Homeward From Montana

October 15, 2018


Why rush?

After our group 4 day backpack in the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness, we shared a farewell meal in Red Lodge, Montana. I was glad we got back when we did, because it had started raining and the sky was dark with thunderclouds. It was time to start heading home to Oregon, but there was no rush. I took Rt. 78 to do some sightseeing on the way back to I-90, and stopped to read the historical markers.


Beartooth thunderstorm

Then going West on I-90, I was reminded how stressful it is to be on an 80 mph highway. At Livingston, I drove south on Rt. 89. It would be dark before getting back to Pine Creek campground, but I had reserved a tent site, and had camped there a week earlier, so wasn’t worried about finding my site in the dark.


On the way up to the campground, the Beartooths loomed against an India Ink black sky stabbed by lightning strikes. I was glad I wasn't still up in the high country this night.


Sunday morning

The next morning was Sunday, and I visited the 10 AM service at Livingston Christian Center, which was pretty lively.


Northwest on I-90

After going over Bozeman Pass,


I stopped at Missouri Headwaters State Park and the old Galatin City. I've read so much about the fur trappers and Lewis and Clark, it was a strange feeling to walk where they walked.

The old Galatin Hotel needs some work. 


Railroad history


Crossing the continental divide

I crossed the divide going over Homestake Pass.


Glacier NP? Why not?

Looking at the map, and realized I-90 goes through Missoula, which is only about 150 miles south of Glacier NP. On an impulse, I decided to go up to Glacier.

Anxious to get off I-90, I found a somewhat back road way by taking exit 154 and Rt. 271 north. It cut through some interesting terrain.

Turning west on Rt. 200, brings you to the southern edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the second largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states.

 From the road, the view is level prairie, but then mountain ranges which stretch clear up to Glacier NP.


Wild turkeys

Eventually I got on Rt. 83, which goes north up the valley between the Swan Mountains and the Mission Range. I was surprised to see some wild turkeys cross the road. It was getting late, so I pitched my tent at Swan Lake FS campground.


Glacier NP forest fires

When I got to Glacier NP the next morning, I found out that the Going to the Sun Road was closed because of forest fires. That was quite a disappointment.

I didn't realize how many fires they've had in the past.


Bowman Lake

But the road along the west side of the park was open, so I drove up to Polebridge and then on gravel to Bowman Lake.


I was amazed to see so many tamarack trees. (We call them larch trees in Oregon.) Their needles turn bright yellow in the fall and then they drop off.

The campground was almost deserted; no problem finding a tent site. Even the camp host had left!



Bowman Creek

You don’t need a fishing license in a national park, so I had made my own ‘tenkara’ outfit using a 10’ sapling for a pole, a length of mono line, and a dry fly, and went fishing. The lake was too shallow near shore, so I fished until dark in Bowman Creek, from the lake’s outlet.


The outfit was working fine, but no bites. Being alone, I kept my bear spray handy and made some noise once in a while. There was a note at the camp host’s site saying there had been 4 grizzly sightings in the last 5 days!


Ducks in white water

In the morning I stopped a few miles down from the lake and bushwhacked to Bowman Creek and tried some more fishing. Again, no bites, but while standing on a rock in the stream, along came a flock of ducks, swimming up against the current. They seemed to take no notice of me as I recorded their progress. It was really fun watching them.


On the way back from Bowman, I could still see lots of smoke from the forest fires.


Black bear

Near Apgar and Park Headquarters I saw a black bear ambling along the riverbank.



Mission Range

After leaving the park, I drove down the west side of Flathead Lake on Rt. 93 toward Missoula. The Mission Range was to the east.


Trumpeter swans

I saw 2 beautiful trumpeter swans on this trip.


At one point, another mountain range, the Swan Mountains, was visible further east, beyond the Mission Range.

From studying the map, I believe this one is Mt. Monture, 8980’ high.


Back on I-90

Near Missoula, I got back on the dreaded I-90 and headed west.

There’s a well advertised, huge gift shop called ’50,000 Silver Dollars’ on I-90. They really have thousands of silver dollars mounted on the walls. I stopped and bought a couple things for my wife and grandkids.


Mining history

Coming into the Idaho Panhandle, you're going through a historic mining area.


Wallace Idaho is a historic mining town. There is a little park with old mining equipment and displays that explain how it was used. Well worth the stop.


Devastating fires

There was a terrible fire here in 1910. Skies were blackened in Montreal and London! 85 men were lost.




Goodbye I-90; Hello back roads

Wanting to get off I-90 as soon as practical, I took Rt. 3 south from exit 34. This is called the Coeur d'Alene Scenic Byway.


