A Travellerspoint blog

May 2018

Regrouping on the Gallatin

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On Balancing Travel and Life

We just finished up four nights in Big Sky, Montana. As you may have noticed from FB and Instagram, we didn't do a ton of touring or activities compared to some other places. We spent a fair amount of time just regrouping. We had one nice sunny morning where I read and Scott re-learned how to assemble his fly rod. We found a great coffee shop in Bozeman and sat in the sun while I wrote the last blog post on the Tetons and Scott caught up on the news and the markets. We talked about what we had been enjoying, what we hadn't, and what we wanted the next six weeks to be. We had already decided to spend an extended period (10 DAYS) in Red Lodge, Montana because we wanted to have time to just be somewhere for awhile. I want to cook (haven't done that since Deadwood), I want to get the yoga mats out, I want to walk to the store and to the cafe. Red Lodge is the perfect place for all of this and is also really close to places in the mountains I visited many times as a child and want to share with Scott.

So as we searched for lodging and realized I probably should have booked in the Glacier Park area four months ago, we decided to put some of what we learned in SD, WY, and MT to use. In other words, National Parks are great but they can be crowded and the activities can feel prescribed and "touristy". We much prefer driving a back road to an off-the-beaten-path lake or river or cave or...The first time you see an amazing wildflower, or rocky , craggy mountain, or gushing river, or elk, or bison, it's really amazing. But the newness wears off and you stop being SO amazed and just start feeling comfortable that this is home now. We like exploring and seeing new places but we also like having time to just hang out and meet people, to sit by a lake and fish, to find a quiet, sunny place with a great view and read, to drink good coffee, to watch sports, drink a beer, chat up a bartender, meet locals - live like locals.

As a result, we went from 10 stops in the next five weeks leading up to picking Courtney and Morgan up in Calgary to 5: 10 nights in Red Lodge; a quick one night stop in Absarokee to accommodate a visit in the mountains with my cousin and her family; two nights in Billings to accommodate seeing friends and family: 6 nights in Whitefish, MT; 3 nights in Waterton; and then 7 nights in Calgary itself, our first actual city, other than Billings, since Memphis! We feel really good about this schedule and are looking forward to being able to "slow down".

Our Fishing Odyssey

But it wasn't all "navel gazing". Realizing we were going to be in Montana for almost six weeks, we bought annual fishing licenses and tried our hand at trout fishing. Our first stop was the Hyalite Canyon and Reservoir. It wasn't a very nice day and we caught exactly zero fish the whole morning but it was a beautiful drive up the canyon, allowed me to see my first mountain lilies, and gave us a good excuse to visit Bozeman, a great, funky college town with a really awesome historic downtown full of shops and restaurants.

We also drove out the Madison River canyon, past Hebgen Lake, to Earthquake Lake. This lake was created in 1959 in about 20 seconds when an earthquake in Yellowstone triggered a massive rock slide that damned the Madison River and killed 28 people in a campground. It moved HUGE boulders, TONS of earth, and literally tilted Hebgen Lake, creating a new shoreline.
The lake was created so quickly it just drowned the trees in place. The slide area can be seen at the end of the lake.
One of the huge boulders. Notice there is a person in the foreground to get a sense of the size of it. Also notice the blue sky behind as opposed to the cloudy, gray sky behind Scott. Same exact place just facing two different directions. More on that later.

We continued out beyond "Quake" Lake to Wade and Cliff Lakes, two of the spring-fed alpine lakes in a small chain of lakes in the Madison valley.
The Madison Valley above and the approach to Wade Lake below
The water is amazing colors that almost look Caribbean.

We attempted to fish at Cliff Lake, Scott even got out the fly rod, but it was rainy and cold, the fish weren't biting, and we could see the sun shining back to the East. So we headed back to fish Hebgen Lake but mostly just enjoyed the view and the sunny warm weather.
And NO we still haven't caught a single fish in Montana!

The Gallatin River

We stayed along Highway 191 just outside of Big Sky at Buck's T-4 Lodge. The highway the runs along the western edge of Yellowstone from Gallatin Gateway to West Yellowstone, just skirting into Yellowstone and Wyoming for about 20 miles before returning to Montana, and parallels the amazingly beautiful Gallatin River the whole way. We drove up and down this valley numerous times and each time we really enjoyed the beauty and grandeur - under both blue skies and gray.
This mountains called Stop King - apt name!

