Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On the road again...

Getting acquainted with Romeo under Kyla's watch.
The pack once again awoke to snow falling in the Teton Valley. After a fantastic breakfast of Jen's yummy sourdough pancakes, the pack hit the road to West Yellowstone MT.

First stop there was to meet Doug Edgerton, the man behind Yellowstone Track Systems.  Any ski dog knows that YTS makes the finest cross country ski trail grooming implements available. They build everything right in their shop using all USA-made parts.

It was quite snowy when we arrived.
Doug showed us the new Ginzu, plus I got him to throw a stick!

After our stop, we proceeded to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Here we found out that (contrary to the Park's web site) we could not travel through to the east side of the park, only to the north or south entrance. So north we went through the beautiful park.
Phew! Sulfur.

So the pack ended up in Billings, MT for the evening. I got to have a few rounds of swimming for the ball, then we retreated for supper and relaxing in the "pet friendly" Motel 6.

Next up: Sheridan, WY.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

More Teton treats

On Sunday the pack woke to lightly falling snow, so we weren't sure what to do:  head out after breakfast or linger for more sight-seeing. After checking with the weather man and the Wyoming DOT they decided to stay put and explore the Teton Valley some more. So after yet another bang-up home cooked meal of ravioli with pesto, tomatoes and mushrooms with roasted asparagus on the side, 2 leggeds Randy and Jen headed to town to catch up on some work (humans work way too much - it is over-rated!), the pack headed up to see the Tetons and Big Hole Mts.
This was as far as the 2 leggeds would go on this path.

Several folks were out skiing.

Finally! A refreshing snow bath.

Shoulda brought the skis!
View of Teton Valley

Wydaho - Teton treats

Friday evening we finally arrived to the friendly greeting of more 2 and 4 leggeds: Randy and Jennifer, and Kyla, Rosche, and the chief cat, Romeo. Though we figured we'd be rained out yet again, Saturday dawned mostly clear and pleasant. After a fantastic home-made lentil salad, all the critters (except Romeo) headed out for a bike ride on a local rail-trail.
A break out of the wind.

Looooong bridge over Bitch Creek

We were all a little tired at the end.

What a great day! We all felt better after a little run. Even though it was invigorating, it did make us sleepy that evening...

While we 4 leggeds caught up on our rest, the 2 leggeds enjoyed good company and another fantastic home cooked meal, this time some butt-kickin' chili. Pass the sour cream!

On the road to Victor, ID/Alta WY

After leaving Butte we were treated to a scenic drive which took us first to West Yellowstone, MT.
The only open road into the park

Refreshing, invigorating snow

A tribute to Butte

The little sheave wheels on top were spinning in the wind
Arly says seeing this alone, made the whole  trip worth while: Fordson Snow-Motor. Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBjlSJf4274
Michigan Tech could use a cool arch like this!
Overlook of the Berkely Pit.   pH is 2.5!

Next stop: Butte

I am of course looking at Moose, not the St. Bernard Bogey!

Thursday morning started out with what else, rain, but by the time the pack gathered up into the Bread Box it was sunny and of course breezy. So we bade our Great Falls hosts Lee and Nanette (plus son Taylon and 4 legged friends Moose, Bogey, and kitty who's name I cannot recall) good-bye, and then off to the mountains.

In a short time we arrived in Helena, the capital of Montana. What a beautiful town! After a bit of driving around the pack found a good parking spot then proceeded to have yet another excellent Bistro lunch. And they usually don't like to eat out! Later we explored around a bit.
Downtown pedestrian mall

Historic fire tower

After our brief but pleasant visit in Helena we hopped back in and continued up and over the mountains to Butte. At the outskirts of town we checked out some historic info signs as we took in the view. We felt as though we were being watched...
Mary way up on top

Once in town we found the visitor info office, then pondered where to camp. But every time we were outside the strong cold wind hinted that maybe we should get a room...when pellet like snow came down that's what we did. But it was a nice evening with another great meal and micro-brew then movie watching until late. Isn't vacation grand!
Evening in Butte

In the morning, we headed up for a tour of the World Museum of Mining. The cold gusty wind continued and the surface portion of the tour was brisk. The underground part was led by a young fella who has mining experience but now is leading these tours. We learned how copper mining was done in this area historically and now. (I'll post a bunch of photos in the next entry.)

After the tour, we ate at another great little place, the Hummingbird Cafe. Our waitress was so friendly - and she was a Michigan Tech alumnus! You never know when you'll make another friend.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A great time in Great Falls!

Late Tuesday afternoon the pack rolled into Great Falls accompanied by very heavy rain which thankfully let up by the time we hit the busier center of town. It was great to be greeted by both 4 and 2 legged friends. Oh, everyone here is so friendly! The 2 legged pack members visited all evening and I got to meet St. Bernard "Bogey" who I egged into romping and playing. That was exhilarating!

On Wednesday the pack headed to a local bike shop and found out that indeed all the trails in the area would be too wet and mucky to ride, so off for a hike we went.

