We met Bob and Julie while camping in Yellowstone – they gave our car a jump early one morning. We chatted a bit and after telling them about our trip, they extended an invitation to stay at their place in Coeur d’Alene if we passed through on our way West.
Among the laundry list of places we intended to see during our tour of the US, Glacier National Park was at the top. We had lofty expectations for our time in the park, not only because of the stories shared by family and friends who had visited, but because Glacier is one of the most highly coveted backpacking playgrounds in the US.
At Joe Fasula’s insistence, we made a stop in Butte, MT on our way to Missoula to see the infamous Berkeley Pit. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Butte was in the midst of its heyday as the largest mining boomtown in the American West. The advent of electricity caused the demand for copper to soar and the town’s abundant copper reserves soon gave it its nickname as “the richest hill on earth”.
It’s been said the Beartooth highway is the most scenic in the U.S and, after spending nearly 4 hours driving a mere 60 miles, we’d be hard-pressed to disagree. It begins not far from Yellowstone’s northeast entrance and soon turns north into Montana.
After Idaho, we took a short hiatus from our travels to attend my good friend Colleen’s wedding. While swapping the comfortable 75 degree days in Jackson, WY for the 105 degree humid mess that was the thick of Philadelphia’s heat wave was not ideal, we appreciated the opportunity to catch up with family and friends. The week was packed with activity and, as always, it flew by way too fast.
During our stay in the Tetons we felt a growing itch to get back on the road. We departed towards Stanley, Idaho in the Sawtooth mountain range with a two day three night back packing trip planned that we had found in one of our Backpacker magazines.
From Yellowstone we made our way south towards the Grand Tetons, hoping to get in another backcountry hike amidst some of our nation’s most scenic peaks. We stopped at the ranger station to get some hiking recommendations (we’ve learned this is a must-do – no matter the guidebooks in hand, rangers always have firsthand information about trail and weather conditions).
Yellowstone is a land of opposing forces. On the one hand it is wildlife sanctuary. The first land set aside to isolate it from the quickly developing west. The caretakers in Yellowstone go to great extents to minimize the impact of its human visitors. On the other hand it is a tourist destination.
Just south of Badlands National Park lies the Pine Ridge Reservation, home to over 20,000 registered members of the Oglala Sioux Native American tribe. The Oglala Sioux are part of the larger Lakota Nation: seven bands of Native American tribes indigenous to the land that now makes up the state of South Dakota. After departing the Badlands, Zach and I drove through this area, stopping at the site of the infamous Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 during which the U.S. military killed more than 300 defenseless men, women and children of Lakota Nation.
From Wisconsin we headed into South Dakota, a surprisingly beautiful drive with vast expanses of green rolling hills. We drove through some national grasslands just as day was breaking and I happily admired the scenery as Zach slept in the passenger seat.