Side-Tripping in Montana
Nightlife in Big Sky, Montana is more exciting than you would think. Especially for a pair of happy-go-lucky California girls in town just for the heck of it, on a spur-of-the-moment vacation in search of a Western adventure. Not the kind of west-coast adventure you'd find on a sunny San Diego beach covered with half-nude bodies dripping with SPF 15 tanning lotion. Or the kind you'd find on a Big Bear ski slope watching bikini babes race down the black diamond hills with sun screen-covered noses.
This vacation was more of a "good girls" version of Thelma and Louise hitting the open highway to see what we could see. With no concrete plans, no hotel reservations and no idea what to expect, we arrived in Billings, grabbed a few visitors brochures and decided to at least try to visit Bozeman, Big Sky and Yellowstone National Park.
After one night's stay in Bozeman at a lovely bed and breakfast and a breathtaking hike the day before up to Fairy Lake-a peaceful, secluded lake surrounded by tall pines and absolutely no noise at all-we awoke to the sight of a light snowfall (a real treat for Southern Californians), the smell of Canadian bacon and the bark of the inn keeper's golden retriever, Bailey. It was time to hit the road.
Our drive through Bozeman traced past charming little antique shops, down-home diners, and the usual small town sights, then to the outskirts of town. After a few stops to check out some antiques, and about two hours later, my girlfriend and I found ourselves in the friendly town of Big Sky feeling like two fish out of water, but ready to breathe in some more of that smog-free air through our gills and get to know the place-if only for a few days.
Our inquiries as to where to find some adventure in this ski town during the off season led us to the horse stables for some Western-style sight seeing. A two-hour horseback ride guided by a real-life cowboy was a challenge for my tender hind parts, but I had to tough it out because my friend, the experienced rider that she is, struck up a friendly conversation with our trail guide (need I say, "flirting"). And besides that, the views from the trail were unreal. I felt like I was riding through a scene from the old TV show Big Valley.
After a much-needed soak in a deep tub of hot water overflowing with bubbles (literally) in our cozy room at the Rainbow Ranch Lodge, I perked up and my travel buddy and I trekked down to a little restaurant on the side of the road that served the freshest, most tender beef we'd ever eaten this side of ? well, anyplace. When one of the locals, a handsome "Marlboro Man" type seated on a barstool, kindly invited us to drop by the local watering hole, Staci's Old Faithful Bar, the next night for a little Western hospitality and a lesson in how to really two-step, we knew we couldn't miss that opportunity.
So the next night, we hopped in our Subaru Outback (we had to "look" the part of locals, right) and headed down the dark two-lane highway very slowly so as not to accidentally encounter one of those deer we were warned to beware of from the road signs posted every twenty paces. The fear of killing Bambi was ever in our consciousness. As my friend drove tentatively, I sat anxiously with eyes wide open ready to scream, "Stop!" at the first sight of anything that remotely looked like a darling deer ready to prance in front of our rental car. Talk about stress!
As we neared our destination and noticed the flickering red neon sign out front and the rickety wood-framed screen door smack shut behind a few cowboys, doubt set in big time. Suddenly we weren't so sure we should be there. Would we be safe? What if something happened to us, who would know? Yes, safety was a concern. But that's why two crazed, adventurous minds are better than one. So we threw caution to the wind, took a deep breath and headed into Staci's.
Remember that scene from the movie comedy 48-Hours when Eddie Murphy steps into a country/western bar and the whole room screeches to a halt. Well, just keep that in mind. I don't think I have ever felt more aware of my being than at that moment when my curly, blonde-haired friend and I, an African American woman, walked into that bar. All eyes on us, we tried to look like we "belonged" there. And to our credit we were cool as cucumbers-on the outside.
As we strolled over to the only two empty barstools, I felt as if we were moving in slow motion-and so were the hundred or so pairs of eyes that followed us. Even the cigarette smoke swirls were flowing through the air like low fog hovering over a still country pond in the early morning. But once we sat down, the room quickly returned to its previous lively condition and we were able to exhale. Whew, the hard part was over.
I must say, our cowboy bar experience was chock full of interesting sights-a live band talented enough to make it to the second round of Star Search, dancing couples proficient in the latest country/western and dirty dancing moves, photos of local rodeo celebrities who had visited Staci's, even a lively bartender who could whip up a drink in the blink of an eye.As appealing as our cowboy bar experience had been, we couldn't stay all night because the morning held the promise of more adventure. So after a few more strange stares from some of the locals and suspicious smiles from others, we departed Staci's and headed back down that dark road.
