Reflection: Mesa Falls Idaho – Hail, Rain Lightning

Barbecue Setup and ready
Barbecue Setup and ready to go

After several months of wintering here in Mesa, Arizona, I’ve had time to reflect on another of our past adventures.

Specifically our visit last September to Upper and Lower Mesa Falls while staying in Island Park, Idaho.

The School House, Bannack State Park, MT
The School House, Bannack State Park, MT

Our travels had led us south from our home in Montana, through The Bannack Ghost Town and then to our camp in Island Park, Red Rock RV Park.

Red Rock RV Park
Red Rock RV Park

We woke early the morning of September 7th to partial clouds.  Jagger I started the day by going for our morning walk, usually not more than a mile or so.  The weather was looking somewhat unpredictable, but still a beautiful morning.

After our walk, it was time to explore.  Today I want to go to an area I have heard a few of our neighbors talking about, so off to Mesa Falls.  To get a true picture of the falls we are about to visit, you need to know a little history of the geology of this area.

Red Rock RV Park and surrounding area.
Red Rock RV Park and surrounding area.

Island Park is in the middle of Henry’s Fork Caldera formed by a super volcano about 1.3 million years ago.  The same time as Yellowstone basin was being formed nearby.  The volcano(s) formed this whole area including the Snake River Valley where we stayed earlier this year further South in Idaho, when we were on our way north to Montana.

Big Falls Inn, near the parking area.
Big Falls Inn, near the parking area.

After we pulled into the parking lot of the Mesa Falls Visitor Center, Jagger and I went for a short walk before I left him in the truck.  He is a pretty good sport about being left in the truck when I visit areas that dogs are not allowed.  I don’t like leaving him for any length of time in the

Jagger Waiting Patiently
Jagger Waiting Patiently

Workhorse and won’t if the day is too warm, especially if there aren’t trees to park under.

I walk down a path to what used to be called the Big Falls Inn, built in 1915. Now its the Mesa Falls Visitor Center operated by our National Forest Service.  It’s in great shape and the visit inside is worth the stop.

On leaving the center you start to hear the falls. The walk is not very far, although steep, there are steps and a boardwalk built along the way.  As I arrive at upper Mesa Falls I am immediately impressed at the the sheer size.

Upper Mesa Falls Idaho, drop off over 114 feet
Upper Mesa Falls Idaho, drop off over 114 feet
Upper Mesa Falls Idaho
Upper Mesa Falls Idaho, over 200 feet across

Over 200 feet across, it looks like the end of the world just drops off and the Mesa Falls carrying an average of 500 million gallons of water per day spills down 114 feet to the river below.   You can feel the pounding of the water as it hits the river.  The sight and sound is impressive.  I take the nature trail back up to the visitor center and bypass a portion to get back to Jagger, who is patiently waiting.  This has to be the highlight of my stop here in Island Park.

On to Lower Mesa Falls

Once back in the Workhorse, Jagger and I travel a short distance and arrive at the Lower Mesa Falls.  If you repeat my adventure, watch carefully for the sign, I almost missed it.

Lower Mesa Falls Trail
Lower Mesa Falls Trail

Here Jagger can venture with me meandering down the trail to the edge of the canyon.  This area is less traveled and we pass only a couple of people the entire time we are here.   I tried to snap a picture of Jagger, but he was so excited he wouldn’t stand still!

The Lower Mesa Falls below
The Lower Mesa Falls below

Looking over the cliff Lower Mesa Falls comes into view in the distance, along with a view of the immense valley created over the centuries by the “Henrys Fork of the Snake River”.   It’s quite a site and hard to show just how big the falls are and how high we are with photo’s.  If you are in the area, it’s a definitely something you should see for yourself.  You can easily spend a whole day here and just scratch the surface.

Our Trip Back to Camp

Back we climb to the Workhorse, so we can return to our camp.  On our way home we stop at Robin’s Roost for groceries and propane.  As we come out I notice the weather is changing quickly.  Lucky we stocked up Jagger, we want to be prepared for the worst.

After the storm
After the storm

Back in the Workhorse we only traveled a short distance, when the sky turned black and opened up, pouring huge hail stones down on us.  Immense bolts of lightning streaked across the sky.  It felt like we crossed a time warp and went into prehistoric days.

I pulled over it got so bad. I didn’t want to risk damage to our Workhorse if I could prevent it.  Even stopped it felt like damage was being done on the roof of the cab.  There was no escape.  After a short while, that felt like an eternity, the storm moved on.  The damage perceived did not exist, we were fortunate.  We continued on to our camp and called it a day.

Until next time, safe travels … Gary

Packing Up For A Maintenance Trip

Owl at Sunset
Sunset at Lake Pleasant 2014

This afternoon I will be packing up for a Dry Camp overnight at Lake Pleasant.  Early Monday morning I will be taking my Coach in for a couple more warranty repairs and to have my brakes adjusted.

Dry Camp Lake Pleasant
Dry Camp Lake Pleasant

This means Jagger and I will be homeless for the day :(

Dog Park Surprize, AZ
Dog Park Surprize, AZ

Often we go for a leisurely breakfast and then to the Dog Park in Surprise for a few hours to kill some time.  As you can see in the picture above, Arizona has some great parks, many with water features.  I guess that makes you feel cooler in the blazing hot summers!

