Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Glacier and Selling our Camper!

We arrived back in the lower 48 after being north of the border for 3 months and 18 days. The crossing went without incident and we added a new state to our “Traveled to” map as we had yet to spend any time in Montana since hitting the road fulltime. Since this is the last few weeks of our “Camper Adventure” we are getting ready to list it. I have included some details in the last paragraph for anyone who is interested.
 Because of our accelerated route through Canada we were now 10 days ahead of schedule but our stop at Yellowstone will eat up part of that and now we hope to hit the Tetons and maybe stop at a favorite trout stream for a few days as we pass through Wyoming.

We stopped in Columbia Falls, did laundry, washed the truck and made our way towards Glacier. Since it was later in the afternoon we decided to see if we could find a remote quiet campground outside the park before heading into Glacier.  We saw that there were several National Forest Service Campgrounds just south of Hungry Horse on the Hungry Horse Reservoir.


The first one we stopped at was full but we found a nice site at Lost Johnny Creek Campground ($13/night). There are a total of 6 sites at this campground, nice and quiet with deer walking through the area. Exactly what we were looking for.

This one has it's tongue out!
Our site at Lost Johnny

View from shore
The next day we got up early and headed into Glacier NP. As we approached the check-in station we saw a sign displaying the status of all the campgrounds. About ½ were full already but Avalanche, the one we hoped to stay at still showed availability. Since it was well before check-out time we were pretty confident we would get a site.  We stopped at the Visitor’s Center, Barb got her National Parks Passport stamped, saw that Avalanche still had openings and we headed up the Going to the Sun Highway. As we approached the entrance for the campground we saw the “Full” sign had been posted. Driving each of the loops anyway just in case, we stopped and talked to people who seemed to be packing up only to find out someone had already snagged their spots. I guess “Full” meant full. We did walk the Trail of Cedars since we were there, a short but scenic hike through the cedar forest.
Avalanche Gorge
One thing I will say about Glacier was that it was not nearly as busy as Jasper or Banff. The roadside pullouts were not packed to capacity and the Visitor’s Center was not nearly as crowded. The other thing we noticed is that most of the tourists were English speaking visitors whereas in Canada it seems like they were in the minority. Up there we noticed a lot of European, Asian and Middle Eastern visitors as well as French speaking Canadians. After thinking about it we figured it had something to do with the current status of the Canadian dollar. A lot of tourists from foreign countries are traveling to Canada this year since their dollar is so strong comparatively and the Canadians are not traveling out of country for the same reason.

After striking out at Avalanche we went to Plan B which was to stay at a remote campground on the northwest edge of the park. #1 we like remote and #2 we figured there were be availability there. To get to Bowman Lake Campground you actually have to leave the park on the western edge, drive north about 25 miles and then east again back into the park. The first half of the trip is on paved roads while the last ½ is all gravel. You reenter the park just outside of Pole Bridge and then you take a narrow switchback road 6 miles to the park. Some of the switchbacks were really tight and the road is so narrow we had to pull over if we ran into another vehicle. I personally would not take anything bigger than a very small travel trailer down this road.
Narrow windy road all the up
The 6 mile drive took us about 25 minutes and we arrived at the campground to find it only about ½ full and after getting set up and walking the park we were glad that Plan A did not work out. This place was awesome! Bowman Lake is nestled between mountains on all sides, the water is crystal clear and the area had some great hikes.

More deer right in the campground
Over the next two days we kayaked, hiked and relaxed getting out in the kayak a few times.
Does it get any better than this?

Daisy did not fall in once!
I don’t know what it is with us and hikes but unless it has some significant elevation changes we don’t like to hike them. We discussed this as we hiked the Lower Quartz Lake Trail with it’s 1,200’ elevation change in about 2 ½ miles. About ½ way up I asked Barb why we just didn’t hike the Bowman Lake Trail which only had an 80’ elevation change. Switchback after switchback we headed up the trail taking a breather now and then. At one point we heard a shout down the trail below us and every 30 seconds we would hear it again a little closer and a little closer. Eventually a young girl came jogging up the trail shouting every once in a while as a bear alert. She jogged by us as Barb and I were huffing and puffing. If I could have gotten off the log I was resting on I would have pushed her over just for spite! Determined, we eventually made it to the top. The return trip was much much easier.

One of the many swtichbacks on the way up

Lots of different berry plants along the way

View from the top
Headed back down
We left Glacier the following morning, again vowing to return in the off season so we can do more exploring within the interior of the park. Bowman Lake is a great little campground and I am glad we did it now with the small camper as there is no way to even get close with anything big.

We made our way south as Barb searched our route for free campgrounds along the way. It is amazing the number of free campgrounds in some areas. Montana seems to have more than many states we have been in. Most are State Recreation Areas with campgrounds in them. Most free campgrounds don’t offer a lot of the amenities you get in your fee based parks but it seems like the ones we have run into in Montana do. Picnic tables, fire pits and vault restrooms. Sometimes you have to put up with a cow of two wandering through your campsite but it all adds to the adventure! Our personal criteria for a free site is that is has to be within 5 miles, 10 at the most, of the road we are traveling anyway. After all, it does not make a lot of sense to drive 20 miles (40 round trip) off of your route to save $15-20. With the fuel you burn getting there that just does not add up.

