Monday, August 29, 2016

Want to See Wildlife? Visit the National Bison Range!!!

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While camping in Kalispell we read about a place to visit that was a long drive south of us.The National Bison Range is one of the oldest National Wildlife Refuges in the United States established in 1908 by Theodore Roosevelt to provide a sanctuary for the American bison. One afternoon we decided to take the long drive and see what all the hype was about. All I can say is what a cool place!

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The National Bison Range has 18,766 acres of fenced land making it perfect to support 300 to 400 Bison. With many calves born each year the surplus bison are removed when necessary during a yearly roundup and normally relocated to other Bison herds to ensure genetic diversity. This wonderful place is not only home to Bison as there are many other species of wildlife here including Grizzly and Black Bears, Elk, Pronghorn and Bighorn Sheep.

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When we arrived at the refuge we visited the very helpful staff at the visitor center who provided a map for the auto loop tour highlighting areas where we should see wildlife.  The refuge is one of the largest remaining tracks of intermountain grassland and the first animal I spotted was a coyote running up a grassy hillside.. Not too far from where we saw the coyote we saw some Bison, the largest North American land mammal in existence. There were also a lot of young calves in the herd as well. We got pretty close in our car to some of these huge beasts and could really appreciate their size from this view.

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Driving a little further on the loop we climbed to a high point where there were great scenic views of the Flathead River in the valley down below. We spotted both Mule deer and Whitetail deer further down the road but the Mule Deer were really abundant on this day. We stopped at the highest point to hike the short trails. There are only two trails allowing visitors to get out of the car onto the range so we took both trails and ate lunch while on the top of the hill.

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As we started down the hill we were told to watch for Bighorn sheep in this area and we were rewarded with spotting two full horned male sheep lying in the tall prairie grass. They certainly are impressive animals with their circular horns outlining the side of their faces. As with the Pronghorn it easiest to spot them by looking for their white butts!

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Before traversing back down by the river we saw a few Pronghorn Antelope who were also lying in the grass in the heat of the day. Although it was a mild day many of the animals were lounging while awaiting cooler temperatures.

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We also saw one more Bighorn Sheep very close to our car, how cool!!! Near the river as we continued on we saw about four Elk moving through the woods. I was only able to snap off one photo (and not a very good one) but it was fun seeing these large animals for the first time in a very long time.

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Although we didn’t spot any bear we were certainly pleased with our wildlife sightings that day. We decided we need to make a return trip as this may be the best park to easily see wildlife than any we have visited to date! What a great day visiting another of our national treasures on our road of retirement…


NOTE: We are in Kalispell Montana until September 12, 2016. Then we will head over toward Spokane Washington most likely…

Friday, August 26, 2016

Hiking to Twin Lakes in Jewel Basin MT…

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A couple of years ago while staying in Kalispell our friend Bernie took us on a great hike to Mount Aeneas in the Jewel Basin Hiking Area. We also discovered a grueling uphill hike to Strawberry Lake in the Jewel Basin on our own. This year our new friends Larry and Nancy wanted to take us on a hike once again in the beautiful area known as Jewel Basin. A great source for information on Jewel Basin can be found here.

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Jewel Basin consists of 15,349 acres of mountainous wilderness with 35 miles of trails but the best part is that there are 27 named lakes here and they are the “jewels” in this wilderness. This is the area locals come to hike while the summer tourists all flock to Glacier National Park. Since this area is exclusively for hikers and campers it is a peaceful place to take in the sights on a warm sunny summer day in this part of Montana.


Larry and Nancy picked us up bright and early (really early for Sharon) and off we went.About an hour later we were well up the long dirt road into Jewel Basin and found the Camp Misery Trailhead for the Twin Lakes Hike. We took what was a steady, but gradual, uphill climb toward the summit. All along the way we ecstatic to finally see some of the elusive huckleberries. We had been skunked this year so far finding nary a berry! But alas along this trail were huckleberries!! There weren't a lot but certainly enough for us to pick some while hiking as a wonderful morning snack!


At the top of the slope we took a small fork trail over to see the Twin Lakes. Wildflowers were everywhere at the top where it is still technically spring and not summer due to the climate. From the Twin Lakes we continued hiking on top of the mountain in a beautiful meadow with scattered stands of subalpine fir. At the end of this trail and before heading down we stopped to sit on a fallen tree to enjoy lunch on top of the world. The views of the Flathead Valley below were impressive from above despite a bit  of smoke haze from faraway fires.


After lunch we started the hike down and all along the way we  picked huckleberries filling our now empty water bottle. Larry and Nancy helped pick berries and by the time we got back to the car we had nearly a quart of these small but explosive flavorful treats. Once back at the RV Sharon whipped up a batch of Huckleberry Macaroons for us all to share while we relaxed outside reminiscing about our great day! Thanks Larry and Nancy!

