Cody, Wyoming Camp on the Buffalo Bill Reservoir

My camp above the Buffalo Bill Reservoir near Cody, Wyoming.

My camp above the Buffalo Bill Reservoir near Cody, Wyoming. 

After I got done with the drive through the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, I needed a camp near Cody, Wyoming because I had one more Scenic Drive in the area, the Buffalo Bill Scenic Drive which starts at Cody and heads due West up into the Yellowstone National Park. It’s the last of the five entries into Yellowstone I needed to drive.

I wasn’t familiar with the area at all so I stopped at the BLM Ranger office in Cody and asked about dispersed camping. I explained I wanted to see the tourist attractions in Cody and then drive up the Buffalo Bill Scenic Drive, but I had to have cell and data signal. She said she had just the spot and it was on the Scenic Drive I wanted to take! If you take 14-16-20 West out of Cody in about 15 miles you’ll come to the Buffalo Bill Reservoir and at the west end of the lake you can take a road south and then curve around on Stagecoach Drive and it follows the shore for a long time. It’s a wide dirt road that was a little wash boarded but while I was there they graded it which improved it.

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Looking west at Stagecoach Drive toward Yellowstone.

Much of the way you are alongside the Buffalo Bill State Park mixed in with private property. After a mile or so I was on BLM land so I just started looking for little 2-track road leading off into the sagebrush. I came across one going off to the left toward the lake and it looked really good but it was rather steep. I knew the van could handle it because it was so short. Once over the top it split off into another road and I took the one to the right to get further away from the main road. After a few more up and downs the road ended and it had just enough of a semi-level spot for me to tuck the van into.

There were lots of mice and rabbits for Cody to chase; here he's digging for something.

There were lots of mice and rabbits for Cody to chase; here he’s digging for something.

I was totally in love with this campsite! I had an amazing views of the lake below me, I was far enough off the road I couldn’t see or hear it and I had a great view of the mountains looming behind me and toward Cody. But best of all, had a great Verizon 4g data signal. I had stopped at the Walmart in Cody to get online and I had a better signal in camp than I did there! I liked it enough that I ended up spending about 2 weeks here in-between trips around the area. I could easily spend a summer at this camp because the town of Cody has everything you need to spend extended time there like a well-stocked Super Walmart and plenty of tourist attractions and many beautiful drives within a day’s drive of camp. If you are a fisherman, the Reservoir is stocked and has good fishing and the Shoshone River runs right through the area and has very good fly-fishing.

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There was a small herd of antelope in the area and they were amazingly tolerant of Cody and I. As long as we didn’t try to approach them they just ignored us. I greatly enjoyed having them around! I also ran into a rattlesnake that let me get much too close to him before he rattled. I was easily within 4 feet of him which was close enough for him to strike me. I’ve tried to watch closer for them but they blend into grass and sagebrush so well it’s very difficult to see them.

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One thing I’ve consistently run into in most of my campsites this summer is they tend to be off level making sleeping more difficult, . Some were just a little off-level so I could ignore it, but some were pretty bad and I had to do something about them; this one is also pretty far from level. For a very long time I’ve carried a 10 pack of Camco stacking blocks which are intended to stack under the tires to level the van. Get them from Amazon here: Camco Leveling Blocks – 10 pack

The road leading into my camp.

The road leading into my camp.

I’ve never been very happy with them. They are an inch thick and so if you put two of them together you lift that tire by 2 inches and the van rolls up on them just fine. The problem comes if you need to lift a tire by more than two inches—which I often do! The tire will roll up on two blocks, but it will not roll up on three, instead it just pushes it ahead of the tire or pulls them apart. The solution is to use 3 blocks beside each other and put one block over one joint and two over the next one, which creates a ramp. Generally that will work but you just used 6 blocks of the ten you have and you only gained 3 inches on one tire. What if you need to raise that tire by 5 inches and the other tires also? You’re out of luck!

The Tri-Levelor is in in front and the blocks in back. This is all I have left of the package of 10. Two of them were destroyed and the one on top is warped and won't nest with the others. I', 100% sur if I tried to drive up on that awkward stack they would just fall apart.

The Tri-Levelor is in in front and the blocks in back. This is all I have left of the package of 10. Two of them were destroyed and the one on top is warped and won’t nest with the others. I’m, 100% sure if I tried to drive up on that awkward stack they would just fall apart.

