Saturday, August 15, 2015


We left yellowstone NP in a huff but recovered with hot showers and souvenier shopping in the cute town of West Yellowstone before heading north to Big Sky country. Montana was effortlessly cool and outdoorsy. It was vast and remote and woodsy and mountainy and cowboy-y and, like, 20 degrees colder than everywhere else. Just thinking about the winters there gave us the chills!

Our first stop was the Greek Creek campground on the Gallatin River. The weather was rainy and cold but we had a nice spot right on the river.
Another camper, Will, gave Andy and Drew some fly fishing pointers. He caught 60 fish the day before, of course, but no luck for these guys! Everyone catches 60 fish the day before we arrive.

Our visit to Montana was perfectly timed with the vacation of a former colleague of Andy's. Darrin Sokol invited us to the ranch where he and his family were staying. They had a cozy log cabin and their pick of outdoor activities. I couldn't tell what Darrin thought of Andy's changed appearance. We dressed up for the occasion but Andy forgot to pack a belt.

The Sokols treated us to a delicious lunch and it was great hanging out with them. For some reason they kept offering us use of the shower in their cabin.

The horses at the ranch were so gentle and sweet. One of the hands taught us how to scratch them right under the mane to make them totally relax.

Another fishless attempt. Bare feet in frigid water negates determination so this effort was short-lived.

We visited the Museuem of the Rockies in Bozeman. They had a great dinosaur exhibit, a living history farm, an interesting collection of historical artifacts like covered wagons and a travelling exhibit about chocolate and the cocoa bean. Sometimes we forget to take pictures. Oops.

We headed west from Bozeman and picked a random state park to stop for the night, Lewis & Clark Caverns, from our road tripping app. Many of the "partway" stops we make are simply based on how far we want to go in a day. But we've had great luck finding really nice places. This one has remained one of our favorites from the whole trip. There were beautiful views, walking trails, great biking roads, a nice playground and, of course, the caverns.

We got up early in the morning (no easy feat for this crew!) to take the guided tour of the caverns.

The entrance was steep but the stairs were secure.

We had to scooch through a couple tight tunnels and learned all the different names of the formations.

The first person who discovered the caverns gave his own guided lantern tours. During the depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps came in and upgraded the trails and installed stairs and lighting. This is the first we had heard about the CCC. But as we visited more and more parks we learned a lot about, and reaped the benefits of, the work of the CCC as part of the New Deal to create jobs and stimulate the economy during the depression.

After the tour Andy took the kids to swim and fish in the nearby river. Look at this place! 

Finally a fish!
And a crayfish.

Following our chill at the Caverns we drove north to Glacier NP. There had been a very big fire on the east side of the park but it was mostly contained when we arrived. All the campgrounds were full so we took a spot about 10 miles outside in Hungry Horse and drove in every day.
A pretty view of Lake McDonald. 

We hiked up to Avalanche Lake and the rock formations along the trail and stream were so cool.

The bear bell on Drew's shoe seems silly but we have one so the kids have something to fight over on our hikes. 

A very tall waterfall.

This is Avalanche Lake with the glacial waterfalls flowing down to it. As we were hiking up a few people warned us of a bear on the trail just ahead of us and another at the lake's edge. We were always a few minutes too late and never saw them. I wonder if the sightings stir up such excitement that the bears trundle off. We did and didn't want to see them.

As the afternoon wore on the place cleared out and it was very peaceful. Drew went off in the woods in search of bears but thankfully didn't find any. Cubby stuck around to play with the ground squirrels.
Tree hugger.

You can really see how the water forms the rocks. 

These sign photos help us remember where we were. 

Our RV park was very close to a reservoir that was being used by firefighting helicopters to pick up bags of water. 

Did you see the other photo of Lake McDonald? This is the same view but on a day when the air was filled with smoke. It was hard to tell which fire this was coming from. 

Eeek! A bear!

Yup, that's my big old sissy butt bailing out of the car right before Andy and the kids headed up to Logan Pass on the famous Going to the Sun road. Just couldn't do it and didn't want to ruin it for everyone else with my whining and cursing.

Fred with a glacier in the background. The signs of climate change were everywhere. 

The kids were happy to be at the top!

And they were so excited to see a family of mountain goats. Unlike at Yellowstone, they are native to the area. The mama has a tracking collar and the babies were so cute. 

Andy and the kids took a nice walk to a glacier.
This is a Columbian Ground Squirrel. It's hard to tell all the varmints apart but Drew is good at ID'ing and thinks this guy looks like a prairie dog.

Fire damage on the east side of Logan Pass. At times during the summer the fire was so bad the road was closed. In the side view mirror you can see one of the hotshot trucks and the line of traffic backed up behind pokey pete.

Ranger Aleta took us on a nice guided nature walk. She told us the beaver lodge in the background has been there and actively used for at least 20 years. We also saw an otter on our walk. 

Hidden in the trees in Apgar Village is a Nature Center/Discovery Cabin that is filled with tons of things to touch. Even the sign says "please touch!" What a treat!

Let's compare horns and antlers.

Lots of fur.
Let's try this fly fishing thing again. Drew hooked three but they all got away. Drats!

OK, this is water fed by a glacier. Even though it was super hot sitting in the sun on the rocks, that water was COLD. Andy had already gone in but Cubby was not easily convinced.

And they're in! Brrr! 

Hurry because this isn't going to last long.
Quickly swim to the other side! They did some jumping off the rocks into the water but it was a brief swim.
Off to yet another great state park to "rest" after a national park whirlwind tour. 

From Montana we passed through the northern part of Idaho and into Washington. There were more fires in Washington and dust blowing in from the crops and the sky made that pretty obvious. That orange dot is the sun. Two new states in a day! Washington, here we come!

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