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Road Trip Days 9-11 June 22, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in Tom's Posts.
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Days 9 & 10, Sunday June 3rd & Monday June 4th
Drove as far as Big Sky, Montana

It rained again.  A lot of rain. Considering that we were 10 or 15 miles down a dirt road, the rain was a concern.  Our drive out took us on down a very muddy and wet road that can make ten thousand pounds of camper seem like much more.  The kids thought is was great fun, but my wife and I were equally relieved to reach the interstate again.

We were headed for a spot on the map called Big Sky.  My wife’s aunt and uncle had recently moved to Big Sky from Arizona.  As you might guess, Big Sky Montana is about as different from Arizona as it gets.  They are retiring to this best kept secret of the ski-set.  One of the resorts on the surrounding mountains boasts at having the most developed ski runs of any other single resort in the USA. The population swells with entertainment stars, computer magnates and other ski loving wealthy snow worshipers.  We were here after that season and that suited us just fine.  We stayed relatively still for two days and two nights.  The kids got to sleep inside our host’s house while we had the camper to ourselves.  Their home backs onto a dedicated open meadow and we did a campfire in their backyard complete with smores and good stories.

In nearby Bozeman we visited their Natural History museum which includes a very extensive pre-historic fossil collection.  The next day we went horseback riding and some caught a glimpse of a grizzly bear.  Big Sky is a beautiful corner of our country and we loved our stay there, but soon we were on the move again.

Day 11, Tuesday, June 5th
Drove as far as Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

We followed our hosts from Big Sky to the West Entrance of Yellowstone on Tuesday.  Before going into the park they took us through the Montana Grizzly and Wolf Reserve.  This is one of the places bears, wolves and other wildlife go when they have been injured or captured for becoming a danger.  It was fun to watch the Grizzly Bears wrestle with each other.  I was reminded I was in Montana when I noticed a young man striding around with a gun holstered at his side like we were in the old west.

We said our goodbyes and ventured into Yellowstone.  Our first stop was at the Steamboat Geyser Basin.  Here we picked up another set of Junior Ranger workbooks (which are in a larger newspaper format).  Right away we saw that one of the ranger programs required to get the official Yellowstone Junior Ranger Patch was about to start so the kids and I boogied down the boardwalk trails to the Steamboat Geyser where a very engaging ranger gave a crash course lesson on the geology of Yellowstone and the way the different geysers operate.

Afterwards we set out on the shorter of two trails around the geyser basin, or so we thought.  The boardwalk that was at the start of the two trails away from Steamboat Geyser had recently been rebuilt along a route that differed from the map we were following.  The shorter trail we were supposed to take was not clearly marked from the new intersection and it looked like a path to see a different angle of the hot spring where the trials diverged.  As a result we ended up on the longer path.

This wasn’t so bad because Yellowstone is a place of wonder and there was plenty to see.  But Yellowstone is also a place where you never want to be caught unprepared on the longer trails in good weather.  Our whole trip this far had been a lesson in changing weather and sure enough, halfway down the three-mile path a mixture of light rain and snow began to lightly fall.  Thankfully the worst of it held off until we finished our hike and got back into the truck.
If there is one National Park in America that everyone should make it a priority to visit, it has to be Yellowstone.  The original trappers who first returned from the area told of the incredible sites, but as you might guess, they couldn’t be believed at first.  I could write volumes about the sites and wonders of Yellowstone, but to keep this narrative moving to an end let me just say, go and see it for yourself if you have never been there because volumes of words could never replace the experience of the place.
There is a grand loop drive around the park and on Tuesday we completed half of the loop before turning into a quickly filling campground.  The campground is at the 7,000 foot elevation and it was cold and late.  We drove in and set up the camper for the night.

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