White Sandy Recreation Area

White Sandy Recreation Area

What can beat Yellowstone National Park?   How about taking a couple of weeks off?  We are doing exactly that, at White Sandy Recreation Area near Helena Montana.

Relaxing at White Sandy

Driving over the rise between Helena and White Sandy Recreation Site where the Missouri River and Prickly Pear Creek meet we are struck by the beauty of the mountains and the river.  It’s a small campground.  There is a state campground to the left and on the right is the BLM campground on the river – both with a couple dozen campsites each.  BLM is a first come first serve and we were lucky in hitting this mid week and only about 5 sites had been taken.  Out site is right on the Prickly Pear Creek.

A planned two day lay-over turns into 13 days of pretty peaceful respite. We are working on a few blog and video segments in between exploring, sleeping and reading.  On the 4th of July it gets busier on the river, with some fireworks and the ‘Eyes of Lola’ drone catches some of the action.  As the fireworks are not that close by, it hasn’t affected the dogs as it has in the past.

Dry Camping at White Sandy

White Sandy Recreation Site is located where the Prickly Pear creek meets the Missouri River.  There are no hook-ups for water, electricity or sewer.  There is water available, but it is a rusty brown from the iron in the water oxidizing.   Since we originally only planned to stay for 2 days, we arrived at the campground with about 25 gallons of water.  Now that we are staying longer than our original plans, we need more water than we came with.  After talking to the camp hosts they advised either getting water at the state campground or a private campground nearby.  We couldn’t find the water at the state campground, so called the Sinclair service station we passed at the exit from the interstate.  They have potable water, so we ran down to the Sinclair service station and to get fresh water and propane.  Fortunately it’s only a few miles away.

Water at Sinclair

The Sinclair station has a nice grocery store with Montana Ham products!  Sure smells good, but we restrained ourselves and only got some delicious bacon.  The water is good – the same as they use for their popular drive-by coffee kiosk outside of the store.  To get water, we block one side of the kiosk, but they are fine with that.  No charge for the water fill-up, but we get coffee and give a nice tip.  They also have a dump station for RV’s too; along with propane (which we also filled up) and good access for RV fill-ups.

With fresh water and our solar panels we are set!  We did run the generator on the 2nd night because we need to run the generator a couple of hours at least once a month.  Perfect timing because it is warm and it gave us an opportunity to cool the inside of Lola that evening.  We ran the generator on night 12 also – again so we could run the A/C for an hour before turning in.

Solar – We Got Sun!

So how’s the solar working?  In an environment where there is abundant sunshine, clear skies and long days the Solar and Lithium batteries work fantastic.  We cooked using the oven, ran the inverter to work on our computers to edit videos and in general keep all the gadgets charged.  We watched TV, some previously recorded shows and Blu-Ray each day as we vegged out.  A few days that had some clouds, our batteries drained a bit more; but the next day we were busy exploring and the batteries recovered.  <click here for our Solar Installation etc.>

White Sandy Video

Here’s our first White Sandy video using ‘Eyes of Lola’ our Mavic Drone. 

Helena – Montana’s Capitol

After a week of snoozing and relaxing we hit the road in the toad and drive to Helena, the capitol of Montana. We head into the capitol building.  It was pretty chilly out and windy, but made it into the building where it was nice and warm.  Since it is summer recess, the hallowed halls of the legislature are quiet.  Other than a few staff members it is like going into a church – we even looked for the mice!  After lunch in downtown Helena, we head back to the dogs so they can swim in the Prickly Pear creek.

The Falls at Great Falls

Next we drove up to Great Falls to check out The Falls at Great Falls on the Missouri River.  The Missouri River is the longest river is the United States.  Even this far northwest, it is wide and strong.  It is a bit of a challenge to figure out exactly how to get to the falls themselves, but we manage.  That itself is surprising because the town is named after the falls so you would expect better directions.  The falls are not real high, but are wide and an impressive amount of water flows over the dam and then over the falls.  A small parking log faces a small bridge going to a small island with picnic areas and 1950 era displays of modern electric kitchens!  What a hoot. There is also historical markers for the Lewis and Clark expedition that made there way here in 1805. Besides the falls, the major feature here is the dam that is just a little upstream from the falls, and the power station there.

On the way back we stop at the Adel Mountain Volcanic Field on the way back to White Sandy.  

Helena and Great Falls Video



The nights are dark, with just a few lights around some of the RVs – perfect for getting the telescope out.  We also got the camera out to get some pictures of the Milky Way.  I forgot the techniques of getting Milky Way pictures and my star stacking program (Deep Sky Stacker) didn’t work; but still got some pretty good shots. Astrophotography  It’s nice warm weather at night for star gazing.

Happy Trails!

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