Friday, July 14, 2017

(49) Yellowstone, Home Again

Wednesday July 12, Thursday July13
Gardiner Montana to Boise, Idaho

Old Faithful, as viewed through the
window of the Old Faithful Lodge
We awoke on Wednesday, July 12 at our campground along the Yellowstone River. We were just north of Gardiner Montana, along Highway 89. After a light breakfast and a cup of coffee we headed south towards Gardiner and Yellowstone National Park.

 As we drove south along the river we were once again taken by the incomparable beauty of this area. The river seems to be running a little high and a little muddy for this time of the year. Nonetheless, it was beautiful.

We could see what we believed to be the old Yellowstone Trail carved into the hillside. It looked pretty rugged and it appeared that visiting Yellowstone National Park was not for the faint hearted one hundred years ago. Initially the formal name of the Yellowstone Trail was the "Twin Cities - Aberdeen- Yellowstone Park Trail". It was later shortened to simply "Yellowstone Trail".

Driving through the Yellowstone Arch
We picked up enough groceries in Gardiner for tonight's dinner and tomorrow's breakfast. Our plan was to do a quick tour of some of the highlights of the park this afternoon and then drive home.

Such a short visit certainly does not do Yellowstone National Park justice. However, we been on the road a long time and is much as we've enjoyed this trip we're ready to be home.

My first visit to Yellowstone National Park was in 1957 and I'm afraid to admit that I really can't recall it.  But I've been back to Yellowstone many times since and had the opportunity to explore it with Linda and then with the family.
Clock and Fireplace inside 
Old Faithful Inn

Every time we been to Yellowstone we have camped. It seems like this is the best way to see it, however, one of these days I'd like to spend a couple of nights at the Old Faithful Inn or at one of the other beautiful hotels at the Park.

Old Faithful Inn, built by the Northern Pacific Railroad

Yellowstone National Park is America's and the world's first national park. It is said to be one of the best ideas that America has ever given to the world. That is really saying something, considering the many good ideas that originated in America.

Exterior detail of Old Faithful Inn
America's national parks were the product of the conservation movement in America, but they were also the product of the railroads.

Interior of Old Faithful Inn

Of these two sources, it was the railroads that really did the heavy lifting to bring about the national parks. Had it not been for lobbying by the Northern Pacific Railroad, Yellowstone National Park would not have come into being when it did. The Northern Pacific Railroad lobbied Congress for the creation of Yellowstone National Park. It undoubtedly also assisted in drafting the legislation which created the Park.

Articles informing Americans of the great beauty of Yellowstone and of its natural wonders were written and distributed by writers hired by the Northern Pacific Railroad.

Yellowstone Bison
None of this diminishes the National Parks' position in America's history or Yellowstone's place as the crown jewel in America's National Park system. It seems that the Northern Pacific Railroad needed a destination for its eastern passengers to visit. The Northern Pacific carried well-to-do easterners to the park, which it advertised heavily in the eastern papers and magazines. It billed Yellowstone and Mount Rainier National Park as "Wonderland".

In my pony, ready to drive
into Yellowstone
The automobile is a relative latecomer to Yellowstone National Park. Private automobiles were not admitted to the park until 1915. The Yellowstone Trail and other automobile organizations lobbied for cars to be let into the park in much the way that the Northern Pacific Railroad had lobbied Congress for the creation of the park. Prior to 1915, tourists in automobiles could only travel as far as Gardiner before they had to leave their automobiles and climb into horse-drawn wagons to be taken to one of the camping areas or to a hotel in the park. The Yellowstone Trail, and other automobile organizations, had a campaign that demanded "Let Us In". Finally, the government relented. Whatever one might think of Park overcrowding, letting automobiles into the park truly made the park a place "For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People."

Inscription above Yellowstone Arch
The car, it seems, was a great democratizing factor in the Park's creation. One had to be fairly well-to-do in order to afford a railroad ticket west, to be driven around the park by horse-drawn wagon, staying at magnificent hotels. Even camping, in the early days, involved renting a tent, set atop a wooden platform in the Park.

During our short stay at Yellowstone we were struck by the large numbers of foreign tourists. Visitors from Europe and Asia have embraced Yellowstone. Last year 4.5 million visitors saw the sights. It seemed to us that approximately 40% of the visitors we saw were foreign. It also seemed that a significant portion of those tourists wanted to experience Yellowstone the way they understand Americans to experience the park. There were a great many rented RVs touring the park. Linda and I watched with amusement as a park ranger, through an interpreter, explained to two Asian men that the Park Police had received a large number of complaints about their erratic driving. He told them that he would let them go with a warning, but that he didn't want to hear any more complaints. They needed to slow down and obey the traffic laws. Having been in foreign lands, I felt for them.