On my list for warranty repairs is:
  1. Utility Loom under the Kitchen slide.  This is a bridge for electrical lines and has broken once before.  Bretz RV in Missoula, MT did a haphazard repair that I had to pay for and now it’s broke again.  I will be asking Orangewood RV in Surprise, AZ to replace the Loom with a new one.  I have read on the Grand Design Owners blog of several others having this exact problem with defective Lippert Looms.  Orangewood RV has been a reliable place to have my repairs done.
  2. A squeaky floor in my Bedroom area.  This has progressively gotten worse as I have traveled. It isn’t major, but an annoyance.
  3. Also a small area of linoleum is buckling.  It’s about 2″ long on the landing outside my Bedroom.  It’s right up against the door frame.  Again not major but I am not sure if it will get worse.
Additional repairs and maintenance I will need to pay for:
  1. Brake adjustment.  I had a warranty repair done for Lippert wheel bearings at Bretz RV late last summer.  The wheel bearings weren’t seated properly so they fixed the issue by repacking the wheel bearings.  I was told by Orangewood RV that usually when doing this service they check the brakes and adjust if necessary.  I called Bretz RV and couldn’t get a confident YES answer on this so I am having it done as a precautionary measure.

The routine for warranty work

As before, every time I take the Coach in for any work they partially finish the work, then order and wait on any warranty parts and approvals.  I pick up the Coach in the afternoon and return for a later appointment to finish the work.  It’s a real hassle, but does allow me to have my home back while I wait for the parts to arrive.  This is the disadvantage of living in your Coach.   I believe the repairs will slow down now as the bugs are worked out of my Coach and I learn to do some of the maintenance myself.

30 Amp Switch - Interior
30 Amp Switch – Interior

If you remember the switch I wrote about in my last blog a few days ago was very easy to install.  It arrived promptly in the morning and I was able to get the Coach up and running in no time.  Then Jagger and I were off to the dump and returned just after lunch.

Until next time, safe travels… Gary

About The Coach – My Fifth Wheel Home

I accepted delivery of what I now call “The Coach” in February 2013.  That day became the first of many following days of exploration and adventure; not to mention the wonderful punctuations of family time as I travel and explore across the United States.

My first night with my coach.  Yes by the time I finalized delivery in Ehrenberg, AZ, it was dark.  My first time to pull something this big and park it was IN THE DARK.
First Camp February 10, 2013
First Camp February 10, 2014
Moving into my cach as I travel - First day
Moving into my cach as I travel – First day

 

Here are a few interior shots of the model on display when I was shopping for my new coach.

I will be celebrating my first anniversary by returning to the starting point in Southern California this year (2015).  Having traveled to my new home in Montana through Utah and Idaho.  Then back to Arizona through Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Other than a few minor issues, so far, “The Coach” has been my perfect home base on wheels.  This was my first RV and I continue to learn as I travel.  I am not a mechanic as I have said before, but I am learning as I go.  I have found that taking my home in for maintenance and repairs is not convenient or fun.  So I am learning to do as much on my own as I possibly can.

Signing Day

Reflection 293 Floorplan

 

I will be attaching this blog to my growing Menu for reference, as I continue to develop and expand my blog site. (About My Coach)

Thanks to all of you for continuing to follow me and make comments.  I enjoy them more than you can imagine.

Until next time, Safe Travels… Gary

 

Camp Mesa Winter Camp

Jagger playing with the new family puppy
Jagger playing with the new family puppy

Last night my daughter and her two boy’s met at my “Coach” for a hot dog barbecue.  They brought Jagger’s friend, their new puppy Jax.

The boys love hot dogs and the family time is always wonderful.  Also, I was celebrating being ‘off-the grid’ for one week using my new portable solar panel.  I will report on the new solar package in a separate blog at a later time.  We had a nice visit in the outdoors and a beautiful sunset to boot.

This morning I woke early to a visitor, Aiden, feeding Romeo, the family horse.

Romeo
Romeo

Sometimes Seth has the duty, but a routine that happens every morning and afternoon here, near my camp.

Today is moving day for Jagger and I, as the “Coach” is approaching the capacity limit on the storage tanks.

Camp Mesa
Camp Mesa

I do have a great shaded spot to park and 50 amp service, but no sewer connection.  So once a week I travel to the local dump and return.  A process that takes several hours, but well worth the premium site for me.

Occasionally during my trip to dump the storage tanks, I camp for a day or two locally.  Like the time recently I stayed at the Lost Dutchman State Park and another at Usery State Park.

Arizona has some nice facilities, state and local.  As a bonus the family comes out to visit and go for hikes.  It’s only a short thirty minute drive at the most.

I digress, back to my morning move to empty my storage tanks. I have partially prepared to travel the night before. I continue this morning as I am having my morning coffee.  In come the slides, up come the stabilizers.  All hatches, cabinets and vents closed and secured.  I move the Workhorse into position and a catastrophic failure happens.

Well maybe not catastrophic, but indeed a failure.  My switch to raise the Coach’s front landing gear fails.  I cannot move without this working properly. True, I could get out the directions and crank it manually or use a jack, that I don’t currently have, but I need to get this fixed no matter what.

I sit down and think it through and I try to stay positive.  I am NOT a mechanic!  My last career mostly dealt with data, computers and IT.

One of the things I noted mentally when I took delivery of the Coach, was this switch and another for the stabilizers in the rear. It seemed to be a plastic material and could be a problem.  Of course, it could have broken when I was out dry camping in the middle of nowhere in just a few short weeks.  I am thankful it happened here.  Only a minor inconvenience and I will learn how to repair it myself, in my own time.

So the first thing I do is take the switch apart and disconnect it.  Then I drive to “Camping World” which is just a few miles away.  They don’t have one in stock, but they could order it for me.  I decide to call Orangewood RV, where I have had other warranty issues fixed.  They are a service center for “Grand Design”, the manufacturer of my Reflection fifth wheel (The Coach).   I thank Mike and say goodbye and go back to my truck to call Orangewood RV.

