05.26.2018 - 05.30.2018
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!