The next day we awoke bright and early and headed out towards Yellowstone National Park. Upon entering the town of West Yellowstone, I immediately felt as though we had gone back in time to some familiar yet unknown place that was a cross between Mayberry and the Twilight Zone. But as we followed the signs into Yellowstone National Park, a feeling of anticipation rose up inside of me, and I must admit that I was secretly on the lookout for Ranger Bob, Yogi the Bear and his little friend, Boo-Boo.
The sights of the natural hot springs and clay-like mud pots were breathtaking. Watching bison graze at a distance as we sat eating fruit and nuts on a log by the side of the road, we were very careful not to litter this pristine wilderness obviously created by the sovereign hand of God. It was all so surreal.
Traipsing through what we had hoped wasn't off-limits territory reserved only for the bison, I realized that we should head back to our car when we noticed enormous piles of bison poop in the tall, golden brush. Hmmmm, how fast can a bison run, and could I outrun one if motivated by the fear for my life? I wasn't convinced I wanted to find out, so after much whining and sharing my fears of hypothetical situations of the two of us being eaten by a family of bison, my friend finally consented to my cowardice and we headed back to the safety of the parking lot civilization.
Further up the road into the Park, we came to the spot known world wide for its perfect timing-Old Faithful geyser. Amazingly, we arrived within only two minutes of the moment of truth, the geyser's eruption, which is said to take place every 80 minutes on average. Watching the gentle puffs of steam become a graceful gush of water shooting powerfully high up into the air, I was indeed impressed by nature's awe-inspiring display of beauty. And just as quickly as it had begun, it all ended in a slow, quiet lull of nothingness-until the next time.
Our walking tour of the other geysers around the Old Faithful site was equally awesome. Sturdy wood-beamed pathways led us over the bubbling pools of mud and steaming hot springs. Careful not to lean too far forward or to drop anything into the pools, we carefully heeded the warning signs about their intense heat, reportedly hot enough to boil the rubber off of a jogging shoe (not to mention the tender skin off of my bones!).But suddenly the heat of the pools wasn't a concern, when just up ahead about 30 feet we noticed a big, hairy mass of flesh munching away at the brush on the side of the walking path. A real life bison, up close and personal. We froze in our tracks awaiting any sign that this big fella might be intimidated by our presence, or even worse, that he might begin to see us as two tasty morsels just ripe for eatin'. We were stuck between fear and the almost uncontrollable urge to laugh out loud at this unbelievable sight. And wouldn't you know it-no more film in the camera! We slowly eased past the mammoth beast keeping our four eyes on his two and ready to run like Flo Jo if the threat presented itself. With that experience, there was no doubt that Yellowstone was the highlight of this trip.
On the last day of our great Montana adventure, we hit the road and did some more side-tripping. Traveling up highway 287, we passed through the town of Ennis and then journeyed through Virginia City, a little "ghost town" that has been preserved as an historic area. The old wooden buildings reminded me of the town in Little House on the Prairie. As we walked the dusty road I half expected to be caught in the middle of a shootout between the town sheriff and an unwelcome troublemaker.
Eventually, we found ourselves at Three Forks, a watery junction where three rivers (the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin rivers) meet to form the mouth of the Missouri River. As we stood there watching the swirl of the brown waters and feeling the drizzle of an oncoming downpour, we realized that this crossroads signified the end of our trip. One full of unexpected treasures and surprises we could have never planned. Back to reality tomorrow. But what an adventure we had experienced.
Back in Billings we hesitated a bit as we returned our rental car and headed into the airport, relishing our serendipitous escapade as we caught one last glimpse of the freshly snow-capped mountains in the distance. An adventure, indeed. One I will never forget, and one that I believe will set the standard for all future vacations for me. Plan a little, experience a lot. That is now my vacation slogan.
Anita Paul is a freelance writer, marketing consultant and owner of The Write Image, a marketing communications company that caters to small businesses and non-profit organizations. She has over ten years experience in marketing and public relations, and is the author of "Take The Mystery Out Of Marketing" a guide to help business owners create, execute and evaluate a strategic marketing plan. She can be reached at APaul@thewriteimage.net or http://www.thewriteimage.net
GOA ? A Carnival of Beaches
The state of Goa on the West coast of India, is located in the coastal belt known as Konkan. While this tourist magnet has much to offer: old churches, carnival atmosphere, Portuguese flavour, wildlife, nature and tantalizing cuisine, yet, mention Goa and the first, often only, image that flashes in one's mind is of the BEACHES.