One other problem I’ve had with them is that I almost always camp on Public Land and the ground I’m using the blocks on is rocky and uneven. I’ve broken quite a few of the blocks because the ground was uneven or there was a rock in just the wrong place. When the weight of the van rides up on them, they cracked and sometimes splinter into pieces

Because I have a trailer that I live in, I need to have the blocks to go under the jack up front and the leveling jacks in back, so I don’t regret carrying them, but I have always wanted to find a much better way to level the van. I’m glad to say I finally found it! Get the leveling blocks from Amazon here: Camco Leveling Blocks – 10 pack

I love this thing and wouldn't be without it! It's super easy to level the van and it is virtually indestructible!

When Judy saw mine, she ordered two from Amazon for $15 each. It's as simple as driving up on it until you're level, and then you stop. Super easy!

When Judy saw mine, she ordered two from Amazon for $15 each. It’s as simple as driving up on it until you’re level, and then you stop. Super easy!

Last fall I was in an RV store and came across the Camco Tri-Leveler leveling system. It was expensive but it looked perfect, so I bought it. I’m so glad I did! Because it’s wedge-shaped the tires drive right up on it and I’ve never had it slide away from the tire. The three levels allow you to decide what is the right height for that particular location; if you want it higher just keep driving forward or stop in the middle. Another big advantage it has is that it spreads the weight over a larger surface so it doesn’t sink into the ground like the blocks do. Best of all, it is very strong. I’ve used it virtually every day this summer and it still looks very good.

I’m sure I paid $40 for it at an RV store but as I’m writing this Amazon has it for $15. That’s such a great deal I’m ordering a second one and would encourage you to do the same thing.
Camco Tri-Leveler

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Posted in Boondocking, Camping Locations, Travel, Wyoming

Driving the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway

Looking down from the Dead Indian Overlook on Chief Joseph Scenic ytway.

Looking down from the Dead Indian Overlook on Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. As you can see from the many switchbacks, they’ve managed to keep the grade low so it is an easy drive up it.

In my last post I left West Yellowstone and drove to Cody, Wyoming and drove the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, but the weather was so bad I didn’t get any good photos. If you remember, this is exactly what happened when I drove the Beartooth Highway; I had bad weather on the drive over so I camped at the bottom and drove it back the next day. This was just as pretty a drive so I was willing to do the same thing. After a few more days of bad whether I finally got a pretty day so I headed back down to Cody via the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway.

I left Gardiner, passed through Mammoth Springs and the Lamarr Valley in Yellowstone and then Cooke City in Montana. Roughly 30 miles later you turn to the right and drive Southeast on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. For the most part it’s a beautiful, broad valley with very pretty mountains on both sides that follows the Clarks Fork River. As you wind through the valley there are numerous pullovers where you can stop and get some pictures. I stopped often and I think you will too!

If you're driving east out of Yellowstone, the first part of the drive is in a broad, beautiful valley with many photo opportunities.

If you’re driving east out of Yellowstone, the first part of the drive is in a big, broad, beautiful valley with many photo opportunities.

I didn’t need to camp but there were numerous Forest Roads I could have gone down to find a dispersed campsite so I’m certain there was an abundance of campsites available along the entire drive.

Eventually you come to Dead Indian Hill where you start doing some serious climbing up numerous switchbacks. It’s gorgeous the whole way and the road is never steep enough to be a big problem. RVs will have to put it in a low gear and just muscle their way up it slowly but they shouldn’t have any problem. There are numerous pull-outs all along the way and you are going to want to use them. The view down into the valley below and the mountains across the way is amazing!

The long road to Pilot Mountain from the Chief Joseph Byway.

The long road to Pilot Mountain from the Chief Joseph Byway.

At the top of the pass is Dead Indian Overlook that gives you the best view of the valley below and mountains across the way. It got its name from the Nez Perce Indians led by Chief Joseph who were fleeing from the US Calvary desperately trying to make it to Canada to avoid slaughter and imprisonment at the hands of the monsters who chased them. They had out-fought and out-maneuvered the Army every step of the way but by now they were exhausted and hungry and their numerous women, children, elderly, sick and wounded were nearly at the end of their ropes–they couldn’t keep going much further. At the overlook they left behind one wounded warrior who was going to die anyway to slow down the approaching cavalry. Standing there it’s easy to imagine how one well-armed man could hold off many enemies for a long time. Eventually he was killed and the spot was named after him. Of course an Indian wouldn’t be honored for his bravery by using his name, just “Dead Indian” as in “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

After the Dead Indian Overlook you start a long gradual decline down the east side that's very pretty and has many nice campsites. This is where we stopped for lunch.