Big Sky and Ousel Falls

Big Sky is a planned town, started in the 70's as the ideal ski resort and still growing. It is a beautiful area with Lone Mountain dominating the entire scene.
It was officially "off-season" wile we were there so not everything was open and we and the locals had the place pretty much to ourselves. There are tons of well-developed hiking trails in the area. The one we did was to Ousel Falls and it was an amazing trail.

A Word About the Weather

They say you can have four seasons in a single day here and it's true. In another post I mentioned the day we left the warmth of the semi-arid Greybull, traveled through snow in Yellowstone, to arrive to a sunny but cool evening in Jackson. But you may think well, yeah, but you traveled a few hundred miles! That's true but in reality you can travel five miles and go from tank top weather to fleece and Goretex weather, from sun to clouds and rain. The sky can be different just looking East or West, like at Quake lake. So like with Cliff and Wade lakes, we sometimes "chase the sun", moving up or down the valley as required. Check out this picture. Which direction would you go? We went right!
This picture was taken on the way up to Wade Lake. Check out this video for more. We have sun, rain, and the BIG SKIES Montana is famous for!

Posted by mrb430 17:02 Archived in USA Tagged mountains lakes montana off-roading Comments (0)

The Grand Tetons and Teton Valley

Still my favorite after all these years...

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I remember childhood trips to Yellowstone and the Tetons. Yellowstone always felt like an obligation and the Tetons always felt like the destination. Time hasn't changed my outlook. It didn't help that when we entered Yellowstone it was cold, drizzly, and foggy. As we rose in elevation, the moisture turned to snow! Winter in Spring/Summer is not what I had in mind when I said I didn't want to ever have to experience another winter. Don't I look happy (totally fake smile!)

Even on a crappy day in May, the roads were too full of people driving too slow. We stopped at the West Thumb Geyser Basin on Yellowstone Lake before turning south and I'm glad we did because that may be all of Yellowstone's attractions Scott gets to see! We crossed the Continental Divide...

And made a beeline down to the Tetons and our house just outside Jackson and the sun came out as we drove to the house. Now that's more like it! And how about this view?!

Jackson Wyoming

Jackson is a cute town, though as it turns out not one of our favorites. Totally NOT dog friendly; they aren't even allowed in the town square (read that park). See Cadeau looking in longingly!

There are TONS of shops but we don't shop really anymore since we live out of Ruby and our space is precious and there are not many places to just hang out and waste time, which as you may have gathered reading our blog is a big past time for us. But the house we stayed in was located in a pretty valley and we were close enough to everything we wanted to do so not all bad.

Bondurant Wyoming and the Hobach River Valley

Just for fun we took a drive down the Hobach River Canyon to Bondurant, Wyoming.large_IMG_0518.JPG

The canyon was really beautiful. I feel a little like a broken record because we have seen SO MANY beautiful canyons but each one is special. Especially right now when the rivers are overflowing with snow melt. I'll spare you a video but here are a few photos.
And the moment we've all been waiting for...

The Grand Tetons National Park

On the way into the park, we saw our first moose.

Then we worked out way up the scenic loop, stopping at EVERY viewpoint to take pictures. I could do a whole album just on these mountains but here are our favorites.
This is a long view up the range from the south.


Stopped to take a walk at Jenny Lake, along with about a hundred Asian tourists. It's amazing how many Asian tourists there are in the parks. Apparently, most are from China. There are tour companies in China that are promoting a western loop that includes Yellowstone and the Tetons.

We also stopped off at the side of Jackson Lake for the view across to the range.

Spaulding Bay

We took a dirt road up to the viewpoint at Spaulding Bay.

The road was super fun and I got to drive it! Coming back out from the lake the mountain views were so awesome.

Then we took an every more fun dirt road drive down to the Snake River. It was mud puddle after mud puddle! None too deep and all with hard bottoms so I had a BLAST! Here's a little clip to show you.

Gros Ventre

We finished the day out going up to see the Gros Ventre slide area where a landslide in the 20's created a new lake. It was a really interesting drive and a beautiful area.
This is the slide area - the trees literally just moved down the slope.
And Lower Slide Lake, really muddy from all the snow melt.

