On July 31, a Tuesday, our journey to Montana began with a 5:20pm flight from O’Hare to…Seattle. Then we’d continue on to Great Falls. Sean and I both worked from home until it was time to head to the airport. And we both were stressed tying up some final things before the trip. Our stress continued on the way to the airport in a Lyft. Traffic was extremely heavy, and we’d left later than we’d wanted to because of work stuff.
Glacier National Park was established by Congress on May 11, 1910 with the enabling legislation signed by President William Howard Taft. The Park protects over a million acres of the northern Rocky Mountains along the Continental Divide in northwestern Montana. It was the tenth most visited National Park in 2017 with over 3.3 million visitors.
For years Glacier National Park has been writ large in Sean’s and my minds because it is so beloved of our friends Angela and Dan, fellow National Park enthusiasts who have visited the Park many times, often at the conclusion of long summer road trips. (They are both Chicago Public Schools teachers.) During the long Chicago winter, the four of us were part of a Wednesday night Skeeball league at a local brewery. Over the course of our weekly hanging out and playing (often terribly), the subject rose of our joining them at Glacier in the summer of 2018. We knew that we were going to California in July for Andrew’s wedding and that my birthday trip was coming in November, so an August trip to Glacier might work out quite nicely.
And so it did.
Refreshed by our lunch, we discussed what to do next. It was Thursday, September 11. We had an afternoon and a morning left in the South Unit before heading to the North Unit the following afternoon. We also wanted to see Elkhorn Ranch. We decided to save the ranch for the next day, planning to visit it on the way to the North Unit. For the afternoon, we’d hike to the park’s petrified forest out in the western portion of the South Unit.
We stopped at the C-Store. Virtually every time we were in Medora we stopped at the C-Store. I believe that this was the time we discovered Dot’s Pretzels, locally made seasoned pretzel rods. The fellow who works at the C-Store who is originally from Eugene, Oregon, recommended them to us.
To get to the petrified forest, we would have to hike through the South Unit’s designated wilderness. We had two options: ford the Little Missouri River at the campground and climb the bluffs or drive out of the park and into the Little Missouri National Grassland, starting the hike at the park’s western boundary. Since the Little Missouri was obviously high, there was really no choice.
With the exception of a lovely long weekend in Florida in March with my parents, by Labor Day 2014 Sean and I had not taken a real vacation in 2014. This was due both to the whims and vagaries of his firm and that the summer months are busy at Openlands. (For comparison, by Labor Day 2013, we’d already visited the Virgin Islands, California, and Florida and had driven around the whole of Lake Michigan.) It was past time for a vacation. It was time to sleep in a tent.
We decided upon a trip to the Dakotas (and Wyoming). We’d hit three parks: Badlands, Wind Cave, and Theodore Roosevelt, plus three monuments.