Thursday, July 13 brought this vacation adventure to a close.

The view with our coffee.

We started the day as we had started so many others with coffee percolating on our one burner Coleman stove and a cup of coffee at the campsite. It was then time to break camp and head for home.

It has been a wonderful vacation. We were gone for 44 days and traveled 7,783.5 miles, using 307 gallons of gas. We changed the oil and the beginning of the trip, and twice on the road.

I would not trade the experiences that we've had for anything in the world. This is a big beautiful country. The people that we've met have been, almost without exception, extremely kind, thoughtful and polite. Folks went out of their way to tell us about the beauty of their town or their state. They asked if there was anything they could do to help us enjoy and wished us "HAPPY TRAILS". It was fun to add some of them to our blog. We've had over 15,000  views of the blog from all over the world. Thanks to all the readers for letting us share our trip.

It's nice to be home with indoor plumbing, a handy shower, and to greet our dog Chester, but I also find myself thinking about the next road trip....

Home sweet home.

Monday morning I fly to California to pick up the Ranchero and drive it home.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

(48) On the Road to Yellowstone National Park

July 12, 2017
On the Road to Yellowstone National Park

Tonight, we are camping adjacent to the highway and next to the Yellowstone River. We are quite literally on the road to Yellowstone. The campground is reasonably quiet and the highway noise is fading quickly. About all we can hear is a gentle sound of the Yellowstone River.

Driving on the Yellowstone, adjacent to the Yellowstone, on the way to Yellowstone
We began the day in Billings, Montana. From there we traveled to Laurel to take a look at that town and to photograph a couple of the buildings.
Laurel, Montana

Building in Laurel

Laurel Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Center
dates from the 1930's
Yellowstone Trail Interpretive sign in Laurel
From there we proceeded on old Highway 10, which is the modern equivalent of the Yellowstone Trail. Highway 10 runs between Interstate 90 and the Yellowstone River. It is about as close as you can get to driving the old Yellowstone Trail.
We've reached the end of the road,
time to get back on the Interstate.
We drove it until the road ran out and we were forced to get on the interstate. It's hard to believe how much quieter Highway 10 is than Interstate 90. Most of the time I feel more relaxed on the old US highways than I do on the interstates. But this was particularly true today as I drove along the Yellowstone River.

N.P. Station, now a museum in downtown Livingstom
Livingston, Montana
We arrived in Livingston Montana which is an old railroad town. The old steam trains needed servicing more often than the modern diesels. For this reason stations and service facilities were spaced regularly along the line. The Northern Pacific Railroad ran through Southern and Eastern before heading to Missoula, Montana. Most of the towns that we have traveled through were Northern Pacific towns. Livingston was the big service facility.

Lobby of Murray Hotel in Livingston
Livingston's station was designed by the same architect that designed
Grand Central Terminal in New York City. 
With the increased efficiency of the diesels, a lot of the service facilities were not needed. For some of the smaller towns, like Marmarth, North Dakota, the Northern Pacific and its successors pulling out was devastating. Livingston, being a larger town and being the gateway to Yellowstone National Park seems to be surviving and perhaps even thriving. It has transformed itself from a blue-collar railroad town where people worked for a living to a town that takes care of a wealthy clientele that come to Livingston in order to enjoy the splendor of Montana's big sky country.

Livingston is still the gateway to Yellowstone National Park.

The truth be told, I would be more comfortable in the old Livingston than the new. But at least Livingston is surviving and not drying up and blowing away like so many other cities and towns across the northern Great Plains.

Gateway to the Park

We drove south from Livingston along Highway 89 towards Gardiner Montana and Yellowstone National Park. The scenery is spectacular and it's definitely worth the visit. But I hope when you visit here you'll spend a little time in some of the other small towns that need to find a way to survive and reinvent themselves.

The White crosses along Montana's Highways mark
the point where a fatal accident occurred and are an 
effective reminder to slow down, The more crosses,
the more deaths at that point. 
The survival of the small towns has been a theme that has recurred throughout our trip east on the Lincoln Highway and on our trip west on the Yellowstone Trail. It's not just the small towns and villages of Montana and North Dakota that need to be remembered, it's the small towns and cities throughout the heartland of the United States.

Marmarth North Dakota.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

(47) Homeward!

