Big Fish and Bigger Sky (Wyoming and Montana)
Recently retired and ready to spread their wings, Len and Faith Todd wanted to do more with their time than just wait for the grandkids to stack up. Avid travelers, they purchased a toy hauler with the expressed purpose of doing some snowmobiling in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. But another motivation waited, unexpressed, in one of their hearts: to Tour Alaska, The trip of a lifetime. They waited three years and then, in late June of 2009, the trip of a lifetime began. During the trip, Faith and Len blogged their adventure and kept a growing audience of friends and family rapt with attention and not a little bit jealous. This chapter covers July 14–17, days 15–18 of their adventure.
Fremont Lake in Pinedale, Wyoming is Mother Nature at her finest—pristine and untouched. Cruising around on our friends’, the Rogers, pontoon boat we saw enormous trout leaping up out of the crystalline water and baby ospreys peeking over the sides of nests along the shoreline. We stopped for lunch and shared a feast of smoked salmon, pasta, salad and watermelon while osprey glided overhead.
Our wonderful Wyoming friend, Bethie, had taken us up into the Wind River Range (the Wyoming Rockies) the day before. From those heights we had seen Fremont Lake stretched out before us like a panoramic postcard. To be actually immersed in all that beauty was like bathing in tranquility. A quiet lake. A pure and unspoiled setting. A picnic lunch surrounded by the kind of beauty you see in the pages of National Geographic.
That evening Len finally had a chance to grab his pole and do a little fishing. Well, little by Wyoming standards. He caught 20 brown trout in the Green River on his first trip. Like every other fisherman, only the next cast is better than the last, but dinner was waiting back at camp, so he called it a night as the stars came out. Our meal that evening was steak, crab legs, and fresh-caught trout grilled over an open fire. What else can you say? Life is good in Wyoming.
The next morning Len took the dirt bike up into the Wind River Mountains to Burnt Lake for some more fishing. I think he caught more fish in three days than in five years on the Baldwin River back home. After the browns, rainbows, and brookies that seem magnetized to the fly in Wyoming, fishing in Michigan may never be the same.
So, while my MacGyver was fishing, what was a girl to do? Receive warnings from park rangers, apparently. Wednesday morning I was relaxing at the campsite when a ranger happened by. He informed me that some shepherds across the river had “lost” their dogs. I was “not to be alarmed” if and when these doggies came across our campsite. Because of the previous warnings we had been given regarding mixing dogs and bears, this information carried with it a little more force than it might have otherwise.
Adding to my trepidation, Ranger Rick then proceeded to inform me that I should—immediately—place the coolers we had left outside back inside the trailer. They were a “violation in bear country.” I tried to explain that all our food was properly stowed. These coolers only contained beer, water and pop. Ranger Rick put on his best “serious face” and bluntly informed me that many bears are fans of beer. I was skeptical, but the ranger seemed content to wait around until I complied. Back into the trailer went the beer. Later, my brother sent me the link below. Apparently “Yogi” and “Boo Boo” do have a bit of a drinking problem. Not only did it back up the park ranger’s premise, it is hilarious without even trying:
Friday morning Len, a bit mournfully, packed up his fishing gear and we left Wyoming. He wasn’t the only one who looked over his shoulder a time or two. I was leaving behind a friend of more than 30 years and her family. We had an awesome week of relaxing in Wyoming, catching up with the Rogers and reliving days gone by—but we still had a lot of adventure left!
Friday we were on the road for nine hours and 368 miles, finally landing in Butte, Montana. The Big Sky state. And wow! That first sunset was like nothing we had ever seen. To say it did not disappoint is a profound understatement!
From Butte, we traveled to Hungry Horse, about 20 miles outside Glacier National Park. If you head this way, don’t miss Going-to-the-Sun Road. It takes you up into the highest elevations in the park. The views are indescribable. You find yourself wanting to belt out America the Beautiful at the top of your lungs.
Hungry Horse itself is no slouch. Located about ten miles outside Glacier National, the entire town is quaint and pure, resistant to the commercialization that some former “Wild West” towns are known for. Mid-July in Hungry Horse is huckleberry season, so you can guess what we were hungry for. We bought huckleberry honey at the Huckleberry Patch store, huckleberry pie at the Elkhorn Grill and some huckleberry ice cream in Glacier National. Slightly more tart than blueberries, but very similar, the fresh huckleberries, and everything made from them, were quite a treat.
Of course, huckleberries were not the only things in season. Wild raspberry bushes seemed to be everywhere on our hikes. If you plan to do some hiking, you may want to pick up a field guide to wild plants and berries. Picking the right ones can create a delicious trail mix on the spot. Make a mistake… well, just get the guide. Click here and see two of our suggestions. Of course, we were not the only ones to think so. Bears, it seems, enjoy wild berries nearly as much as beer—so make sure you are carrying Bear Spray when you venture out. Bear Spray is like a cross between personal pepper spray and that shark repellent Adam West used in the Batman movie from the 60’s. With the bear repellent in our respective “utility belts” we were once more intrepid wilderness hikers… albeit still “bear aware.” It’s amazing how fast those big guys can move when properly motivated!
Glacier National Park is amazing. You could easily spend two weeks exploring this park and it would only be the tip of the iceberg. But we will save that part of the story for the next chapter in our adventure! Click here to view our recommendations.