Montana, Naturally.

The words “Montana” and “nature” kind of go hand in hand. Why? Well, Montana is the 4th largest state in the USA and contains the 44th largest population so, you see, there is a lot of room and not a lot of people. Lots of cattle, though. But maybe that’s beside the point.

I think my point is that Montana can be a wonderful place to explore, what with 44 state parks, 7 state forests, 1 state memorial, 1 national park, 17 national forests, 2 national historic sites, 1 national historic park, 24 national wildlife refuges, and 2 national recreation areas, there is bound to be something to do for everyone in your posse.

When I went to Montana a couple of weeks ago for a music festival in Missoula, (see my post Travelers’ Rest Fest for more details on this glorious and wondrous time), we made time to visit two of Montana’s state parks: Travelers’ Rest State Park, in Lolo (a small town 10 miles south of Missoula), and Lost Creek State Park, in Anaconda (a small town 20 miles northwest of Butte). We would’ve liked to have popped up to Glacier National Park for a day or so, but alas our schedules did not allow for this. We made due with visiting the location at which Lewis and Clark made camp during their expedition west, which is now a state park, as well as a super off-the-wall state park that was rather hidden back in the mountain-y hills.

Nothing too thrilling happened at either state park, we just spent our time wandering around, collecting rocks, and taking photos of the beautiful nature surrounding us.

First up, photos from Travelers’ Rest State Park:

IMG_4569_1_1
A couple of lovely little sunflowers to brighten up the day.

IMG_4493_1_1

IMG_4562_1_1
S1uch a busy little spider, weaving such an intricate little web.

IMG_4549_1_1IMG_4559_1_1

IMG_4491_1_1
I just love the splash of purple from these little flowers.
IMG_4533_1_1
Suzi was collecting wild mint from the riverbank!
IMG_4526_1_1
Nicole, sporting her new Missoula hat that she had purchased in Missoula the day before.
IMG_4525_1_1
Suzi, finding all of the Fool’s Gold. 🙂
IMG_4541_1_1
Yes, that is actually smoke obscuring the distant mountains. There were some pretty severe forest fires in the area when we were visiting. Thankfully, it rained a bit this day which helped to clear the air.

IMG_4498_1_1

IMG_4512_1_1
A picturesque barn, with some rather photogenic grass.
IMG_4508_1_1
Oh look, Sara found a feather.
IMG_4505_1_1
Doesn’t it remind you of fall time? It does me!
IMG_4540_1_1
Another shot of the smoke. One could potentially pass it off as fog, if we were in the Pacific Northwest.
IMG_4487_1_1_1
One last flower photo from Travelers’ Rest State Park!

We spent a good hour or two at Travelers’ Rest before heading back to Missoula and to the second day of Travelers’ Rest Fest, the music festival put on by The Decemberists. Which was amazing. But I’ve already mentioned how utterly stupendous the festival was in this post, plus I have a whole separate post dedicated to its awesomeness. Check it out, if you’re keen.

On Monday, after we packed our things and headed out of Missoula, we drove through the curves for about 80 miles before exiting I-90 and heading southwest, toward a little state park called Lost Creek State Park. Sara and I speculated that the name came about because some person found the creek, and then was unable to find it for some time, and maybe even had his/her children or grandchildren out searching for it (much like what happens in the movie Holes, when Sigourney Weaver’s grandpa makes her search for the treasure which is why she has the juvenile delinquents digging holes all the time.) before they finally found the “lost creek” and then they thought that would be a good area for a state park so the gave the land to the state. One theory among many, I’m sure.

Anyway. Lost Creek State Park was a lovely little place that had no other people in it while we were there. A good place for a potential quadruple homicide, if one had been in the mind for it. We parked the car and walked around a bit. We decided not to venture off of the main road, for fear of there potentially being an individual lurking in the woods who had quadruple homicide on the brain. It just seemed like the logical thing to do.

The hills here were not obscured by smoke, which was nice, and the flowers were oh-so-pretty. The following photos are those that I took at Lost Creek State Park:

IMG_4581_1_1
I rather fancied this flower, it was just begging to be photographed!

IMG_4589_1_1

IMG_4592_1_1
I’m not entirely sure what this red color is on these leaves, if it is meant to be there or not. Either way, it looks nice.
IMG_4597_1_1
We were surrounded by these tall, rocky hill/cliffs, overlooking the “lost creek” that ran through the park.

IMG_4605_1_1

IMG_4608_1_1
And there it is! We found the lost creek!

