July 29, 2018 we left Mt. Rainier with sadness and much appreciation and awe for a fabulous, life-expanding adventure in the mountains of the Northwest and set the Highlander’s nose to take us east. We traveled a northern route and will end up in Maine before turning south for home in NC. I know, long way home, right! This came about because many months ago I decided to join some Women Aliners for a campout at Acadia in mid Aug and you know those reservations – in some places, like Acadia in Aug, you gotta make them practically a year in advance, so I needed to decide long time ago. I was also loosely following someone else’s itinerary as a guide for the west journey since I knew next to nothing about the area. In retrospect, I would have stayed west in Aug. and spent more time in just about every place I went (not the Badlands!!!), although I must say it seemed the wildfires were following me. I saw yesterday where the west side of Glacier was burning, the side where I camped, and the Road to the Sun was closed. Makes those fires even sadder after you’ve been there. :(. So anyway, that’s why we’re heading to Maine. And since I was going to be in the NE I planned to visit some friends in VT and Western MA. In order to coordinate with their plans, I needed to be in VT by Aug 8th, and since pulling a camper and needing to find places to camp takes a lot longer than driving/motel model . . . well, you get the picture. And I had to take care of some service on the tow vehicle and the camper, things impossible to do while in National Parks and Forests. Luckily nothing desperate while I was there.
So, with a last look back with sadness, off we went, Highlander, Aliner, Xena and me, rolling back to the east coast.
I did try to include some interesting sights and took the more northern route that would avoid the big cities and get off interstates a good part of the time. First night ended up at Coeur d’Alene, ID, which I’d honestly never heard of. Needed a city where there would be a Toyota dealer for oil change since I wanted them to check everything really well and I trust the dealers more than an unknown mechanic. And since I’d driven 8,000 miles since the last oil change, towing, and over lots of mountains and rough rutted dirt roads. So next day that’s where we went. Yep, needed brakes too! It took most of the day, luckily they even took me without an appointment. I had hoped I could arrange the camper fix so I could drop it off and bring the car in without it but that didn’t work and there was no place in the Toyota lot, so had to drop it in a nearby Walmart parking lot and leave it. They were very nice to let Xena stay in the waiting room with me, in spite of her state of shedding. I brush her every day so the car and camper aren’t full of fur, leaving a small dog sized furball at every campsite. All the sales people and other customers loved her and she was well behaved.
Some pics of the drive, gradual leveling of the mountains then flat plains, big sky, wide open exposed forever views. Unfortunately, I was never able to find a parking spot in the very crowded busy lake area of Coeur d’Alene so didn’t get any pictures.
I was determined to get farther down the road that afternoon, so we drove to Butte, MT, back into some hills and mountains, but still barren, big sky country. So close to many National Forest, and passing by because of the need for speed. Drove pretty late so we did a Walmart camp that night. If you’re an RVer you probably know that most Walmarts allow travelers to overnight in the parking lot and lest you think it would be lonely and scary, here’s a photo of the parking lot that night. And a pretty view of the city lights, residential area on the opposite hillside.
Folks usually use this option when they’re trying to make time, drive late and just park it, sleep, and leave early the next morning. RVers are very friendly, put out their chairs to relax and watch the view of the city lights, walk around, chat, walk the dogs. Just like a campground. Not bad really, convenient, feels safe, in all I think I did 4 Walmart nights. You can drive by just about any Walmart around dusk or after and most likely will see RVs and vans and even 16 wheelers along the outer edges of the parking lot, there for the night.
Aug. 1 – Next day, camper fix. While in Mt. Rainier a few days before the camper wasn’t working off the battery. The only thing I needed it for was to ignite the propane to run the fridge since I didn’t have elec. hookups. Only a few months old, tested fully charged, checked all the battery connections, fuses, breakers, even crawled this old body under the camper to see if any loose or broken wires were visible. Even had another Aliner owner who was camped nearby check it out, and he couldn’t find anything either. I was able to leave it plugged into the car while I was at camp and it ran off the car battery just fine, then I would run around and do my exploring and charge the car’s battery back up. It was cool enough to just leave fridge off overnight since I didn’t want to run the car battery down. When I took it in, it was indeed a simple fuse, an in-line fuse at the battery, which actually had tested fine even with a different kind of tester that the other Aliner had. Pooh!! Half the day wasted on a tiny little fuse!!! I now have 2 extras and it’ll be the first thing I check if it happens again.
Onward! Long driving afternoon through the rest of Montana but stopped at a few interesting places. Especially Pompey’s Pillar National Historic Monument. Again, never heard of it but signs were right along Interstate 90 and I needed a break. Well worth it, spent a couple hours there and got a good hike along the Yellowstone River and the rock that included about 12 stories worth of steps to the top!!! Great views all around. This is all Lewis and Clark territory and this “pillar” was a natural landmark and observation point for more than 11,000 years by humans. It’s at a natural crossing on the Yellowstone River and hundreds of historical markings, petroglyphs and inscriptions have transformed this geologic formation into a living journal of the American West. The inscriptions include the signature of William Clark (Lewis and Clark) and date they were there. This inscription is the only visible evidence of the expedition that remains along the Corps of Discovery’s trail. The visitor’s center is full of interesting historical displays and information.
