
that more photos were required.

Buffalo has been a wonderful place to spend a month. It's got small town charm, the locals have been friendly and the proximity to the mountains ideal. Deer Park RV Park worked out perfectly for us, it's pretty and clean, the sites are large, park wifi is decent and Verizon signal is excellent. Even though we're right on the edge of town and about a quarter mile from I-90, it was pretty quiet and we even had good wildlife viewing from our site.

Today we head into Montana for a few weeks, but we're not done with Wyoming yet for this year...we'll be back to explore the western half of the state soon.

The Buffalo, WY cemetery is a pretty place to walk and even offers wildlife viewing!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Day Trips From Buffalo, WY: Crazy Woman Canyon

Crazy Woman Canyon is a popular 40 mile scenic loop, or auto hike ;-) from Buffalo, WY. RV's and other large profile vehicles are NOT recommended. A high clearance vehicle is a wise choice, we encountered one spot with some pretty deep ruts and drops, though we did not need 4WD. There are a number of small, beautiful forested tent areas.

There are conflicting stories about how the canyon got its name. One says an Indian woman was left to live alone in her tipi and she went crazy. Another is a gruesome story of a settler who saw the capture and scalping of her husband by Indians and she lost her mind.

For centuries this canyon was used as a passageway for Native Americans and was a staging area for war parties during the Plains Indian Wars. Today it is a gorgeous trip through some of the most stunning scenery in the area.

As we dropped into Crazy Woman Canyon the forest was lush, the canyon walls erupting sandstone spires.

Lovely Crazy Woman Creek.

I could sit here for hours.

Aspen and pine lined the road as the sandstone canyon walls closed in on us.
Imagine October.

Boulders as large as RV's littered the hillside.

Check out the size of the boulder on the left!

Mosses and other small plants carpeted the rocks at the water line.

At one point the entire creek dropped into the hole below Hans and went underground for a tenth of a mile!

These Common Mullein blooms always make me think of popcorn!

Near the end of the canyon the walls were red sandstone.

Exiting the canyon we looked back to a wall of triangular sandstone slabs.

The mountains immediately give way to rolling, grass covered plains.

Pronghorn dot the plains all over Wyoming.

Clouds build over the Bighorn Mountains.
Crazy Woman Canyon is up the V...

Another typical Wyoming scene...cattle is big business here!

The mountains, the plains and the big, beautiful skies are quintessential Wyoming.

Grazing lands are still quite green from all the rain this spring and early summer.

I love this country!

Every irrigated field we pass has either pronghorn or deer munching happily.
This time I was thrilled to have a pair of youngsters close enough for a photo.

I find them sweet as can be...don't know what the ranchers think of them though!