The Road to Yellowstone

Wow! Once again, I’m behind on my blogging. In a recent interview I commented that I might have to route myself through an ugly part of the country in order to get caught up. I still haven’t figured out where that might be, but I do know that the more time I spend in these gorgeous places the further behind I get. It’s a plain and simple fact that I can “shoot” much faster than I can write.

In my last blog post I was leaving Glacier National Park a day early because a series of rock slides closed Going-to-the-Sun Road. I fit a lot into the day and a half I spent in the park, and there was no telling how long it would take to get the road open, so the decision to break my 7+ hour drive to Yellowstone into two days really made sense. I learned a long time ago that more than 5 hours on the road in a big motorhome with no co-driver is a longer day than I like to subject myself to, and the work doesn’t end when I put this Beast in park.

I headed down Hwy 83 with my eye on a few of the lakes on my route, but no reservations. Today we would wing it, and see where we would land when we got there. It was a beautiful drive, mostly through Flathead National Forest and along some really pretty lakes. At a decent midway point I found a spot to camp along Seeley Lake. After a walk with the girls I hunkered down to get some work done, and then ventured into the quiet little town to find a bite to eat.

At sunrise I slid my kayak into the water for a morning paddle before setting out down the road again.  I enjoyed watching the deer and waterfowl along the way, and was thinking to myself how serene and peaceful it was when the nearby Boy Scout camp came to life with their morning wakeup song over the loudspeaker. I was tickled at the interruption actually, as it brought memories of my childhood flooding back. Spirit Lake, at the base of Mt. Saint Helens… where the Boy Scout camp was just a walk through the woods from the “doctors cabin” we stayed in every summer, while my Dad attended to the cuts and bruises of the kids at four camps around the lake. I may have to share those stories in more detail one day, because they were some of the very best memories of my life. Looking back, they may well have been baby steps into the journey I would one day make. Surely they cemented my love for nature, and the raw goodness of our earth.

Morning mist on Seeley Lake

I believe these are Red-necked Grebe

The day’s route took me farther down Hwy 83, east on Interstate 90, and then south on Hwy 287 along the Madison River. The river was dotted with anglers. Fly fishing, to me, is more of an art than a sport, and far more enjoyable to observe than any other type of fishing. While enjoying the scenes along the Madison I spotted an Osprey nest from the crest of a hill on the highway. It didn’t sit much higher than the road itself, so it seemed like a very prime spot for photographing Osprey. As usual, there was no place for me to pull 52′ of metal off the highway, so I grudgingly continued on. As luck would have it (and it seldom happens this way) I found a rest stop just a few miles down the road. I pulled in, unhooked my car and headed back up the highway. So glad I did! The fish this Osprey is holding is partially eaten, so I’m assuming my arrival disrupted feeding time. Once it was clear I was not a threat, lunch was brought back to the nest. 

While in West Yellowstone I met a gal who took me on a trail ride the following day. Up into the mountain through the forest and across the streams, we rode to the Continental Divide where Montana borders Idaho. This was a wonderfully pleasant way for a horse lover like myself to spend the day!

View from the Continental Divide

The following day I ventured into Yellowstone. I almost hate to admit it, but after a few hours of fighting the long traffic jams, I bailed. I saw a few great sights while I was there, and knowing I’d be in the Yellowstone/Teton area for several more days I hoped to find a quieter time to return and enjoy Yellowstone the way I did last fall, with far less traffic.

BIG bull Bison

This bad boy was BIG, and came very close to where I was pulled off the road (note I said OFF THE ROAD, and not holding up a mile of traffic behind me). I stood in the doorway of my car and shot over the top of it to get these images. I’ll share a story in the next post or two that serves as a reminder that as slow and docile as these animals seem, they can and will attack if they feel threatened. Even from my safe vantage point I felt a tinge of nervousness when he started pawing the earth, and was quite relieved when he dropped his bulk to the ground and started rolling in the dirt.

Gibbon Falls if I recall correctly

Artists Paintpots

Momma and baby Elk

My next stop was the Teton area, but I decided to travel south along the west of the parks and come up to the Tetons through Jackson. For my last night in the West Yellowstone area I chose to get out of town and a bit further south to a quiet little state campground on Henry’s Lake in northeast Idaho. There I was able to kayak at sunset, and enjoy a storm brewing at sunrise the following morning.

Sunrise at Henry’s Lake

I mapped my route to Jackson over Teton Pass, scheduled an appointment for a haircut in the afternoon and headed down the highway. The drive took me through the rolling hills and lush farmland of northeast Idaho, all set to the background of the Tetons.


The windy, hilly roads made for a slow trek south, and as I neared the town of Victor I decided to park it for the night and take my car over the pass into Jackson to make my appointment on time. While there, I drove up to the Gros Ventre campground where I hoped I might find space for my RV the following day. This national campground works on a first come-first serve basis, always risky when traveling in a motorhome of my size with no back-up plan. My concerns were put to rest when I saw the place and talked to the friendly folks who work the office. If I arrived by noon the following day I’d have a spot. No surprise that I found some beauty along the way…

While driving over Teton Pass I decided that a different route would be a preferable option. It’s not a long drive, but a steep one (10% grade in both directions), and only two lanes. I’ve done worse, but why torture myself and all those behind me when there was an alternate route that wasn’t too far out of the way.  On the way back over the pass to Victor I spotted this young male moose grazing right along the highway.

As luck would have it, my alternate route was well worth the drive. It took me along the Palisades Reservoir and then up the Snake River to Jackson.

Next up… Grand Teton National Park (and vicinity) and several new friends! Y’all will want to see this!



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