After the Dead Indian Overlook you start a long gradual decline down the east side that’s very pretty and has many nice campsites. This is where we stopped for lunch. You can see the High Plain in the far distance.

After the overlook you stay on a high ridgeline and start slowly descending toward the east. Eventually you start to see the vast plains laid out below you and start into the switchbacks the lead down the east side. It remains a very pretty drive all the way down and not all that steep. From the pass down to the east there are several Forest Roads heading off into the National Forest and we pulled off a little ways down one road and stopped for lunch while Cody ran around. It was a very pleasant spot with a nice view down on the plains.

On the drive down on the east side there are several pull-outs where you can stop and take pictures and I stopped at one that was especially pretty with a bright red mountain across from us. As I was taking pictures I noticed a beautiful purple bush a ways down the hill and I thought it would make a nice picture so I walked over and got a bunch of pictures of it.

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The Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River gouged out this deep gorge at the bottom of the climb up to Dead Indian Overlook.

The rest of the way down was uneventful so I headed on to Cody, drove into town and found the BLM Ranger office and asked about a dispersed campsite on BLM land nearby. They were very helpful and directed me to a great spot about 15 miles out of town either on or above the Buffalo Bill Reservoir. I headed out and found a fantastic campsite with very good 4g Verizon signal. I’ll tell you about it in my next post.

Thanks for supporting this site by shopping Amazon from these links. Even if you don’t buy these items, I will make a little from anything else you do buy–and it will cost you nothing! These are some of the things I find very useful in my travels:

I would not be without my Wilson Sleek Cell/Data Amplifier!! With it I get usable Verizon signal nearly everywhere I go. It works with all cell providers and either 3g or 4g. Right now its $101 and that’s the cheapest I’ve seen it in a long time.
Wilson Electronics Sleek Cell/Data Amplifier–4g Kit

I’ve been using this LED light in my van for two years and I have been extremely happy with it. The fixture and LED bulb is only $8 which is less than most replacement bulbs alone. It puts out plenty of light for my van and it’s a pleasant white light.
Gold Stars LED Dome Light Fixture, 150 Lumens, Natural White

In all my photos of the van you’ll see my cargo carrier on the back. I’m very happy with it and have not drug it once on this whole trip. Highly Recommended!!!
Pro Series Hitch Cargo Carrier for 2″ Receivers

On the final descent down to the High Plains and to Cody, WY, I stumbled on these bautiful flowers and got some shots of it.

On the final descent down to the High Plains and to Cody, WY, I stumbled on these beautiful flowers and got some shots of it.

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Cody hunting in the sagebrush around our Cody camp.

Cody hunting in the sagebrush around our Cody camp.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Two Camps on Bad Roads: West Yellowstone, MT

My camp at West Yellowstone with the ton in the backfround.

My camp at West Yellowstone with the town in the background. Great camps like this one are very often along some real bad roads. In this photo I’m parked right by the road. This is the good part of the road and it still isn’t good.

(Because of a silly mistake on my part, this post is out of order. It should have come before my last post which  has me leaving West Yellowstone, MT and going to Cody. This one tells about me getting to West Yellowstone. Oh well, no real harm done.)

After my wonderful time on the Smiths Fork/Greys River Road it was the week of the 4th of July and it was getting hot. One thing I never do is travel on major holidays so I knew wherever I went I was going to spend at least a week there hunkered down from the insane crowds on the roads. To be in one spot that long it had to have 1) internet so I could work from camp and, 2) it had to be relatively cool. Because one of my goals is to drive all the entrances into Yellowstone NP, that pushed the town of West Yellowstone, MT to the top of the list. It was at high enough elevation to be cool and according to the MVUM there was plenty of dispersed camping on the hill to the south of town. I’ve found that if you can get up on a hill and get line-of sight to the town, you almost always have good internet.

My camp at Island Park, Idaho.

My camp at Island Park, Idaho. The clearing is just wide enough to turn around in with several cuts back and forth. I had a good 4g signal and there was a nice creek about 10 feet on the other side of the van for Cody to play in.