Colleen asks me to send a photo of the part I needed.

30 Amp Switch - Exterior
30 Amp Switch – Exterior
30 Amp Switch - Interior
30 Amp Switch – Interior

She matches it to a similar part they have in stock for only $25.00.

I take off on my way to Surprise (90 mile RT) to see if the switch they had was a match.  Unfortunately it was close, but I didn’t want to get away from a standard part and it just didn’t match 100%.  Colleen said she could order it, but I could deal directly with the manufacturer.  I agree, and said I would get back with her as I say my goodbyes.

I know, I should have called Grand Design first.  Knowing they have excellent service and reputation. I went back to my truck with Jagger impatiently waiting for me.

Jagger patiently waiting in Workhorse
Jagger patiently waiting in Workhorse

There I called Grand Design in Indiana from the parking lot.  Jerry in their parts department answered promptly and queried my problem.  He then walked outside to New Reflection’s that were finished and awaiting shipment.  There he searched for the part I was referring too.  This only took a few minutes.  He confirmed the part, and told me my name and information was already in their system.  I asked him not to ship it to my home in Montana as I was “snow birding” in Mesa, Arizona.  No problem he said, “I will see that it is shipped first thing tomorrow”.

Not to be unthankful with his efforts, I explained my predicament with the storage tanks and that I was currently living in my coach.  He then said that he would ship it that afternoon, priority next day. Not to mention it’s free, the part and shipping. I should have it tomorrow so I can dump the tanks and continue my routine lifestyle here in Mesa.

I, as always, feel blessed to be living this lifestyle, retired.  My new hobby, repairing my Coach and maintaining it for my future travels down the road.  Today’s trouble, only an inconvenient change of plans and the opportunity to interact with some very nice, helpful people.

 Safe Travels…Gary

Happy New Year 2015

Newport Beach near my home of 10 years
Newport Beach near my home of 10 years

This past year was an accelerated learning experience for me and the learning isn’t over yet.  I have enjoyed the rapid transition into my retirement very much, especially considering I was a workaholic most of my life.  I think what made the difference is I tried something new, “Full Time RVing”.

Chief Joseph Ranch
Chief Joseph Ranch, Darby, Montana

I made my decision to go “Full Time” during the summer of 2013 while on a visit to my sisters guest ranch in Montana.  Several of my close friends and family encouraged me to move forward.  Only a few had reservations, but not me.  Also Rob Wilson and his wife Jan, whom I had met from their online  blog as they visited 50 National Parks in their Sprinter Van were a role model to me and also encouraged me during the process.  I also followed RV Sue and Crew, The Bayfield Bunch, Life Live RV and too many more to name.

Costa Mesa Home of 10 years
Costa Mesa Home of 10 years

Anyone who knows me would agree I don’t usually try something new too easily, especially something that so radically changes every aspect of your life.  Mine, which had been very stable for years.  My most recent home of ten years was located in Costa Mesa, California.

OCTOBER 2013, I finalized my full-time plans just as I was retiring.  By the end of that month I ordered my coach, to be delivered to me in Ehrenberg, Arizona in February 2014.

DECEMBER 2013, I finalized my domicile in Montana by traveling there to set up my address and secure my Montana Drivers license.  During that time I visited my Sister and Brother-in-law who had just sold the ranch and moved into a beautiful home on ten acres.   Soon after I left, they started plans for a remodel on the guest house on their property where I can stay when I’m in Montana.   It turned out very nice.

 JANUARY 2014, after returning to California I made arrangements to purchase my Workhorse in Oregon and flew there late in the month and had a leisurely drive back to Southern California.

First Photo New Truck
First Photo of My New Truck – The Workhorse

Ever since last November  I had been slowly packing items that I would eventually move into my coach, eliminating “stuff” by selling or giving away to my children.

A few items destined to be passed down on my exit to heaven were passed along a little early.  I found myself stressing a little during the entire process, but I would say it was mostly the excitement of the upcoming changes.  The biggest adventure of my life.

Staging for the AdventureFEBRUARY 2014, the daily countdown started and I moved a few of my boxes of possessions into the storeroom.

Separately all of my packed items for the Coach were weighed and moved into my Garage for the big day.

Finally the morning of February 10th was upon me after months of preparation.  I was excited beyond my dreams and ready to go to the RV Dealer to do my PDI, learning as much as I could in just a couple of hours.  I loaded up the boxes from my garage and off I drove to Mike Thompson RV in Corona.

After my PDI I traveled to Ehrenberg, Arizona to receive my delivery and taking possession of my new home “The Coach” by signing the final papers at Wendy’s.   There I met with the transportation company pulling my Coach and a Notary.   Frank, the driver was nice and spent some extra time with me, since it was my first time to hitch not only my Coach, but any fifth wheel.  Scary at first but rewarding.

It’s official, I am on the road.

The Coach with the Workhorse
The Coach with the Workhorse

MARCH 2014, I explored Arizona with my new rig and spent time with family.

APRIL 2014, I met my new companion, Jagger.  This again changed my lifestyle and we are still getting to know each other.  Many of my blogs talk about the challenges Jagger and I have had and we are still having, but we’ve made some progress.

MAY 2014, I left for Montana and saw many sights as I traveled North through Utah and Idaho.

JUNE – JULY – AUGUST 2014, was spent relaxing at home, taking some short trips, and preparing for the trip back South in September.

SEPTEMBER 2014, we headed back South for the Winter

The remainder of the year was full of exploring and experiencing new way of life.  More details of my year is included in the individual blog here on the Retired Vagabond site.

I met many nice people along the way, including my friends and followers here at Retired Vagabond.  I also was able to experience some of my adventures with my family.  I must say that I am a very blessed individual.

