Sunday, December 27, 2015

Montana & Yellowstone

My father grew up and went to college in Montana, so when my sister and I were kids we would take road trips there often to visit his sister, who still lives there, and her family, as well as explore the many wonders in that beautiful state and in Yellowstone National Park, which is right next door. I consider Montana one of my heart-homes, and I still like to get out there at least once every few years. Tyler had never been before, so we decided to take an epic road trip through Montana and Yellowstone last September, right before I started graduate school.

As you might imagine, the exact details of the trip are a little hazy more than a year later, so this post will mostly be pictures and recollections regarding them.

Once we crossed the Idaho-Montana border, I insisted on honoring a tradition established with my sister in 2012: huckleberry milkshakes and bison burgers from a little retro diner in St. Regis, called Frosty's. The picture below is definitely not Frosty's, but a cool little co-op restaurant in Missoula at which we brunched the next day. Look, I still have platinum blonde hair in these pictures! I miss it.

Missoula is one of my favorite towns in Montana. It's beautiful and walkable and has tons of great restaurants, bars, and shops because of all the college students and visitors.

After Missoula, I made Tyler go to the Lewis & Clark caverns I remembered from my youth. They are beautiful and fascinating. When I was little, I was really afraid of this one natural slide -- maybe it was called the Beaver Slide? -- but this time I could have done it again and again.

Our next stop was Bozeman, the city where my father went to college. We stayed in a really cool AirBnb house. Unfortunately we had so much driving to do on this trip that we weren't really able to linger anywhere; I would have liked to enjoy those surroundings a little more.

The next stop was Gardiner, one of the gateways to Yellowstone National Park. We purchased a pair of binoculars, then drove to the Boiling River, which is just inside the park a ways. The Boiling River is a lot like the river Tyler and I bathed in in Iceland at midnight: thermal activity makes part of the river scalding hot, but where the ice cold river water and boiling hot vents intersect are perfect little pools of hot tub-temperature water. Venture too far in either direction and you could suffer hypothermia (or be swept away down the river!) or a burn. Although there were warning signs everywhere, both in the steam from the groundwater and the literal signs posted by the river, they couldn't keep an unlucky couple from disappointment. It's also a little perilous to get to the perfect spot without solid water shoes (I really missed my Teva sandals), but once I did I didn't want to leave!

Once we'd had our fill, or at least had convinced ourselves that we should try to see more than just one river that day, we carried on to Mammoth Hot Springs. It was elk rutting season and I was excited to see a handful of elk walking around. The hot springs were as beautiful and interesting as I remembered them, too.

That night we had dinner at Lighthouse Restaurant, a weird place with great food. It was weird because it was almost totally empty, BYOB, and had a strange arcade game set up in the back, which would someday house lobsters.

I chose the silliest BYOB drink I could find in the tiny local supermarket.
As we drove home from dinner, Tyler missed a sign in the dark that indicated a reduced speed zone. We were soon pulled over by the world's most polite and apologetic cop, who truly regretted giving us a ticket, he really did, but there are elk and other animals on the road and you've got to be careful.

More to come in part two!

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