Sunday, September 10, 2017

Montana Road Trip

Our other adventure this summer was a road trip all the way from Maryland to Montana! Its been way too long since I was out west, and we made it a road trip so we could bring the dogs.

I used to love driving through the Western US when I lived there, because every trip through New Mexico or Oregon or Colorado is full of public lands, incredible scenery, and great places to hike and camp. The problem though when you live in the east is that to drive through those places, you have to first drive through some places that are less stunning. 

To break up the monotony of the Midwest, first stop was Indiana Sand Dunes State Park, where Lake Michigan feels like the ocean and you can just barely see Chicago on the other side.

The first two days were still rough, so it was a relief when we finally crossed the border into Montana and saw our first sage. 

That smell just transports me back to when I was a young, wild woman living in a cave in Moab, or in a little place in Santa Fe. 

Florian did most of the driving, but Fozzie loved it when I took over so those two could cuddle up in back.

It was a relief to finally pull into Missoula and our little rental, on a hill outside town. What I love about towns like Missoula is the easy access they provide to getting outdoors. The Clark Fork River runs right through the center of town, so we didn't waste much time before we got the dogs down there for some stick-based recreation. 

There are also lots of trails just outside town. 

Including in the Rattlesnake Recreation Area, where we went for a gorgeous hike through the fragrant ponderosa pine forest,

along a stream 

and then steadily uphill until we were too tired to climb anymore. 

Some of our time in Missoula was spent just enjoying walks along the river or through town with my cousin and her fiance, who live there, 

getting ice cream cones for the dogs.

We had a great time at our rental, making dinner with a couple of Florian's dance friends who live in Missoula, 

Watching the Lolo Peak fire in the distance, which is still burning along with the rest of the Western US.
You can't go to Montana without seeing the amazing national parks in the area, although national parks are not as dog-friendly as most other public lands. 

So we drove through National Bison Range, a kind of spooky expanse of rolling grasslands where we saw one bison. That bison seemed extremely happy, as at one point he lay down and proceeded to roll around on his back in the dust, hooves flailing in the air. Just like certain dogs we all know about. 

Bison Range was on the way to Glacier National Park, 

which we once again drove through to take in all the stunning sights. 

We did have lunch in the park, enjoying some nice grounding bread 

after eating wayyyy too many Flathead cherries all morning.

We had to leave the park to get in a good walk with the dogs though, but the Flathead River was perfect and right outside the park.

When we returned that evening I went out to have a beer with my old coworker who's working on the fire, 

and I knew Florian and the pups would have a blast at home with the huge TV.

They watched Pit bulls and parolees. 
We left Missoula on the day of the eclipse, after we had brunch with our friends in the park 

in the strange dark, cool morning.

The most stunning was yet to come! You hear about how amazing Yellowstone is but nothing quite prepares you for being there.

Everywhere you look there are steaming geysers erupting from the earth,

multicolored landscapes of mineral deposits and rock

as you walk along the wooden pathways built by the NPS to keep park visitors from being burned alive in the boiling springs

So magical. 

It was really an otherworldly landscape, 

and even more surreal when we got caught, more than once, in a traffic jam occasioned by bison walking along the road, 

taking their sweet time. 

Yellowstone was a tough act to follow, but there's still some incredible country east of it as you drive through Wyoming. 

But whew, what an empty, vast landscape. Beautiful but monotonous after hours and hours of driving. 

We did try to stop for a hike at least once each of the three days it took to drive home, to stretch our legs and get the dogs nice and tired. 

And when we finally got home, it was good to feel a bit of humidity again and see all that lush Midatlantic vegetation. I imagine we'll move out west someday, but for now its good to be home. 

I hope everyone living in fire and flood zones is safe!