There used to be an Indian Mission on the St. Joe River.


The only town of any size on this route is St. Maries, which is also the county seat. There’s an old RR line there.


Big White Pine Campground

It was already getting dark, but still about 30 miles to go on a curvy road before reaching Big White Pine FS campground. I turned onto Rt. 6 which goes through the Idaho Panhandle NF.

It was another night of finding a tent site and setting up in complete darkness. No problem. Used to it.


In the morning, I went for a nice 2.5 mile loop hike.  


There were plenty of white pine trees, western red cedar, tamaracks, ponderosa, and Douglas fir.




Almost ran out of gas

My gas tank was dangerously low. I realized I should have gotten gas at St. Maries. Continuing on Rt.6, I couldn’t find a gas station in the little towns of Harvard or Princeton. I can’t remember of I got gas at Potlatch, or if I had to go on to Palouse, but it was a close thing.


Palouse country

From Palouse, I took 272 west to Colfax, and 26 toward Yakima.

The gentle rolling hills of the Palouse country must have been horse heaven in the old days.


The fields looked like oats. It was in the middle of the harvest; some oats were still standing; some were being cut and threshed by huge tractor machines. There were a few times when they were on the road and they seemed almost as wide as the road.

The clouds were beautiful that day. There was a dust devil in the fields that had already been plowed for next season.


The next time I’m in this area, I will be sure to visit Palouse Falls. I missed it, not noticing until now that it’s only a short distance south of Washtucna and Rt. 26.


But I did see that a little north of Othello there is the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. The whole topography is a remnant of the Missoula Flood.


Time to stretch my legs

I drove in on a gravel road for a few miles, and then parked and went for a hike through the grass and brush and up into the rimrock. This was a relaxing and interesting time. No other cars, and no other hikers. But it’s probably busy during hunting season.



There are also places to fish. The lakes are called potholes.


On to Yakima and Naches

I dropped south from Othello on Rt 24 to Yakima.

From Yakima, west on Rt. 12 toward Mt. Rainier NP.

Thanks to all my sightseeing, it was going to get dark again before I could get to a campground. So I stopped in Naches and had a mushroom burger for supper. It was the best mushroom burger I ever had.


Makeshift campsite

Along the Tieton River, I found a place where you can pull off the road and go right down to the river. By flashlight, I pitched my tent right there, and was lulled to sleep by the constant sound of the white water rushing by.


In the morning, I saw several FS campgrounds, if I’d driven a little further. But my roadside camp was free, and there was water from the river to use to cook breakfast.

Just before the Tieton Dam and reservoir, there is a major put in point for white water kayakers.


At White Pass, the Miriam fire was mopped up and the fire fighter camp was gone. I think the PCT to the south was re-opened.


Brief stop at Mt. Rainier NP

It's only a few miles from the southeast entrance to Rainier NP to Ohanapecosh campground. I tried out my home made tenkara outfit again, and was able to drop a dry fly in all the best looking spots, but no action. The water was so clear that you could see the bottom even where it was very deep.


Backpack in Goat Rocks wilderness

From Rainier NP I went on to Packwood and took FS Rd 21 seventeen miles south to Chambers Lake. Only the last few miles were on gravel. I bypassed the lake and went up to the Snowgrass trailhead to the Goat Rocks Wilderness. This is in Gifford Pinchot N F.


Rain, fog

On a 12 mile loop, I hiked up to Goat Lake, intending to camp there. But it was not only raining; it was socked in with fog so thick that at times the visibility was almost zero. Turn your speakers on:


I was disappointed, because I'd been wanting to hike in this high country wilderness for a long time to see the amazing views. I'll just have to come back some day! But I did get a few pictures whenever the fog wasn't so thick.







Wet camp

Anyway, I hiked another mile and a half to get down off the exposed ridges and into some sheltering forest. Made camp in the first trees  where there was a level enough spot. Put up the tent, cooked supper in the dark, and built a fire to dry out some wet clothes.


Still socked in next morning. Came down Coal Ridge Trail in the morning. Saw a pack mule ready to go at the trailhead.


Rt.23, Tahklatch Lake, Trout Lake

Drove south through the forest towards Rt.23 and Trout Lake, but stopped at Tahklatch Lake campground just out of curiosity. Only boats with no motors or electric motors are allowed. From this lake, there's a nice close up view of Mt. Adams, and it was clear weather.



Arriving at White Salmon and the Columbia River Gorge, I stopped along Rt. 14 to sit in the sun on the riverbank and watch the sailboarders and the kite boarders.


Arrived home in Sandy, Oregon a couple hours later. All in all, a wonderful 2 week trip.

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