Wishing each one of you a Happy New Year and safe travels until next time… Gary

A Cold Winters Morning – Merry Christmas

Jagger dreaming of treats
Jagger dreaming of treats

‘Twas a cold winters morning and the puppy was still snoring, while visions of goodies pranced in his head.  I too was sleeping when suddenly I awoke to a small soft steading beeping.  What, not Santa’s Reindeers, so where was this beeping from?  I looked out the window to see what the matter. But the beeping is coming from a refrigerator alarm inside my Coach.  I get up, dress and go outside to switch over to the auxiliary propane tank at 4:30 AM!   It’s forty degrees outside.

Yep, no Propane
Yep, no Propane

Yikes, they are both empty!  How did this happen?  Jagger says he didn’t do it!  This is the first time I messed up with managing my propane tanks since I started vagabonding.   I return back inside my Coach and check the room temperature.  At least the furnace was on long enough to get the room temperature up to sixty-three degrees before the propane ran out and started all the ruckus.

What's the matter?

So I checked the chimney to see if anyone was there (ho-ho-ho), started up the fireplace and went back outside to retrieve my small electric heater from the basement storage, while Jagger remained confused.

Defrosting the Refrigerator
Defrosting the Refrigerator

Since my refrigerator was already having problems with it’s electric mode AGAIN (I will cover that in a future post), it is now down for the count entirely.  Okay what good can come from this?  This must be an opportunity, my refrigerator does need to be defrosted and what better time.  So my day starts a little earlier today and a little colder.  I retrieve my small ice chest and empty the freezer contents along with a few perishables.  Then I do the cleaning routine. Considering I have had my refrigerator running since I took possession of the Coach in February, I guess that’s not bad for a defrost.

Lost Dutchman Camp
Lost Dutchman Camp

After finishing that project and a few more, Jagger and I take off in the Workhorse about 8:00 AM for the Chevron station which is about twenty minutes away to fill up one tank.  The other one I will fill at a later time.  These beasts (the tanks) are a little heavy when full and I have to lift them up into the Workhorse, then into their cabinet when I return home.

When we return, I hook up the tank, put everything back in the refrigerator and turn it on.  Okay Jagger we are back in business.  I do notice I have one homemade waffle that Casey (one of my Daughter-In-Laws) had made a few weeks ago.  It defrosted, hey another opportunity.

Morning View
Morning View of Superstition Mountain

I fix it for a late breakfast and eat it while I enjoy my new neighborhood.  The Lost Dutchman State park, just east of Phoenix, Arizona. The picture is of the famous Superstition Mountain.

On my walk after breakfast, I notice many more campers have rolled in yesterday and this morning.   I also notice the check out dates for the campers around me are almost all after Christmas.  This is a great place to be for Christmas holiday, especially if your family wasn’t close by.

I will be staying here until Monday, just a few more days and then it’s back to my favorite camp at my Daughters small ranch in Mesa.

Camp Mesa with Aiden and Romeo
Camp Mesa with Aiden and Romeo

 It’s near many other family members who have escaped Southern California, some since I left in February.  There I will be to enjoy Christmas with most of my immediate family.  If I don’t post again before, I want to wish you all … a very Merry Christmas and to all a warm night!

One of my favorite places for winter - Chief Joseph Ranch 2004 - My sisters house
One of my favorite places for winter – Chief Joseph Ranch 2004 – My sisters house in Montana

Until next time, safe travels… Gary

Exploring Sawtelle Mountain Idaho

I wake up in Island Park, Idaho at a great RV park with room for Jagger to run close by at Lake Henry BLM area and the Sawtelle National forest, right across the street.  This morning we are lounging around, recuperating from the drive here yesterday and the setup of our camp.  It seems like every time we move it takes me a day or so to settle in to my new camp.

We lucked out here at Red Rock RV Park and got an end site that has a view of the national forest across the road and a small grass yard.  Our morning and evening walks will consist of shorts ventures into the forest so we can get a little exercise and explore the nature around us.  We need to be aware and watch for bears, as we were warned on checking in that they have been around this year.

The Henry Fork Caldera
The Henry Fork Caldera

After lunch we venture out to visit “Sawtelle Mountain” and check out our surroundings.  The road we are parked on exits through some open range land where the cattle are roaming freely.   Jagger for the most part is able to maintain his composure as we drive by them only several feet from the Workhorse. Eventually our road reaches highway 20 which is about ten minutes away.

There is a lack of traffic or places to shop around here, it’s very quiet.  A few gas stations with small markets, lodges and a couple of restaurants is about all of the businesses you will find.  Just north on highway 20 is Lake Henry State Park.

Today we head south then east onto a dirt road and wind our way up a steep mountain on a narrow, dusty road.  Earlier I spoke with a neighbor who told me the view was spectacular.  We are going to find out for ourselves today.

The trees and view abound and I enjoy the drive up the dirt road which is decently maintained.  We  share the road with number of people enjoying their ATV’s.  I need to be careful going around the curves as the road is narrow, steep and sometimes one lane.  I have seen pamphlets stating this is a great winter playground with local skiing.

View of Henry's Fork Caldera from the top of Sawtelle moutain
View of Henry’s Fork Caldera from the top of Sawtelle mountain

On arriving at the top of Sawtelle Mountain I look out over the volcano caldera where Island Park is located.  It’s a breathtaking view, high enough that my vertigo kicks in.  I am not fond of heights, especially as I have aged, but the view is worth it.  Unfortunately it seems a little hazy today.