Then, after the Holiday traffic goes home, I could drive up US 191 to Bozeman, MT to do some heavy shopping. It has a Walmart, REI and a Smiths grocery store that is owned by Kroegers and I really like it. That road was also on my list of scenic drives to do in Montana so I could check it off my list. Finally, after all that I could drive its entrance into Yellowstone NP.

This will give you an idea of how tight and narrow the "road" is.

This will give you an idea of how tight and narrow the “road” is. The problem isn’t just the branches, an RV would be hitting the trees on both sides of the van.

So my mind was made up, that’s where I was going next. I stopped for gas at Alpine and there was a nice older gentleman filling up next to me and he was towing a 5th Wheel and we got to talking about our travels. He had just come from West Yellowstone and suggested I camp at Island Park, Idaho which is just south of West Yellowstone. He said it was in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest which had an abundance of dispersed camping in a beautiful area. I decided to give that a try and planned to go that way.

At Island Park I stopped at the Rangers office and asked about dispersed camping. He told me about a place that would work and I headed there. At Macks Inn I turned east onto FR 059 and drove until I came to FR 082, the Fish Creek RD. On the way I noticed a very faint trail that headed back into the woods and I decided to give it a try. It was very narrow and overgrown with saplings but I found a nice turn-around spot with enough room to camp. I checked my JetPack and I was getting 3 bars of 4g—I was home!

I stayed there for 2 nights but unfortunately I had foolishly not come with enough ice to last much longer in the heat. I decided that if I had to go into town for ice I might as well head up to West Yellowstone where it would be cooler and prettier. So I broke camp and drove to West Yellowstone.

Like all the small towns at entrances to National Parks, West Yellowstone is a giant tourist trap, but I think it may be more blatantly a tourist trap than any other town I’ve ever been to. There is virtually nothing there but places to buy tourist stuff, restaurants and motels. But, I still liked it none the less. I got my ice and did some shopping then headed up the mountain. Right away I was on a ridge looking down at the town with a strong internet signal, so that was good. But there were few roads and fewer campsites. I found one road about 2/3 of the way up the ridge and headed up it.

The road into my camp above West Yellowstone, MT was very rutted. I would not have tried to take any RV up it. I had no problem for most of it but Cody and I walked another mile or twp higher up it and it got progressively worse. Finally it got so ban my van could not have been able to get through it. However, even then I could have filled in the deep rut with rocks and gotten over it.

The road into my camp above West Yellowstone, MT was very rutted. I would not have tried to take any RV up it. 

Right away the road started to get rough. Obviously it got little traffic and the spring run-off from snow melt had left deep ruts all along the road which had exposed rocks poking through the road.  My van has high enough ground clearance that I’ve driven down many roads like this so it didn’t bother me at all, but if you aren’t familiar with that kind of driving, you could find it frightening.  I found a nice campsite with a great view looking down at West Yellowstone and it had 3 bars of 4g, I was home! The road was rough enough that it got very little traffic and when there was someone on the road they were crawling along and not flying down the road throwing dust and rocks at me and endangering Cody.

I was there for almost a week waiting for the 4th of July to get over and had my mountain lion encounter which I related to you in an earlier post. Finally the nightmare of holiday traffic was over and I left to continue my journey.

What stands out about these two camps was the road I camped on. Anything smaller than a van, like a car or SUV could have driven either road, but nothing bigger–and low-slung cars couldn’t make it without seriously risking their undercarriage. One car did make it up to my camp at West Yellowstone but there’s no doubt that she had dragged her undercarriage numerous times and maybe even did some damage. At Island Park the road was flat and smooth, but it was extremely narrow.

One question I get fairly often is “Can my RV go to the campsites you go to?” Quite simply, an RV couldn’t have driven either of these roads! RVs are too wide and long for Island Park and too low and long for West Yellowstone. When I think about the other camps I’ve been too, I don’t think an RV could make it to most of them. Some, like these two, it would not have been physically possible, but most of them it might have been physically possible but the the average person would take one look and not even consider driving it in an RV, even if it was physically possible.

The biggest problem with most RVs is the waste tank dump valves–they are usually far in the back and very low–a terrible combination when it comes to bad roads. The ruts and rocks on many roads I drive on seem to be spaced perfectly to rip them out from under an RV!

Nothing bigger than my van could have driven down this road. My front tire is 6 inches from a tree and the opposite rear tire is less than a foot from a tree.

