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Montana Road Trip

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S: Montana Road Trip Summer 2009

BC: "A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature." Ralph Waldo Emerson

FC: Montana Road Trip | Summer 2009

1: On the Road | Here we go! | This is what teachers spend their summers wishing they could do- only we really got to. | Cindy pitched the crazy idea of a road trip to Montana a few years ago. Little did we know then that it would not only happen- it would happen in a once in a lifetime trip kinda way.! We packed Cindy's car on May 31st and left without knowing half of what we would get ourselves into. This is the story of that journey- the critters, the family, and the friends that spent a month together in Montana.

2: Day 1 Atlanta to Chattanooga

3: Don't we look ready for an adventure? As we left on our journey we read a bit, talked a bit, and ate brownies.!! When we reached the TN line, I tried VERY hard to get a picture of the "Tennessee Welcomes You" sign. As my camera batteries died, there were many "doh's" and "ahhhh!" and "stupid camera." I learned quickly that this was not a wise way to catalog the trip. Cindy found me quite amusing. We then crossed the Tennessee River at which point I said something clever like"whoa, that's a big river." I hope such things never cease to amaze me. We arrived in Tennessee quickly that afternoon and hung out at the Irish's Chattanooga residence for the evening. We had some time to take in the scenery of the mountains while we were there.

4: Day 2 Chattanooga to Kansas City | We took the Irish Trail Blazer from Chattanooga to Kansas City. It was fabulous and exhausting. We drove in or through Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas. We crossed the Tennessee River, the Missouri River, the Ohio River, and the mighty Mississippi River. It was a great day of driving, but an exhausting day in the car.

5: Jeremiah, Jake, Emily, Erin, and Cindy We appreciate the Buck's hospitality! | We also took time to take in the sights. The Great Smoky Mountains were beautiful this morning- truly smoky and foggy. Then, as we moved west, the land flattened out. I drove through most of Kentucky and Illinois and then Cindy took over the drive through Missouri. I decided that today was Kentucky's unofficial "Animals on the Highway" day. I freaked out at actually seeing my first deer dart across the interstate unscathed and Cindy tossed in a helpful, "Keep an eye out, they don't normally travel alone." Then, not less than 10 miles later, I had to come to a complete stop because there were 2 dogs STANDING in the | middle of the interstate. The horn had no effect. They just looked at me as if I was inconveniencing them. How dare I honk? Another highlight of that day was the many downtown areas that we passed through. We saw Chattanooga, Nashville, St. Louis, and Kansas City. That afternoon, at about 4:00 central time, we arrived at the home of Emily, Jeremiah, and Jake Buck. We visited for a few minutes before going out for some fabulous Bar-B-Q. Then we stopped at the largest Bass Pro Shop that I've ever seen. We needed to pick up a few last minute things. Overall, a great day.

6: Day 3 Kansas City to Rocky Mountain National Park | Today we embarked on the quest for the Oregon Trail. Cindy and I got a good giggle out of our semi-off road excursion trying to find the ever elusive wagon wheel ruts from the actual Oregon Trail. We were unsuccessful, but had a blast sliding around on the dirt road.

7: Day 3 brought great landscapes and stories. This tree trunk is all that's left of a huge elm tree whose branches used to cover half an acre. It was said to have witnessed and shaded hundreds of thousands of those who traveled through Kansas on the Oregon Trail. It was destroyed by vandalism in 1998. | This sign says, "minimum maintenance, travel at your own risk." We risked it. It was awesome.

8: Our evening in the park was freezing, but awesome. We set up our campsite for the first of what would be many evenings sleeping on the ground. We roasted our hot dogs, and played a sleepy game of Phase 10 in the tent. The weatherman had predicted snow, but the only disturbance of the evening was freezing rain and "animal noises." | Rocky Mountain National Park

10: Day 4 Rocky Mountain National Park to Bozeman, Montana | On the final leg of our trip we drove through some beautiful country. There was a random bridge that led to nowhere, many wind farms, and the Rocky Mountains were breathtaking. It was most wonderful to arrive at the home of Bill and Lynn Irish in Bozeman, Montana. The drive was a great adventure, but we were both thankful to have reached our destination.

11: Quotes from the road... | Cindy: "Get outta the way squirrel- I don't want to hit you." | Erin: "That silo has hair." | Cindy: "Cows are naked." | Erin: "There are big deer things" Cindy: "Those are elk." Erin: "Those are elk?" Cindy: "Those are elk." | Erin: "Look Gazelles" ***Cindy looks VERY confused*** Erin: "Right?" Cindy: "Antelope. Those are antelope." | Cindy: "I have to pee." Erin: "You could go in the Immaculate Conception Center, but you might come out pregnant." Cindy: "Hail Cindy full of grace - that has a nice ring to it."

12: Bozeman, Montana Home of Bill and Lynn Irish | We spent the next several days resting and planning out how we would spend our time in Montana. I took in all the beautiful scenery I could and Cindy tried to convince her parents that we would be safe on a 3 day kayak trip on the Missouri River.

