Moving to this part of the world has been such a glorious education.
It’s been an education in the immense grandeur of the landscapes--landscapes that I had no idea even existed within the US--and all that they contain. It’s a beautiful pocket of the world that we’ve quickly grown to adore, with its quaint towns sprinkled with relics from a not-so distant past; it’s gregarious folks with their western ethos; its wildlife that are still allowed to be wild; and of course, its awe-inspiring scenery.
About two weeks ago, we set out to better get to know this land we’ve decided to call home. We travelled down through Yellowstone and Grand Teton--two national parks located a day trip’s drive from our apartment. We stopped at a little town called Livingston along the way. Minus the modern vehicles, Livingston’s main street makes you feel like you’re stepping back into 1940. While it feels a bit sleepy, it’s still got a lot of interesting life to it. (Stop at Gil’s to eat some amazing wood-fired pizza if you’re ever in the area).
After our brief stint in Livingston, we headed on toward Yellowstone. While I’m a little ashamed to admit it, kitschy gift shops are one of my favorite things about road trips. I have a strange affinity for bizarre, mainly useless souvenirs. So imagine my delight when we rolled into Gardiner, MT. It’s source of identity is being a major entrance to Yellowstone, and it is kitsch galore. We popped into one of its over-the-top gift shops and perused. My favorite item was undoubtedly the garishly carved grizzly bear and buffalo coffee cup.
We cruised through Yellowstone rather quickly, as our main objective was hanging out and camping in Grand Teton. We did see some amazing natural features in Yellowstone: gorgeous waterfalls, roaming buffalo, and spewing geysers among them. We decided to settle in a free campsite between Teton and Yellowstone for the night. It was so serene, right beside the Snake River and tucked into a forest of pine trees. We cooked over a campfire (that Ty proudly made), and were enchanted by the sounds of bull elk bugling nearby. (If you’ve never heard the sound, I recommend you turn your volume to a low setting and Google it.) We stargazed that night with virtually no light pollution from the moon or otherwise. It was the first time I’ve actually been able to see the Milky Way’s ether-like appearance. Simply stunning.
Grand Teton was awe inspiring. I really can’t do the mountains justice with my words. Hopefully the photos will suffice. Visiting them in fall was an incredible experience, as the bright yellow trees popped dramatically against the cool, jagged blues of the mountains. What makes the Grand Teton range incredible is the fact that there are no foothills. The mountains rise dramatically out of the flat valley below, and it is truly something to behold.
We meandered home slowly, stopping for anything that piqued our interest. We met some horses living beside the mountains, found a tiny chapel in a gas station parking lot, and even had the amazing thrill of being up close to a bull elk bugling while keeping careful watch over his harem.
The trip left us with a stillness in our spirit and a gratitude in our hearts. We’re so thankful we are able to lead a life where we can experience this kind of beauty so easily. It’s trips like this that make us feel so blessed to call Montana home.