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  1. Default Life in a Northern Town

    Just got back from 9 days with four of my best friends in four of my favorite states: Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Idaho. Our goal was to explore the west, do some hiking, some camping, and just hit the open road for a while. A fantastic trip all around, consisting of only one day of paid camping, a wide variety of driving experiences, and a sporty-looking red Pontiac G6 packed to the brim with way more camping gear than could realistically be considered to fit.

    Day 1

    Our first day we flew out to Salt Lake, where we have friends, and which also served as our beginning and ending point. Thanks to the time difference, we were on the road by 2 p.m. mountain time. Wanting to spend the evening with said friends, we spent an afternoon exploring Antelope Island State Park.

    It was, as you can see, a pretty cool place. Lots of photo opportunities. We explored the ranch on the island, went all touristy and learned how to lasso, dipped our toes in the very scummy salt lake, chased a buffalo (don't worry, we weren't actually that close). The basics. Then we headed to our friends for the evening for dinner and Olympics viewing and began the daunting task of packing four backpacks, two tents, a cooler, and a pile of camping gear into a midsize car. Thankfully it was a midsize -- we had rented an economy but they were out and had to give us the next size up.

    Our rental worked out really well. We inspected it beforehand and got the desk worker to mark off every inch of it as dinged or scratched before we left (because, well, it was). She was annoyed with us -- said, "You're being way too picky" -- but I wasn't about to pay for something I didn't do. My one friend said as we drove away, looking at the marked-up sheet, "Well, I think we can do just about anything to this car except drive it off a cliff."

    Coming up: We sit for 15 minutes at a construction stoplight in the middle of nowhere, and seek out our old stomping grounds from 2006: the Cleanest Bathroom in the West.

    P.S. The name of our trip came from the recent Little Big Town / Sugarland live cover of "Life in a Northern Town," which was also our theme song. It's country all the way on our road trips, baby.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default More to Come?

    Thanks for the report, and I look forward to more. By the way, going "all touristy" is sometimes just the thing to do, especially when you are a tourist. You've got to grab those chances to pan for gold in Alaska, take the submarine ride in Hawaii, and view the mermaids in Florida when you get them.


  3. Default Day 2: Grand Tetons

    Sorry for the delay in posting; busy at work, and of course with Labor Day weekend.

    Day 2 found us getting up bright and early so we could quickly weave our way up north via 89 to Grand Teton National Park. This is a great drive that we had done before back in 2006 -- the difference being that then (May) everything was green, and now (August) it was a dry yellow, and there was a haze in the air over the vista along the way. Not quite as breathtaking, but still quite lovely, and the view of Bear Lake as it comes into view is always a treat.

    There's a great turnoff along the way here that leads to an underground spring that's bubbling up. This too was a bit drier than last year -- the spring was still there, but you couldn't see it bubbling like 2 years prior. There's a nice little cave you can explore right next to the spring. My apologies for not having the name with me.

    Due to some poor driving choices, our driver at the time also got trapped at a stoplight out in the middle of nowhere with a sign next to it that urged drivers to be ready to wait 15 minutes. The light was green as we pulled up but quickly turned red and our law-abiding driver chose not to run it. Bad mistake. We turned off the car and had a quiet wait.

    Also along the way is a fantastic bathroom -- the cleanest, my female traveling companions assure me, in the world. The bathrooms are decorated with western art, pinecones, flowers, and small trees. Quite odd. Again, I don't have the name of it written down for reference at the moment.

    Jackson Hole was writhing with tourists and we got through it as quickly as traffic would allow and made our way to the Tetons. We lunched at Snake River Overlook, which was pleasant (but hot), until we got invaded by a tourist bus, each member armed with at least one camera. We got out of there as quickly as possible, heading back south, and stopped at Antelope Road, I believe, which leads to Mormon Row. Although I was at the Tetons back in '06, we missed Mormon Row, and countless online pictures made me urgent to get back there and see what we missed.

    As you can see, we'd missed out on a lot. The buildings were gorgeous, especially in the rising sun -- even when taken from a moving vehicle, like the first shot. Once we'd had our fill of old buildings, we entered the park itself and did a 5+ mile hike to Taggart Lake, then another smaller lake before returning to the Taggart Lake trailhead. We swam in Taggart -- not sure if it was allowed or not, but it felt great.

    By this point it was getting to the evening, so we inquired about free camping with a ranger and landed an excellent spot where he had a great view of the sunset. It was ridiculously hot and dry that evening, but as soon as the sun sank past the Tetons, we froze our butts off. Here's a nice pic of a friend of mine enjoying the view:

    That's it for now. Next time: We continue our driving through the amazing Teton, Yellowstone, and Beartooth country, stopping along the way to run through snow. Cold...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Brilliant, Thankyou.

    Hi Huskeylives.

    Thanks for sharing your trip with us, I am really enjoying it.

    Great pictures as well, looking forward to the next update.


