Saturday, June 17, 2006

Elk, Bears, Mountains and Crown - Montana June 2006

What more could you ask for! If you don't feel like reading the following novel, pictures tell a thousand words! Erin's Flickr Pics - Pages 1-3

I flew out to Billings a few weekends ago for the weddings of one of my college friends. This was basically the last time the 5 of us will be together, b/c two of the crew are moving to Africa for work (yeah.....).

Anyways, commentary on moving aside, I was very excited to head back to Montana as I hadn't been back since my Glacer backpacking trip in 2004. I decided to get a cabin in Cooke City Thurs night and spend Thurs and Friday exploring Yellowstone and the Beartooths. The rest of my friends were a)lame and b)bridesmaids and had to attend the rehearsal Friday, so I was solo for my adventures. Which I loved.

I'd been to Yellowstone/Beartooths twice before. The first time was for a Field Ecology course in college, where we spent a week camping, hiking, learning in the area. Which was bad ass. However, I didn't see anything remotely touristy. And my last time we were there, it was January and we didn't have snowmobiles, so again - no tourist attractions. I decided that this time, if I wanted to see it, I would stop, no matter how "cliche". Old Faithful, check. Geysers, check. Yellowstone Lake, Check.

I got my car at 11 AM Thursday and made a beeline west on I-90 to Livingston, then down to Gardnier to the park entrance. Make kick-ass time - was in the park by 2 PM. Woo! I loved seeing places I've been before with fresh eyes, noticing new things along the way. And since it was the first weekend in June, there weren't too many people (aka idiots) out. Woo! I'd drive and pull over is something was picture worthy. Take a short hike if I felt like it. I had crazy good timing with seeing wildlife and attractions. I pulled up to Old Faithful 15 min before it went off, not even knowing when it was supposed to go. Yay! I can check that off my list. I also saw (from a distance, thru a scope) a pack of 4 wolves with a kill (sweet!) and 3 black bears (close enough to see them w/out binocs [which I'd stupidly left at home] but far enough away where you wouldn't get hurt).

Total wildlife viewing tally:
Bison (tons), elk (tons), white tail deer (tons), 2 bighorn sheep, 1 trumpet swan, 1 blue heron, 3 bears, 4 wolves. Good day!

Some picture highlights from Thurs:

That was all from Thursday. Needless to say, I was a wee bit tired. Got to my hotel at 9:30, ate at 10 Pm. Woke up to the annoying sounds of highway construction at 7, was on my way out by 8 AM. Stopped in Cooke City for some coffee, asked the store owner about some good "quick" morning hikes before I had to head back to Billings. He recommended Trout Lake back in the park, then some stream behind this lodge just outside of the park "there's no trail, but if you follow the stream back for a mile, there's a nice waterfall."...

So, I went to Trout Lake first. Very nice!

I drove around the park some more (more killing time, I know its rough!). Then I tried this "waterfall" trail. It consisted of bushwacking thru hills with some pretty big downed trees. I managed to scratch my legs 3 times (so badly blood ran down my legs - two weeks later I still have a scab on one of my legs), then I saw fresh bear tracks and scat, so I decided to turn around...

Got a sammich in Cooke City, found this nice little waterfall (below) off the side of the road and had a lovely picnic lunch before taking the Beartooth Highway back to Billings.

Some pics of the Beartooths (some of my fav mountains)

Rolled back into Billings at 4 PM. Went to the rehearsal dinner, then out. Much craziness ensured. My friend H got very drunk, then decided to make out with the greasy guy with a comb-over. I so wish I had my camera, b/c she still doesn't believe me!

Saturday morning, we all headed to this tiny salon west of Billings - it was like the MT equivalent of the place in Steel Magnolias. Just bizarre. Anyways, I was the only one of the group who wasn't a BM, so I did errand running, which... whatever.

Then the wedding - they had a cash bar, but we were smart enough to bring 3 bottles of crown. Which about 6 of us managed to drain thru the course of the evening. Anways, the wedding was fun, slightly bittersweet, and beautiful.

The next morning, however, was not so pretty, thanks to the 3 bottles of crown and the fact that we went out afterwards and closed a bar down... But, this is true to how our group usually is, so it was nice to go out with a bang! However, in the future, I will do my best to not fly home hungover ever again, b/c it really, really sucked.

So, that was the last trip of the summer. Now all I have to look forward to is my 2.5 weeks in New Zealand over Thanksgiving! Wooo!

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