Friday, September 21, 2012

Montana vacation

The first day of our road trip, we drove to the Rapid City, South Dakota area.  It was our first time, and we loved it.  The Badlands were particularly amazing.  We got out and did some climbing, I believe it is called bouldering.  That was a great way to start the trip out.  I really had no idea how beautiful and amazing the Badlands were, and they were my favorite part of South Dakota.  We saw Mt. Rushmore, and some of the touristy things, but nothing that compared to the Badlands.

We stayed the first night in Rapid City, and then drove to Red Lodge, Montana.  My friend, Lynne, is a Montana groupie and gave us a route that she recommended, along with recommendations of where to stay.  And boys does she know her stuff, thanks for the tips Lynne!!!  We stayed at the Rock Creek Resort in Red Lodge, and it was awesome.  It is right on the beautiful Rock Creek.  We had a balcony that overlooked the creek, and it was simply beautiful.

On the first morning, I got up early and hiked up the mountain behind the resort, and it was gorgeous.  After I returned, Michael had met Bill, the head of maintenance who was telling him about a trail across the highway that would run into an old shack, some old mines and a cellar.  We went on a hike with the kids and found all of the markers he told us about.  That also was fun.  We went into the cute little town of Red Lodge for some great lunch, and then stopped at the Beartooth Nature Center.  When we got home from that, I rented one of the resorts bikes and went for a bike ride.

The resort is 5 miles outside of town so I rode into town.  There is a town 6 miles from Red Lodge called Bear Creek which Lynne owns property in and had told me about.  The town also is the home of Montana’s largest mine disaster, the Smith Mine disaster, which killed 73 or 74 men.  I decided to ride there, thinking that would be about a 22 mile ride, which is about the length I have been doing home.  I knew this would be harder though, as there are mountains and hills EVERYWHERE.  I got into Red Lodge just fine, and took the turn to Bear Creek.  Immediately, I had to ride up a huge hill.  Over half way up the hill, I was thinking to myself, I sure hope there are not a lot of hills like this or I may turn around.  I got to the top of the hill, and came around a corner, and saw a beautiful landscape in front me that was all down hill.

Immediately, I knew I would have to ride back up it, and thought better of taking this ride.  Then I told myself, this is what you have been riding for all summer.  I went for it.  It was a gorgeous ride, complete with switch backs and everything.  When I was getting close to Bear Creek, I could see the old Smith Mine and there was a roadside sign with info which I stopped and read.  I got into Bear Creek, turned around, and rode up the hills.  It was hard, but amazing. 

When I was in Bear Creek, I had tried to call Lynne to see if I could find her property but had to leave a message.  She called me back just as I came into Red Lodge so I pulled over and we talked for about 10 minutes.  At this point, I have been biking for 2 hours.  I got back on the bike for the final 5 miles back to the resort.   Immediately, I knew it was not going to be fun.  I shouldn’t have stopped, the break gave my legs time to realize how hard they had been working and they were like jelly.  I forgot to mention that it had been in the mid 80’s.

These last 5 miles, were the longest 5 miles ever.  It reminded me of some childhood bike rides I had with my best friend Teresa.  We grew up on a lake about 7 miles outside of Willmar.  When we were in 5th grade, we started riding our bikes into town for softball practice, or to just ding around.  I remember a couple of times riding home, and hitting some crazy winds, and wishing someone would come by and give us a ride.  This is how I felt in Montana.  The wind was picking up,, and even though I wasn’t having to ride up the steep crazy hills I had just tackled, I was not doing a lot of inclines and even on the declines, I was having to peddle full force because of the wind.

Obviously I made it back, and was totally fine.  I did have a water bottle with me which I finished.  The ride was 22.69 miles total and took nearly 3 hours, with a couple of breaks in it.  I had on my heart rate monitor and I burned 1500 calories.  Wahoo.  The next several days, I have to tell you, my butt was killing me!  Made me realize I need to work more hills into my bike rides, very good for the backside!

The next day we did something I was nervous to do.  We rode on the Beartooth Pass.  If you don’t know what this is, you should.  It is an amazing scenic drive through the mountains.  It starts right in Red Lodge and ends pretty much as you enter Yellowstone Park.  Charles Kuralt called it the most scenic drive in America, and it is by far the most beautiful drive I have been on.  A few years ago, Michael and I had a vacation in California, and we drove from San Diego to Palm Springs for a few days.  We took some back rodes to get there, and ended up driving on some roads that were winding through the mountains, and were freaking us both out.  Me especially as I was driving.  It was beautiful, but terrifying.  Due to this memory, we were both nervous for the Beartooth Pass.

I am a natural born roadtrip driver.  My dad was a travelling salesman (sold veterinary meds to farmers).  He could drive forever and was good with directions and knew his way around.  I inherited these talents from him.  Michael is not a great long distance driver.  He gets the highway hypnosis thing and has a hard time staying awake, past two hours.  So needless to say, I do most of the driving, and we are both cool with this.
Well, the Beartooth Pass was lovely.  It was not freaky at all, as they have guard rails almost the entire time when needed (the mountains we drove in California did not have guard rails).  There are tons of turnouts and spots to pull over to let someone pass you, or to look and take pictures.  We stopped at 80% of them to take pictures and enjoy the scenery.  You can get through this route in 1.5-2 hours, but it took us 4 hours.  We did stop to eat our lunch at one point.

When we came through the Beartooth Pass, we entered into Yellowstone National Park.  We were able to see bison, but that was about the only wildlife we ran into.  We saw the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and this was truly awesome.  It was gorgeous.

After Yellowstone, we stayed at a place called Chico Hot Springs.  It is on the national historic registry and it is cool.  It has two pools that are fed by a hot spring, 96 and 102 degrees I think.  We went horseback riding and white water rafting one day.  I also got to get a massage at the spa and Michael and I had a late night dinner at their renowned fine eating restaurant.  One day, horseback riding, white water rafting, massage and a fabulous meal.  Totally spoiled.  It was an awesome day.  The trip was relaxing and fun.  I fell in love with Montana and the mountains!


robyncalgary said...

#1 you look fabulous!

#2 I think you must have replaced your little ones with BIG kids! Especially Imani, shes looking so grown up :)

Mommy Linda's said...

I'm so glad you were able to have such a great vacation! You needed it! Blessings!