On our way out of Canada we stopped for gas and met a “gang” of middle-aged men driving Model T’s of varying styles. One guy looked like he was driving a go-cart: the car had no ceiling, doors, windows, windshield, nothing! He basically had wheels, floorboards, and a steering column. These guys liked our teardrop, and as we got talking about our trip they suggested we drive through Glacier National Park, which is just over the border in Montana. Apparently this is one of the most beautiful drives in the world, and so I was super excited to add this to our itinerary.
We crossed the border easily (again, I was driving and did the talking) and headed to Glacier. Unfortunately we were in for our first big disappointment of the trip. The drive on “Going-to-the-Sun Road” is so narrow, winding, and steep that they don’t let vehicles over 21 feet through. With the teardrop we didn’t make the cut, and so we bid adieu to Glacier, knowing that we will return someday. Thankfully mountains and valleys seem to stick around, so I am sure it will be just as beautiful next time we pass through!
The drive through Montana was long and relatively dull, especially at night. Thankfully Andrew and I were flipping through AM stations and picked up a Canadian station that was playing a mock news comedy show called “This is That.” It was hilarious, and really helped keep us awake and in good spirits. One of their taglines was “Canada. Winter with a chance of summer.” Having just visited Canada in September and needing to wear my winter clothes, I can attest to this one!
The next day we made it to Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is a really interesting place. It’s like the Disney World of National Parks. There are people everywhere. There are benefits to this though. I like to call it the “wildlife warning system,” or WWS. If you see a pile of people on the side of the road, stop and get your camera ready! Thanks to the WWS, we were able to see bison, deer, big horned sheep, pronghorn, a black wolf eating a carcass, and a grizzly bear snoozing beside a river. The wolf and bear were at a safe distance, and were viewed through spotting scopes. These are animals I never would have spotted without the WWS! So despite the annoyance of traffic and tourists crawling everywhere, there are benefits to be had.
We enjoyed the park for a couple hours, and decided to find a spot to bed down for the night. Which brings me to Road Trip Rule #2: If a campsite has open spots, go there FIRST! Since we dawdled, we wound up not finding an open spot in the park and had to go back out to National Forest land. The nice thing about National Forest land is that it’s free, and we were able to find a spot with a nice fire pit and wood that someone had left behind. The bad thing about National Forest land is that you are ALONE, and when five pairs of unidentified eyes stare at you as you start to cook your s’mores, you have no one around to rely on. We especially can’t rely on Zephyr, who jumps into his bed in the back of the truck at the first sign of potential danger. We still aren’t sure if it was a momma bear and cubs or a pack of wolves. Either way, it was pretty scary! We shoved the marshmallows into the truck and jumped into our teardrop where I spent a fitful night listening to every little sound as Andrew snored blissfully away.
Our next destination was Grand Teton National Park. Just south of Yellowstone, Grand Teton is much smaller and a lot less crowded. They had a little village with a Laundromat and shower facility near our campground, so we took a little break from “roughing it” and cleaned ourselves up. The campground was really nice, and we watched the sunset from the nearby lake. The next morning we were really excited to drive up Signal Mountain to glimpse what is supposed to be an amazing view of the Teton range and valley. Unfortunately some wildfires were raging outside of the park, and the smoke had billowed in overnight and settled around Signal Mountain. We drove all the way up to the top to look at white haze. For me this was the second real disappointment of the trip, and I know that I will also have to return to Grand Teton for that view!
Fortunately beauty abounds, and I do not have to be within the boundaries of a National Park to find it. Throughout Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota we have stumbled upon some really interesting and stunning scenery. The juxtaposition between nature and agriculture has been especially intriguing to me. You might never notice how amazing a green crop of alfalfa can be until it’s placed at the base of red clay hills, or how desolate and lonely an abandoned barn can seem out in the middle of a cornfield. Every day we experience something new, and I marvel at how vast, varied, and verdant this huge nation of ours is.