Our vacation mottos: " Don't make too many reservations and know where the Walmarts are" i.e.: Every good vacation starts with a shopping trip to Walmart. Our 2004 vacation was the first since 1999 out west where we like to go. The trip was planned with a list of places to see and do things, but very few reservations other than the flight, rental car and 2 nights in Jackson Hole.
June 7: Drove to Atlanta and spent the night with Helen's parents.
June 8: Father in law George was a real trooper and drove us to the airport at o'dark thirty for our 6:15 a.m. flight. The flight had a stop in Cincinnati, then on to Billings, Montana by 11:30 MST. Mind you it was 59 degrees when we landed! After we got the rental car loaded up, then it was off to a Walmart (yes we had a list: to buy snacks, lunch items, water and soft drinks and most importantly a can of Welch's frozen grape juice concentrate.) Then it was down SE into Wyoming, across the Big Horn Mountains to Thermopolis. Along the way on this high pass there was snow everywhere, so it was time to stop and use the grape juice to make snow-cones! Along the way we saw mule deer and several moose feeding. Thermopolis we had found out was home to the Wyoming Dinosaur Center (a private museum and dig that has had some amazing finds.)
June 9: We took a guided tour by bus to the dig site at the Dinosaur Center then their great little museum. Their prize dinosaur is "Morris" which is a T-Rex. After lunch we traveled down along a river through the Wind River Canyon toward Shoshone, then up over the snow covered mountain passes westward to Jackson Hole where the clouds hung over the Grand Tetons.
June 10: We planned a hike in Teton NP but it started off that day cold, then rain, then sleet, then some snow, and back to cold rain. So it was downtown Jackson Hole "shopping." That evening we went to this great cowboy dinner show at the Bar "J" ranch.
June 11: Was our son Jonathan's 13th birthday so we ordered an ice cream cake at a local Dairy Queen (to pick up later) as we headed out to do long hike around Jenny Lake in the national park. Jenny Lake is awesome and we had a great hike. Back at the condo, we celebrated his birthday after supper with the cake.
June 12: Heading north through Yellowstone National Park, and again it was a cool summer day. NICE. We didn't do any hikes there, but got to see about all the good spots in the park including Ole' Faithful. Lots of elk, coyotes, buffalo and geysers but no bears. Our picnic lunch stuff allowed us to eat where we wanted and when, but we ate out each evening for supper. So that day we ate in the park early then kept driving and stopping looking at animals. Near dark, lots of elk come out to graze in the northeast section especially. By dark, we were at the north entrance and spent the night in Gardiner.
June 13: Back into Yellowstone for a couple hours, to see the museum and things around Mammoth Hot Springs. Then it was on north along the interstate a ways but then a great scenic two-lane route along the Bob Marshall Wilderness as we approached Whitefish, MT. Near our motel, we heard of a great pizza place that had a brick oven in the middle they cooked on, so that is where went. Heat from the oven felt good with the outside temperature hovering around a misty 50 degrees.
June 14: Our adventures in Glacier National Park began. After checking in at a cabin at West Glacier, we headed into the park and up recently snow plowed Going to the Sun Road. At Logan's Pass we headed out on a hike to Hidden Lake over 4 feet of snow. About an hour into the hike we rested under a tree then headed back. Why? Sleet and snow. It was fun though. Remember this was in the in June and it was hot back home. After riding on a ways along the road, we headed back to West Glacier for an early supper. Then it was back out on the west side of the park to hopefully see animals. A black bear crossed the road just about 5 minutes later! Then the skies cleared and there was the beautiful rainbow that seemed to fill the sky and go from one side of the mountains to another.
