Thursday, July 31, 2014

Montana Day 3

 Day 3--Morning

We enjoyed a dry night sleeping inside.  After a short relaxing morning, we were off to experience a Gates of the Mountains boat tour.  The tour runs on Holter

lake 20 miles north of Helena between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.  Lewis and Clark passes through the area and it was they who named the area Gates of the Rocky Mountains.  It was a really nice tour.  There were beautiful views and we even saw the local Bald Eagles.  We also saw the infamous "Mann Gulch" site of the wild fire that killed 13 smoke jumpers in 1949.

The Gates to the Rocky Mountains.


Mann Gulch

Just hanging out enjoying the view.

After the tour, it was off to lunch at one of Hubby's favorite restaurants--Buffalo Wild Wings.  We had a nice lunch and after drove around and saw a bit more of the Helena area. 

Day 3--Afternoon/Evening

I'm going to subtitle this as "The day my husband tried to kill me or The hike from Hell."  He really wanted me to hike up Mount Helena.  A local landmark and near by high peak.  He had been up once before with his friend and wanted to experience it with the family.  I was willing to try, but right away, I could tell I was in for a difficult time.  We hiked the 1906 Trail which is about 1.5 miles and climbs about 1,100 feet up.  I had to stop and catch my breath A LOT and at one point I didn't think I was going to make it.

The trail head. 

 This picture looks relatively flat, let me assure you, it was not!

About 1/2 way up resting in the "Devil's Kitchen"
It was a beautiful view from the top!

We took the Powerline trail down.  What took 1.5 miles to go up now took only .85 miles to go down the 1,100 feet.  It was steep and rocky and by the time I was finished my knees were screaming.  Ice helped and they were fine the next day.  I had such a difficult time that I didn't really get to enjoy the scenery, but it was a beautiful hike and view from the top. 

After my harrowing hike we were treated to Buffalo Wild Wings part duex!  Yes, Hubby and friend wanted to eat lunch and dinner at the same restaurant on the same day.  The kids and I were happy the staff was turned over by then!  The guys enjoyed a second helping of wings and beer!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Montana Vacation Odyssey

Day 2

Day 2 started when we were awakened by extreme winds at about 1 a.m.  We knew it got windy at Badlands National Park, but the wind was blowing so badly I was afraid it was going to rip the tent.  I was awake for a while, but it seemed to be holding up okay, so I fell back into a fitful sleep.  Then at 2:30 a.m., it started raining.  With the winds, the rain started seeping into the tent almost immediately once we heard the lightening start, we decided to abandon tent.  We quickly rolled up our sleeping bags and took shelter in the car, but by this time we were wide awake.  We quickly collapsed the tent and started driving. 
The breakfast of champions.
Still smiling after riding all night!

We drove through South Dakota, Wyoming, and finally, into Montana.  Since we were running ahead of schedule, we decided to stop in Crow Agency, Montana at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.  We watched the informational film, listened to a Battle Talk, toured the visitor center, and walked the Soldier's memorial and monument and the Indian memorial and monument.  It was very interesting and educational, making it a very worthwhile stop.  On the way out, we drove the 5 mile long ridge road overlooking the valley and battlefield.

The Soldier's Memorial
The Battlefield

Part of the Indian Memorial
After our stop, the rest of the trip seemed to take forever, but we finally arrived in Helena, Montana late afternoon/early evening.  We drove about 640 miles.  We were staying with Hubby's long time friend and were extremely glad for a shower and a dry place to sleep.  We had delicious pesto, artichoke pizza for dinner and the kids had cheese pizza at one of the local establishments.  

Montana Vacation Odyssey

My families' idea of an ideal vacation involved beautiful natural settings and very few people.  We like to experience the real places of the U.S., see the nation's great National Parks, and maybe learn something along the way.  So this year, we embarked on a 10 day Montana Vacation Odyssey.

Traveling:  Day 1

We had the family car loaded to the gills and we were on the road at 5:02 a.m.  The kids are great travelers.  They each, carefully pack a "fun bag" loaded with books, electronics, DVD players, notebooks, etc.  I put in a bag of snacks (I refuse to buy snacks at gas stations--can you say "waste of money.")  and a refillable water bottle.  I was armed with 5 books ready to go. 

We drove from Illinois through Wisconsin, Minnesota, and into South Dakota.  We stopped for the night at Badlands National park, arriving at 5:45 p.m.  We like to camp most of our vacations, it keeps us outside in nature (making Hubby happy) and is quite cheap (keeping me happy).  Over the years, we have become quite efficient and can have the tent out, pitched, and sleeping bags unrolled in probably the same amount of time it takes to check into a hotel.  We covered 850 miles in a little over 12 hours. 
After pitching our tent, we ate dinner at the Wagon Wheel at Interior, South Dakota just North of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. 

After sitting for so long in the car, the kids had some major steam to burn off.  Hubby and kids scrambled like mountain goats up and down the rocks.  We enjoyed some beautiful views and got our blood pumping.


It was a long day, but we were already in South Dakota.  The sunset from our campsite was gorgeous!