Thursday, July 12, 2012

Road Trip Recap, Part Deux

The adventure continues today, as I chronicle our epic road trip through the wild west.
The entire voyage had a sense of manifest destiny... okay, not really, but I have remembered and liked that phrase ever since I learned it in 5th grade social studies. It has such a grand, sweeping feeling. The drama of it must have appealed to my inner romantic. However, "Manifest Destiny" is not a phrase that really lends itself to everyday conversation, so I don't get  many chances to use it. 
{Note: I like the phrase, itself, not necessarily the idea/actions behind it.}

This post took me forever to put together, sorry for the delay. If you want to catch up on the first leg of our trip you can find Part One here. The second half of our trip brought us through northern Wyoming and across Montana. As we left South Dakota, we managed to squeeze in a few more sights.
Crazy Horse
We actually only glimpsed this from the road... but it still counts, right?

The Needle's Eye on {what else?} the Needles Highway

The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
This was one of the biggest surprises of the trip for me. Chris really wanted to stop, but no one else was very enthusiastic {long day, lots of driving, and we just wanted to get there}. In the end, I was very glad we did stop. It gave us an opportunity to talk with the kids about the flip-side of history, specifically the Native Americans' experience. It wound up not only being educational, but a solemn and reflective point of our trip.

As we approached Glacier National Park, the temperature outside was steadily dropping. While the rest of the country was in the grips of a heatwave, Glacier chalked up a cool 48 degrees. And it was windy, really windy. Check out my horizontal hair if you don't believe me.

We stayed at the Rising Sun Motor Inn on the east side of the park, near St. Mary. The view alone makes this place worth every penny. This is what we looked at from our front door.
The little building in the distance is the main lodge and restaurant. There is also a general store on the property, which the kids loved. Souvenirs and candy galore. We were up the hill a bit, but our rooms faced the mountain. Hunter snapped a picture of Chris and I relaxing and enjoying the view. Actually, that was the only place we could get cell phone signal, so we were trying to check email and voicemail for the first time in days.
The Rising Sun is a very basic, but charming little motel and the staff were great. Everyone was helpful and friendly. I know this because 5 minutes after checking in, Chris broke off a molar while eating crackers. The kind desk clerk spent 20 minutes trying to locate an emergency dentist for us. We finally gave in to the fact that there was nothing within a hundred miles, so Chris decided to tough it out till we got home. Let's just say he did the bare minimum of smiling, talking, and chewing. The wait staff in the restaurant adjacent to the motel all remembered him, though, and were quick to offer up the soup du jour for his dining pleasure.

We knew before we left that we wanted to do two things while in Glacier: take a boat tour of St. Mary Lake, and a red bus tour over the Going to the Sun Road. It was extremely windy on our first full day in the park, so, naturally, that's the day we decided to go out on the lake.
Here's a visual comparison:
{and it really doesn't do justice to the size of those waves}
On the left is the lake on the day of our boat tour. On the right is the lake on the day of our bus tour. The kids loved the roller coaster boat ride, but I was a bit green by the time we reached shore.
The high wind resulted in a very Gilligan-esqe adventure.
The tour we were on took us across the lake to a trailhead. We could then hike 3 miles to a waterfall, but we had to be back at a certain time to catch the return boat. It was a great hike, and the waterfall was gorgeous, but when we got back to the dock, there was no boat. In fact, there was no dock. The cable securing it to the shore broke from all the wind, and the boat had no where to land... so it left. No problem. We had a park ranger with on our boat tour and hike. She could just radio for help. Only, her radio was dead. At this point, some members of our group started to look a little panicky. Our only option was to hike another several miles, uphill, to the road and flag down a shuttle. 
Good story now, exhausting and a tad scary at the time.

We went on a historic red bus tour the next day. We opted for the full day tour that took us across the length of the Going to the Sun Road. It was not cheap, but so worth it, especially for Chris. He could relax and enjoy the scenery instead of having to concentrate on navigating a narrow mountain road. You can hardly focus on driving when this is the surroundings:
Speaking of narrow mountain roads, I happen to be terrified of heights. So I spent a lot of time with my eyes closed when we got too close to the edge. Which is the whole road. Suffice it to say, I could've used a drink by the time we got back. Hunter was kind enough to hold my hand when I got scared. Sweet boy.

Of course, I made the kids pose over and over again for pictures.
They were made Jr. Rangers and took their roles very seriously. In fact, they both want to be park rangers now. In conjunction with their other career goals, of course. For Caitlin, that means being a ranger-veterinarian-writer. For Hunter, a ranger-teacher-photographer-firefighter-garbage truck driver.

No trip to a national park is complete without wildlife, and we got to see plenty.
We also saw mountain goats and coyotes, but not close enough for decent pictures.

Like all good vacations, this one was over too fast. But we were glad to be home. Glacier was unbelievably beautiful, and I highly recommend a visit if you ever get the opportunity. You'd better hurry though. Of the 100+ glaciers that were documented in the park at the turn of the last century, only a handful remain and they are expected to be gone in the next twenty years.
We are already planning next summer's road trip. I'm thinking East Coast this time. I don't know if I can handle any more mountain roads!



  1. Gorgeous pictures! You had a real adventure with you boat sailing off and everything. I'd love to take a trip out west one day. Everything looks so beautiful and different.

    Glad you and your family had a great time making memories.

  2. Thanks! It was a great adventure, one I will remember forever. Hopefully, the kids will too! :)


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