Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park

12 09 2015
Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park

Arriving without reservations, we find only a single electric site available for 2 nights at the Lewis and Clark Caverns campground – a state park campground in south central Montana.  Set in a meadow with a few trees, only 9 of the 40 sites offer power connections.  We snag electric site P4, a pull-through site along the outside edge, and D4, a nearby site without power.  Each site also provide a picnic table and fire pit.  There is a threaded fresh water fill and dump station.  Electric sites are $34/night including the state parks nightly fee.

Of course, the attraction here are the Lewis and Clark Caverns, never actually visited by Lewis or Clark.  But, for a $12 fee, you can hike up the ¾ mile trek to the cave entrance and enjoy the history, facts and a few jokes about this beautiful underworld.  In addition to the tour, the cool 50 degrees inside the cave is a welcome relief to the hot temperatures hovering in the low 90’s outside.   The Canada Road Trip is about to come to an end as we spend one of our last nights under the dark, starry skies of “Big Sky” country.

Tomorrow we’ll be in Sheridan, Wyoming, with a quick overnight at the Sheridan KOA before arriving back home in Colorado.  On Thursday we’re off to Taos, NM – more from there…

Lolo Square Dance Center and Campground

10 09 2015
Lolo Square Dance Center Campground

Lolo Square Dance Center Campground

We’re back to Montana!  After enjoying the beautiful drive over Lolo Pass, we’re parked at the Square Dance Center just outside of Lolo, MT and about 10 miles south of Missoula, MT.  With about 60 sites scattered through a tall pine forest, most sites offer electric and water, those designed for long term use also provide sewer hookup.  Unique about this center is the large dance hall accommodating up to 30 “rounds” of dancers with custom maple flooring and a powerful sound system.  The free WiFi worked adequately, and T-Mobile service was available.  There’s also an 18 hole wiffleball golf course and waking trail encircling the campground.  Our sites also provided a cable connection with about 24 channels of TV.

Tomorrow we continue across Montana, with a planned stop at Lewis and Clark Caverns about half way in between Butte and Bozeman.  More from there…

Hell’s Gate State Park

9 09 2015
Hells Gate State Park

Hells Gate State Park

We’re just south of Lewiston, ID – along the Snake river in Hell’s Gate State Park, a welcome refuge of tall shade trees and well irrigated parkways.  RV sites provide electric and water and there’s a dump site available.  There are plenty of over-the-air TV channels from nearby Lewiston and Spokane.  Organized in 3 loops, this campground provides about 90 spacious and shady sites along with 8 riverside cabins.  The State Park is at the entrance to Hell’s Gate, the deepest canyon in North America.  There are numerous tour companies nearby that offer jet boating excursions into the canyon.

Tomorrow we’ll continue west along the Lewis and Clark trail, over Lolo Pass and into Montana.  More from there…

Grand Coulee, WA

9 09 2015
The Grand Coulee

The Grand Coulee – Steamboat Rock

We’re about 10 miles south of Electric City, WA and about 14 miles south of the famous Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River.  After spending 2 night in the North Cascades, we once again have a 2 night stay at Grand Coulee.  We’ll do some laundry, resupply from the local Safeway and attend the laser light show at the dam.

Steamboat Rock State Park hugs the shores of Banks Lake, a 27 mile long irrigation reservoir that is supplied with water from the Columbia River via a huge pumping station next to Grand Coulee Dam.  The park includes 3 campsite loops, a large beach and day use area, boat launches and a concession stand.   We’re parked on the Bay Loop in sites B18 & B19, both back-in sites with full hookups.  With almost constant irrigation, this park boasts beautiful, lush green belts around all of the sites.  All roadways, bike paths and parking areas are paved, with a gravel area beside each site with a picnic table and fire pit.

This 60 mile long ancient river bed – the “Grand Coulee” – has a fascinating history. Formed about 18,000 years ago, this huge scar was caused when water from Lake Missoula was released from behind a melted ice “plug”.  As the 2000 foot high wall of water rushed across the Columbia Basin it stripped away soil, cut deep canyons and deposited soils offshore from modern day Portland, OR.  This cycle was repeated many times during the Ice Age.

At the Grand Coulee Visitor Center, we’re reminded of how huge this dam and the overall Columbia River Project really is.  Grand Coulee has a capacity of nearly 9,000 megawatts of electricity making it the largest hydro-electric project in the US and 6th largest in the world.  Irrigation is supplied to over 600,000 acres of farmland.  The dam is constructed with over 12 million cubic yards of concrete, making it one of the largest man-made structures in the world.  The laser light show on Tuesday is a bit underwhelming – the light and sound show technologies seem to have left Grand Coulee behind.  They also offer dam and power plant tours during the day – next time we’ll take in a tour instead.