After snapping a few photos and going for a short walk, Jagger and I load up in our Workhorse and head back down the mountain so we will arrive at the coach before dark.  Our trip down was uneventful, the Workhorse did a good job and shows it’s badge of dust and mud.  On the way home we stop by Robins Roost Market and pickup a few item’s for dinner.  It’s right off the highway on the way home and has a Chevron station and restaurant.  Then back home for a night of relaxing and a good book.

Until next time, safe travels…

 

Traveling to Island Park, Idaho

Camp next to Grasshopper Creek
Camp next to Grasshopper Creek

Jagger and I are up early and start to pack up camp.  This is the second time I have “dry camped” and again only for one night.  I listen carefully to the groans of the battery as the slides are pulled in and the stabilizing jacks are pulled up.  I did all this without plugging in the workhorse to see how the batteries hold up.  I am nervous to camp more than one night even though I purchased a second battery when buying my coach.  It did seem to groan a little, but everything did work as designed.  I definitely will need to purchase a generator or solar setup before I take on longer stay.  The battery may be okay, but I won’t.  Call it peace of mind.

With the coach all hitched to the workhorse, Jagger and I say good-bye to Bannack Ghost Town and head South-East to Island Park, Idaho.  This will be my first camp in this area and I am looking forward to the drive.  My long term goal is to explore Wyoming next, which I have never traveled to any extent, as I make my way south to Arizona to meet my family for a camp at Fool Hollow Lake, Arizona.

Bannack Plains Near Dillon
Bannack Plains Near Dillon

As we drive from Bannack through the dry plains valley, Jagger and I see some wonderful scenery passing by our windows out in the middle of God’s creation.  Up ahead I see someone standing on the side of the road with a big STOP sign and we pull up to a stop, with Jagger growling.  The road worker greets us with a pleasant hello and I apologize for Jagger’s behavior. We visit for about a half an hour waiting for the pilot car to return and the road worker explains they are doing a major repaving project before winter sets in.  Before the pilot car returns we accumulate several dozen cars and trucks.  Up ahead I see the pilot truck coming as the road worker told me how slow John drives, he’s a new guy.

We take off following John for many miles of gravel covered road before he turns around to take another group back West and Jagger and I continue on to Virginia City.

It’s a commercialized ghost town with plenty to see.  I had the pleasure of strolling the streets here and having lunch about five years ago on my way to Yellowstone (my first visit) with my friend Beth.  The pictures above are from that visit in 2008.  This time Jagger and I just pass through, driving slowly as there are many tourists today in spite of it being after Labor Day.  Since the main street is the highway we are traveling, I get to experience the flavor of the area and I remember things, like where we ate lunch five years ago and walked the town main street.

Virginia Valley
Virginia Valley

As Jagger and I head out east of Virginia City, we continue the steep climb going between Hollowtop and Baldy Mountain.  Then we travel down the other side and a beautiful view opens over looking the Virginia valley, the Madison river, and in the distance the city of Ennis.  It’s here we take a brief break over looking the valley to have our lunch before continuing on to Idaho.

After lunch Jagger and I head out continuing down the steep road into Ennis.  Here we stop for diesel fuel at a station much to small to be pulling the Coach through, but no choice at this point as the Workhorse has used most of the fuel I purchased in Hamilton before I left two days ago in preparation for the trip.  Of course after fueling I prepare to leave and someone squeezes in next to me blocking my exit.  Hmm, I think I can make this, but it’s the closest I have ever had to negotiate pulling the Coach.  I ease forward and make it with inches to spare.  I notice the driver, who was in a rented RV.  He looks over at me with the look of apology or maybe unbelief on his face.  I wave and off we go.

Hail Storm, impending Winter
Hail Storm, impending Winter

We arrive in the Island Park area and inadvertently take the wrong road (thanks Google) to get to the RV Park where we would stay for the coming week.  The road turns into dirt, then mud and we spend the next twenty minutes bouncing around and dragging the Coach through the mud.  We continue around the north end of Henry’s Lake and the road turns into a paved road about a quarter of a mile before we see a sign, “Red Rock RV Park“.

Red Rock RV Park
Red Rock RV Park

After checking in we are escorted to our nice camp, well maintained with all the amenities you would expect from a full services park.  Island Park advertises itself as the city with the longest main street and only has a population of several hundred. It was founded during the prohibition days, as it was right on the border of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.  It’s also in an ancient volcanic caldera.

To be continued…

Until next time, safe travels, Gary

Bannack State Park

Dillion Montana Plains
Dillon Montana Plains

Wow that went fast. The first leg of my 1,700 mile, month long trip south, was less than three hours before seemingly arriving in the middle of no where! But hidden down in a tranquil valley sits the old town of Bannack, just like it has for over a hundred years.  Of course now it’s deserted and only the ghost and memories walk the boardwalks.  In fact when I arrived there were only two other cars in the parking lot.  That seemed weird, but it is off season now.

After registering at the town office, I pulled into my site for the night.  I then set about the task of getting my camp set up before going back into town about a half a mile away.

Camp next to Grasshopper Creek
Camp next to Grasshopper Creek
Grasshopper Creek
Grasshopper Creek

My camp was prefect for dry camping.  It was right on the Grasshopper Creek, close enough that I could cast  a fishing line out my Coach window.

The entire park was only large enough for about a dozen rigs and a few tent sites.

One of my camp neighbors, it turns out, lives near home in Hamilton.  What a coincidence, I had just met them at a dinner held at a friends house a month or so earlier.  I had no idea they were coming here to get away and celebrate their wedding anniversary.  They said they come here to camp occasionally and it close to home.

Road to Town
Road to Town

Okay, all set up now and I head back to walk the town.  Like most ghost towns there is an eerie feeling when going into buildings with so much history.  This is the first ghost town that I have been to that let you freely explore the town and buildings inside and out.