  5. Default Day 3

    We packed up early from our campsite the next morning and headed north through Yellowstone. Our destination was somewhere in the Beartooth Wilderness -- it's a wilderness, so it seemed fitting we didn't know exactly where we were going.

    We spent more time in the morning at the Tetons than anticipated -- went for a lovely walk along a stream early in the morning, virtually no one else on the trail but us. We also detoured down to take a look at the Snake River. The water was fast and very tempting; it was already getting warm in the morning. Next time I'm going on a rafting trip.

    We continued north up into Yellowstone. I've been there twice before, in 2006 and 2007. The first time I did the regular tourist stuff -- mud pots, hot springs, Old Faithful. Overall, I was unimpressed, and the sulfur smell literally made one of my friends sick. In 2007 I drove through the northern part of the park which I appreciated much more. Very lovely. So this year we decided to just drive up the east side of the park and check out a bit of the north before exiting on the northwest corner onto the Beartooth Highway. It was a great drive, but I'm a little terrified of heights and the road hugs a cliffside for over half the drive. I buried my head in my pillow in the back seat. We stopped only a few times, the best of which was to see a giant herd of buffalo:

    We got a few gallons of ridiculously expensive $4.65 gas in Cooke City before heading over the mountains. We got stopped at Cooke for about 15 minutes for another pass of 1-lane construction. By this point we were old pros at our official road trip mix and had a great time belting out country classics like "What About Now" and "I'm All Right" while we waited. Nothing like four friends in a scratched up Pontiac G6.

    The Beartooth Highway is always incredible. I could spend days just driving, stopping, exploring the countless lakes and beautiful vistas. We stopped at just a couple and ran in the snow at the Beartooth Pass.

    After descending the mountains we found a nice free camp site down a seemingly endless, bumpy dirt road. Pasta was on the schedule for dinner, and it was fantastic. We had a campfire and went to be moderately early. The next day was our big hiking day: 16 miles into the Beartooths to discover an obscure little lake called Black Canyon. Absolutely fantastic.

    Overall, I have to say this trip really couldn't have fit much better into my preferred method of travel. I love the days of exploration, but they're so much better if they're broken up by days of just driving around in a car and seeing as much as you can see. It is a road trip, after all.

    Our complete itinerary:

    Day 1: Flying to Salt Lake, Antelope Island exploration
    Day 2: Driving to and exploring the Tetons
    Day 3: Driving through the Tetons and Yellowstone and the Beartooths
    Day 4: Exploring the Beartooths
    Day 5: Driving to Glacier through the plains of Montana
    Day 6: Exploring Glacier
    Day 7: Driving to the Sawtooths
    Day 8: Exploring the Sawtooths, back to Salt Lake
    Day 9: Flying home

  6. Default Day 4

    Not sure if anyone's actually reading these or not, but if so, my apologies for taking so long for the latest posting.

    As planned, we took a day off from driving on our fourth day of travel to do a nice hike in the Beartooth wilderness. I researched beforehand and found a really exciting-sounding, 14-mile roundtrip hike through some gorgeous scenery and we got up early and got started.

    The hike wasn't all that it cracked up to be at first. The first five miles went entirely by a creek -- pretty enough, but five miles is a long time to hike anywhere with the same exact scenery the entire time. Still, it wasn't exactly ugly:

    A side trail led up to Lost Lake, and was well-worth the side hike. Coming back down, we hit up a bridge where the trail to our destination -- Black Canyon Lake -- split off from the main trail. We had a general idea from my directions where we were going, but lost the trail within 15 minutes. Depressing. So we came back down and ran into some very disgruntled hikers who said that they lost the trail many times on the way up and down and that, while it was a "nice lake," there were other nice lakes the other way. Discouraged by their advice, we decided to abandon our Black Canyon plans and headed back to our bridge, crossed over, and started on our way to one of those other lakes. After about a mile of tunnel vision as we hiked up through the trees, we were passed by a genuine cowboy -- hat, check, horse, check, hand pistol in holster, check -- who told us that while there were some nice lakes up ahead, they were another 5 miles or so, and none compared to Black Canyon Lake. Further, he actually had directions for the lake -- "follow the dry creekbed" -- that sounded more solid than our vague map. After he passed, we talked it over and decided that it would be worth it to turn around and try one more time for B.C. So we did. And boy, were we glad.

    Following the dry bed, we found our way without any difficulty. The creekbed eventually turned into a creek -- runoff from the lake -- with a path alongside it that further up opened up to reveal a boulderfield and some of the most beautiful, unspoiled land on God's earth. There's really no way to describe it, and the pictures I have don't do it justice, but -- wow.

    There were 2 ways up -- one way was to scramble over the boulder field, the other was to cross the creek and follow the path up over the ridge to where the lake (presumably) sat. We wisely crossed over, and even that had its fair share of boulder scrambling. The view that rewarded us on the way up, and especially when we got to the top, was more than worth it.