June 15: We planned a hike that day to Pegan Pass but when we got the park entrance were told the road to Logan's Pass was closed at point past Lake McDonald due to an avalanche the night before. Time for PLAN B hike and on to none other than Avalanche Lake (a nice 4 mile hike.) Now because the main road to other trails was closed, by mid- morning the Avalanche Lake Trail seemed to have everybody and his brother hiking it. It drizzled some, so many folks turned back. Rain (which stopped) didn't stop us from pushing on to see the lake which has green rocks on the bottom causing the water to be this bright green. By the time we got off that trail, the road was back open so we headed to Pegan's Pass Trail. Dressed in warm jackets, hats and gloves we headed up the snow covered trail. About 10 minutes along, Helen in the lead, she spotted black bear tracks going up the trail. So we continued on to the top of the mountain (following the tracks) where this stream is and a bridge. The snow on the ground there was about 3 feet deep! We turned around there and headed down after a short rest. Helen in the lead with Jonathan, about 5 minutes later they come to a turn in the trail and stop (I was taking video of them walking at the time) and they both exclaimed at the same time "Jim-Dad come quick..bear tracks..HUGE!" Seems a GRIZ had come up the mountain behind us and crossed the trail. He was going up and we quickly headed down. About a ¼ mile from the road we rested and glassed (looked through binoculars and a spotting scope) the steep mountain cliff beyond us across a stream. Helen spotted a white goat and baby, then we all saw this HUGE male making his way down this cliff just like on National Geographic shows, jumping from narrow ledge to narrow ledge. Back at our car and heading west, a huge big horn crossed the road, then paused and grazed just off the road (allowing us some great photo shots.)
June 16: We decided to do a 3-hour raft trip on the middle fork of the Flathead River. Saw deer and such along the easy route. Mid-afternoon we headed east through the park, stopping to look at animals and make snow-cones near Logan's Pass (using the grape-juice again.) We had stopped at this pull-out/viewing area. Along comes this tour bus and it stopped. The tourist, were from Japan and one couple asked what we were making/eating. Never had a snow cone! The lady said "I want snow-cone" (maybe she thought we were vendors.) So being good Americans we shared our cups and spoons and grapejuice and several of the others experienced a snow cone! Short time later we headed on east and this is where our greatest adventure on a vacation began Down the mountain road a ways Helen said we had time and I agreed, to hike to Dead Falls. It was only a couple miles, and as Jonathan and I geared up she complained about what we took. My rule is "same stuff, 5 minutes or 5 miles." Five minutes down the trail, we met a guy nearly running uphill. He was going for help as there was guy he said down at the falls who had fallen in and was hypothermic. He said his friend was with the guy and his girlfriend. We found them by the pool beneath the falls. The guy had stripped down and was at the top of the falls and slipped into the flow and hit his head. He came up in the pool face down and his little girlfriend gave him CPR and the hikers put on his pants and shirt, but he was blue when we got there. From my survival kit I gave Jonathan our fire-making bag and they began building a fire nearby on a rock ledge. I wrapped the victim in a "space blanket", put on him some wool socks I carried, and took his temp. Eighty-five degrees! The girlfriend, Jonathan gave her his jacket and a pair of his socks. After about an hour the guy was warming by the fire and his temp was up to 92. I heated some Pepsi in a can and gave him a Cliff bar. By then, we decided to head out to see what was keeping the rangers. So we built up the fire and headed out. Half way up we heard a helicopter land near our car, and then met a 5 man EMT team with an omni-wheel stretcher. Another hour passed and then the team wheeled the guy to the helicopter in a sleeping bag. As the copter took off the head EMT ranger came to us and said "you the folks who helped them and built the fire?" Yep.Good job. We told about the low temp and all and he said the guy was holding at 92 still. We found out later the guy (Eric) was flown to Kalispell for warming and observation and was ok. So the moral of that story is a Boy Scout one, ALWAYS be prepared (even if that means to help another.)
June 17: We had stayed in the St. Marys' Lodge and headed out for one last hike in Glacier in the Many Glacier area nearby. Still not having seen a GRIZ. Just as we parked at the trailhead to this falls we wanted to hike to, there in the trail several hundred feet up in the open was mother Griz and two cubs! After many photos and lots of other folks stopping to take photos, we headed on and hiked another trail nearby. That day was cool (about 40 degrees cool) and windy. We didn't see another griz but several goats, grouse and eagles. Early afternoon it was time to head southeast and back to Billings. We spent the night along the way at Lewistown.
June 18: We slept late and then headed on down to Billings to turn in the car and catch our 2:50 flight back to Atlanta (with a stop-over/change of planes in Salt Lake City.) Late that night when we got back to Atlanta and was making our way toward the baggage claim area, all three of us could feel the heat of the Georgia summer muggy night. No more long sleeves and jackets for several more months. We had a great trip and reprieve from the summer heat, for those 12 great days.