The Hotel was in better shape than most of the other buildings in town. A sign indicating the state had spent over $200,000 to redo the foundation and stabilize the structure.  They also were working on refurbishing the plaster on the walls.  What a great building.

The school was also in good shape.  They had brought in furnishings to resemble what it looked like when in use many years before.

Town Church and Homes
Town Church and Homes

Strolling down the main road in town you can image what it was like so many lifetimes ago.

I had to check out the jail so I moseyed over to the Sheriff’s and went behind to see the crude structures in the rear.

The Jail - Known to hold those who soon hung from a rope
The Jail – Known to hold those who soon hung from a rope

They were built out over the small cliff allowing a hole cut in the floor to be used as the “facility”.  Inside the wood seemed to be in decent shape.  Very heavy planks and Iron bars on the small windows.  No one would be getting out of here.

Glad I am on this side
Glad I am on this side

The windows were built as to allow the occupants to see the brand new gallows on the hill.  It was some distance away and I had no desire to hike out to the site although I wouldn’t mind seeing boot hill cemetery.

It’s my understanding that eventually the sheriff used the gallows and the jail he had built not only for bad guys, but on the rope end!  Apparently he wasn’t thought to be person he once was.

The town had so many buildings I was unable to see them all in the time I had, so I am sure I will return one day.  For now I travel back to my camp and prepare for the long night. I will be listening to the whispering voices  of long ago, telling of the excitement trying their hand at striking it rich panning for gold or stealing some and paying the price.

Note: I had many more pictures to share, too many for this blog.  I chose twenty-five, including these and they are shared on my gallery at: Bannack State Park Photo Album

Safe travels until next time, Gary

The Church
The Church
Mining Equipment
Mining Equipment

Heading South for the Winter

With a sad heart, but full of wonder for what lies ahead, I leave my Home Base in Montana and venture South-West through Big Hole on Highway 43 heading to Bannack State Park in Montana for a “look see” and spend the night dry camping.

Arriving at Big Hole
Arriving at Big Hole

Passing Big Hole reminds me of the day trip I did only a month ago to once again check out the Big Hole National Battlefield.  A number of years ago I walked out to the Nez Perce camp on an eerie day.

The wind was howling and the sky was threatening.  But it was my only chance to at least experience where so many Nez Perce Indians were slaughtered.  Both cultures clashed and misunderstanding prevailed, but that was reality in that day.  So I went out into the battleground alone to feel the history all around.  On my departure the sky darkened, thunder clapped and the wind howled through the canyon and trees.

This year my adventure took me out to the US Calvary’s location higher up in the tree line where they set a snare during the night and launched an attack where many shed their blood and some it cost their lives.

I pass the battlegrounds and feel the eeriness in my bones, but continue my trip to the first planned over night stop at Bannack State Park.  There I find another story of riches, hardship and hangings!  But lets save that for next time.

Safe Travels, Gary

Heading South for Warranty Repairs

Flathead River Hwy 2
Flathead River Hwy 2

After leaving Columbia Falls Montana, I drove south passing Flathead Lake just in time for a lunch break. The day was still a little smokey from the Washington, Idaho, Canada and Montana fires that we have had recently.  Some still on going!

After lunch I continued on to Missoula where we will spend the night so I can have my Coach at Bretz RV first thing the following morning. The service department will have it for the day while fixing the warranty work on my Atwood refrigerator electric mode. Workhorse Being SaddledIt turns out the heating element failed.  Also I am having my wheel bearings serviced due to the leaking grease around the hub.  Hopefully Grand Designs will cover a portion of that since I only have 2500 miles on the Coach.  

I am anxious to get home so my plan is leaving the Coach overnight and return the following tomorrow, despite the ninety mile round trip.  Also, I didn’t want to hang around town all day with Jagger, especially since it is predicted to be a warm day.

Walmart
Walmart

The following day we head back to pick up my Coach and return home, but after a supply stop at Walmart ;)  Once home I set up the Coach on it’s site and begin to evaluate items I need to complete before heading south to Arizona in a couple of weeks.

Friday I took my Workhorse in for another oil change.  AlmostFirst Photo New Truck fifteen thousand miles on him now.  I took it to Scott’s Automotive in Hamilton.   It was my first trip there and I was impressed by the detail they go to to make sure I am good for travel south.  Scott is a very nice guy who moved to Hamilton ten years ago and started his business here.

10-20140612 Hamilton (15)It’s approaching a year since my retirement (Oct. 1st) and I am cleaning up my old email addresses, organizing photos, blogs and websites while back home.  I am preparing to start my Fall adventures South, physically and mentally.  

It’s been great here at my “Home Base”, I have rested and had some great family times with my Sister and Brother-in-law.  Had five weeks of intensive evaluation and training for myself and Jagger. Finally completing some needed maintenance on my Workhorse and Coach with a little site-seeing to boot.  I’m ready to roll South.

Safe Travels, Gary…

My Companion Jagger

It dawned on me that I haven’t created an “About Page” for my Companion Jagger.  So here it is, a recap of our trials adapting to the RV lifestyle up to this point of our adventures.  It will also be available on the Menu above under About Me (About Jagger) or http://www.retiredvagabond.com/about-jagger/

Prologue: There was a time I wasn’t sure Jagger would work out,  due to the aggression issues with other dogs.  He seems to be doing better each day.  It’s still a struggle for me due to his size, but I think we can get past it, only time will tell.  He is a puppy stuck in an adult dog body.

Jagger - S 6 months old
Jagger 6 months old

Jagger is an Australian Sheppard born on October 14, 2013 in West Virginia.  He is black with white markings and tan points, and light blue eyes.