I’m almost always willing to head down a marginal road because if I come to a spot that I’m afraid to go over, I can always just put it in reverse and back out. It’ll take time and be tedious, but it’s no big deal. However, if it’s an RV that just barely fits then it goes from being a minor inconvenience to a major hassle, a hassle I’m not willing to put up with.  If I were pulling my trailer, it would be much worse!! I never just head down a narrow forest road while towing a trailer!

This is my MV 30 re-inflating my tire. I now have a MV 50 which is a little more powerful. They are both 12 volt and are powered by your battery

Another reason I go down bad roads is I’m confident if I do get stuck or get a flat back there I can probably get myself out. Here are some ways I do that:

  • Fixing a low or flat tire: I always have Fix-a-Flat with me! It’s an aerosol can that both inflates and fixes your tire. I’ve had great luck with it and never go anywhere without it! Neither should you! You do have to alert the person fixing the flat that you used it, but it will get you back to him! Get it from Amazon here Fix-A-Flat Aerosol Tire Inflator for Large Tires
  • Air down your tires: Nothing will help as much as airing down your tires to either 15 or 20 pounds, or even lower. Very often that’s all you need to do to get unstuck. But then you have to re-inflate your tires and I always carry a MV 50, 12 volt compressor for that. I recommend you do as well. Get it from Amazon here:  MV50 SuperFlow High-Volume 12-Volt Air Compressor
  • Carry a “Portable Tow Truck”. I love these things; they are long pieces of plastic that you wedge under your tires and then you can get unstuck. They work! The nubs on one side dig into the ground and the nubs on the other grip the tire. Highly recommended! Get it from Amazon here:  Portable Tow Truck

Thanks for supporting this site by shopping Amazon from these links. Even if you don’t buy these items, I will make a little from anything else you do buy–and it will cost you nothing!

This is my “Portable Tow Truck.” I’ve used it to get unstuck before.

Posted in Boondocking, Camping Locations, Travel

Onward to Cody, Wyoming

It would have been much faster to rive straight through Yellowstone NP, but I hate the traffic so I avoid it. I also needed to shop at a Walmart so going aorund made sense.

It would have been much faster to drive straight through Yellowstone NP, but I hate the traffic so I avoid it. I also needed to shop at a Walmart so going around on the Interstate made sense.

After the 4th of July it was time to get back on the road and see more of Wyoming. Since one of the things I am trying to do is drive all the entrances into Yellowstone the logical next step was to drive the remaining ones and the closest one was the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway which starts in the Wyoming plains just north of Cody, Wyoming and drives up into the mountains and ends at the Beartooth Highway. It has a strong reputation as a beautiful drive and also has a lot of history to it since Chief Joseph passed this way trying to escape from the horrors of civilization and to protect his people from being slaughtered.

I also needed to find a Walmart to stock up after being on the road and camping for awhile so I decided to go north to Bozeman, MT, do my shopping and then take Interstate 90 across to Laurel, MT and then drop down to Cody. I’ve been trying to avoid the freeways, but in this case it was either that or drive through Yellowstone NP again and I did not want to do that—Yellowstone is just too frustrating for me. I also needed to drive up US 191 from West Yellowstone to Bozeman to report on the road so that left me no choice but take the Interstate.

My Pryor Mountain Rd. camp on BLM land.

My Pryor Mountain Rd. camp on BLM land.

Highway 191 is a very pleasant drive! It’s not a dramatic mountain climb but you do pass through some very pretty mountain valleys as you follow the Gallatin River. You are actually in Yellowstone NP for a few miles, but it’s the least pretty part. It’s a wonderful drive and if there weren’t so many other spectacular drives into Yellowstone this would be a very highly recommend route. Being at the bottom of the list of entrances to Yellowstone doesn’t mean it’s not a great drive, it just means the others are some of the best anywhere in the world!

From Bozeman across on the Interstate is okay, for awhile you have mountains on both sides of the freeway, but as you travel east they get further away and smaller until you are finally in the high plains. I stopped and ate at Laurel, MT and got online as well to answer emails and check the forum. From there I turned south on 310 to Cody, WY. By then it was getting late and I needed to find a camp for the night so I could get into Cody early in the morning.

Much of Wyoming is High Plains which is sagebrush country, like you see here. But as it gets closer to the many mountain ranges it gets progressively more hilly and then mountainous. Much of it is BM land so finding a nice campsite is usually easy.