IMG_4611_1_1

IMG_4623_1_1
For some reason, I like how dead flowers look almost as much (but probably not more) than the not-dead flowers. They just have so much more texture. It’s nice.

IMG_4618_1_1

IMG_4673_1_1

 

IMG_4621_1_1

IMG_4624_1_1
Hello, tiny pine tree on top of the rocky mountain/hill!
IMG_4641_1_1
Okay, so I am about 96% sure that these are raspberries (I mean, what else could they be?), so I was like, “Hey Suzi, look. Wild raspberries!” And so she and I proceeded to pick a few and eat them. And then I go up to Sara, all excited-like, and say, “Hey Sara, Suzi and I just found some wild raspberries and we ate them.” Sara goes, “Oh God. If you guys get the shits later, we’ll know why!” Haha. If you were wondering, we did not get the shits. We were fine. 🙂

IMG_4639_1_1

IMG_4645_1_1

IMG_4629_1_1
These were the cutest little purple flowers I had ever seen, so lovely with their color popping out against the dull brown background.
IMG_4648_1_1_1
The road we followed to stay safe from those with homicidal intentions.
IMG_4658_1_1
The rushing creek. And some flowers, of course.
IMG_4667_1_1
Left to right: Nicole, Sara, and Suzi.
IMG_4669_1_1
Another shot of the rocky hill/mountain.
IMG_4665_1_1
This one features a nice forest of tall, thin pine trees.
IMG_4676_1_1
I nearly fell in the water getting this shot. That would have sucked.

IMG_4663_1_1

IMG_4635_1_1
Hello again, adorable little purple flowers!

IMG_4659_1_1IMG_4685_1_1

IMG_4693_1_1
Because I take too many photos, I am always and forever falling behind my companions. Sara says, “my favorite part about going back the way we came is that Anna has already seen everything and doesn’t need to stop every five seconds to take a picture.” What Sara doesn’t understand is that when we head back, I am seeing everything from a new angle so yes, I do need to stop every five seconds to take a picture.
IMG_4701_1_1
I like how cheerful this flower looks even after it is dead.

IMG_4704_1_1IMG_4691_1_1

IMG_4682_1_1
And finally, a parting birch tree.

We spent a decent hour or so exploring this little state park. It was a nice break to get out and stretch our legs after driving for two hours and with only ten more to go… Seriously, what a jaunt! Attending the music festival was worth it, though. Totally worth it. And the state parks and flower photos were a nice added bonus. 🙂

The Journey Home.

We began our long and arduous journey home at 10 am, Pacific time, after a weird and somewhat cryptic conversation with the store keeper. We preferred his wife, she was a nice woman. This dude was odd as heck. Anyway.

We woke up at 9 and packed up the tent and repacked the car, and then we were off! On the road back out to Ilwaco, we saw A MAMA BLACK BEAR IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. Oh boy did we get excited. And then, we looked to the right and there, in the tree, just chillin’, was a little black bear cub! We died, he was so cute. We sat there for about 3 minutes, and then he climbed away and we also climbed away, except we were in a car so it was more like we drove away.

20170602_100621_1_1
The little bebe black bear! Be still, my heart. 

We drove north on Highway 101 for a while, and then I think we took something that may have been a highway 18 or a highway 7. Either way, it took us to I-5, which led directly to I-90. After that it was a straight shot west; it could not have been any easier. We stopped on occasion to use the bathroom, to get some food, and to stretch our legs, which usually happened because the one of the first two were occurring. I drove from literally the coast of Washington all the way to Billings, Montana. A solid 17 hours of driving through two and a half states (I’m totally counting the 80 miles we drove in Idaho as a state) under my belt. After a brief stop in Billings, we continued on our merry way. Jennifer drove from Billings to Dickinson, ND, and then I continued dirving all the way back to Grand Forks. In retrospect, that was probably not a great idea, me driving for like, a bazillion hours with little-to-no sleep. But hey we didn’t die, so score one for us!

We made it back to Grand Forks around 5 pm on Saturday, and by 8 pm we were back on the road. Sara was driving this time; we packed her car and took off for the cities. I curled up in the back seat and slept for about an hour and a half or so, bringing my grand total of hours slept in the past 36 to about two. Woo!

The three of us made it to the cities around 1 am, and after Sara and I said our goodbyes to dear Jennifer, we made our way south to our MN home. We arrived around 3 am, and we didn’t even bother to unpack any of our things. We practically fell into our beds and passed out until 1 pm on Sunday.


