6100 Miles. 15 States. 18 Days. (Part 3 of 4)
Our journey of 6100 miles, 15 States in 18 days will be told in a four part blog by taking excerpts from my travel journal. This was a life changing experience that I hope can inspire others to take the chance on a solo road trip across the beautiful Northwest. (Read part 1 and part 2)
9/20/17 Day 7: After a couple of sleepless nights, due to the leaking toilet at the hotel in Cheyenne and Chance (my pup) getting kennel cough, I finally got a full eight hours of uninterrupted sleep in Driggs, Idaho. Hallelujah!!! I'm also happy to report that Chance is feeling a lot better too and didn't cough once last night! We both woke up well rested so, it was a great morning for a quick 3 mile walk before getting ready to head into Jackson, WY. After our walk, I stopped at Nora's Fish Creek Inn, a recommendation from my company's CEO, to have breakfast. I've been eating healthy this whole trip, but when I saw their biscuits and gravy with hash browns land on the table next to me, I had to try them. Who knew you could have one of the best southern breakfasts ever in Wyoming!!!
After breakfast, we explored Jackson Hole for a little while. I'm sad to report it wasn't as dog friendly as the other places we've stopped. Most of the smaller parks in the area had "no pets allowed" signs. After seeing our 5th one, we headed to our REAL stop for the day, Grand Teton National Park. Another beautiful drive into the park and from the moment we entered, it completely took my breath away. I was a little sad that I wouldn't be joining my guide for a hike around Jenny Lake, since I had to cancel Chance's dog day care after being diagnosed with kennel cough, but I planned to make the best out of the situation. Today, I was just a tourist with a camera and a dog!
Upon arriving, I went to the visitors center to purchase my National Park annual pass. I decided that considering we would be hitting several more parks on the rest of this trip it was the most economical purchase. I totally recommend it to all road trippers enjoying the NP's. I was also told by a ranger that Chance could go anywhere a car could go and around the picnic areas only. I stuck by the rules, because having a dog in bear country can be dangerous not only for him, but for me too. I definitely didn't want to satisfy a grizzly's appetite!
We spent a lot of time soaking up the views, the mountain air and just being in awe of the Teton's beauty. We stopped at the various lakes, had lunch at a picnic area, and walked to one of the most photographed barns in the world (T.A. Moulton barn - maybe you'll recognize it). I saw a black bear but there were so many cars pulled off to the side, I decided not to stop and take a picture.
Even though I love to write about my experiences, I think this part of our trip will best be told with photography (scroll through the slideshow). Lots of selfies though (you've been warned)! If you've never been to the park, I encourage you to book a flight to Jackson... or plan a road trip as soon as you can!
9/21/17 Day 8: We woke up to a beautiful snowfall coming down in Idaho, which Chance just went ham over chasing and eating snowflakes. We have experienced all seasons on this road trip for sure, from the heat in Kansas to the 30 degree nights of Wyoming! I did a great job of packing as light as I could, but also tried to make sure I brought a few things to fit the climate changes as we crossed state lines.
We left our cute little Idaho Airbnb this morning with our next state, Montana (state #8), in our sights. We hit Missoula, MT, around lunch time. I found a park that had a nice Greenway, so we stretched our legs, then sat down at a picnic table and lit the pocket stove to cook one of the freeze dried meals I packed. It was another day of mostly driving, with frequent stops to let Chance do his business and walk some. BUT OH MY GOD! I am in Montana!!! ❤️❤️❤️
I spent most of the night on the deck that overlooks Flathead Lake, at our Airbnb in Lakeside, MT. I had to google things to do in the area, because the plan for tomorrow was supposed to be Glacier National Park, but with the recent fires in the park, most of the park is closed. But since a few areas may be open to the public, we will also head there to see if we can experience some of it. Very sad situation with the fires and what they destroy. If I've learned one thing about road tripping, it's that you have to be able to make alternate plans on the go. Google is your friend and detours can be the most exciting adventures of them all!
9/22/17 Day 9: It's MY BIRTHDAY and we've hit the mid-way point of our Northwest Road Trip! It is only by coincidence that the middle of our trip happened to be my birthday. It is not by coincidence though, that I am in Montana. The Northwest states have been on my bucket list for a long time, and I've finally made it!
We started the day off on Swan River Trail, a dog-friendly trail that runs along the side of Swan River in Big Fork, MT. About one mile into the trial, we were enjoying the sounds of the raging whitewaters, when an older couple stopped to warn us that there was a mountain lion spotted up ahead. Chance and cats don't mix, so even armed with bear spray, I decided not to trek on and risk the encounter. Instead we stayed and talked to the couple for a little while before heading back. The gentleman was a hoot, and I learned he had been stationed at Fort Campbell (close to Nashville) years ago, or to put it in his words . . . "It was so long ago, I saw Dolly Parton at the Opry when she was a C-cup." I really enjoy talking to people on my travels and immediately liked this couple.
When we left, we headed to Glacier NP. As suspected, Going-to-the-Sun Road was closed, but we were able to go to Lake McDonald. It was so smokey and the smell from the recent fires just lingered in the air. There were still some small active fires in the area, and you could see them burning from a distance. Before we left, we stopped at the gift shop and restaurant to have lunch. Since it was my birthday, I decided to have a piece of huckleberry pie. Huckleberries are a native fruit of the park and probably one of my favorite things in the world now. It was so delicious! I may have to start a new tradition of having it shipped to me for all future birthdays.
As we headed back, we took a detour along Hwy 2, and once again the great Northwest didn't disappoint. Spectacular views of the mountains and railroad tracks with tunnels. There were areas to hike, so we went on a few short ones. As we walked further into the forest without passing a soul, my fears of running into wildlife (alone) got the best of me, so we would turn around and head back. At least Chance got some exercise, though.
At the end of the day, in the diminishing smoke at the Glaciers, I reflected upon rebuilding, renewing, and regrowth. It's been a crazy few years in my forties — lots of changes, many ups and, sadly, almost as many downs. So, this is my year of regrowth and hopefully there is still beauty waiting for me underneath the ashes.
9/23/17 Day 10: I hated to leave the beautiful view in Lakeside, MT, but as all good road trips require, we must keep moving. We stopped by the National Bison Range on our way to Livingston. We saw two bears, a few elk and a herd of Bison. I think Chance really liked the Bison, because as we waited for the herd to pass, he kept wagging his tail hoping he could get out to play with them. The Range had some incredible views and was a nice drive.
We are now settled into a KOA cabin in Livingston, MT, with a nice fire going, a dehydrated meal consumed (ok, I love my pocket stove . . . maybe a little too much). Chance is chasing bugs again and I am sipping on a whiskey & coke. Life is good at the KOA! (Scroll through more pics of our adventures below)
There are 8 more days of this adventure to share. Stay tuned to the conclusion of our trip, as we visit Yellowstone and the Badlands on our way back east. Part 4 has one of the most incredible and scariest experiences to date when a Grizzly and her cub come within a few yards of us.
Until then . . . Keep Wandering!
If you are considering a road trip with your furbaby, you may enjoy my blog, Valuable Tips for Road Tripping with Active Dogs.
Also - My first GIVEAWAY ends on June 15, don't forget to enter it here.