Much of Wyoming is High Plains which is sagebrush country, like you see here. But as it gets closer to the many mountain ranges it gets progressively more hilly and then mountainous. Much of it is BLM land so finding a nice campsite is usually easy.

So I got out my DeLorme and Benchmark Atlas of Wyoming and looked for public land along the way and close to Cody. I found the Pryor Mountain Road which went east just south of Bridger Montana. It passed through intermittent BLM land and ended in the Custer National Forest. I was confident I could find a good campsite either on BLM land on the way and if I couldn’t I could camp in the National Forest.

I was right, I found a really nice campsite a few miles back that I enjoyed a lot! It had a really nice little creek flowing close by and hills to climb with great views. If it had internet I would have stayed for awhile, but alas, no internet. The Pryor Mountains are home to a Wild Horse refuge that has some of the oldest existing bloodlines in the country—some have DNA going back to the original horses brought here by the Spanish in the 1500s. I’ve been hoping to get up there but it’s looking like it may not happen.

This is the area right above my camp, I thought it was very pretty. The streak of green that cuts diagonally through it is a very pretty little creek that Cody loved!

This is the area right above my camp, I thought it was very pretty. The streak of green that cuts diagonally through it is a very pretty little creek that Cody loved!

The little creek near our camp.

The little creek near our camp.

The next day I drove into Cody, looked around for a few hours and then drove the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. Unfortunately, as the day went on the weather grew worse and by the time I was up on its pass, the weather was very poor and I couldn’t get any good pictures. It was a truly spectacular drive and I really wanted to get some photos of it so I decided to drive through Yellowstone and back to my Gardiner camp and wait for a clear day to turn around and drive back to Cody through the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. I’ll cover that in my next travel post.

The weather was very bad as I drove the chief Joseph Scenic Byway so I didn't take any picture. But after I entered Yellowstone I got a very pretty rainbow. Here is a shot of it over the Yellowstone River

The weather was very bad as I drove the chief Joseph Scenic Byway so I didn’t take any picture. But after I entered Yellowstone I got a very pretty rainbow. Here is a shot of it over the Yellowstone River

There are two good thing about all the bad weather I’ve been in this summer, the first is it has cooled it off before it got too hot and the second is I’ve gotten a lot of really nice rainbow shots. As I was driving through Yellowstone toward Gardiner I got some nice shots of rainbows and then when I got into my Gardiner camp I got some more.

In my next post I’ll cover my trip back to Cody through the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and include photos from it.

Thanks for supporting this site by shopping Amazon from these links. Even if you don’t buy these items, I will make a little from anything else you do buy–and it will cost you nothing!

I love this flashlight, it is staggeringly bright at 1000 Lumens. It’s the brightest I’ve ever seen
Duracell Durabeam Ultra 1000 Lumens Flashight
Since I hike a lot, I carry this monocular and highly recommend it because it’s light, rugged, sharp and works very well:
Vortex 8×25 Waterproof Monocular
I really like carrying a printer, I don’t print often, but when I need to I really need to. I just didn’t have room–until I found this Canon portable printer. It’s a little bigger and thicker than a laptop and has worked perfectly for me!
CANON PIXMA iP110 Mobile Printer

I got another nice rainbow as I was climbing up from Gardiner, MT to my camp.

I got another nice rainbow as I was climbing up from Gardiner, MT to my camp. You can see I am right at the transition zone between sagebrush and mountain forests.

Posted in Camping Locations, Montana, Photography, Travel

Join me at the Festival of the Cranes; Bosque del Apache NWR

The Sandhill Cranes of Bosque del Apache NWR.

Last year I went to the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache NWR and had such a great time I am planning on going again, this year–and maybe every year for the rest of my life! You can see my posts about that experience here:

If you are interested in Birding or in Bird Photography, then you may want to join me. The main draw for me was all the photography classes they offered, but if you just love birds and aren’t interested in photography there are still many classes you’ll be glad to take. See the entire list of classes here:  http://www.friendsofthebosque.org/crane/2015schedule.html

One of the classes I took last year was star photography at the VLA, where I took this shot. It was such a wonderful time, I’ll take the class again this year!