The following week was one of rest and recuperation. Sara and I didn’t do much, other than go on long walks and watch American Horror Story: Hotel. If you haven’t seen it, you definitely should. Lady Gaga is queen.

And with that, the saga of our super epic road trip is done. It was a really freaking awesome week, full of mountains and forests and oceans, and while I did put 3700 miles on my Jeep I’m gonna go ahead and say it was totally worth it.

Thanks Jen and Sara, for proving to me that we are adult enough to handle a road trip on our own. Till the next one! 🙂


Oh yeah, here are some more photos of flowers. You’re welcome.

IMG_4303_1_1
I believe this is Foxglove, it was near the coastal trail but since I only had a dead camera at the time I had to come back before we left Cape Disappointment and snap a few photos. 
20170601_164530_1_1
This is Coastal Rhododendron, which is the state flower of Washington. Oh my, were they ever in bloom this year! So flipping gorgeous, in colors ranging from red to purple to orange to pink. 
20170601_135325_1_1
I don’t know what this is, but I’m okay with that. 
IMG_4250_1_1
Oh, also here’s some moss. I’ll just leave this here for you.

Day three of the “Let’s Go West!” trip ft. Avalanche Lake.

Day Three. Monday. Memorial Day.

We woke up later this morning, due to the fact that we had just climbed 10 miles up a mountain the previous day. We packed the car in record time before heading out to the Glacier National Park visitor center. We caught the free shuttle to the Avalanche Lake trail head to do some more hiking before moving on with our journey west. We spent a fair amount of time hiking to Avalanche Lake, as we were doing our best to waste as much time as possible. I was allowed (Thanks, guys!) to take photos with my camera, and so I took full advantage of that. 🙂

IMG_3447_1_1
Just Jen doing Parkour things.

IMG_3471_1_1

IMG_3491_1_1
This is my, “Oh hey nature, you’re pretty neat” face.

IMG_3515_1_1

IMG_3481_1_1

IMG_3535_1_1

IMG_3571_1_1
“I like that boulder. That’s a nice boulder.”

IMG_3592_1_1


We finally made the 2.5 mile walk (5.5 miles round-trip) to Avalanche Lake, and boy was that a sight to behold. Crystal clear water surrounded by trees, mountains, and more trees. I could have stood there all day.

IMG_3650_1_1
Ahh, Avalanche Lake, you are gorgeous. Keep on keeping on.
IMG_3620_1_1
I think Jennifer was excited to see Avalanche Lake. It’s hard to tell, she’s such a closed book. 😉
IMG_3632_1_1
Avalanche Lake is beautiful, almost as beautiful as their friendship.
IMG_3623_1_1
Please enjoy my awkward mountain selfie 🙂
IMG_3635_1_1
Just sitting in the majesty of the mountains.

 

IMG_3638_1_1
Jen + her water bottle.
IMG_3645_1_1
Channeling my inner Nixon.

Alas, we eventually had to move on, and get back on the road. We stopped in Whitefish to have a picnic in a park and eat some delicious ice cream. My flavor was Montana Huckleberry. It seemed fitting.

20170529_181856_1_1
This ice cream was #yum. I realized after I ate about half of the it that I wanted to take a photo of my ice cream with downtown Whitefish and the distant mountains in the background. So I did it anyway, with a half-eaten ice cream cone.

I was the driver for the four hour trip to Spokane, Washington. We drove along Highway 93, and that was seriously the curviest road I have ever driven on, I felt like a NASCAR driver. With a Jeep. In the mountains. Montana really is something, landscape-wise. We merged onto Highway 200, which turned out to be a neat little drive through the Montana countryside. It brought us right into Idaho (the panhandle, to be specific), a state I had never been to until this trip. It seemed oddly like western Montana to me. How curious.

IMG_3697_1_1

IMG_3698_1_1
Don’t worry, I was keeping an eye out for approaching vehicles.

The sunset we were chasing was absolutely gorgeous. I had been begging to stop at almost every scenic turnout, but I was turned down by my passengers, and was told to “take a mental picture.” Even though I was driving. You’ll just have to believe me when I say that the sunset, silhouetted by the mountains and reflecting off the water, was lovely. Everything about this trip has been lovely so far. I was (grudgingly) allowed to take a photo of the sunset, and so here it is, in all of its sunset-y glory.

