Reflections from the road (Western U.S.)

On the long journey home from Wyoming, Kenny and I talked about a lot of things that might help others enjoy the trip.  We decided to call them reflections from the road. I’m just going to list a few of them here.

  • Pack light, you won’t need to dress up on this trip.  (I didn’t even wear makeup.)
  • Be prepared for a sore backside…you might even want to bring a pillow to sit on…ask Kenny about that one.
  • If your feet tend to swell on long trips, I 100% recommend wearing compression socks with no shame.  
  • Grab that bear spray, some water, a backpack and take that hike.  You really will come away with a different perspective.  (And, you honestly have to breathe in the scent of Glacier.  Also, Glacier doesn’t have poisonous snakes so you don’t have to watch your feet. Yellowstone does but many of its trails are boardwalks.)
  • Take pictures and videos.  Take it from us, you will forget things you think you never will. You also might want to share your own reflections from the road.
  • Don’t pass up points of interest, you will regret it later.
  • Dirt roads in Montana and Wyoming  are still alive and well and so are pit toilets.  If you are offended by a dirty car or a stinky toilet, this trip might not be for you.
reflection from the road:  outhouse rest area in Montana
Outhouse Rest Area
  • There are a lot of friendly people in the world.  Talk to them.  Your trip will be more enjoyable and you might learn something!
  • If you are braver than me, travel alone if you can’t find someone to go along.  We saw lots of solo hikers!
  • Don’t let a disability hold you back.  We saw hikers with prosthetics and also lots of folks a lot older than us.  Some of them were passing us up!
  • Get up super early and enter these parks to avoid the crowds, see wildlife, and get some awesome views.  
  • Take a nap and go back in for sunset.
reflection from the road:  sunset and moon rising over Yellowstone National Park
Sunset and moon rising over Yellowstone
  • Try staying a couple of nights on each side of the parks so you can see everything without having to drive long distances each day.  We didn’t do this and got very tired and sleepy driving at times.
  • At Yellowstone, try to go in and out of multiple entrances.  Each of them is unique.  We discovered the east one this visit and it is magnificent.  We haven’t done the West one yet and really want to someday.
  • Travel the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier both ways in order to get different viewpoints.  Again, we recommend going on this road very early or late in the evening to be able to take advantage of the pullouts and parking lots for the popular hikes.
  • Pack a picnic or at least snacks because it is hard to get to restaurants sometimes.  Also, lots of water.
  • Temperatures fluctuate so make sure to dress in layers.  I recommend pants and maybe even long sleeves for the hikes due to bugs.  We’ve seen worse but they were still bad at times.
  • Realize that some parts of hikes or parks can be closed due to weather or bear activity.  Don’t let it ruin your day, just pick another location.  There are so many beautiful spots.
reflection from the road:  bear danger sign in Glacier National Park, Montana
  • If going to Glacier, the Going to the Sun Road does not usually open due to snow until at least the last week of June.  We were lucky it was open when we went in mid-June which was the earliest since 2005.  It would be terrible to miss this; however, be aware that the heights of the road can be very scary if you are afraid of heights.  I made it, so don’t let it worry you too much!
  • We loved this road trip, but it was exhausting at times with long stretches of boring roads.  We also saw some of the most beautiful and interesting sights that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.  The point I am trying to make here is that if you feel you can’t handle the trip, jump on that plane.  
  • This trip will show you just how much land it takes to feed America.
  • Take the scenic drives on the dirt roads, that is where you might encounter something truly unbelievable, like grizzly bears mating…highlight of my trip!  How can that be topped???
  • We saw a lot of unchanging landscape at times that someone had taken the time to add interesting points for travelers.  Shoutout to Fort Belknap Reservation for decorating their roundabouts; and to Wyoming for putting up rusty metal cowboys, Native Americans, and other symbols of the west on their roadsides, and so many others!  We should all make a point of trying to make things look nice for our fellow humans.  Something pretty or interesting can really brighten someone’s day or enhance an experience.
metal dinosaur in Montana
rusty cowboy in Wyoming
  • Try staying at an Airbnb or vrbo.  You can really feel so much more a part of an area with this way of traveling.  The night we stayed in a historic inn along The Great River Road gave us the opportunity to talk with the innkeepers and other guests in a beautiful space.  The night we spent in an extremely old inn in Iowa with stone walls and painted wood floors made us feel the German ancestry of the area.  The yurt in the north country of Minnesota was amazing.  The basement apartment in which we stayed in  Gardiner, Montana overlooking Yellowstone was unsurpassed.  Even the garage apartment in Hungry Horse, Montana at the edge of Glacier that didn’t have working locks on the sliding glass door and smelled a bit too strongly of lysol  had a comfy bed and a view of the river.  
  • Plan for your trips.  It makes a world of difference to know all of the tips and tricks.  You will also probably need reservations a year in advance.
  • Try the food at the lodges within the parks.  The best meal we had on this trip was in the historic Many Glacier Inn.
  • Food is expensive around these parks.  Be prepared for this.  There aren’t really any fast food choices nearby although many of the restaurants serve fast food type meals.

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