In honor of the coming centennial of the National Parks Service, Southwest Montana bloggers Bert and Katya sat down to share some of their favorite memories of visiting Montana’s National Parks. During the conversation, the same topics kept coming up. Below is an edited version of the conversation:
Nearly all of my memories from Yellowstone stem around a whirlwind day trip through the park. On a mission to see all of the sights and sounds, we wove our way through the park, stopping only for the most notable landmarks: the Painted Pots, the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, and of course Old Faithful. A picnic in the car, and the tales of my parents and grandmother’s childhood visits to the park kept us entertained as we stared out the window.
We made it all the way from Two Medicine to Kiowa Junction (15 whole miles!) and the transmission on our van went out. So there we were. Sitting in the parking lot of the Kiowa store (Kiowa, in case you didn’t know, consists entirely of the store and the parking lot). Luckily we also had a truck, two of our number hitched the van to the truck and headed toward Helena, to try and get the van fixed. How did we get back from Kiowa? I am not sure. We clearly made it back, but all I remember is sitting in the parking lot, waiting. We crammed into other vehicles and made the drive over Going-to-the-Sun. Because transmission or no transmission, a Glacier trip without Going-to-the-Sun is simply inconceivable.
When you think about visiting a national park, one of the first things that may come to mind is hiking, it’s the perfect way to stay active, spend time with the family, and continue to explore some of the “best kept secrets” in the parks. In 2005 (when my sister was 4 years old), our family, grandparents included, decided that during our annual trip to Glacier we would hike Dawson Pass starting from the Two Medicine campground. A 9 mile hike that would gain 2500 feet, and provide a spectacular view from the ridge of the Continental Divide looking into the valleys below. Although completing the Dawson Pass hike was a feat that will always be remembered, the preparation for the trip holds even more memories. Countless hikes up Mount Helena were mastered–actually, countless consecutive hikes up the mountain were mastered. According to our grandfather, we really needed to ensure that we were prepared for the elevation gain. The obvious course of action was to then hike the same mountain, the same trail twice.
On escaping reality:
When I was in third grade, some relatives made a trip from Sweden, and wanted to spend time in Yellowstone. So one Friday my parents took me out of school around lunchtime (I told everyone I was going to the Grand Canyon, in retrospect, I’m not sure I made it clear that I was headed to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone). I remember a sky the color of granite and flurries of snow that melted on contact. I also remember realizing for the first time that we would take the same road to get to Virginia City as we did to get to Yellowstone. We made it to the campground with huge wet flakes falling around us. We went into the RV for a quick snack, and realized we couldn’t go out again. A herd of bison and their calves had decided to take up residence in our campground. We brewed more hot chocolate, and whiled away the day watching the snow fall thickly on the hides of the bison.
Glacier lakes, carved out by the giant ice fields that gave the park its name, have a tendency to drop off quickly from the shore, making them the perfect place to dive in… that is as long as you can handle the cold temperatures! Swimming has always been a featured aspect of our trips, but the memories that I will keep forever are sitting on the shore with my grandpa learning to skip rocks. In those moments, nothing else mattered. The lake was still, the mountains stood as guardians, and nothing could break the serenity of the moment.
For the bloggers at Southwest Montana, all parks stories are Southwest Montana stories. All parks stories begin and end in Southwest Montana. Whether we are preparing for our trips by hiking hometown hills, or desperately trying to salvage a trip with a quick 3 hour trip to a Helena mechanic, SouthWest Montana always features in our tales of adventure, in the parks and beyond.