Posted by mrb430 09:24 Archived in USA Tagged mountains wyoming tetons Comments (0)

Exploring the Bighorn Basin

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On our last day in Greybull, Wyoming, we set out to explore a 24 mile trail that connects Greybull and Hyattville. large_IMG_0539.JPG
Everyone we talked to said it was a great tip but NOT to do it if it was wet. They are really serious about this because the soil here turns to mud that sticks to your tires until they are so caked they won't turn in the wheel well anymore and you're stuck!
Lucky for us, it was bone dry except up on a detour we did up towards the National forest where there was still snow. We turned around here as it just got worse and worse up the road.

Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite

The first stop on the drive was at the Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite where there are tracks preserved in the rock.
Just past here, we met two retired Forest Service archaeologists having lunch on their tailgate next to the road. They would be one of three cars we saw during this entire day. For a look at how small and alone we were in the vastness, check this out.

The Big Beautiful Basin

But out across the open basin we went. The land rose and fell, buttes and cliffs came and went in every shade of earth from white to red, and the spring moisture laid a carpet of green anywhere it could.
Cadeau is awesome on these trips. She just sleeps through most of it. Our only worry is keeping her close when she does get out so as to avoid snakes and scorpions!

And cairns did in fact guide the way in many places.


What would a post of mine be without an acknowledgement that there were wildflowers; the treat were these dark blue Larkspur.
The world out there is like one giant rock garden. Each time we got out of the car, we realized we were surrounded by blooming plants, some so small you could barely see them until you really stooped to look.

Saving the Best for Last
The highlight of the trip though was when we looked off into the distance and saw these caves - and that there was a road up to them!
Check out this video to share what we experienced. Forgive the herky-jerky, the GoPro died so I filmed with the iPhone.

Posted by mrb430 08:30 Archived in USA Tagged wyoming off-roading Comments (0)

Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range and Bighorn Canyon

Yesterday we took off from Greybull, Wyoming in search of the wild horses of Pryor Mountain and a tour of the Bighorn Canyon National recreation Area, which encompasses the Bighorn Canyon. It was an amazing day. The land formations here remind one of Clint Eastwood movies; it's a combination of desert, badlands, deep canyons that cut to the granite bedrock, high mountains with snow remaining, and wide open sage brush prairies. From Wikipedia: "The mountain range divides the Great Plains from the Bighorn Basin. Annual rainfall varies from less than six inches in the lowest elevations to more than 20 inches in the high country. This results in a confluence of ecotypes in a small area." Ruby is just a speck in the vastness.


The highlight for me was finding two bands of wild horses. "This herd of horses is very special because of its Colonial Spanish American heritage. This tough little horse, derived from the horses of Portugal and Spain, has been present in this rugged mountain area for nearly 200 years."
The first was led by this handsome stallion, Hawk.
He kept his distance but the mare and colts were willing to let use get closer. The mare, Fresia, is a Grulla; she has the grey coloring of the Spanish horses the herd is descended from. The other two, Parry and Oak, are Dun-colored colts born in 2014 and 2015.
When we first arrived they were all hugging in a little family group.

The we came upon the band led by Fools Crow. He looks grey but is called a Blue Roan.
He had two mares, Jewel and Halo of the Sun, and a filly born in 2013, Niobrara.

Rain in the Mountains

I've mentioned before how the storms come up over the mountains late in the afternoons here but yesterday we got a real treat. We could actually see the sheets of rain off in the distance as we drove under blue skies.

Crossing Borders

Out here we are very close to the Montana border and crossed over and back in our travels. Don't blink or you'll miss the signs!

Devil's Canyon

Our drive took us to the Devil's Canyon Overlook at a curve in the river where you can see millions of years of history in the rock and the river's course.
There was also a place to drive down to water level, which was cool.


And what would a day be out here without hitting some dirt roads. Here's a video of some of what we saw and where we went. We stopped in the middle at a historic ranch - the Ewing-Snell built about 1896. Don't let the sky fool you; this is all the same day. If you face the clouds it's cloudy, if you face away from them it's blue skies!

And please forgive the bugs on the windshield. We try to keep it clean but it's a losing battle...

Posted by mrb430 08:58 Comments (0)

Sometimes You're the One in the Way

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Off-roading today we came upon a group of bovine who clearly thought we had no business being on their cowpath. They were "udderly" unimpressed with us. We had no where to go but we weren't going to cower or be bullied; so we just stayed put like Moses parting the Red Sea.

Posted by mrb430 17:20 Archived in USA Tagged wyoming cows off-roading Comments (0)

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