As a very young puppy he was transported to a breeder via a crate (kennel) by ground to Arizona.  There to become a Stud for a hobby breeder.

In February 2014 after inquiring about owning an Australian Sheppard for my life style, the breeder thought one would be a match for me.

Jagger 8 Months Old
Jagger 8 Months Old

The breeder planned a litter for the spring, but it didn’t materialize and they wouldn’t have any puppies available before I headed north after picking up my coach.

After continuing contacts over the next several months, they told me they had a young six month old puppy that regretfully they were going to return to West Virginia for personal reasons.  They asked me if I would be interested in taking him.  Well after a few visits and consulting with my son, I picked him up in late April 2014.

I have grown close to Jagger over the past few months.  We are together 24/7, and he has learned all the basic commands and leash training.  We are still working on “heal command” and his “dog/leash aggression”.  We have traveled over 3,000 miles together so and  seen untold sights and still going.

It hasn’t all been fun. Discouraging times were his endless bout of stomach issues lasting over two months before finding the right food for him after the giardia infection.  Nursing him after his neutering surgery. Socializing him at an older age has been tiring and still ongoing. First noticed was his dislike of some people and still his leash aggression with other dogs.  What training and discouragement I missed as a very small puppy, I more then have made up since.  We finished a “basic training” class together this summer, spending most of the classes in the “dunce” corner (side yard).  We also spent many hours after class and during the weeks with our trainer Jewel and eventually her puppy Shasta (The Joy Animal).  Still we have issues with other dogs, but he is improving and between the two of us we will conquer this aggression.

Jagger has finally made some friends at home in Montana.

In all Jagger is a perfect companion for me. Together we will conquer his dog aggression and experience traveling full time in our fifth wheel, seeing the country we live in.

Safe Travels until next time…Gary

Glacier National Park

Welcome
Welcome

It took me some time to write this post, writers block.   Maybe it was due to the subject.  I had been looking forward to seeing the pristine National Park named Glacier, but right off on arrival to Columbia Falls, where we stayed at the Columbia Falls RV Park, it didn’t feel special.  It was a nice high end park and the only one I could find reservations for the seven days we would be staying. The staff was pleasant, facilities were clean, but sites a bit too close after having all the room I wanted at home for over a month.  I was spoiled!

Columbia Falls City Park
Columbia Falls City Park

Also and most paramount, the park was FILLED with pets, specifically dogs!  If you remember Jagger was at the height of his aggression issues and it would not be pleasant for me or Jagger.  I did learn early there was a small city park across the highway where I walked with Jagger every morning and evening.  So we/I adjusted to the situation.

Saint Mary LakeDuring our stay here we went to Glacier Park several times.  Due to my National Parks Senior Pass the entry fee was waved each time, wahoo.   Our first trip through the park we took the “Road to the Sun” all the way to Saint Mary.

At St. Mary’s I had lunch and then we continued on through to the East Entrance where we exited and drove South and back to our camp.  As I have been mentioning on Facebook and Google Plus, due to the fires in Washington, Canada and Montana there was a haze most of the time that we stayed here and was another reason I was bummed.  As we exited we stopped briefly at East Glacier Lodge.

Saint Mary Lodge
East Glacier Lodge

Driving South we passed forest completely destroyed a number of years ago by fire.

The second trip into the park I was focused on Lake McDonald.  I drove straight there and after parking at the lodge realized it was too warm to leave Jagger in the truck, so I drove through and focused on stops with short hikes outside the grounds.  I took a few pictures that turned out, but again not quite what I was expecting.

We followed up a few days later by a visit to the Flathead River.  There I enjoyed a pleasant evening while waiting on the sun to set, Jagger and I did training drills.

Jagger has been a handful, but so much improved.  He will approach almost anyone with an over enthusiastic greeting.  We still need to work on that.

While at Glacier I received a call that the warranty part for the refrigerator was now available.  I was just barely able to book an overnight site at Jelly-stone park in Missoula due to the Paul McCartney concert.  Everything was booked and this was a last minute booking so I could stay over for the repair early the next morning.  So up early and dropped the coach on our way home to Hamilton.

Safe travels until next time…Gary

Lolo Pass – Full of History

Meeting Rich and Crew for Lunch - Missoula
Meeting Rich and Crew for Lunch – Missoula

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Rich for lunch in nearby Missoula. We worked together at The Orange County Register before I retired last October. He was on vacation here in Montana with his brother and several friends who live in Idaho.  They were all traveling on their motorcycles and fishing along the way.  We met at Famous Dave’s in Missoula and spent several hours catching up before they had to move along, traveling over the Lolo Pass to their next destination.  Again enjoying myself and didn’t take pictures! Oh and thanks again for the lunch Rich.

Back at home preparation had been underway for some family  members who were traveling fromCompany Arrives from California The Gathering - Montana and CaliforniaCalifornia.  They will be visiting my Brother-In-Law and Sister for a few weeks, while Jagger and I  head out for a short two week trip.   First to Lolo, Montana and then to Columbia Falls just outside of Glacier National Park Montana.  I stayed for a few days in my Coach to see the kids and visit, then we took off on a nice sunny day.

Getting Lolo Camp Set-Up - Home for the week
Getting Lolo Camp Set-Up – Home for the week

Jagger and I first stayed at a small RV Park in Lolo known for decades to people near and far for “Square Dancing”.  No I don’t square dance.  I don’t think I could physically anymore, at least not for more than a few minutes.  :)

Lolo camp view from my window
Lolo camp view from my window

I have noticed there aren’t very many RV Park’s between Hamilton and Glacier that looked like interesting places to stay for the first week so I chose this one tucked into a stand of tall pine trees along the Lolo creek.