Over the course of the next several days we worked our way south towards Yellowstone staying at free sites along the way. Inez Lake only ¼ mile off highway 83 was a great site where we spent the afternoon swimming and relaxing.
Another site with a view
Of course there is always the Walmart which is what we did in Helena where we stayed for a day while Barb took advantage of the strong WiFi and did some work.  Then it was on to Toston Dam site right on the Missouri River where they have 5 free sites right next to the dam. The water did not look swimmable but we did get out and do some hiking in the surrounding hills.
More Open Range country

It is amazing what trees will grow out of

This little guy was peeking out at me from a stump

A cave I explored on the way up

View from the top, our camper is the little white dot just right of dead center

There's Barbie and Daisy down by the truck!

I climbed to the highest peak on the right side
This was great little spot right on the river and really quiet except for the occasional train. The trains were actually peaceful as well with one coming by every hour or so. That is until it was time to sleep…. A train every hour or so ALL NIGHT LONG!
Our last stop before entering Yellowstone was Carbella BLM Rec. Area off of Highway 89 just north of Yellowstone’s north entrance. This is a dispersed campground situated right on the Yellowstone River. Although there are trees right along the river, it is an open area with sage, cactus and antelope. It was very windy the day we were there but a great place to hang out before heading into the park. I talked to a BLM employee who was doing some maintenance who said that normally this area is packed with campers, tubers and fisherman but all water activity is prohibited right now due to a parasite in the river. We read recently where this is killing a lot of fish in the river as well and hurting the local economy. Hopefully they will get that figured out soon.



Tomorrow we head into the park for 5 days, cannot wait!

We will be listing our camper as soon as we get back to Salt Lake the 2nd week of September. It is a 1998 Lance Legend 945, 11’3” extended cab. Features include, AC, storage tote mounted on top, built in propane generator, microwave, side awning, 3 way fridge/freezer, stove/oven, thermostat controlled furnace, fantastic fan, bathroom/shower unit, power jacks, jack extensions for a dually and lots of storage. It is in great shape and has been stored inside by both previous owners.  We have not had any problems with it whatsoever. We did have a minor drip during a hard rain around the skylight but I sealed everything tight and have not had an issue since. We are asking $6,900, anyone interested can send us a note in our comment section (I will not publish the comment) and we will get back to you.





  1. What a great trip! I sure wish we were going to AK next year, we'd love to buy that camper! I know what you mean about those trail runners. The thought of tripping one may or may not have crossed my mind ;-) Welcome Back!!

    1. One of the first things I thought when she went by was "Come back in 30 years and try doing that". That said, I am thankful that we were on the trail and even able to walk it.

  2. Your adventure continues. Boy have he got a hike for you. Can't wait to sit and laugh with you guys.

  3. So glad we got to share in part of your AK adventure! Thanks for all the info about the trip back down! Continued safe travels! Hope our paths cross again!

    1. It was great seeing you guys! The dog sled adventure you and Barb took was one of the highlights, she really enjoyed it.

  4. Awesome adventure!! Great campsites...they look absolutely perfect!!

  5. You three certainly had a wonderful trip! Thanks for sharing it with us:) If you should return to Glacier NP, make sure you head to the east side. There are so few people and the best trails are on that side. Start at Two Medicine Lake area, then head to Many Glaciers area. You will not be disappointed by the amazing hikes to glaciers and lakes:) Bowman lake is gorgeous:) Yellowstone is my all time favorite park:) Enjoy!

    I'm so glad we have been able to show you the sites in your old work stomping ground, Jim:)

    1. Thanks for the tip on the east side, we were not away you cannot drive through to that side so we were kinda stuck. We did enjoy Bowman Lake however.

  6. Thanks for all of the info on the trip with the truck camper. That camper won't work with our truck, too bad.

  7. Replies
    1. I doubt we will ever get back there but definitely worth it!

  8. Looks like nice free sites you've scored along the way. What an adventure you had in AK, glad we were able to be a small part of it.

    Dave seems to want us to go on high elevation gain hikes, I'm good with that as long as the gain is at the beginning. There are a few runners I've wanted to push off the trail too :)

    Love Glacier NP, still one of our favorites. Best of luck on selling the selling the camper.

    1. Having the small camper was key in getting the free sites. There were some that were big rig friendly but not nearly as many.

  9. You guys sure have found some beautiful camp spots. After living in the camper for so long your 5th wheel is going to feel like a palace!
    Safe travels

    1. We are REALLY looking forward to getting back in the 5th wheel but we are going to miss some aspects of the camper.

  10. Welcome back to the lower 48. Thank you for taking us along with you up to Alaska. I'm sure we will visit and study your journey again and again as we plan our adventure up that way in the years to come. So would you do the same thing again and downsize to the truck camper or would you take the 5er next time up?

    1. Excellent question, Barb and I have talked about this as we plan on going back in a few years (maybe '19). We are glad we took the camper as it allowed us to explore more. When we go back we are thinking of taking the 5th wheel as we won't be exploring. We will only go to Homer for fishing and Fairbanks for family and would take it really easy.

  11. Wow! What a beautiful lake! These are some really stunning shots. I can't wait to visit! We are becoming full time RV'ers in October. We are from MS and trying to figure out where to go first!

    1. It was beautiful there to say the least. As for where to go to first, Texas and Arizona are great places to winter. Florida is nice too but can get expensive. Good luck hitting the road and safe travels!