Old Timey Doc Jenny’s Best of the West: Scenic Drives

I had a lot of time to think and write on this trip (while my wonderful hubby drove), and I’ve compiled a few “best of” lists. The first is scenic drives. There haven’t been many scenic byways we have passed up on this trip because it really just is always 100% better to take the scenic route.

This is our 25 favorite drives, west of Denver. Some of these are remote scenic byways, and some are major interstates, but they each have magnificent views. I should note that these are all legitimate, paved roads. A great amount of our time spent driving scenic roads is on dirt, rocky, rut-filled forest roads or even “off-road” trails. That is it’s own separate experience, and takes a bit of know how. These drives are accessible and for everyone.

1. Beartooth Highway 212, Wyoming and Montana. (Pictured above). This is hands down, the most beautiful drive you will ever take. Make the trip, go out of the way, just do it! I recommend driving from the bottom up, starting in Red Lodge, MT; it’s a cooler experience.

2. Zion National Park via East Entrance to Visitor Center

3. Yosemite National Park via Tunnel View and the Loop around the Valley Floor

4. Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park

5. Going to the Sun Road, Glacier National Park

6. Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway 12, Moab, Utah

7. Highway 89A Flagstaff to Sedona, Arizona

8. Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, California

9. Redwood Highway 199, California and Oregon

10. Million Dollar Highway, San Juan Range, Colorado

11. Highway 14 eastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park to Highway 191 all the way through Grand Teton National Park

12. Highway 163 Arizona, through Monument Valley

13. State Highway 135 St. Regis to Paradise, Montana following the Clark Fork River

14. Dead Indian Memorial Road (I know, the name is awful!) from Klamath Falls to Ashland Oregon

15. Black Canyon of the Gunnison, South Rim Road

16. California Routes 88 to 89 going to South Lake Tahoe

17. Pacific Coast Highway 101

18. US Highway 160 in Colorado over Wolf Creek Pass

19. Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon

20. State Byway 44 through Badlands NP, South Dakota

21. Shoshoni Wyoming to Thermopolis Wyoming, State Highway 20

22. Colorado State Highway 125 through Willow Creek Pass

23. Highway 395 Eastern Sierras, California

24. Interstate 70 through central Colorado

25. Interstate 90 from St. Regis Montana to Coeur d’Alene Idaho

Traditional and Alternative Therapies For Anxiety and Depression, My Personal Experiences

I’ve written about my personal experiences with anxiety, panic disorder, and depression. I have had some form of anxiety since my teenage years, and intermittent bouts of depression. I have largely tried to ignore this as much as possible, and to power through on my own. I college, during a time of deep depression brought on by a breakup, I ventured to the student health center, but chickened out and left before getting help. As a medical student I went as far as going to cognitive behavioral therapy with psychiatrist, who gave me a Zoloft prescription I never took. In residency, in the wake of a serious injury, I lay around for days, weeks, even months without doing anything. I didn’t leave the house. I sought help from my mentor and our residency psychologist, but soon was lying and telling them I was fine when I was anything but.

Then last year, I had what I’ll call a breakdown. That may be a negative term, but it’s exactly how I felt, like I was breaking down. Like I was some old rusty piece of equipment that wouldn’t work, that instead just took up space and caused annoyance. Suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, plagued by chronic pain and daily migraines, I finally sought help and followed up. At first I went to the ER. If you were to look in my chart you would see the classic signs of someone having physical symptoms of anxiety. Several trips for migraines, neck pain, and even for passing out. I understood empirically what was really happening, that I needed to treat my anxiety, but I continued to think I could just will my body into feeling better. The day I passed out at work in front of my colleagues was the day I knew I had to get real. I continued to seek help separately for my migraines and neck pain, but I went to my PCP for prescriptions for medication. I initially wanted to just take Buspar, but she convinced me that I was in crisis and needed an SSRI for stabilization. SSRI stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and it’s job is to increase serotonin levels in the brain to lessen depression and anxiety. My SSRI, Celexa, did its job and helped increase the serotonin in my brain, and made me less depressed. It took about 2-3 months to work. Interestingly, for me personally, it did not make me happier. It made me less sad, so that I wasn’t just bursting into tears for no reason. It made me much less anxious, and it’s the only time in my life I’ve actually slept restfully. It was very much “sleeping like the dead”. However, instead of happiness, the Celexa just made me feel apathetic. It brought about the complete absence of emotion. I understood that this was happening, and for some months, I continued to take the medication anyway. After all, isn’t the absence of emotion better than the unrelenting chasm of depression and the constant panic of anxiety? (If you’ve read the book My Year Of Rest and Relaxation, you’ll have some idea of what I’m talking about).