After setting up camp and hanging out for a few days I decided we should explore the Lolo Pass, known for it’s rich history. Most notably  in our American history was Lewis and Clark.

Lewis and Clark a very bad passing marker.
Lewis and Clark a very bad passing marker.

The Indians however,  had been using the Lolo Pass for centuries.  To them it was known as naptnišaqs, or “Nez Perce” trail in the Salish language.

Our first stop was at Fort Fizzle.  It was only a few miles from our camp.

This turned out to be one of our hangouts during our stay at Lolo due to it’s proximity and considering Jagger isn’t very social with our neighbors.  There were allot of trees and room to play right alongside the Lolo Creek.

Fort Fizzle was built quickly after the locals and the US Calvary heard the Nez Perce Indians were coming that way in July of 1877. This was as a result of their defeat several weeks earlier at Clearwater in Idaho.

Lolo Pass Forest Fire 2013
Lolo Pass Forest Fire 2013

From Fort Fizzle, we continued up Lolo Pass going by the remains of the Lolo fire of 2013.  I always become melancholy when passing sights like this knowing it will be centuries before the land can recover completely.

The Nez Perce Indians Final Journey in July 1877 passed through here.
The Nez Perce Indians Final Journey in July 1877 passed through here.

Continuing on, I look around and try to imagine what it was like two hundred or more years ago when the Indians would have passed through here on their travels for survival and trade.

Nawah, Lou-Lou, Loo-Lo, or Lo Lo? Creek Early Mispellings Going Back to Lewis and Clark
Nawah (the Indian name), Lou-Lou, Loo-Loo, or Lo Lo Creek?  Early Misspellings Going Back to Lewis and Clark and the traders.

When approaching the higher elevations I looked out to see Mountain range upon mountain range into the distance.

It was said Lewis and Clark were discouraged at this view near the top of Lolo Pass, endless mountains.
It was said Lewis and Clark were discouraged at this view near the top of Lolo Pass, endless mountains.

It is recorded that the Lewis and Clark expedition were expecting to see the Pacific Ocean in the distance when cresting the first mountain range of the Lolo Pass. Instead a “disappointing view”, more mountains to cross.

Driving a little further we passed the Lolo Hot Springs.  Here there is a campground, lodge and coffee shop.  I had planned to stop, but the way it was built up didn’t interest me and I drove on further.

 I have read stories of how the Indians and trappers would gather at various hot springs, especially to warm up with a hot bath and socialize.  This was one of the more famous ones.

Lolo Visitor Center
Lolo Visitor Center

Arriving at Lolo Pass Visitor Center at the top of the pass we stop to walk around a little and check out the grounds.  I went inside to pick up a few post cards and talk with one of the rangers.  This doesn’t sound like a fun place to be if you have to drive in the winter time.  Skiing and Snowmobiling would be a different story.

Meadow at Lolo Visitor Center
Meadow at Lolo Visitor Center
Lolo Visitor Center Meadow - Note the tall grass laying down due to deer and elk resting here probably at night.
Lolo Visitor Center Meadow – Note the tall grass laying down due to deer and elk resting here at night.

We load up and again move further West down the pass not knowing what to expect.   Another half hour drive we arrive at the DeVoto Memorial Cedar Grove.  This was an unexpected find.  A lush grove of cedar pines so thick they provided continuous shade throughout the day. I read an article that said some of the trees here were over two thousand years old.

After spending time walking through the grove, we loaded up once again for the drive back to our camp.  We will have to leave the remainder of the pass to another visit.

Our second week in Columbia Falls and Glacier I will cover in the next post since my rambling here has gone on to long.  It’s a very history rich place to visit.

Until next time, safe travels, Gary

Blodgett Canyon View Trail

Return to Blodgett Canyon
A beautiful warm day when we start our hike
A beautiful warm day when we start our hike

Since my last post I went back to the Blodgett trailhead with a friend of many years, Dona and her Aussie-Border Collie mix Sydney.  She has lived in Hamilton with her husband, Phil, for some time and from what I hear, knows about every trail around here.  We chose the Canyon View for a short hike of about two miles.  One that is not very steep and has some awesome views.

Dona and Sydney
Dona and Sydney

So back out the dirt road arriving late morning and to a sunny, albeit smokey warm day.  We immediately tackled our challenge climbing up the trail.  Sydney was amazing, you can tell she has gone many times and has developed a preference for what types of holes to investigate, looking for that stray squirrel or rodent.

Dona pointed out some Huckleberry BushHuckle Berries along the way.  I was surprised no one had eaten them as they were right along the trail and easy picken’.

On arriving at the top of the trail a spectacular view opened up on the back side of the mountain, overlooking the canyon as far as you could

Looking Into Idaho - Blodgett Canyon
Looking Into Idaho – Blodgett Canyon

see.  It was definitely worth the work to get there.  Unfortunately smoke from the forest fires burning in Washington was washing over the mountains, leaving a haze in the air and limiting the view.

As we were admiring the view we noted a set of rather ominous black clouds moving over the mountains and down the valley so we decided to hightail it back down to the trailhead.  About half way down it started, rain.  Hmm, here I am not prepared as all my gear was in the Coach, which was at the RV Dealer in Missoula.  The thunder and lightening started and I told Dona to run ahead as Sydney was afraid of thunder,

Within a very short time the droplets were becoming quite large and more frequent. I thought to myself, I am going to get drenched, along with my camera.  Almost as quickly as it started though, the rain stopped just as I was nearing the trailhead and Dona waiting with Sydney.  The sun came out and dried my clothes and we finished the trek to the car in the fresh mountain air.

Safe Travels until next time, Gary

 

A Full Time RV Adventure