13: Smile You're in Montana

14: We camped out at Coal Banks Landing the night before we began our trip down the river. The next morning we broke down camp and tackled the task of packing all our stuff. We had 4 dry bags (clothes, sleeping bags, and pillows), 6 gallons of water, 16 bottles of Gatorade, 2 camp chairs, a tent, some food, and a partridge in a pear tree. It was pretty amazing that it all fit into 2 kayaks. Our first day kayaking was very calm. We floated most of the time, paddling only when we wanted to move to one bank or the other to observe the wildlife. Within a few short hours we'd seen everything from bald eagles to a 4 foot bull snake. | Missouri River Kayak Trip

15: 15 miles downstream we hit our first campsite: Eagle Creek. We had lots of fun trying to get out on the muddy banks, haul all of our stuff to our campsite, get set up for the night. In the midst of moving our gear, Cindy informed me that a large snake was hanging out close to our campsite. The snake decided that he would rather drive me nuts with worry and disappear into the brush instead of stay and visit for a while. I don't know that I've ever so compulsively checked to make sure that the tent was zipped. From here, we went hiking and later sat around the campfire hoping that any rustling sounds were friendly.

16: HIKING | After setting up camp, we rested and then took a hike with Cindy's parents. They planned a parallel canoe trip to ease their concerns about 2 inexperienced young ladies kayaking the Missouri River. Eagle Creek only flows when it rains and we were able to hike up the dry creek bed through a 50 foot tall canyon. It was cool and beautiful until it was time to climb out of the canyon. We climbed to a hole in the wall and had a few fun pictures taken before continuing our hike back to the campsite. Cindy is the queen of building camp fires and when we returned she went to work. We shared our only meal of the day (hot dogs and beef stew) before deciding that, even though we took a nap, we should definitely get to bed early.

17: The next morning we packed up camp, packed the kayaks, and set out for our longest day of paddling. We originally planned on covering about 20 miles and camping at the Slaughter River campsite. At this point we had packed and unpacked our campsite twice in 2 days. We chose to push on through to our pull-out point at Judith Landing instead of camping at Slaughter River. That meant that we had to make it 32 miles in one day- and paddle almost the entire way. It was one of the most physically challenging things that I've done in a long time. We had beautiful landscape and our prayers to keep us company. Our final night camping brought some good rest and more beef stew. | Final Day

18: We hoisted our kayaks out of the river and drove from our pull out point to Glacier National Park. We stayed at the beautiful Many Glacier Hotel and enjoyed showers for the first time in 3 days. Cindy and I took a short hike around the lake and saw 2 brown bears (a mother and her cub) through the trees.

19: The following day, our hopes of hiking to a glacier were thwarted by snow covered trails. Instead, we chose the 5 mile hike to Iceberg Lake. It was an incredibly stunning, but also fairly difficult, hike. The hotel sits at about 4,000 feet above sea level and the lake is about 6,200 feet above sea level. In many places the melting glaciers created small seasonal waterfalls. There was also plenty snow left- especially at the higher altitudes. With a 40% chance of rain (and beautiful looking skies when we left) we didn't take any rain gear, so of course it rained. The rain was cold on our bear arms and we were quite frozen when we got back to the car.

20: Glacier National Park

21: We ate at the Park Café just outside Glacier 3 times in 3 days, but the final meal was the most eventful. Cindy doubled over during breakfast because of a sudden and sharp pain in her lower back. The nearest hospital (an hour and a half away) informed Cindy of the 3.5 mm kidney stone that her body was trying to pass. The kind doctors of Cut Bank Hospital gave Cindy some | medication and we headed for her Grandmother's house in Lewistown. Unfortunately, the pain killers they prescribed made Cindy sick and we had to head home quickly. Cindy's pain was managed in Bozeman, but it was not until several days, and a cold beer, later than Cindy was able to pass what I considered the most stubborn kidney stone ever. | DRIVE!

22: With Cindy's kidney stone in tow, we drove through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks to pick up Matt- who was flying into Jackson Hole. I'd been without him for several weeks and missed him dearly. We stayed in Grand Teton National Park for one more day before heading into Yellowstone. | Grand Teton National Park | We had an unexpected "guest" stay in our cabin that night.

23: These were quite possibly the most beautiful mountains I've ever seen.

24: The Yellowstone River Canyon | Yellowstone

25: National Park | Wildlife | LOTS of Buffalo | The cause of quite the "bear" jam.

26: Yellowstone was a gorgeous and surprising place. We stayed for several days to take in the wildlife, hot springs, geysers, and overall grandeur of our country's first national park.

27: Not enough can be said of the kind generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Irish. They took excellent care of all of us during this trip. They were patient and gracious with our planning process and the trip wouldn't have been the same without them. | We returned to Bozeman for a few days before taking off on our journey home. We needed the rest before the long drive ahead of us. | THANK YOU

28: Mount Rushmore | Mount Rushmore was our first scheduled attraction on the way home. We stopped, we took pictures, we read history.

29: Wall Drug Store | This was our first unplanned stop. We saw small signs advertising "free ice water" for miles before we hit this oasis in South Dakota. There were many shops, a good sized food court, and a giant jackalope.

30: Badlands National Park | We spent one beautiful evening camping in Badlands National Park on our way home. We entered the park around sunset, set up camp, listened to a ranger talk, and then watched a lightning storm on the horizon until it was time to go to sleep.

31: Home | Just trying to get... | Our plan was to make another stop before getting back to Chattanooga. Instead, we took shifts driving and made the passage from South Dakota to Tennessee in one uninterrupted day. We rested for several hours in Tennessee before heading home to Atlanta. It was an exhausting but worthwhile conclusion to an unforgettable trip.

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Erin Harris
  • By: Erin H.
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  • Title: Montana Road Trip
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