There are many classes for photographers, but there are many that anyone could enjoy, these two classes stand out for everybody:

  • Point & Shoot Nature Photography: $25  Serious nature photography is no longer the sole domain of the well equipped DSLR photographer. As thousands of photographers have discovered over the past few years, today’s long zoom Point and Shoot digital cameras, in the hands of a thoughtful and creative photographer, are capable of amazingly satisfying images of everything from birds and wildlife, to macros of wildflowers and insects, to grand landscapes and sweeping panoramas under dramatic skies…all in a relatively small, compact, and inexpensive package. This workshop provides a basic introduction to the cameras (including how to choose the best one for your needs) and techniques that put nature photography within the reach of anyone with the desire to share what they appreciate in the natural world. Part inspiration and part instruction, it will convince you that it is indeed possible to be a “real” nature photographer with a Point & Shoot camera.  Limit 20.
  • Deadly Beauty Behavior: $30 Live raptors in the field! Explore the strategies that hawks and falcons use to catch their prey and raise their young with falconer, raptor breeder, and wildlife rehabilitator Matthew Mitchell. Trained hawks and falcons will be released to fly, chase lures, and possibly even hunt wild quarry (viewers be warned!). This group will meet at the west side of the Owl Café in San Antonio at 8:00 AM and carpool a short distance to an area where the birds can be flown safely. Bring your questions and binoculars. Cameras are allowed, but no dogs, please.  Limit 30.

Last year I decided to go at the last minute so when I went to sign up for classes, many were full so I couldn’t take them–I’m not going to let that happen again this year! Registration for classes starts on September 8th for members of the Friends of the Bosque, and September 9th for non-members and I think I’m going to join just to get the 1 day head start!

The reason I’m posting this now is to invite you to join me in camping near the Bosque. Whether you just want to  camp with me on BLM land,  take a quick tour of the NWR, or even take some classes, it won’t cost much and you can travel with me on the way to Quartzsite. Here are some answers to questions you may have:

When is it? November 17-22, 2015. I’d prefer to avoid being there on the weekend but I think there is a class on Saturday I would like to take so I may be there until then.

Will we have to pay for camping? No,  I found a great, free campsite on BLM land about 10 miles north of the refuge. It even had decent internet. There is a $5 a day or $15 yearly pass to get into the Refuge. If you have the $80 Interagency pass like I do, or a federal senior or disability pass, you  can get in free. Get a Benchmark Atlas of the State from Amazon here: Benchmark New Mexico Road & Recreation Atlas

What will the weather be like? Last year the whole country was shivering in a deep freeze including the Refuge. It was very cold, down to the low teens every night. So come expecting and ready for very cold weather and if it’s warm you’ll be grateful. I recommend the Mr Buddy Heater from Amazon: Mr. Buddy 4,000-9,000-BTU Indoor-Safe Portable Heater Be sure to get the Mr. Buddy filter to go along with the heater: MR Buddy Fuel Filter

Will it be crowded? I had worried about that last year but there were no crowds at all. But I didn’t stay until the weekend so it may get worse, but I doubt it will be unpleasant. This year I am planning to stay through the weekend.

Is there nearby shopping? There is a Walmart in Socorro, NM about 19 miles north of the Refuge.

Will I see many birds? Tons! To identify Birds this is one of the very best Field Guides, get it from Amazon here: National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America,

Is there anything else to do? It’s New Mexico, there’s plenty to see and do! I highly recommend this Photography Guide to New Mexico! I own it and wouldn’t go there without it! Get it from Amazon here: Photographing the Southwest: Volume 3–Colorado/New Mexico
Things that are fairly close by are:

  • Very Large Array radio-telescope
  • White Sands National Monument
  • Carlsbad Caverns NP
  • Gilla Cliff Dwellings NM
  • Petroglyphs
  • Roswell Aliens
  • Billy the Kid History
  • Ghost Towns

Where is it? The Refuge is 19 miles south of Socorro, NM and 96 miles south of Albuquerque, NM on I-25.

Map-Bosque-Apache

If you are interested in joining me let me know.

Photographing the Southwest: Volume 3–Colorado/New Mexico
National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America
Photographing Birds: Art and Techniques
New Mexico Road & Recreation Atlas
Mr. Buddy 4,000-9,000-BTU Indoor-Safe Portable Heater
MR Buddy Fuel Filter

Come “land” at the Festival of the Cranes with me!

A star trail shot from the VLA.

 

Posted in Travel

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