Minimal Budget Travel

Trip Start Jul 01, 2010
Trip End Mar 31, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Montana
Saturday, July 10, 2010

For those of you who want to know how we are travelling on a minimal budget, you can be assured we are. The biggest expense of course is fuel but seeing and sleeping are free for the most part. The beautiful landscapes , cities, towns, people and wildlife are there for all to enjoy. Camping free is easy using FAS (Fishing Access Sites) , FWP (Fish, Wildlife, Parks) , side roads into the hills and for the desperate, Wal-Mart. So far we have tried them all. The FAS and FWP offer up to 14 days free and the sites are lovely. We have enjoyed lake views, mountain views, open range, and marshlands. Each has been quiet and comfortable and often we are alone or nearly so. Sure beats KOA. In Nat’l Parks, such as our stay in Glacier Nat’l we paid $20/nite but considering we have been on the road for 11 days now and have only spent $40 on accommodation, that works out very well on a minimal budget! And if you stop in the small towns along the way you discover fantastic local museums, historic sites and public parks that are all free too. It is the people, farmers markets, local hangouts and little points of interest that truly make up the fabric of this land, not the tourist attractions listed in travel brochures. We highly recommend you give it a try, even in your own locales.

A stop in a tiny town called Stanford, Mt. was a treasure trove of entertainment and information. The free museum was two floors of local history, including a huge star shaped picture frame made from woven straw, largest private collection of salt/pepper shakers, beaver ,bear, wolf (and more) hats and coats and dinosaur bones (Montana is rich in dinosaur bones)and an electric hair wave/curler machine that looked like out of a horror movie, to name a few of the items. There the local forest ranger gave us directions to a gravel road heading southeast through the Snowy Mtns. and out the other end at Lavina. It was the most beautiful and fun way to travel. The road was actually paved the first 10 miles or so and the gravel road was wide, well maintained and easily driven on with little or no traffic. This afforded Aime to see the sights too as he didn’t have to be concentrating on highway traffic.

A few miles down Upper Spring Creek Rd (locals say Crick) we saw a yard sale off in a field and decided to inquire if we were in fact on the right road. Well, this was a yard sale to DIE for! It had the usual clothes, dishes, tools and then it had the unusual…a coffin. Yes, a coffin! Now that is something even you regular garage and yard salers haven’t come across I bet. The people were very friendly and gave us a local road map, information of what to see ahead and wished us a safe journey. Shortly down the road we stopped at a FAS on a lovely little lake and picnicked. Facility had fire pits, picnic tables and toilets and the setting was ideal. It was a preview of the next 2 days travel. (Easily done in a half day but why do that?) Along this road we encountered lots of local wildlife, fantastic 360 degree views and easy, relaxed travel. Incredible rock formations, range land, rattlers, antelope and starry skies are but a few of our pleasures. We camped at UHLHorn Trailhead. Many hiking trails throughout the state also have free camping and provide clean toilets. Montana is cattle country so we had cows along the pasture behind us which brings flies, but no problem. We set up our bug tent and sat in there reading and sipping on our wine, bug free! If you prepare yourselves, travelling in a small camper such as ours can be very comfortable and cheap!

We made a stop in Billings at the public library…another freebie, for wireless internet. (we haven’t paid for internet anywhere, libraries, Mc Donald’s and other fast food restaurants offer it free) Here we check in with the rest of the world on email and try to update our travel blog. Still a learning curve for us so please be patient. I have tried to be short and sweet but today’s blog is wordy just to let other budget travellers know how we are managing. I promise to go back to short and sweet in future blogs.

Outside of Billings, we went to Picto-Cave Nat’l Historic Landmark. For $5 (total) we hiked the prehistoric habitation site to view natural caves with ancient rock paintings. Due to the age, natural erosion and archaeological digs, few of the paintings are visible but interesting none the less. It was 97F so the air-conditioned visitor center was a great place to sit while we planned our onward travels! Drove on highway (yikes) to Hardin where we camped at Grant Marsh (FAS) right along the river, for free of course! It is a birders paradise and the sounds of many different birds woke me by 5 am. If there is a better way to be woken at that hour, I’d like to know. Today we will travel into Hardin (7 miles) and enjoy a large the museum. This area is surrounded by Little Bighorn Nat’l Monument, Custer Nat’l Cemetery, Bighorn Canyon, Yellowtail Dam, and the Crow Indian Nation. Historical bldgs., interpretive centres and re-enactments of Custer’s Last Stand will keep us entertained.

We have decided to not go to Yellowstone Nat’l Park due to the huge crowds, slow traffic and the fact that we have seen all the wildlife it offers (in BC) and the geysers and boiling mud, etc. we saw in New Zealand. We will see it on future trip south for the winter when the crowds are gone, as we know the landscapes there will be captivating and not to be missed.

Thanks for reading this novel of an entry, we look forward to your comments and questions.
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