Recently retired and ready to spread their wings, Len and Faith Todd wanted to do more with their time than just wait for the grandkids to stack up. Avid travelers, they purchased a Toy Hauler with the expressed purpose of doing some snowmobiling in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula … but another motivation waited, unspoken. Tour Alaska. Trip of a lifetime. They waited. They researched. They prepared. In late June 2009, the trip of a lifetime began. During the trip, Faith and Len blogged about their adventures and kept a growing audience of friends and family rapt with attention and not a little bit jealous. This chapter covers August 16th – August 18th, days 48 – 50 of their adventure.
When you have been looking out your window at the Canadian Rockies for days, the roads in the northeastern part of the Big Sky State can seem quite monotonous. They are long, flat and stretch forever into the horizon. Then, suddenly, the view changes from open plain to large, alien-looking stone formations. Without warning, we had driven into Hell.
Hell Creek Formation, that is. This amazing grouping of sandstone monoliths that jut up out of the countryside near Jordan, Montana are said to mark a spot where, according to those “in the know”, a huge asteroid struck the earth 65 million years ago. Hell Creek is one of the richest fossil sites in the United States. Fossil fragments of many prehistoric birds, fish and reptiles – including crocodiles, sharks and rays – have been found here. Many dinosaur fossils have been discovered in and around the sandstone formations as well, including such luminaries as triceratops, pterosaurs and, the king of the dinos, tyrannosaurus rex.
We stopped that night at Fort Peck Lake in Fort Peck, Montana. The largest body of water in Montana, at 134 miles long and 220 feet deep, seemed the perfect place to sit a spell and unwind a little. The 1,520 miles of shoreline offers plenty of places to park.
Surrounded by the lush Russell National Wildlife Refuge, the “lake” is actually a reservoir that was developed between 1933 and 1937 after a four-mile-long dam was built across the mighty Missouri. As you might expect, the lake is a hot fishing spot. Trout, pike, paddlefish, bass, Chinook salmon and walleye are there for the taking. If you are hauling your own boat, there are several marinas with concrete boat ramps. But fishing isn’t the only draw around Devil’s Lake. There are millions of acres of public land ripe for hunting, hiking, camping and other outdoor activities. There is one caveat if you are planning on a trip to Russell Refuge or Devil’s Lake: check the weather. The roads deep within the park are nearly all dirt and, during wetter weather, they can become impassable. In short, check before you head in, or you might not be heading out any time soon.
This was just the back-to-nature break from the road we needed. Tuesday morning found us happily back in the driver’s seat. Leaving Montana behind, we headed into North Dakota.
Fairly flat highways splitting amber waves of grain might seem like easy riding … and it would have been except for all the road construction. Yes, this is a reality anywhere you travel, one of the extremely minor annoyances of the RV lifestyle but it’s hard not to groan every time you see those telltale orange cones and barricades in the distance.
After one particularly LOOOOOOOOOONG stretch of C-Zone, 13 miles to be exact, we stopped and asked a worker the obvious question: “WHY SO LONG?” She smiled and answered: “Not sure, but I get asked that a lot.”
Then again, she must have been thinking: “who are you to complain with your RV and your canoe, your bikes and your freedom … I’m standing here in the sun all day holding a flag.” Three cheers for the RV lifestyle, construction zones and all, and for books on disc, the salvation and entertainment for long stretches of empty highway traveled through construction zones.
That night we again accepted the hospitality of Old Scratch – this time at Devil’s Lake, North Dakota. Does he own everything up here? Well, no matter if it’s the devil or Daniel Webster holding the deed, the sunsets up here are to die for. Purples and pinks to set the heart racing…and not a hint of fluorescent orange.
I wonder what colors we will use to paint our adventure tomorrow?
Chapter 1: Dude—No Way!
Chapter 2: Celebrating Our Independence
Chapter 3: Exploring Black Hills and Plush Valleys
Chapter 4: Rodeos, Rivers, and Bears—Oh, my!
Chapter 5: Big Fish and Bigger Sky (Wyoming and Montana)
Chapter 6: On the Fly in Wyoming
Chapter 7: Glacier National Park & A Glimpse of the Great White North
Chapter 8: Yukon Get There From Here
Chapter 9: Alaska … Roads, Rain and Rabbits
Chapter 10: Seward’s Glory
Chapter 11: Not Just for the Halibut
Chapter 12: Mountain and Flame
Chapter 13: Fairbanks, Loonies & The Road To Destruction
Chapter 14: Icefields, Parks and Canada in the Rearview
Chapter 15: Reservoirs, Dinosaurs & the Devil’s Playground
Chapter 16: Superior Views & Yooper Trails
Chapter 17: The Adventure Continues
RV-Friendly Campsites near Fort Peck Reservoir
Located just below the Fort Peck Dam and alongside the Missouri River, Downstream is class A all the way. Amid the cottonwoods you will find 86 campsites, most with electrical hookups. There are no water hookups, but potable water is available to fill tanks. Additional amenities include hot showers, flush toilets, vault toilets, an RV dump station, firepits and picnic shelters. Activities offered include volleyball, horseshoes, fishing, hiking and a playground.
Season of operation is May 1st – October 30th. For reservations, call 1.877.444.6777.
West End Campground
This area located on the west side of Fort Peck Dam is divided between a recreation area and a campground. All campsites overlook Fort Peck Lake. Amenities include hot showers and flush toilets, paved sites with electrical hookups, picnic tables and campfire rings. There are no water hookups, but potable water is available to fill your tanks. Pets are allowed here. Activities include bird watching, cycling, kayaking, boating canoeing and fishing. You can obtain fishing licenses, bait and fuel at the nearby marina. Season of operation is May 25th – September 5th. For reservations, call 1.877.444.6777.
RV-Friendly Campsites near Devil’s Lake
Near Six Mile Bay, this park offers spectacular sunsets, scenic views and great fishing. You can catch walleye, bass, perch and pike – even from the dock! Bayview is located eight miles west of Devil’s Lake just off Highway 19. Call or email at firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations or more information.
7414 46th ST. NE Devils Lake, ND 58301
1.701.662.3961 or 1.701.351.5002 www.bayviewrvdevilslake.com
Located on the east shore of Devil’s Lake this campground offers 50 overnight and 138 seasonal campsites. Water and electric (20, 30 and 50 amp) are available at these sites. The seasonal sites also offer sewer hookups. Other amenities include a dump station, fire pits, picnic tables and firewood – available at the camp store. This camp is all about water activities. Two concrete boat launches are available and staff will even help you launch should you need assistance.
3892 Eastbay Road Warwick, ND 58381
Jan’s RV Park
This campground lives up to the claim of being “right smack dab in the middle of it all.” It is located on Highway 2 between Devil’s Lake and Rugby, the geographical center of North America. The site offers 20, 30 and 50 amp power as well as full water and sewer hookups. Early and late season campers may take advantage of their thermal water hookups.
500 2nd Avenue SE Leeds, ND 58346