IMG_3718_1_1The three of us made it to Spokane (a rather surprising feat, for there were some foreboding signs on Highway 200 in Montana about big horned sheep and 433 killed and 55 mph. We’re still not entirely sure what they mean; 433 big horned sheep killed? Or have the big horned sheep caused the death of 433 humans? Also, this was over the course of a 19-mile stretch, and so that seems like a very specific area to have had so many deaths. The deaths per square foot must be incredible. Additionally, what is the time frame that we’re looking at; for the last year? 10 years? 50 years? So many questions, so many theories and speculations, so little knowledge about big horned sheep and their death rates.) around 10:45 p.m. Pacific time and stopped at Walmart for a couple of camping necessities. We also stopped for gas and coffee, found I-90, and headed west into the night.

It was just Sara, me and the semis awake on the road. We drove for two hours before needing a brief nap. We stopped at a rest area, saw that there was a homeless lady sleeping on the cement outside of the women’s restroom in a sleeping bag and decided to drive 40 miles to the next rest area, where there was no homeless lady sleeping on the cement outside of the women’s restroom. We managed to sleep in the car for a solid hour and a half. After shutting my eyes for what seemed like a second, it was 4:30 a.m. and I figured we should probably keep going. So, we kept going.

Westward, ho!

Let’s Go West! Part One.

Girls [3]. US Highway [2]. Outlandish plan to head out west [1].

My younger sister Sara and I, along with out lovely friend Jen, made a plan to drive out west on US Highway 2, over Memorial Day Weekend. Well, it’s Memorial Day Weekend and we have actually followed through with said plan. Technically it is still being followed through with, as we are currently in Montana. We have a lot more “west” to cover before completion of the trip. The fact that we are even on the first leg of this trip is in and of itself an amazing feat, as we are fairly notorious for making elaborate and exciting plans and only following through with a fraction of them. It’s a real issue.

Like I said, we are currently in Montana. Columbia Falls, a tiny town just outside of Glacier National Park, to be exact. We started out from Grand Forks, North Dakota on Friday evening at approximately 11:45 p.m. after a necessary food stop at Walmart. Sara had driven to The Cities that day to pick up aforementioned lovely friend Jen, as Jen was a necessary component to this trip and did not have a vehicle with which to transport herself the five-hour drive from Minneapolis to Grand Forks. It really is a shame that aparation is not a real thing. That would make life so much more convenient. However, I digress. It is not the time to delve into the Wizarding World, no matter how fun that may be. This is the time to discuss the first leg of our “Let’s Go West!” camping trip. Like I said, we left Grand Forks around 11:45 on Friday night. I was the lucky one who got to drive through the whole great state of North Dakota. It really wasn’t bad, as I had taken a solid two hour nap on Friday around 7 p.m. in preparation for the all-night driving session, but I will admit it got a little rough around 4:30 a.m. My passengers had fallen asleep, so I just had Third Eye Blind to keep me awake. However, we managed to make it to Montana in time for the sunrise.

IMG_3160_1_1We stopped for breakfast, and kept right on going. I was provided a two-hour reprieve, during which time I had a nice little nap. I decided I wanted to drive again, because it was my vehicle we were taking (a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee, white) and I just like to drive. And drive we did. Montana is a huge state, nearly twice the length of North Dakota. It took 5 hours through ND, which meant that we had about 9 hours to go through MT. However, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day for a drive. The three of us grew up in southern Minnesota, and so we were not used to such terrain. The hills of Montana were exciting, but when we saw the mountains we (meaning I) became ecstatic. There were squeals of excitement all around. Mainly from me. Of course, we had to stop once we were close enough to take some photos of the impending mountains.

IMG_3168_1_1
Look at those mountains! Also the cattle. And the fence. Lovely.

 

So we kept on driving and eventually made it to the mountains, and man was that a sight to behold. I’ve never really been in the mountains, much less driven in them, so that was an adventure.  IMG_3171_1_1After our lovely drive through the mountains, we made it to the west side of Glacier National Park, and we found our hotel in Columbia Falls around 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon. The beds were very inviting, and I ended up taking an hour-long nap, which increased the number of hours I had slept in the last 18 to a whopping total of three. Later that evening, Sara and I decided to do a bit of exploring. We found a nice little lake to sit by whilst watching the sunset. It was a gorgeous evening, albeit a bit buggy, but that is to be expected. It was around 65 degrees, no wind, and it smelled like forest. Wonderful.IMG_3199_1_1After our nice little sit by the lake, we returned to the hotel for a much-needed repose.