Then we underwent the horror of euthanizing two of our dogs, Josie and Pippin, on the same day. At that point I finally had a flood of emotion briefly come back, as I sobbed over their cold limp bodies, and I realized how robotic I had become. I wanted to feel, even if it was a negative emotion, I wanted to, I needed to experience it. In the months following their deaths I weaned myself slowly off Celexa. There is no scientific weaning protocol by the way. A mental health advocate, Laura Delano, has developed some informal guidelines and helps people wean off medications as she herself once did (I read about her in the New Yorker and found her story fascinating). The fun part about coming off psych meds is that many can and will cause discontinuation syndrome, which can cause symptoms worse than the disease you originally set out to treat. More docs are wise to this now, and can help work out a weaning schedule designed to help minimize those symptoms. For me, I used my symptoms to guide my weaning. If I started to feel sick (nausea, dizzy, anxious), I stayed at the current dose or went back up slightly for a few weeks until the symptoms dissipated. This got me safely off of Celexa within about 2 months.

So what is life like now? Am I cured? No. I remain on Buspar for anxiety. It helps make the anxiety manageable and tolerable. It does not have the same severe dampening of emotion that the Celexa did. Buspar works differently that SSRIs, and we don’t really fully understand how, but it is a serotonin receptor agonist, meaning it has a strong affinity for binding to those receptors It’s also been side effect free, and in general has very low risk for side effects. It’s a great medication for anxiety, and I prescribe it frequently in my own practice when applicable because it is safe and effective.

What about alternative methods? I’ve tried more than my share over the years.

The foundation of alternative treatment is three things: healthy diet, regular sleep, and exercise. All these things I go on about and struggle with all the time, affect mental as well as physical well being. They are sooo important!!!!

Meditation and deep breathing. This is the first line treatment I recommend my patients do as well. Simply being quiet and still, inhaling deeply through your nose and out through your mouth is an effective treatment for anxiety. It slows the heart rate and stops the nervous system firing off fight or flight signals, thereby acting as a instant calming method. Repeated habitual use of these practices will help to prevent anxiety. Yoga works in this same vein, and I will practice yoga for the same effects. Mindfulness practice is in this same category as well. Simply being mindful and acknowledging your emotions is a powerful tool. For someone like me, who’s main instinct is to bury and suppress emotions, acknowledging them is the first step.

Massage. I initially got massages for my neck pain and migraines. I found that these did not help those issues at all (bummer). Massages did greatly help my anxiety though, that time for full on relaxation was very helpful.

Acupuncture. I’ve not been very successful with this. Acupuncture has been proven to help a variety of conditions from anxiety and depression to acute and chronic pain. The military uses it regularly on soldiers, and have had good results. I tried acupuncture about a half dozen times, with varying practitioners over the years. I flat out just didn’t like or was creeped out by a lot of them, but one woman of Chinese background was the most thorough. I tried a few sessions with her, but did not find any relief. It’s something that I would try again, though, I think with more persistence it could be valuable.

Essential oils/aromatherapy. I’ve tried many of these. I do find lavender, when put in my bath water, is relaxing. I like this methodology more for my headaches, though. I use peppermint oil on my skin and in a diffuser and it helps my headache lessen a little. My wonderful work family got used to our little office area smelling like the North Pole for awhile, when I was in the thick of my migraines.

Vitamins and supplements. I cannot even remember all the different ones of these I’ve tried. Needless to say none of them helped (my migraines either). I do still take melatonin to help with sleep, it is a standby. Some of the duds: valerian, L-theanine, GABA, chamomile, passionflower- just a handful of others I’ve tried over the years. the good thing about vitamins and supplements are that MOST of them are safe- but not all! So talk to a doctor before you start piling them on.