NOTE: We are in Kalispell Montana until September 12, 2016. Then we will head over toward Spokane Washington most likely…

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Nice Hike in Herron Park, Montana…


While in Kalispell Montana we decided if we mountain hike more than 5 miles we will take the next day off to recover by doing something else or by doing a shorter hike. One day when the temperatures were sweltering (the high was 91 degrees that day) we took off for the cool waters of Flathead Lake in Lakeside Montana. We sent the entire afternoon lounging by the water and enjoying the beautiful scenery. Before heading home for dinner we stopped at Tamarack Brewing Co. for a nice cold craft beer to cap off a great day.

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Another evening at happy hour with our new RV friends and near neighbors, Jerry and Nancy, we were talking about places to hike nearby. We mentioned we were looking for some easier hikes so Jerry and Nancy had some ideas. They lived in Lakeside for many years so they know this area well. They suggested we go to Herron Park and hike the hills there for one of our easier day’s hike.


Herron Park is about 440 acres in size and is owned and managed by Flathead County. Some of the trails spill over into the land owned by the Plum Creek Timber Company and onto an easement provided by John Chase. After a short drive west we pulled into Herron Park and found a trailhead for the horse trail.

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As the name of the trail suggest this trail is for horses as well as hikers/bikers.  Along this mostly open grassland trail we walked along as zillions of grasshoppers cleared out in front of us as we hiked. As we entered the edge of the Ponderosa Pine forested area we continued on  until we turned onto a spur trail to the Plum Creek Road (on an abandoned dirt road). We followed it as we slowly climbed in elevation until we found the Overlook Trail which we followed to the top of the small mountain (about 3850 in elevation).

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At the top, at an area called Foy’s Overlook, we were able to see down into several of the surrounding valleys below, including a valley where Foy’s Lake is located. Foy’s Lake has a brilliant blue color primarily due to its alkalinity and because of the presence of a glacial material often referred to as glacial milk. Whatever the reason the lake is stunningly blue and a wonder to look at from atop the mountain. Also from the top it was fun to watch the hawks soaring over the tree tops…

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As we continued down on the overlook loop trail we heard lots of nuthatches and chickadees. I called up a group of black capped chickadees and some landed within a few feet of me as I continued my “phsssshing” sound to attract them. It was fun seeing these little guys as I have only seen them one other time when I was visiting the temperate rain forests in Northwestern Washington state.

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We kept giving up elevation and found the Direct Route” trail which took us back to our car. We had only planned on about a 2-3 mile hike but Sharon’s mapping app recorded nearly 4.5 miles. Oh well, so much for a down day of hiking…We are certainly enjoying our stay in Montana and are glad we decided to stay for a month as we have lots of plans for more to see!

NOTE: We are in Kalispell Montana until September 12, 2016. Then we will head over toward Spokane Washington most likely…

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hiking the Highline Trail to the Haystack Pass…

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The last time we were visited Glacier NP two years ago we hiked the 11.5 mile trail known as the Highline Trail. That was one really great hike… but also very tiring. We remembered the trail in sections with the first section being from Logan Pass hugging cliffs to the Haystack Pass, then the section from the saddle across mountain meadows to the Granite Park Chalet and lastly the grueling stretch from the chalet downward to the Loop parking area where we caught the shuttle back to Logan Pass to our car.

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This time we packed a lunch and decided to forgo doing the entire 11.5 mile hike and opted instead to hike slowly to the saddle, have lunch and then hike back to Logan Pass. Hiking only a mere 7 plus miles instead of 11.5 sounded better because both of us recalled despising that last four miles of the longer hike which was pretty much straight downhill through a previously burned forest. We didn’t find that last section fun nor very appealing.

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The trail seemed to have more people on it this year but they thinned out as we hiked beyond the first mile and even more so before we reached the second mile. The scenery on this hike was simply breathtaking as the timber gave way to sub-alpine flora. Wildflowers were fairly abundant but not nearly as prolific as when we last hiked this trail in the month of July. The bear grass which was so magnificent in our July 2014 hike had already finished flowering for the most part in August of this year.

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We did see some mountain goats high atop the mountain ridges above our trail and also ran across a lone ruffed grouse who showed us the way on the trail for awhile before wandering off into the brush. As always, when in Glacier, we were staring in wonder at the beauty of such a place and are ever thankful we as a society were wise enough to protect this beauty.

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As we reached the saddle for lunch we enjoyed looking across the horizon and down to Lake McDonald far below. The Going to the Sun road also squiggled like a snake below the trail. Little cars moved slowly toward Logan Pass… Lunch was fantastic at the top and it is always amazing how good a simple sandwich can taste on the hiking trail. Topping it off with a few grapes we finished up and started the slow 3.6 mile trek back to Logan Pass.

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We are glad to be here a month as it will give us time to explore a few new trails but we decided we had to start with some of our favorites while the weather has been so great…

NOTE: We are in Kalispell Montana until September 12, 2016. Then we will head over toward Spokane Washington most likely…