After the Gravelly Range and Twin Bridges I was heading home. On the way home I had two nights reserved at the Horse Prairie Cabin.
I had been wanting to go to the Gravelly Range for a few years. I was in the area last year but skipped it due to wild fires on the north end. This trip I would make it; however, not as planned. And the wildflowers… would my gamble on the dates picked to see the wildflowers pay off? I drove up the Warm Springs Road.
Last fall when I stopped into the Wise River Ranger Station to ask about road conditions, the ranger started the answer to my question by indicating it was too bad that I wasn’t there earlier to see the wildflowers at Vipond Park. Her statement perked my interested, making me want to come back. This is the trip going back to see the wildflowers at Vipond Park and adding the Gravelly Range to the trip. The plans were hatched in fall. It would be a quick trip; renting forest service cabins seemed to fit the plan for a quick get away instead of taking my trailer. But I needed to rent the cabins when they came available – six months before the arrival date. In December I gambled when I picked the rental days, hoping the days would match the wildflower bloom.
Last week the weather forecast included a day with 3-5 inches of snow on the Gravelly Range. Hum. I am off – wildflowers or not.
After settling into my Mill Creek Campground site I returned to Virginia City the next day. I meander up the Alder Gulch Road south of Virginia City looking for evidence of the old mines. A lot of the land was marked private but the further I drove the ”Private – No Trespassing” signs diminished. It looked to me that the hills are filled with old mines with remnants of old roads dug into the hills. With a gps and hiking boots one could spend days exploring. I was aiming for Union City located at the end of the road. But I didn’t make it to the old city, to keep going it looked like four-wheel drive was required. More adventure than I wanted traveling with only my dogs.
I was off to the Mill Creek Campground east of Sheridan to explore that area. On the way I ran into a cattle drive; using the road as the cattle drive path. The locals were probably annoyed, but I pulled out my camera and enjoyed it. Cattle on both sides of me and crossing in front of me. Plus real cowboys on horses. All made for a tourist like me.
My plans had been to go to the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. I had been diligently watching the weather forecast. The forecasts weren’t promising. Would the road to Red Rock turn to gumbo with rain? Could the place get an early snow and make driving there risky? The Bannack State Park ranger didn’t know about the road and suggested I ask at Lima. I left Bannack driving in snow and hail. Thirty-two degrees was the outside temperature my truck indicated. I believed the snow would stop soon. The weather forecast was for a high of 54 degrees.
It was time to move on. I had been at Maiden Rock for four days. I arrived at Bannack early in the afternoon and found no one in either campground. I had my pick of all the campsites. I found the camp host site and made it mine. There were a total of three of us in the two campgrounds that night. I visited the town and wandered around looking at the building, the wood textures and the outhouses. All the doors are kept unlocked which encouraged me to pause and feel the past.
I had stopped at the Wise River Ranger Station to ask about the condition of the Melrose to Dewey road via the charcoal kilns. The road condition was good the ranger reported. But… how did I feel about being on a single lane road with a shear drop off and potentially lots of backing up if I met someone else driving the road? She described everything I feared. This was a short section of road from the valley floor by the kilns to the high plateau called Vipond Park. She thought there wouldn’t be much traffic on the road, but it was bow season now so?
Off I drove the next morning from my camp site at Maiden Rock (west) fish access site to the charcoal kilns.