CBD. Yep, tried it. I acquired it in Colorado and tried if for several months. (Aside- I’ve tried on my dogs as well, for they be crazy like me, but it made them more agitated!) There is no dosing guide for CBD. Basically it’s trial and error. I tried various dosages over several months time. I ultimately found none of them to be effective. I’m sure CBD helps some people, but I was not one of them. It is something I recommend people try, though. It is safe without much evidence of side effects, so I think it’s definitely worth people trying.

Hypnosis. I am mentioning this because at one point I was desperate enough to consider it. I even went to an appointment. My logical brain quickly shot down the practice, and won out. There is no empirical evidence that hypnosis works, and I don’t recommend it.

Nature therapy. This has been the big alternative therapy in my life. Looking back on my life, I realize I’ve been employing it without knowing since I was a child. I was always happiest and felt safest in the outdoors. When I felt sad or upset, I would venture out to the woods for relief. And this is what I still do today. Nature has been shown to have some of the same effects on serotonin levels as medications. It doesn’t need to mean becoming a hermit and living in the woods- it’s as simple as taking 5 minutes out of your workday and sitting outside on a sunny day. Now I’ve been lucky in that I have been able to take an extended break where I have traveled for several months and hike nearly everyday. It has been so restorative. I know I should be more stressed about starting my new life in Oregon, but when I’m out on the trails all that falls away and I live in the serenity of the moment. It makes me be in the present only, and not ruminate and stress about all the what-ifs of daily life. So how am I going to keep this going once I start my new job? Definitely mini-breaks to get outside during the day, those are great pick me ups. Also walking my dogs everyday. Even if it’s just around the block, it’s time outside and it’s meaningful. We plan to travel and hike as much as we can when I’m not working, and see as much of this beautiful country as we can.

Coast to Coast Adventure, Days 62-67. The End.

My husband Rob and I have quit our jobs and are moving from Dayton, OH to Medford, OR with our two dogs Moose and Schuyler. Before we settle there, we embarked on a 2.5 month adventure across the US. I’ll be working as a hospitalist when we get to Oregon starting in just a few short weeks!

The end is here. Not many people get to call a time out on life and travel for over two months. We made a conscious choice to do this. We spent all our savings so we could have this freedom. We are going into the unknown, with just each other. Will it be worth it? Will we have a good life in Oregon? Will our relationship withstand the severe stress of moving cross country to where we know no one and where I’ll be the only one working? These are the questions on my mind today as we drive to our new home in Medford.

We spent the last week of our trip in Victor, Idaho. We had an amazing little “tiny house” that we rented there. I would really like to have a house like that build for us for our next house. It was small, but had everything you need. And it wasn’t truly “tiny” it was probably 600 square feet at least of space. We stayed here because it was adorable, but also because Jackson Hole was sooooo expensive it was out of our reach for what I wanted to spend. It was only 30 minutes across the Teton Pass to Jackson, and 45 minutes to the Tetons.

We had some good hiking days here. Most were pretty chillaxed because we did one epic summit hike. The tiny house was not a good place to leave the dogs, so we did not get to hike any in the Teton park itself. Our first hike was up to a nice subalpine lake, Ski Lake, off Teton Pass. There is a TON of dog friendly hiking off the pass. We did this chill hike and then drove around the park. The great thing about the Tetons is that you can appreciate it so much from your car. The mountains are right there, just framed like a painting.

The next day we did our most ambitious hike yet with the dogs. We hiked 10.7 miles roundtrip to the Summit of Jackson Peak. What’s so cool about this hike is that 3 miles in there is an alpine lake! I fucking love alpine lakes so much. We stopped to swim here for good half hour. There were few bugs, the water was cold but not freezing, and best yet: no one else was there! I will always always cherish having a lake to myself.

We then pushed up to the summit. The last mile was the hard part, steeply graded up the mountain ridge. We took plenty of breaks and then enjoyed ourselves at the summit. Moose and Sky kept trying to pull us off the mountain in pursuit of chipmunks, so we had to be on our toes. It feels amazing to be on a summit, looking at the 360 degrees views and feeling the wind in my hair.