July 10, 2017
Mobridge, South Dakota to Billings, Montana

Railroad Bridge crossing the Missouri

Earlier  Bridge at the time of the Yellowstone Trail
This morning we crossed the Missouri River at Mobridge, South Dakota. It was a bright clear morning and I took a picture of both the automobile bridge that we were crossing as well as the old railroad bridge. After crossing the Missouri we found ourselves once again in the arid West. We spent the remainder of the day traversing South Dakota, North Dakota and much of Montana.

Automobile Bridge over the Missouri

Missouri Bridges

North Dakota

In North Dakota, we found miles and miles of miles and miles. Our last stop in North Dakota was Marmarth.

The unusual name comes from the fact that the railroad engineer was naming it after his daughter, Margaret Martha. Apparently Margaret Martha would not work as a name of the town so it was shortened to Marmarth. Marmarth has the oldest motion picture theater in all of North Dakota. I believe it is still operating, although much of the rest of the town is not.

Mystic Theatre in Marmarth, North Dakota

At the western edge of the town of Marmarth is the Van Horn automobile Museum. Jim Van Horn has assembled quite a collection of beautifully restored vehicles. In addition to automobiles, Jim collects whatever suits his fancy. At the end of the tour we were treated to an ice cream. It was delicious.
Ford GP prepared for review by Army


Jim Van Horn and part of his collection


We then proceeded into Montana. At the western edge of North Dakota and the eastern edge of Montana we found ourselves in the Badlands. The scenery was not quite as spectacular as that in Badlands national Park, but we appreciated it nonetheless, I'm glad that we don't live there.

Montana Badlands

Montana Bar, Miles City, Montana
Main Street, Miles City Montana

We stopped in Miles City Montana to have lunch at the Montana Bar. My last visit to the Montana Bar was in May, 1974. I went to Miles city with two friends from college who told me that if I wanted to experience Montana culture at its finest I needed to attend The Bucking Horse Sale which is held in May of each year in Miles City.

Bucking Horse Sale, May, 1974
My friends told me that we would probably end up drinking too much and might find ourselves in a couple of fights. To a 19-year-old college freshman this sounded like something I needed to experience. I did end up drinking a bit too much, but managed to avoid the fights.

Bar in the Montana Club
One of the bars I visited in May, 1974 was the Montana Bar. I well remember going to the Bucking Horse Sale. The Bucking Horse Sale is where all the saddle broncs come from for the rodeo circuit. It is basically a big rodeo with horse buyers then bidding on the broncs.

I have fond memories of the Bucking Horse Sale. I remember that Saturday night in May, 1974 that the Montana Bar was very crowded and very noisy. It was difficult to get from one end of the barroom to the other. It was a bit quieter today and today there were actually barstools in front of the bar. No trip to Miles City is complete without a visit to the Montana Bar.

I had a steak sandwich and I felt like they were staring at me.
The walls are decorated with mounts representing the cream of the cattle drives. There is also a bullet hole in a beveled glass window as you walk in the bar. How that window survived, I don't know. The bullet hole was the result of an accidental discharge that occurred when a patron was checking his gun. But it all makes for great fun and a colorful afternoon or evening.

Bullet hole in glass panel
While we were at the Montana Club, I struck up a conversation with Charlie who had spent most of his professional life as a cattle broker. Charlie told me that the Montana Club was a good place to do business. The booths had high walls and it was like being in a soundproof room.

Charlie, a Cattle broker from Miles City
Forsyth Montana to Billings

Thankfully, the road was better than this.

Split Rock, near Big Horn Montana
On the Yellowstone Trail

After Miles city we traveled to Forsyth, Montana and then on to Pompey's Pillar.

Pompey's Pillar along the Yellowstone River
Pompey is the nickname that William Clark gave to the son of Sacagawea. His full name is Jean Baptist Charbonneau. He was born in 1805 and died in 1861. Little Pompey was the youngest member of the Corps of Discovery. He had a front row seat to the making of history through much of the nineteenth century. William Clark saw to it that he got a good education. He died in the second half of the nineteenth century near Jordan Valley, Oregon. Earlier this year, I visited his grave and I'm happy to report that many people visit the grave and leave tributes to little Pompey.

Pompey's Grave near Jordan Valley, Oregon

After Pompey's Pillar we traveled west to Billings. We will spend the night in Billings before moving on to Livingston and Yellowstone National Park. We have debated on where to end this trip. At one time we had planned to go all the way to Puget Sound. However, the need to retrieve our car in California has made that original goal impractical. We decided to end the trip where the Yellowstone Trail originally ended. That is, Yellowstone National Park.