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Oh, Montana (and Wyoming)

mountain pond

Pond above the resort as the sun crests the mountain

Oh, Montana. On Sunday, my husband and I—empty nesters that we now are—traveled to southwestern Montana to meet up with old friends, some of whom we haven’t seen since before the turn of the century. (I’ve been waiting for an excuse to use that phrase…)

Catching up was great, and doing it in a wild and beautiful place like Montana and northern Wyoming made it fabulous.

Here are a few of my favorite memories from our trip.

Stars

I don’t think I’ve seen so many stars since my parents drove us into the mountains in Utah at night and we lay in the back of our little pickup truck on the side of the road.

Out in isolated Chico Hot Springs (about an hour’s drive southeast of Bozeman, and maybe thirty minutes from the northern entrance to Yellowstone at Gardiner), there is little light to interfere with the view.

The stars. Were. Incredible.

Billions and billions of them filled the sky and the Milky Way looked like a band of gauzy clouds. We sat outside in the growing chill for hours, following the path of anonymous satellites and catching sight of shooting stars.

Absolutely breathtaking.

Mountains

I adore the mountains and ocean in almost equal measure, and one of my regrets is that Sacramento doesn’t have either the low mountains that cling to California’s coastline or the tall peaks that hug its eastern border.

In Southwestern Montana, on the other hand, the mountains roll in seemingly endless waves across the land. Some soft and green with pine trees, some brown with long grass, others barren or snow-covered with gray rock jutting toward the clouds like blades of a knife.

Chico Hot Springs Resort, Montana

Chico Hot Springs Resort, Montana

Yellowstone

I haven’t been to Yellowstone since I was eight. Pretty much the only thing I remember is Old Faithful and bears. On this trip, we hiked into northern Yellowstone—crossing into Wyoming after entering the park—to visit Hellroaring Creek, a clear, rock-strewn flow that feeds into the Yellowstone River.

The Yellowstone River from a suspension bridge on the Hellroaring Creek trail

The Yellowstone River from a suspension bridge on the Hellroaring Creek trail

Hellroaring Creek

Hellroaring Creek

Here there be bears. Luckily—though some in my party might have disagreed—we only saw paw prints. And a bison!

wybearprint

wybisontrail

Afterwards, we returned to Mammoth Hot Springs near the park entrance and walked around the mounds built up over the years by the (literally) steaming springs. The landscape is like something you’d find deep in a cave or on some imagined, hostile planet.

A mound at Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming

A mound at Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming

Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming

Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming

We ended our day trip watching elk eat, bugle, and even lock antlers, both at Mammoth Hot Springs and in the town of Gardiner, just outside the park’s Roosevelt gate.

Elk hanging out in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming

Elk hanging out in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming

Writing

I try not to worry too much about work when I’m on vacation, but my goal is to look at my story for at least a few minutes every day so I don’t lose my momentum. With Scrivener for iOS and a new hard-case bluetooth keyboard for my iPad, I managed to stay immersed in my manuscript while sitting on the lodge porch in the cool morning air, sipping hot tea, and soaking up the view of the turning trees.

View from the lodge porch at Chico Hot Springs Resort, Montana

View from the lodge porch at Chico Hot Springs Resort, Montana

Honestly, that’s not even work. That’s the dream.

Oh, Montana.


What are some cool things you’ve seen on vacation? Where would you like to visit next?

8 Comments

  1. Reply

    Vacations (both home and abroad) are not only great for memories and writing about, but the resulting photos are really nice for ideas– such as the cgi artwork I incorporate with my poetry blog. Thanx for sharing this post with us.

    • Reply

      So true, loujenhaxmyor. I take so many–maybe too many?–photos when I travel, but it’s hard to regret the reminders of things that inspired, amused, or surprised me. 🙂

  2. Reply

    Thanks for sharing these images, Gwen. I know where you’re are coming from. We’re all busy and don’t have so much time for vacation. My wife and I live in Europe [at the moment], but had our residence in Helena, MT for several years.
    Your images were a nice reminder about the past.
    However, I don’t miss those harsh winters with -25 F, and a windchill factor that pushed it to -34 F around Great Falls. That was quite a difference to my stays in Asia. 🙂 You guys picked the perfect time to travel through Montana. 🙂
    Anyway, those winters with [electric] engine block heaters are history for us. 🙂 My ‘globetrotter life’ brought us from MT to WA for a while, and from there to Europe later on.

    • Reply

      Absolutely, Hans! I’m glad you enjoyed the images. I’m jealous of your European residence. I loved living there and being able to travel all over when I was a kid. I’m with you on the harsh winters though. Boston was cold enough for me–and far too snowy. I enjoyed it while we were there, but knowing we were moving eventually helped a lot. I’m definitely a milder weather girl who likes to visit the extremes on occasion. 😉

      Enjoy your globetrotting!

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