Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Emily’s Top Five: Montana / Yellowstone Highlights

I just got back from spending 8 days with two of my favorite people

in the most beautiful places that I have ever been. 


I met Marina my freshman year of college at OC. We sat next to each other in a communications class for an entire semester, but didn’t talk to each other until April of that year when we were assigned to be in the same group for a project! We walked back to our dorms from the library one night and have been best friends ever since.  Our favorite show is Gilmore Girls.  She eats crunchy fries. I like soggy ones.  People think we look like sisters. We are the perfect pair.

Marina and her husband Brady were living in Montana for a while this summer for an internship, so I went up to see her! We spent the first half of the week in Montana at her dad’s house and the second half in Yellowstone.

Here are the Top Five Highlights from my trip:

1.  Montana Life
The first half of my trip I was in Colstrip, MT - a small town in southeast Montana. I don’t know how Montana did it, but somehow they negotiated and got a bigger sky than any other state. It was wider, taller, and bluer than I could have ever imagined.  And I love that their hills look like little mountains. I am used to the rolling hills of Tennessee, not the rocky terrain of the wild, wild west. 

Coal Mine
Colstrip thrives off of the local coal mine.  Marina’s husband and dad are both engineers there, so they took me on a tour.  The reclaimed land is gorgeous.

I was very interested in the coal mining process. They use drag lines since the coal is close to the surface (they don’t have to send people underground to get it).

Gun Range
We went to the gun range a lot. I shot trap one night… and even hit some!

One night when we were walking out to set up a target, the dog with us halted and cried. We realized that we were all standing very close to a long black snake! The snake coiled up quickly and then started making a tick, tick, tick sound. A RATTLE SNAKE! AH!  Marina’s dad shot it twice with a 9 mil and then it slithered into a hole and died. For the rest of the trip my Montana Name was "Rattle Snake Emmy Lou”.

Around Town
We had a blast just playing tennis in town

Swimming at Castle Rock Lake

And having bonfires at night. Oh yeah, my other favorite thing about Montana. The weather. It was mid-80s during the day with no humidity at all.

2. Beartooth Pass
We drove into the park through the Rocky Mountains via Beartooth pass. If you ever go to Yellowstone, you have to drive over these mountains. 

The views were incredible.

The hillsides were dotted with navy blue lakes.

And there was still snow!

3.  The Wildlife
I am notoriously not an animal person. I don’t like to smell them, take care of them, or touch them. But look at them? Sure! I saw some awesome animals…. before we even got to the park! This was my room at Marina’s dad’s house.

 Deer over Bed, Giant Fish Pillow

Antelope over Desk

 Buffalo Hide in Closet

Coyote on Wall


Grizzly Bear
Driving over Mount Washburn we drove past a bunch of cars parked on the side of the road. They were all looking up the mountain at the same spot… a GRIZZLY BEAR! It looked big from 100 yards away, so I think it was big.

We also found out one morning that a grizzly had been chased out of our campsite the night before. Oh goodness. At least we had the bear spray with us.

When you enter the park you get a bright yellow flyer telling you to beware of the buffalo.

They gore more than 100 people each year. That is one person every 3-4 days. We were there for 4 days. Deal. I will stay far away! I was amazed at the number of buffalo roaming the park. For the most part, they stayed in large herds.

All of the animals in the park are wild, and there are no fences. They have no qualms with crossing the road right in front of your car.

At the Mud Volcanoes, Marina, her dad, stepmom, and I were walking down the wooden path to each geyser.  The path makes a triangle shape at the beginning and then a path stems off of the top.  We went to the first geyser on the right, then the second, and then reached the top of the triangle. We started to go up the path off of the top, and as we rounded the corner we were standing within 10 yards of a buffalo. There was a family right in front of us with two adults and four kids getting really close to the animal and making it agitated. We saw him shaking his head back and forth, so we immediately turned around and started walking the other way. As soon as we did he started charging straight towards us. I took off sprinting for my life down the trail that I had just come. Keep in mind that on either side of the path are geysers with the same acidity level as battery acid. In front of me, a dad whipped up his child and started running too. He pulled him up so fast that his shoes came off. The whole time I was sprinting, I was watching this child reach out his arms to me yelling "My shoes! My shoes!" while the dad yelled "Those are just shoes! This is your life!".  Meanwhile, I was running so fast that I could't even turn around or I'd wipe out.  I kept hearing screaming and crying. I imagined this buffalo running straight down the path behind me, running so fast that he was kicking up planks and dust behind him like a cartoon. I thought, "Should I keep running down the path and take my chances with the buffalo, or bail off of the path and take my chances with the acid?".  Right around that point I turned around and realized that the buffalo had stopped and we were no longer being chased, but I had no idea what had happened behind me. The other three people I was with were nowhere to be found. Finally, they yelled and waved to me from across the exhibit. Turns out, when the buffalo charged, they turned and ran down a different path, while I just went straight.  They thought, "A big buffalo is less likely to turn than to go straight".  Well, Emily is too. And they were right. The buffalo did go straight, but then - as an answer to every last minute prayer - he stepped off of the path into the grass. No one was hurt. Just scared, panicked, and chaotic. My heart. It is still beating fast.

Antelope in Montana are just as popular as deer. We saw tons of these in Yellowstone, but also in Montana at the mine. Here is an antelope roaming around the mine property:

In northern Yellowstone there is a town called Mammoth right beside the Mammoth Hot Springs. 

Elk seem to own this place. They hang out in the streets, at the post office, beside the gas station… They are awesome.

4. Camping / Hiking
I actually really liked camping!

We ate salmon that Marina’s dad had just caught in Alaska...

and I popped popcorn over the fire for a first time…

We froze at night! It got down in the low thirties each night – but by the end of our trip I figured out that 3 pairs of pants, 2 shirts, and 2 sweatshirts really do the trick.

We camped near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It was so gorgeous. I loved the canyons…

and the canyon waterfalls…

 We took a hike down to the top of the falls. Straight down and straight back up! That warmed us up early in the morning!

In the park, there were lots of great waterfalls...

A gorgeous lake...

Beautiful rivers...

And incredible mountain views...

5. Geysers
There used to be a volcano in the park that imploded which left all sorts of hot magma under the ground. This has resulted in hot springs and steam pots all over the park. I have never seen such rich, vibrant, beautiful colors than at the geysers in Yellowstone.

The Middle Geyser Basin was my favorite. Gorgeous.

Old faithful erupted right on schedule (well, only a few minutes late).

And the Norris Geyser Basin felt like the moon!

 I'm ready to go back.

We also went white water rafting down the Yellowstone River, but I don’t have the pictures yet. Not to worry. It will get its own post.


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