Yellowstone was utter madness. After the relative peace and tranquility of Grand Teton, Yellowstone was like stepping in to nature’s (or the NPS’) version of Disneyland.
Don’t get me wrong, the static mixture of vast pine forests, rocky peaks and volatile but colorful volcanic pools, geysers and mud pits deserve the draw that they get. We just visited at the wrong time of year. Our first day we were in the park by 8.30am. A respectable time as we had begun nearly an hour away. By the time we got close to the entrance, there was already a 25 minute que for entry, and every NPS campsite was already full. The park was much of an exercise in the same, half an hour in traffic, half an hour to park and 5 minutes spend viewing a volcanic pool through crows of iPad wielding tourists.
We viewed most of what we had come to, the only thing we missed being Grand Prismatic Spring as the queues to park were just too crazy, and then made a beeline out of the west side of the park where we found an awesome little site on the fringe of the park and spent the next 48 hours.
Upon reentry to the park a few days later, we found that while much less unique and volatile than the southern half of the park, there were much fewer people in the north, which made the experience for us, although moderately less spectacular, much more enjoyable.
Leaving the northern exit to the park, we did not hesitate to make a solid beeline north, towards Glacier National Park, a park much more remote, Equally spectacular in its difference and one that if we are honest, we were always more excited about.
My view of Montana, like much of my view of the American states has been cultured by the media on which I was brought up. Montana was among the ones that I felt I had the most solid impression on. Images conjured entirely from the name of the state and the film brokeback mountain, of wild and untamed plains, green mountain scapes and vast forests, were sorely let down, as we spent 350 miles driving through incredibly vast and seemingly never-ending grassy plains. With sweeping side wind and golden grass, it was not unpretty, just un-enticing, it was awesome to view, but where a vast mountainscape or forest calls to you to enter and explore, this was something we were happy to being seeing at a fleeting distance.
Like the calm before a storm, or the desert before an oasis the desolate always gives way to abundance, and it is all the more appreciated when it does. As we neared the park boundaries, nothing but the silhouette of the rocky peaks to suggest its bounty, we almost began to laugh that we may just turn one corner to the veritable Narnia that we were expecting.
Just as our laughter peaked, the corner we had turned did just that, and our laughter was turned to instant awe as the rugged beauty that we had been expecting was revealed tenfold before our eyes.
As the day was getting on, we spent our first night camped outside the park, on a streamside clearing, with the mountains in the background.
As even this park was busy, we thought it prudent to begin day two by trying to secure ourselves a camp spot for the evening. Upon entry to the park, it turned out that the only site with spots was a primitive one on the far side from where we were. we decided we would leave this and just find ourselves a wild spot in the national forest that surrounds the park.
We still decided it would be better to lock this down before we did anything else, and soon found ourselves driving around the fringes of the park, enjoying the wild Montana scenery. as we rounded a corner on a mountain pass, we caught our first glimpse of Two Medicine Lake, the harbinger of both a campground and a trail that we wanted to visit, and incredibly only half inside the national park itself.
we neared the bottom, and quickly found a short, but tricky trail that gratifyingly popped us out, right on a clearing by the shore. Well we did have big plans for the day, but it was already mid afternoon, and campsites like this don’t come along every day:
We resolved to enjoy the afternoon, that we would get up early and hike, but for the time being, let the music play, read a book, and try to take in scenery that breathtaking.
Unfortunately, in the early evening, while walking the hound along the beach he darted after something on his flexi lead and became entangled in a bush. during my efforts to free him, he managed to slip his confines and continue in his pursuit.
Way to ruin our chill.
We waited all night and well into the next morning for his return. This was the first time he had really been off in country that had animals that could outrun and actually kill him. Bear, Wolves, Mountain Lion. He is savvy and quick, but there is a limit. by the morning I was sure we had seen the last of him. Usually he returns in but a few hours. Always, you can hear the distant echoes of his barks. This time nothing. By 11am, we resolved there was no way he was coming back here, that it was time to start the inevitable search.
We decided that, knowing the hound, he would have eventually gotten tired and cold and that usually, this means heading to the nearest humans. Obviously the chase had led him far from us, so we reasoned that the nearest centre of population would have been the campground 4 miles up the road.
We arrived and asked the rangers, who immediately confirmed that the had the dog from his image on the logo on the side of our Cruiser. We were relieved, and scolded. They had mistaken Frank’s cuts obtained, as usual on the chase, and lean appearance, especially added to the fact he had ended up uncontrolled in a national park (a big no no) as signs that we were clear animal abusers. A fair conclusion to make. While I don’t appreciate their demeanour with us, I do appreciate how it must have looked, and would prefer that people were to prioritize the treatment of animals over social etiquette, as they did.
I still left feeling like a naughty school child. Again, the day had grown, and we were now forced to once again prioritize that nights sleep above our plans for the day.
We decided to re-enter the park and head up to Bowman lake. We did just this, skirting the Canadian border along the way:
Along the way we came across the small “town” of Polebridge. And as it was right in the heart of the national forest surrounding the park, also found a great riverside camp spot. As the spot was again, so good, and the town so cool. we decided the most appropriate course of action after our stressful 24 hours with the dog was to set up camp and go for a pint. A great call by any measure. The bar had the charm of drinking in the wild west. serving fellow travellers, we quickly made friends, and our pint quickly became more.
We also managed to retire to a spectacular spot just a few hundred metres from the town. It doesn’t get much better.
Finally on our last day in Glacier, we made it to Bowman lake and to do our hike to and actual Glacier.
Bowman lake itself was stunning, but on arrival, we found that like many other places, it was not a place we could take the dog. Knowing the hike would be 6-7 hours and not being willing to leave the dog in the car, we were once again defeated. Glacier had fully defeated us. A stunning place, but clearly not meant for dogs and therefore not meant for us. We had a superb time (mostly) in the area, and some of the best campsites we have ever enjoyed, but were unfortunately quelled by the park itself.