    The lake was perfectly clear, and when the sun came out it cast it in the most amazing shade of blue. Absolutely gorgeous, and unbelievable that we were not only the only people at the top, but also the only people we saw on the way up. (Probably because no one else could find the trail.) We waded in the freezing cold lake but unfortunately could only stay for about an hour since we still had about 7 miles back, mostly downhill, and there were dark clouds starting to move in. After filtering a fresh supply of water, we headed back down.

    Despite being downhill, the hike back was torture. We were rained on just briefly, but it cleared up again. The real problem was, by that point we were really getting tired of the same walk along the creekbed and we turned our hike into a death march to get out of there ASAP. We made it back in great time though -- all in all, about 9 hours for the entire 16-mile (with detours) hike, plus time spent at the bridge, Lost Lake, and Black Canyon Lake. We had pancakes and salad (weird, I know) for supper before going to bed REALLY early -- the next day we were driving all the way to Glacier, so we needed a nice, early start.

    I'll leave you for now with this final photo of yours truly. The lake was to the left at the bottom of the slope.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default We are reading all of them!

    Great tale and wonderful photos -- Like me, there are hundreds of viewers reading this thread every day!

    Keep 'em coming.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Agreed.

    I am enjoying your report along with many others, the photo's and text are top notch.

    Keep up the good work !


  9. Default Day 5

    On our fifth day we really got to the heart of what I was looking for from this trip. While all the hiking and all the parks are great, nothing really compares to the vastness and magnitude of the plains and the insight they give to rural, everyday America -- in my opinion, anyway. But I'm biased, because I live in rural, everyday America, and think it's swell. And what better way to experience rural, everyday America than a stop sign with bullet holes?

    So for the fifth day we headed north through the plains of Montana -- using a lot of back roads, thanks to advice from others at these forums -- and weaved our ways upward toward Glacier National Park.

    Our initial plan for heading up to Glacier and taking a really out-of-the-way detour to Bannack had to be scrapped, unfortunately, because we just didn't have time. So our ideal was to find a ghost town to visit somewhere along the way in the plains area instead. Unfortunately, we failed. We did go through the world's most hideous shopping strip in Great Falls, Montana, however.

    With no ghost town to be found -- we stopped at ranger stations, we looked at maps, but anything we could find was on private land -- we decided to just take our time, pulling off whenever we saw something of interest, eventually ending up on 89-N and heading up through the Belt Mountains, where we ate lunch down a little dirt road:

    We stopped at a western-themed gift shop along the way and got a cowboy hat for Carrie, one of our friends, whose birthday was the day before we flew back home. She wore the hat with pride the rest of our trip.

    The weather was nice most of the way, but we did run into a bit of rain as we came closer to Glacier. It wasn't any big deal, and the contrasting color of the sky and the plains made for great pictures. Our only concern was that it not be raining when we set up our tents.

    In the town of Browning we started seeking out campsites. Our cheap/free campground book mentioned one in Browning for $15 -- but what the book didn't say was that there was an additional fee of $5/shower per person. There were four of us, and as we hadn't showered since we left Salt Lake four days earlier, it was past time. But not for $5.

    Unfortunately, our next attempt to find camping wasn't any more promising:

    Mildly creeped out, we left that one too. Our next one had the most promise -- it was a decent-looking place adjacent to a horse farm, and even had a diner on the property. And we were starving. Unfortunately the diner was closed on Wednesday -- and of course, it was Wednesday -- so we fell to our backup meal of hamburgers and corn. The meal actually turned out fantastic, but was a bit tricky at first; a viciously cold wind picked up and was so strong we had trouble getting the cooking stove lit. Getting a campfire was even harder. Fortunately, we had kerosene.

    And the showers -- oh, the showers. Long. Hot. Amazing. The cleanest bathrooms I've ever seen at a camping location. The site cost $20 with tax, but it was worth every penny, and considering that was the total cost of our entire camping expenses for nine days -- well, we weren't complaining. Plus, we got treated to a great sunset from our site through the Aspen trees. Only complaint? The horses tended to get out a lot from the farm, and left landmines all over every campsite. Including ours. In fact, it was nearly impossible to find a spot clean enough to pitch one tent, let alone both of ours. But we managed.

    Our next day was Glacier, but before that, it's about time I showed off our official mascot, Bruce the Moose, who we found at a tourist shop up in Bar Harbor on a road trip in '07 -- always eager to move on to the next location, as you can see:

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Shower Reports -- Always welcome herein!

    Quote Originally Posted by huskylives View Post
    And the showers -- oh, the showers. Long. Hot. Amazing. The cleanest bathrooms I've ever seen at a camping location. The site cost $20 with tax, but it was worth every penny
    Perhaps, I missed it -- but could you provide the location of this camping spot -- shower reports are always valuable to roadtrippers!


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