Back on the road, passed really close to where I’d stopped at Big Horn Canyon and Little Big Horn Battlefield 2 months ago. About this time I got off I-90 and onto I-94 and followed the Yellowstone River. Stopped at Makoshika State Park at Glendive near the eastern state line thinking I’d camp there. But I drove through to check it out, it’s all in the Badlands area, all exposed, no trees/shade, really hot 90s full sunny days. It was mid afternoon and I saw no reason to stop anywhere much before dark just so I could bake when I could keep driving in the AC, so went on across the state line into North Dakota. Stopped for another look at Theodore Roosevelt National Park for a little farewell. That was my first National Park stop after getting out into this section of the country so full of amazing National Parks. Full Circle. It was as beautiful as the first time. Even tho this is officially Badlands too, these are more colorful, prettier, and have some trees, especially in the campground. Remembered it was a long drive through the park to get to the campground and knew I wouldn’t get a spot with no reservation anyway, so kept going. Made it to Dickinson just about dusk where it was another Walmart night.
Aug. 2 – Rolling on across North Dakota. After TRNP, not much to talk about, ya know what I mean!! I did see amber waves of grain and the World’s Largest Holstein!
Made it all the way across to Minnesota and had another Walmart night in Dilworth. That was probably the worst of my travel days. But the next morning I got off I-94 and onto Hwy 10, then some smaller roads to Scenic Hwy 2 and landed at Chippewa National Forest where lots of lakes are, at Cass Lake campground. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. I stayed 2 nights, so great to be in a National Forest, in a campground again, with a shower. In the middle of Indian Reservation, surrounded by lakes. Went to a fish supper benefit for the youth, fish from the lake. Yummy. Set up the whole camp – rug, screen tent, cooktop outside, settled right in. Next day actually cooked for the first time in what felt like a really long time. Ahh, better.
I loved my stay here, beautiful and relaxing after the mad dash across the plains and badlands. I wanted to stay, but that calendar keeps moving. Rolled out on the 5th, stayed on US 2, a scenic highway. Got a little bit of Lake Superior, into and through Wisconsin and into Michigan. Landed another fabulous spot for the night at Hiawatha National Forest on Little Bay de Noc, a peninsula on Lake Michigan. Wonderful walks around the bay with great sunset. Wow!! Neither of these stops were planned, just watched the maps for National Forests. I love our National Forests!! Would hate to lose them, but I’m afraid we need to work hard to keep them public lands.
Again, I wanted to stay but I just couldn’t, didn’t even unhook the camper. You can see in the photos that weather was rolling in too, and that’s pretty much been the story ever since. Next day was driving around Lake Michigan, crossing the Mackinac Bridge (or as I like to spell it MAC n NAK for my friends and faithful blog followers, MAC and NAK!). Then it was around Lake Huron to Port Huron. Just fabulous views of the lakes all along, as seen through the rain. We did a Walmart at Port Huron just a couple of miles from the border crossing into Ontario, Canada. Another crowded Walmart as many people do this to get across early.
Across the border and then we’re going around Lake Ontario! All the Lakes!! I went all the way to the bridge crossing at the St. Lawrence River and 1000 Islands. Even tho a little longer than crossing at Buffalo, I’m really glad I did. Once again, I have never heard of the 1000 Islands, except the salad dressing. 🙂 Camped at Keewaydin State Park. There’s an old castle on one of the Islands, unfinished by the builder because his wife, who he was building it for, died and he abandoned it. It’s been taken over and kept up as a state park. There are a lot of “little castles” copies everywhere. The whole island area is a big resort/tourist area, motorboats, jet skis, loud and rowdy tour boats, but not as crowded and noisy as other parks with water attractions I’ve been in and the campground was nice. Obviously didn’t have much time to explore, did love the marina. Until traveling earlier this year, I didn’t realize there were marinas at state parks where a boater can “camp”, hooked up or boondocking, just like the land campers. Cool.
Aug 8 – Got a little walk with Xena and a shower before leaving pretty early to head for VT. Went down I-81 and back onto I-90, the Hwy I started on in Washington. I mentioned earlier there have been storms, well ran into a whopper of a storm on this day. Visibility of Zero! And it lasted a long time. Probably added an hour or more to my drive time. Up I-87, then across to Bennington! Whew! Made it. Mission Accomplished! Got a campsite at Townsend State Park, right next to Green Mountains, and real close to my friend Linda who lives in the tiny VT village (60 taxpayers) of Newfane.
The rest of this trip is about visiting friends. When I have a chance to post next I’ll share some of it. But I will be in campgrounds and don’t know what kind of connectivity I’ll have so may be after I get home.
Keep on rolling, safe travels on your end of summer vacations.
Lynn and Xena