Monday 14th September
Left Whitefish today and headed south on Montana 93 to Kalispell in the Flathead Valley. Driving through the town reminded us of some UK towns with a main street of Victorian shop buildings. Continued around the large Flathead Lake through resort towns positioned alongside the lake, on to the Flathead Indian Reservation.
We left the pine woods behind and headed downhill into Polson and plains grassland with the lake still on the left backed by the mountains.
On to Pablo and past The People’s Centre, a native tribal museum, through small towns set in flat farm land with the Mission Range of mountains to the east.
The mountains are a tribal wilderness reserve and the crest of the mountains marks the east of the reservation. Past the National Bison Range - established in 1908 to conserve a herd of bison after most of the wild herds had been practically wiped out - saw one lone bison and think he must have been an escapee. Through a deep valley with steep hillsides we came out into more flat farm and ranch land eventually entering forested hills on either side of the road and then back to rolling grassland as we came to Missoula where we picked up the Interstate 2 east towards Butte.
We crossed the Blackfoot River and the road followed the river for a while as the countryside became green again with pine forested hills. We continued snaking along the lush river valley with plenty of deciduous trees and colorful orange/yellow shrubs along the river banks and every now and again the valley would open out into cattle pasture.
Tuesday 15th September
Last night we stayed in Butte, courtesy of Walmart. Walmart allow RV’s to park overnight and for the first time we took advantage of their hospitality. We had a very comfortable night, surrounded by nice mountain views. Butte – the town motto is The Richest Hill on Earth – started life as a mining town in the 19th century and sits in a natural bowl amongst the Rocky Mountains. Gold, silver, copper and other metals were mined here but the industry has drastically reduced and there are just a few reminders of the past with some mine head frames still standing and signs of open cast mining. We headed south on the Interstate 15 across the rolling flatlands and wide plains with farms and ranches, surrounded by mountains and rippling hills that looked like they had been folded.
We stopped at the small community of Lima for lunch just before we crossed the continental divide at 6,823 feet into Idaho.
The nickname for Idaho is the Gem State because most known types of gemstone are found here, including star garnets. It is also known as the Potato State, for obvious reasons. We continued south past the Spencer Opal Mine and where the countryside change to sagebrush and trees showing their autumn colours.
We are staying in Idaho Falls overnight, again in the Walmart car park with several other RV’s. Walked down to the Snake River and had a look at the falls and then went for a couple of drinks at Eagle Snow Brewery just across from the falls. The town was originally called Eagle Rock because there was an eagles nest on an island in the river. In the 1860’s a bridge was built across the river which was on the Montana Trail, a wagon road that carried settlers and miners to the gold rush towns in Idaho and Montana. The trail also carried supplies and food from Utah up to Montana. Looking down the river there is a good view of the Idaho Mormon temple an impressive looking white building with a central tower. To the east of the city located in the desert is the Idaho National Laboratory which carries out research and nuclear energy projects. This facility was originally set up in 1949 as the National Reactor Testing Station. Also to the east is the Craters of the Moon National Monument a large basalt lava field. The volcanic activity is currently dormant but apparently geologists think that lava will flow in the region again one day.
Wednesday 16th September
Today we moved to the Snake River RV Park. Peter and Suzan joined us at the park and we all went out to dinner for a good catch up on our travels since we last met. They stayed in Alaska after we left for a few weeks. After dinner we came back to the campsite and then walked next door to the local saloon.
Thursday 17th September
Suzy and Peter went off early to the local RV service centre to try to get a diagnosis on why their RV occasionally loses all engine power as they are travelling along. They were there all day but no positive results yet. Went out to the Buffalo Wings bar, last time we visited one of these bars was in anchorage. An American Football league game was playing on the tv screens that were positioned all around the room, the game was between Denver and Kansas City and the place was very lively. Peter was explaining the rules of the game. Suzan and I played the electronic trivia quiz.
Friday 18th September
Peter and Suzan went off to the RV service centre again today. When they returned there was some hope that the problem had been solved but they need to go back again on Monday for the work to be done. After dinner Peter and Suzan made up a campfire in the fire ring outside with some logs they had brought with them. We sat outside feeling very cozy, chatting in front of a roaring fire.
Saturday 19th September
The nights are quite cold now as we are at about 4,000 feet here. The morning came with a clear blue sky and by lunchtime the sun was very warm. We sat outside eating brunch and saw a red-naped sapsucker looking very much like a woodpecker. Went downtown where there are a few nice café restaurants and a pub, the farmers market was also on selling local produce. We walked along side the river through the green belt with nice shade trees and flowers.
Took a ride out to the Grand Teton Mall for a look around. On the way back we went to the liquor store to pick up some items to make cocktails. The supermarkets only sell beer and wine, not liquor. We also took the opportunity to take a photograph of a superb sculpture depicting eagle rock island that has been put on a roundabout in town.
Back at camp we had our cocktails before eating a delicious meal that Suzy had cooked, very tasty spaghetti and meatballs.