While Kathy and I were working (volunteering) at the USACE Fort Peck Montana Downstream Campground, we took a few days to visit Glacier National Park. Although we could have driven to the park, we decided it would be fun to take the Amtrak train.
The Amtrak Empire Builder runs daily from Chicago to Seattle and back again. The number 7 train runs westbound through Glasgow Montana at about noon daily and delivers to Whitefish (W. Glacier area) about 9pm.
The return (number 8 train) runs eastbound daily and departs Whitefish at 7:30am arriving back in Glasgow around 3:30pm.
Round trip tickets are $108 each, a rental car (2019 Chevy Malibu) cost us $35/day and the room at a nice new Best Western (w/ king bed, fridge, microwave) was $94/day. Although the trip by train is more than driving in our own car, the trip was far more relaxing and enjoyable.
Riding on the train allows you the opportunity to move around at will from your car to either the lounge car, the panorama view sightseeing car, or the formal dining car. They have sleeping cars too, but we didn’t have an opportunity to see those.
Remember, you can click on any of the thumbnails below to see an enlarged image
Renting the car (with unlimited mileage) we were able to drive just under 600 miles in 2 days seeing both West Glacier and East Glacier. We were not, unfortunately able to take the “Going to The Sun Road” all the way across from west to east because 22 miles of the road were still closed due to not being cleared of snow yet (this was the end of May!). As a result (as you’ll see in the video below) we had to take Route 2 the long way around the bottom of the park from one side to the other.
Thanks for riding along with us on our adventures. Soon after our Amtrak ride to Glacier (celebrating our 45th anniversary) we packed up our coach at Fort Peck and moved on east to our next Workamping/Volunteer gig at Spearfish, SD. Post on our experiences there follows shortly.
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Fort Peck – It’s a small town (about 250 residents) and it’s an Army Corp of Engineers “Project” that includes a dam, a campground, an Interpretive Center, and multiple fishing/boating/hunting recreation areas.
Oh, and I almost forgot … the reason all of the above is here … the Fort Peck Reservoir. The reservoir (man made lake) was formed from the Missouri River, is 135 miles long and has over 1500 miles of shoreline. It was formed in the 30’s when 10,000+ men built the world’s largest earthen dam to provide flood control for lands downstream.
For now, we want to share with you a little about why we are here, how we came to find this job in particular, and take you on a tour of the park and show you some of our duties here.
Kathy and I are volunteers … well, kind of. We travel the country volunteering our time at campgrounds and RV parks in exchange for the rent and utilities on our site. We generally provide the park 12-15 hours a week and they give us a full hook-up (elec, water, sewer) site along with utilities. Sometimes we also receive; laundry money, free WiFi and cable TV hook-up, and discounts on purchases from the camp store or nearby attractions.
This arrangement offers us an opportunity to travel and see the country, meet all kinds of wonderful new people and experience new situations in all kinds of environments that we otherwise would not be able to see and do on our limited budget.
It offers the campground owner/operator free part-time employees for no cash outlay, only the loss of rental income for a couple RV sites that might often be vacant anyway. Another benefit: typically there is no employment contract or agreement to sign – only a handshake agreement. It’s called bartering. And it works well for us and the campground owner.
How we came to show up here ..
We knew that part of our “Bucket List” included a lot of the national parks and monuments out west, so we decided we’d search for jobs in that area.
Although we subscribe, either for a small annual fee or sometimes for free, to many of the Workamping web sites and have our resume’ published on a lot of them, there is also another great source for finding government related jobs and volunteer positions. I logged on to Volunteer.gov and followed the easy instructions to search for Campground Host (volunteer) positions available in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. I filled out the online application and with just a few mouse clicks submitted our app to probably 40 or so parks in that five state area.
Within a week or two we started getting emails and phone calls from campground managers and rangers throughout the 5 state area. We chose to come to Fort Peck because we were already committed to South Dakota for July, August, and September and Ranger Scott here at Fort Peck was willing to work with our schedule. We left our leased RV lot in Casa Grande Arizona on April 1st and showed up at Fort Peck on April 15 just after the snow melted.
It’s been fascinating to learn about the local history. The town of Fort Peck was built by the corp to support the nearly 50,000 people that would come here to work on the building of the dam over the 10+ year period of 1930 to 1941. There were as many as 11,000 men working on the dam at any one time during that period and eight men lost their lives during “the Big Slide” of 1938 and are permanently entombed in the dam to this day.
To learn more about the dam building and how the town and local area and people from far and wide prospered during the depression, I encourage you to follow this link to visit the PBS web site with some great pictures from the era and a video about the building of the dam.
There was a T-Rex discovered here (now on display at the Smithsonian) with a full-size replica here in the Interpretive Center.
Here’s a video that gives a tour of the campground and some of the surrounding area along with a little bit of what we’ve been doing at the park these first couple of weeks.
Thanks for riding along and visiting. We’re having fun and intend to keep posting to share a little of our time here. Please leave any comments below and be sure to subscribe to our You Tube channel so you always get the latest videos as soon as they are published. I usually try to make the videos available here via the blog as well.
Until next time, best wishes to you and yours from HerbnKathy