It is a sunny, beautiful day; a good day for a long drive. I plan to drive until seven, then figure out where to park for the night.
It is already a fantastic start of my landscape movie for today. I am driving along Flathead Lake, which seems more like an ocean. It is so big!
Montana is beautiful driving on Route 90 with mountains, golden grass hills, and big valleys. Horses and cows are always a perfect addition for a picture-perfect view.
As I start my drive on the stunning Route 287, my view opens to soft golden green rolling hills with farmland. The open land gives me endless skies with the play of clouds. To my right are flat, angry gray clouds, and to my left are white, fluffy clouds trying to push the gray in them away. There are so many emotions going up there above me. It is a battle between the happy and the sad. Of course, I don't wish for rain today.
I know there is no way I will get to Yellowstone today, it is already seven, and I am tired and hungry. Finally, I got some bars on my phone, so I stopped to check iOverlander for recommendations. I add three options and drive to the closest one, which is still thirty minutes away.
My skies are in a bad mood. Google Maps leads the way to a dirt road, and a very well-maintained road, until it is not. I will mention that I am heading right into obvious rain. I decided to turn around and check that small spot off the road I noticed when I started traveling on this road. It is good to travel small, my car can fit perfectly to the side. I am surrounded by farms, and this dirt road seems to be a connecting route. It is very quiet, and I feel safe to park here for the night.
I can see the rain getting closer even before I can feel it; the clouds are moving faster than I can finish making dinner. In a matter of seconds, the fast wind takes over. The skies are almost pitch black. The sound of the thunder forced me to move faster than a lightning bolt. Luckily, the chicken I am cooking is done. I shove everything into my car and jump in myself. My fingers will be my fork tonight and my plate is a plastic bag.
I send a pin of my location with InReach with my location to my people and crawl to the back to lay on my bed. I didn't have time to change my clothes or brush my teeth. I was excited to be safe inside my car, watching a lightning storm, but it wasn't as big a show as I wished. The rain and the wind didn't let go for hours.
In the middle of the night, I wake up to the silence of the night and the smiling full moon shining through my window, sparkling the raindrops on the window. What a magical night.
At five-thirty, I am already on the road. Just as I enter Route 287, to my fortune, there is a gas station. I stopped to get coffee and freshen up.
What a privilege it is to witness the start of a day! Gratefully I am back online and can check for my next rest stop. Okay, it is further than my hungry stomach wishes as dinner yesterday wasn't enough. Preparing breakfast with the morning sun coming up behind the mountains on one side and the Madison River flowing to my right is priceless.
I love it when Google Maps greets me to a new state. Welcome to Wyoming!
I stop at the visitor center to get my bearings. Not doing my homework on Yellowstone leaves me to depend on the rangers for recommendations. That is a valuable approach; after all, they know more than all the homework I can do. I also ask for camping availability, which puts me on the phone with Julia. Trying to figure out how I will spend my day at Yellowstone is how Julia and I are trying to find a campsite available. My best option will be Canyon Campground, but as she tries to book it, an open spot is gone before I can get it. We formed a plan since it is still early in the day for me to call her when I get back to have service. She will keep an eye open in the meantime.
I have all my maps, I have a plan that Julia helped put together for me, and my bearings are good enough to start exploring Yellowstone National Park.
Very quickly, I understand that my biggest challenge today will be traffic. If I thought Glacier was busy, this is a nightmare.
My first stop is Gibson Falls, opening widely as it approaches its fall grandly. Next, if I find parking, is Norris Geyser Basin. The benefit of so many cars on the road is that it slows me down and lets me see more of my surroundings and stops quickly when I see the Bison grazing along the road. It's very windy, and the yellowish-green grass waves through the meadow, offering plenty of food for the Bison.
As I got closer to view the geysers, the smell hit me smack in the stomach. I actually don't have a good sense of smell, but that is too much for me. I figured out I would put a mask on my next stop. Five minutes later, my eyes are burning. I rush back to my car to wash my eyes. Who knew you could be allergic to geysers? Well, it turns out I am.
Time to change my plan for today. Instead of driving toward Mammoth Hot Springs, I am heading to the Grand Canyon Of Yellowstone. At this point, I am back online and find a text from Julia. I am so grateful for her kindness! She certainly didn't have to go the extra mile for me, but she did. We got on the phone, and I updated her on my change of plan. She tried again to find me a camping spot at Canyon Campground, and luckily, I got one.
I have time for one short hike, but that hike gives the most experience of the Grand Canyon Of Yellowstone: Artist's Point, Lily Pad Lake, and Clear Lake Loop. Oh wow! What struck me the most are the colors in the canyon. It’s like an abstract painting done with oil paint. Just WOW!
What's next on my map? Lamar Valley. I have an hour and fifteen minutes of driving (one direction) through the park, which is perfect. I can have the chance to see more of this beautiful land. There is so much open land; how peaceful is it to stop and get lost in the view! As I get down to Lamar Valley, the Bison roam the land as the evening rolls in. It's so cool to see.
It's time to drive back before it gets dark. I want to shower since I don't know when my next opportunity will be. Again, I am waiting at a red light, and for a second I am annoyed before I am happy for the chance to watch a coyote strolling the hill.
It is getting colder again. For sure, daylight is shorter. During the night, the temperature drops, by the morning, it is 34°. It’s time to get my heating blanket down from my attic (cargo box). I forgot how tough and challenging it is to make breakfast while your hands are frozen.
I know the sun will warm me soon enough while driving to Grand Teton National Park.