There is a fantastic system of trails near the Missouri
Black Eagle dam and reservoir
River here, from paved to dirt hiking paths and also newly built single track. We hiked on both paved and dirt hiking paths and checked out many interpretive trail signs along the way.

Intricate metal sculptures-beautiful!...

On an overlook were artsy sculptures of Captains Lewis and Clark along with Sacagewea. I wasn't sure if they were real or what!

...but scary.

When at an overlook, we spotted some folks having some high-water fun:

Next adventure destination: Butte, the Copper Country of Montana.

A waterlogged crossing

Monday morning we bade Dan good-bye and he headed off to work as we set out for the North Dakota badlands, hoping to ride the Maah Daah Hey trail or at least camp and hike.

I see vermin!
We set off across North Dakota with a nice east breeze (nice for boosting the MPG) and gray but dry skies. The skies have not been dry often, as seen in this photo:

Nonetheless, we hoped that since it was dry today anyway, we had high hopes that we'd indeed be able to have a nice evening at camp in near Theodore Roosevelt park.

Driving through western N.D. was an eye-opener as to the extent of the oil business there. We drove over battle scarred roads, where you take a "bump" sign seriously. There was a continual stream of large trucks and equipment coming or going to work sites. We passed many operating wells, and many sites that were in the early phases of being built. Then we passed through Watford City. We expected the typical tiny rural N.D. town and found a boom town in full swing. There were many RV parks and mobile home type areas filled with oil field workers. We heard references to the "man camps" that have sprung up in these areas; it is not hard to imagine what those are like.

Finally we arrived at the CCC campground road near the Roosevelt park's north unit. This scorio (red gravel) paved road looked to be in good condition at first but then deteriorated in the lower areas:

As you can see, Arly had to do a U-turn and we headed back in a futile search for a better access road. Shortly after this it started raining, a sure sign that camping was going to be sketchy, at least in this gumbo-country.

So the pack "refueled" in a restaurant near Medora then set off for Glendive, Montana. The highway map showed some camping areas near there that looked to be scenic...but upon arrival we were informed that they were closed, the gravel roads leading to them were too soft for travel. So no camp adventure tonight, but we did go for a nice hike along the Yellowstone River. There was lots of good vermin hunting near the sagebrush there!

Register closed when Arly came by with the camera...

Next the pack jumped in to travel across to visit friends in Great Falls. There is just no fast or interesting way to get across eastern MT. However, we did stop in a great little town (Lewistown) and had the best meal of our trip at this little downtown Bistro. It had the kind of small-town attitude that we can appreciate, as the cash register was wide open when we walked in!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, rain was falling in various degrees the whole day. At least there were no tornadoes!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rugby, anyone?

Friday evening we rolled into Rugby N.D. and were in search of the Stately Ellery Manor (mansion?) when up rolled Dan on his Extracycle-equipped bike with grocery-filled bags. While I monitored the park for squirrels and rabbits, the rest of the pack was treated to a fine home-cooked meal after a tour of Dan’s new home. As a housewarming gift we’d bought Dan a queen air mattress, so Arly & Sandy stretched out on that for a good night’s rest. 
Dan's front yard

Saturday was a gray day with off-and-on rain, so we hiked around Rugby and checked out the Geographical Center of North America at a leisurely pace. There is an Amtrak station there which is a 100+ year old building and was pretty nice. We even got to see the train rolling through town. Next we stopped at the hardware store for some home repair stuff which Arly and Dan worked on later that day. That evening we curled up to watch an old favorite, “Conan the Barbarian”, which Dan knows all the lines to.

Since Sunday was gray but dry, so we jumped into the Bread Box and headed north to see the International Peace Garden. If you are ever in north central North Dakota you should make a point to stop in. We were early enough that only spring annuals were up, but we had the place to ourselves. We all had a great time hiking around and exploring the park. Afterwards we had to go through Customs at the border, which entailed a surprisingly thorough check-over. We drove back via a scenic route through the Turtle Mountains, which was, for N. Dak., surprisingly hilly and curvy (but not exactly mountainous).
Peace towers are obscured by low clouds
Steel beams from the collapsed World Trade Center.

Monday was supposed to be mostly sunny which made us think we could head west and bike the Maah Daah Hey trail in the ND badlands. However, the clouds didn’t listen to the weatherman and have rolled in and have been spitting off and on as we travel west today. But we plan to camp there tonight and will probably have an adventure filled hike on Tuesday. After that it’s off to the great Big Sky State!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Adventure dashed

After our adventure filled ride near Cable WI we did indeed make it to the Crosby-Ironton MN area later that day, Thursday May 19th. Somehow, after a bit of orienteering the pack found a MN DNR camp ground where the new IMBA built, highly publicized (by IMBA and MORC anyway) Cuyuna MTB trail runs near. The orienteering was necessary because of the lack of any sort of good maps to be found online or even once we got to the area. Even the camp ground did not have a sign on the road, only on the driveway, so we drove past it and came back. Upon entering the camp ground, the only person in sight was a DNR Park Ranger working on the shower house water supply. Oh, was he friendly! I almost got him to throw a stick for me. Anyway, the pack chatted with him quite a while. The friendly DNR ranger said that the camp ground was not quite open yet, as he was just getting the water supply up and running and the power was not yet turned on. Yet, the garbage cans, pay pipes and registration envelopes were out. So although we couldn't get any services at the campground, friendly DNR ranger didn't see why we couldn't stay there. Arly specifically asked him, if we set up would there be any chance we'd get kicked out later, being they weren't fully open yet; friendly ranger assured us that wouldn't happen. And regarding the trail, he did show us where it was, that technically speaking it wasn't officially open yet, and we didn't hear it from him, but have fun.

