A Mother & Daughter Road Trip!
This summer I had the best opportunity, the chance to drive across the country seeing new sights, as well as the blessing to share this adventure with my mother. We drove from West Yellowstone MT to Charlotte, NC, and we took 5 days to do so. We covered 9 states and over 2000 miles. Our shortest day was only 4 hours in the car; the longest was almost 10 hours. We saw beautiful sunsets, badlands and good restaurants, busy roads and lonely mountains. Our first stop was at the “Top of the World!”
Packed, snacks in hand and water bottles full we pulled away from the little log cabin on the butte early in the morning. After pumping gas and buying foot long sub sandwiches we entered Yellowstone National Park. Many people were driving through the park today, the first day of September. Fall colors were showing, but the weather was warm and the day sunny. The mists from the geysers rose into the air. The drive was beautiful. We stopped at a pullover to see a geyser, then back in the car we encountered our first traffic jam. A large male buffalo was walking along the busy road, slowly, swerving from side to side. Traffic moved carefully as drivers didn’t want to hit the large animal. Passengers snapped pictures and park rangers tried to keep the cars moving safely. Further down the road we chose a pullover for our lunch spot. I parked the car facing the large long meadow and we ate half of our sandwiches while soaking in the beauty. While we ate cars pulled in with us. People climbed out of the cars, glanced around at the huge expanse of meadow and mountain, snapped a few photos and drove off. We loved our view with a meal, but eventually we too had to drive on.
We left the park at Cooke City, a former rough mining town that felt rather touristy. We climbed in elevation, driving along the Beartooth highway. This road is so high in elevation and goes through such rough landscape that earlier we had had to stop and check on driving conditions. We had to make sure the road was not icy or snowy. We were clear. We saw fewer and fewer cars, no buildings or much in the way of signs of life. Finally at the top of a long hill we passed a store and lodge called “Top of the Mountain,” with a sign stating we were at 9,000 feet elevation. We continued a couple of miles to a pull out by a lake. We parked, laced up our hiking boots, and put on sweat shirts for the chilly air.
Although the goal of the trip was to return a car from Montana to North Carolina we also planned on having a little fun. We walked over to the lake and trail head and talked to two men that had just returned from backpacking on the trail we were going to explore. They told us they had been snowed on that night. We walked on, and came to a water crossing between two lakes. Usually the water is low, and it is easy to cross on the rocks, but today the water was high and rushing. After some thought, mom removed her shoes and sock and waded in the icy water. I used a walking stick and stepped on the slippery rocks, wobbling on wet ones and sliding on misshapen ones. I was glad to make it across dry and warm!
Shoes back on, we followed the trail along side a lake, snow covered mountains reflected in the water.
I often feel sorry for people that don’t get to see the beauty or feel and smell and enjoy all the parts of nature like this mountain trail. Blue sky, white puffy clouds, walking in a bowl of snow covered mountains, exploring a meadow dotted with huge boulders and rocks, nothing can be better. The air is cleaner, fresh and crisp, and the smell is of rock, ice, leaves, decay and growth. I take pictures and people look and say, “Oh, how beautiful,” but it isn’t the same. I have friends who say, “Shelley is so adventurous, she likes to hike.” If I could really show them, I wonder what they would think. Would they like the nature exploration, would they appreciate and feel the beauty, or would it just be too muddy, strenuous and dull?
We walked about 3 miles. I struggled some with the elevation. Mom had to remind me to rest, and drink water. I live nearly at sea level, and we were hiking above 9,000 ft altitude. Back at the water crossing I decided to try mom’s way, and took off my boots. The water was too cold for me, so I put them back on. The slippery rocks made me nervous, and my boots were waterproof, so I just plowed into the water, boots and all. It was cold, but stable.
After returning to the car we checked in at our hotel. Top of the Mountain is a store, a gas station, snack bar, and a hotel with 4 rooms. Propane, and a generator provide the electricity. The next closest stop for a store or a bathroom is about 38 miles away. The is no cell service, no wifi or tv, it is the perfect quiet get-away. We finished our subway sandwiches in the room and then stepped outside to walk around. A family runs the hotel and store and lives here, alone, on the top of the beartooth highway. When winter comes they are completely cut off. The road is closed due to heavy snows. They do open for snow mobile traffic when they can. The family homeschools their children, and they try to live as self sufficiently as possible. We walked a little in the parking lot. It was beautiful, quiet and cold. No cars passed, no people moved anywhere. The mountains loomed around us and the wind blew. I had to run back to the heat of the hotel room.
Mom and I relaxed, talked about travel, books, the next day, and how to share beauty with others. Finally we turned off the light and listening to the cold wind, we slept.