My Five-Ounce Sleeping Bag
Okay, it wasn't quite a sleeping bag. However, it was only five ounces, and it kept me warm as the temperature dropped to the low forties on the bank of the Manistee River in Michigan. The secret was the fifteen minutes we spent gathering dead, dry bracken ferns to build a two-foot thick mattress. We set the tent on that. Then, with all my clothes on, I was fine.
True North & Magnetic Declination - A Trick to Make it Stick
Magnetic declination is an essential principle to understand when navigating your way through the wilds with map and compass.
Ultralight Backpacking Skills - A Three Day Test
On Lake Michigan, at the end of the Stonington Peninsula, there's a stretch of empty beach. Part of the Hiawatha National Forest, it's framed on either side by private property, with no easy access. To walk on the beach, however, is legal. Past the last cabin, the public land starts, and goes for six or seven miles. This is where I would test my ultralight backpacking skills and gear.
A Retired, Single RVer Travels
For some 30 years I practiced law in Mesa, Arizona. (Please don't hold that against me. I really wasn't a very good lawyer.) When I was about to turn 62 years old and collect social security I decided to quit my practice and go camping. I already owned a Coleman tent-camper and a small pick-up. My marriage had gone to hell and I had a bad case of the woe-is-mes. I decided that a few days or months on the road would be a treat.
Tamil Nadu ? A potpourri of culture and festivity
Tamil Nadu is a delightful anachronism. With a rich culture reaching back to the early dawn of history, the land of Temples is also a modern developing state. Tamil Nadu, Jewel of the South, is well known as a tourist destination in India. With a past brimming with superior cultural and artistic achievements, tourists flock to Tamil Nadu mainly for its historical heritage. But there's more?Traveling to Chennai, dashing capital of Tamil Nadu, tourists see a modern city, impressive as well as eminently livable. Besides, Tamil Nadu also has its fair share of great beaches, nature, wildlife, good food, festivals and fun.
Boston Vacations: Four Ways To Experience Beantown
Boston is a great destination city for a vacation. There's plenty on tap to see and do, and it's an easy city to get around on foot. And you'll find Boston vacations a refreshing mixture of old and new.
Join the American Hiking Society
Have you taken up hiking as a new form of family recreation? Are you a serious hiker that spends hours on challenging trails?Do you want to find a way to become more involved in hikingacross the nation? Hikers of any background will want to checkout the "American Hiking Society". This society is an allianceof local hiking clubs and provides a wealth of resources andactivities for hikers of any background.
Rigid Inflatable Boats
A rigid inflatable boat is defined as a hard-hulled boat with air inflatable collars. RIB hulls are made of fiberglass, aluminum or composite materials. The soft bumpers or fenders, called ""sponsons,"" can be air tubes, or all foam systems. These boats are powered by a variety of motors and usually come from the manufacturer as a package ? boat with tube, motor and trailer.
The Classy Way to Do WA
Western Australia ? South-West Coast driving holiday.Great Australian Road TripsOkay, so road trips in Western Australia might bring to mind punishing distances and dusty towns, and accidentally forgetting to fill up on petrol only to pass your remaining three days under the thin shade of a dead tree wondering if any car is likely to come your way. And no doubt this is readily available in a state the size of many small countries sticky-taped together, with frequent stretches of desert. For those with different tastes, the classy (and petrol-station dotted) option is the gorgeous coast to the south of Perth, with the south-west pocket of Bunbury, Margaret River and Albany, stretching on east to Esperance and Cape Arid National Park. Getting started ? from Perth downwards. So have a bit of a wander around Perth ? check out Fremantle (where the Perth cappuccino elite head en masse on the weekend) and commune with the cute furry side of nature on a day-trip to Rottnest Island. Not the most attractive name for an island, but the quokkas (little kangaroo-rat things with a penchant for your peanut butter sandwiches) and the gorgeous beaches make this a brilliant side trip. Just make sure you bring your bicycle legs for the day, as there's hardly any motorised transportation. After that, it's onwards in a southerly direction.Need a car for your road trip? Hire one at Car Rental Perth.Wine, more wine, and then some nibbley things. Right, so first you'll need to make a stop at Bunbury, if only for a day or so to have a traipse around, stretch the legs, and have a dabble at the water's edge to chance a meeting with a dolphin or two. Then it's time to get serious and head on in to the Margaret River Region. Winos and gourmands will happily revel in many chance encounters with world-class restaurants (sometimes attached to wineries) which