After Grand Coulee, we’ll continue west through Lewiston, ID to Hell’s Gate State Park.  More from Idaho…

Marblemount and the North Cascades

6 09 2015
Alpine RV Park, Marblemount, WA

Alpine RV Park, Marblemount, WA

After leaving Hope, BC, we proceeded to the Huntingdon/Sumas border crossing.  The Labor Day Weekend traffic caused about an hour’s worth of backup at the border, but once through the checkpoint, we had no traffic on Highway 9 traveling south through the farmlands of western Washington.  A left turn on Highway 20 takes us to Mablemount, and the Alpine RV Park.  Set on the outskirts of this mountain community, the park is a small oval with grassy spaces and 50/30/15 amp electric service, water taps and sewer hookups.  At $15/night with Passport America discount, plus an additional $30 for the second night, this may be the most reasonable place we’ve stayed.  The park also provides a small laundry room and a bath/shower house.  The tall trees and mountains surrounding the area make satellite set-up challenging but achievable with the correct site selection.  There is no T-Mobile service, but the Verizon broadband works well.  And, no over-the-air TV that we find.  With electrical problems affecting several sites, and our 30A breaker clicking off once, this park appears to be due for some deferred maintenance and TLC.

We’re here in Marblemount for two days as we explore the nearby North Cascades National Park.  This is the last town along Highway 20, the North Cascades Highway, that escaped fire damage by the wildfires of this very dry season.  Newhalem, about 15 miles to the east was evacuated during the worst of the fires and the damage is noticeable at the National Park Visitors center here.  After a stop at the Visitors Center, we continue all the way to Ross Lake stopping along the small trails that provided overlook points for the 3 hydroelectric dams here, Gorge, Diablo and Ross.  Owned and operated by the City of Seattle, these three plants provide up to 20% of Seattle’s electrical needs.

Tomorrow we’ll continue up and over the North Cascades highway through Twisp and Okanogan, two of the eastern slope communities heavily affected by the wildfires that have so far burned over 130,000 acres and claimed the lives of 3 firefighters.  Our next stop is Grand Coulee dam – more from there…

Hope, British Columbia

5 09 2015
Emory Bar RV Park

Emory Bar RV Park

Good Morning from Hope, BC

We’re parked at Emory Bar RV Park, in the Frasier River Valley, and about 10 miles from the small town of Hope, BC.  We left the Trans Canadian Highway at Kamloops in favor of a more direct route via Highway 5.  However, arriving at Hope, we’re back on Highway 1 for the short drive into the Valley.

Unfortunately with the highway comes the Canadian Pacific rail route. And, along this portion of the line, the need for plenty of power for the steep inclines to Kamloops.  The longer freight trains have 3 engines pulling, 1 center engine and at least 1 rear, pushing engine.  Powering through this narrow canyon, the trains first produce a low ground shaking rumble, followed by a few piercing whistles,  then a speech stopping roar as the triple engines, then the squealing wheels of the cars and finally the “pushers” make their way past.   All in all, quite a distraction from anything that you’re doing outside – and not all that good for sleeping inside either.  Those in our party reported somewhere between a few trains per hour to a few trains overnight – so obviously someone was able to sleep.

Emory Bar is a unique RV park.  The upper terraces, apparently for long term residents, offer beautiful sunny spots well protected by tall tree hedges.  The lower lots, seemly for shorter term residents, are set in the dense forest closer to the main highway.  Our sites provide electric and water, some others are dry, and many offer full hookups.  There is adequate T-Mobile service here, no through-the-air TV signals.  The on-site Hope River General Store is an interesting diversion.  Stocked with unique tourist gift items, a deli counter, plenty of food items, great  fresh fruits and vegetables and even a small restaurant.

We’re spending one night here before crossing the border back into the US.  More from Mablemount, WA, our first stop back in the states…

The Houseboat Capital of Canada

3 09 2015
Sicamous KOA

Sicamous KOA

We’ve just parked at the Sicamous KOA.  Situated on the Trans-Canadian highway, this is perhaps the nicest KOA we’ve enjoyed.  Set in a grove of huge old cedar and pine trees, the owners have done a great job of carving out very private and cozy RV sites with full hookups.  Complete with a swimming pool, store and cabin rentals, this campground is a bit on the rustic side, exactly how a place in the Canadian Rockies should be.

With over 600 miles of Shuswap Lake shoreline, the small town of Sicamous bills itself as the Houseboat Capital of Canada.  With beautiful tree covered mountains all around, Sicamous is certainly different than the Houseboat Capital of the US, Lake Powell. Shuswap Lake, the name derived from the First Nation people that hunted buffalo here,  is made up of 4 “arms” in roughly the letter “H”.  With over 120 square surface miles, the lake is one of the largest in British Columbia.  As with other large lakes, Shuswap enjoys a lake monster legend, this one affectionately named “Suswaggi”.   As with nearly all other places along Highway 1, we have excellent T-Mobile cell service here, but no over-the-air TV.  There is advertised campground provided WiFi, but we find none at our remote sites.

Tomorrow we’ll continue on Highway 1 to Hope, BC…more from there.