So after some debate about what to do about showering later (friendly ranger said they could swim in the water filled mine pit -  I can't see why they didn't want to try that - it is so refreshing!), the pack donned riding gear and off we went for a short adventure on the soon-to-be unveiled Cuyuna MTB trail. Our idea was to check out the trail going one direction, then the next morning the other. Since rain was to start Friday afternoon, we thought we had it made to catch a couple rides before it started. And after that, a very quiet, peaceful evening was ahead.
Getting ready for adventure.
 Off we went! Nothing too exciting but within 100 yards we went by an abandoned mine building and a pile of old culverts, giving us the idea that the trail would be full of historic artifacts from the iron ore mining that occurred here years ago. The promise of gentle but not boring terrain appealed to the humans of the pack, given this was their 3rd ride of the season.
On the trail with scenic rusty culverts in background.
In less than a mile, we crossed the paved road which led to the campground. The trail looked newly built, and then we happened upon the work crew. They were putting a bridge in and offered we could cross over to the other side if we wanted. We opted to go back, thinking the trail was probably in "new" (soft and not so fun to ride) condition over there too.

Within minutes we were back to the road where we were met by another DNR Park Ranger. It did not take the pack long to figure out that this ranger was the friendly ranger's boss. For as welcoming and helpful as friendly ranger was, boss ranger was irate that we would have the gall to be upon his trails and camp ground when "that guy back there TOLD you the trails and the camp ground are CLOSED". Explanations of we're just passing  through, wanted to see these great new trails that have been promoted while we're here, we won't have the chance to be at the grand opening only pissed off the boss ranger more. Guess now we know why there was no signage to be found anywhere regarding the new MTB trails. Then again, there were no "trail closed" signs either...

So back to the car it was, with a hasty removal of cycling garb and repacking. Cuyuna Park lost a day camp and vehicle pass fee plus donation for the trails; the little town of Motley just down the road got our $ for a night in the Motley Motel (it wasn't actually that motley) and 2 meal in the next door restaurant. And EVERYONE in Motley was so friendly! Of course, trail dogs find most everybody to be friendly...other than crabby bossy DNR employees.
 As we drive in the rain, next stop is to the Stately Ellery Mansion in Rugby, ND, where our friend resides.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Finally, we're on vacation!

The bosses wanted you to hear their exciting news, which isn't all that exciting to any trail dogs I know. Anyway, Sandy's search for a new job has been successfully completed, and now that she's done with the old job, the pack can finally head out for our long-anticipated Wild West Adventures. The pack will be stopping at many exciting places to bike, hike, and maybe even cross country ski. I'm hoping for swimming too, of course. Trail dogs like to cool off in a refreshing stream. All in all, we'll be seeking adventure for the next month! This is the stuff that trail dogs find interesting.

So late on Wednesday May 18th the  pack all jumped into the Bread Box car pulling the camper, all loaded up with adventure gear. We camped at a great little Forest Service camp ground on Mineral Lake near Mellen WI. We heard loons hooting last night and coyotes yipping this morning, which made this conservative dog nervous. Once all packed up, we headed to the Namakagon Town Hall parking area and headed out for a nice little 12 mile MTB ride. Finally, we're biking!
Ready to roll!

Behind the Brickhouse coffee shop in Cable.

Next stop: Cayuna State Park in MN to check out the new MTB trails.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

April hikes

Hiking up Silver Mountain
The last weekend in April the pack gathered up for a couple hikes in the Ottawa National Forest south of home, near L'Anse MI. For those of you who have not heard of that, it is near Bovine and Aura. ;)

The leafless trees allowed us to see through the forest readily. It was a blustery day. The photo above was a wind sheltered area but on the top you had to hold onto your hat!

The Silver Mountain hike is short but worth the drive for the views and fascinating geology.

Glacier scratches (or was it a really big dog??)

The finish of the hike brought us down a steep stair case which ended near an old mine shaft. Good thing brave dogs can do these steep steps!

After hiking around Silver Mountain, we drove a short distance more down the windy Forest road to the parking area near Sturgeon Falls. This was a bit longer of a hike with a very loud, fast running, scary sounding waterfall at the bottom.
Huddling for security.
We didn't happen to see it, but apparently the Forest Service knows of a prime hang gliding launch nearby...