dot the countryside. Surfers may never want to come back in from the swell ? the surfing here is world-renowned. Further along the coast, before you arrive in Albany for a frolic, you'll want to have some quality time with some very tall plants. This here is Tall Timber Country, and the karri forests will imbue you with a somber respect for all things leafy. Stop off at the Valley of the Giants to take the Treetop walk, or take on the Gloucestor Tree near Pemberton ? steps fixed around its trunk allow you to climb up 60 metres high.A day-trip out from Albany will thrust you into the heart of another wine-growing region (it seems the one necessity of this road trip would be a designated driver) ? the Mount Barker, Porongurup National Park and Frankland area can get you over the driving limit in the most delightful way.And finally, a short drive away is the lovely town of Esperance and its ridiculously blue ocean, situated at the western end of the Archipelago of Recherch. The archipelago has 110 coastal islands ? full of crafty old goats and colonies of seals ? which you can tramp about on at your leisure. Or there's always a rewarding trek to be had in surrounding national parks like Cape Le Grand and Cape Arid.From Esperance you've got the option of returning to Perth via an inland route, maybe heading up to Kalgoorlie before heading back on the Great Eastern Highway, or really change your road trip's tempo, nip up north and turn right onto the Eyre Highway.In that case you'd better steel yourself for a very long drive to Adelaide on a straight road which goes for thousands of kilometres through an unvarying landscape designed especially to send you insane. Or, perhaps returning to Perth to hop on a plane going that direction might be a more attractive option?Need a car to get you started?There's loads of websites that collect the specials of all the car rental companies to save you time looking around. Just do a google search for "car hire deals" or check out a website like http://www.vroomvroomvroom.com.au which often has some good Perth and Western Australia specials.Take care on those roads and keep your eyes peeled for kangaroos!
The Pyramids of Giza
The most famous Egyptian pyramids to be built are the Great Pyramids of Giza, located in the outskirts of present-day Cairo. There are over 100 Egyptian pyramids of various sizes, and over 50 more in neighboring Sudan. However, the three Great Pyramids of Giza earn their fame by being the largest of these.
Tanzania Safari Top Five National Parks and Game Reserves
Ask about perfect wildlife destinations and a Tanzania safari will be at or near the top of the list every time.
What Do Cowboys-n-Campfires Have in Common?
I bet you're wondering where the heck this articles going. After all what could cowboys-n-campfires have in common? Well lots actually!
Ultralight Backpacking Versus Traditional Backpacking
Contrary to what many think, ultralight backpacking is not just about the freedom to hike more miles or to take your whole pack up the mountain with you. It is also about comfort and safety. Backpackers with heavy loads work too hard and threaten their joints too much. Challenges may add to the experience, but why suffer more than is necessary?
Is The Workamper Lifestyle For You?
If you've been dreaming of traveling the highways in your RV, but see the adventure as something far in the future when you retire, then you may want to seriously consider giving the Workamper lifestyle a try. You can live your dream now; it just takes a little preparation and commitment.
African Safari Gear Packing List - What To Take Along
The last thing you want on an African safari is to realise that you have left any important safari gear behind.
Camping and Outdoor Activities: Get Involved with Nature
Camping mixed with outdoor activity is a great way to get ourselves involved with nature. National Parks can provide an excellent backdrop for some of your outdoor activities. Activities such as hiking, fishing, cycling, horseback riding, white water rafting and kayaking, skiing, rock climbing and mountaineering are just a few of the sports you might want to include on your camping adventure
Topographic Maps 101
The intricate details on a topographic map can be befuddling, even frustrating, if you are learning while out in the backcountry. But once you get familiar with the markings and symbols, reading maps will become a friendly aid, rather than a dreaded assignment.
7 Need to Know Campsite Cooking Strategies
Are you sick and tired of not knowing what to bring or what to cook when you go camping? Do you either pack the entire kitchen (including the sink) or you bring the absolute minimum and then have to use a fork as a spatula or two spoons as tongs?
Your Horses Back May Not Be the Same Next Month
A saddle is a static object, but your horse is a living, dynamic creature. Even slight changes throughout the year in your horse's weight have a significant impact on the fit of the saddle. And, naturally, the saddle fit in turn significantly impacts your horse's experience.
|© Athifea Distribution LLC - 2013|