We spent our remaining days doing some short hikes (the dogs were toast after that big one). We relaxed in town and in the tiny house and just enjoyed the freedom of our last days.

And now we are driving again. This time for the last time. What’s to come? I hope nothing but good times and more adventures. Thanks for following along. ❤️

Coast to Coast Adventure, days 54-61

My husband Rob and I have quit our jobs and are moving from Dayton, OH to Medford, OR with our two dogs Moose and Schuyler. Before we settle there, we are embarking on a 2.5 month adventure across the US. I’ll be working as a hospitalist when we get to Oregon in September.

We grudgingly left Moab, that little oasis that draws us back year after year, and started on the road for Colorado again. I wanted a little taste of the San Juans without having to drive too far south, so we settled first for a couple days into Ouray. Ouray bills itself as the Switzerland of the US, I guess since it’s in a lovey mountain valley and everything is super expensive? Anyway it is a cute town, and the cool thing is that it is literally tucked right into nature. There are miles of trails starting right from Main Street that go to waterfalls, creeks, up the mountains, and all around the town. It’s pretty cool how integrated it is into its surroundings. We hiked some of the perimeter trail, and there we great views of the mountains and valley. We had an awesome vrbo right on the river, and the sound of it rushing constantly was intoxicating.

We elected to go further out from Ouray to Ridgeway to hike the Blue Lakes Trail. This is a hard trail, 8.5 miles round trip just to the bottom lake, and it was steep and difficult going the first 1.5 miles. Really steep switchbacks that kill your knees and quads coming back down. Eventually we were rewarded when we got up to a waterfall and then the trees parted to reveal a gorgeous turquoise lake set in the basin of Mount Sneffels. I will never ever get over or stop loving alpine lakes. They are like magical little Narnias. We chilled out by the lake for awhile, it was too cold to swim, and then hiked back out. It was already starting to get dark, so we didn’t hike the upper lakes, but we definitely will need to if we get back here again.

From here we were on our way to Crested Butte, but first with a stop in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. My brother told me this was a must see stop, and he was right. It is such a rugged canyon. We hiked a bunch of the short rim trails, and the views were amazing. I can’t help myself for climbing and scrambling on the rocky cliff edge, luckily I didn’t plunge into the canyon and die.

We were taken aback just driving into Crested Butte. It is an absolute charmer. Elk (Main Street) is a string of beautiful colorful old buildings that house amazing shops and restaurants. We were a block off the main drag, in an adorable little cabin we got through vrbo. The town sits in a scenic valley, surrounded by mountains on all sides. We loved waking around the town with our dogs. I wish we could live here!!!

Our first hike was the absolute best wildflowers we have seen on this trip. Even the drive to the hike, was just fields and fields of flowers. It was an easy hike up through Washington Gulch to a view point that gives you 360 degree views. My legs were still spent from our tough hike to Blue Lakes, so I was grateful for the gently graded switchbacks that offered stunning views in every direction.

The next day we did what has become my very favorite hike. Scarp Ridge Trail to 421, which is above Irwin Lake about 3 minutes west of town. This is a fairly strenuous hike up to a 12,500 ridge-line. It is hard to fully describe how beautiful it was. It was a place that stunned me to silence and brought tears to my eyes. There are mountains everywhere you look. We had perfect clouds dotting the sky, making the whole thing look like a canyon. It was just a dream.

We are going to the Tetons today, our last stop before going to our new home in Oregon. I wish I could do this full time; I am going to miss this life so much.

Coast to Coast Adventure, days 44-53

My husband Rob and I have quit our jobs and are moving from Dayton, OH to Medford, OR with our two dogs Moose and Schuyler. Before we settle there, we are embarking on a 2.5 month adventure across the US. I’ll be working as a hospitalist when we get to Oregon in September.

This last section has been in one of our favorites- Utah. Utah is probably my favorite overall state. It has so many amazing parks. There is ample world class skiing. Even the areas that aren’t designated public lands or parks are beautiful. I could do without all the Mormons, as they do influence state policies, but thankfully in the modern age their significance in Utah seems to be dwindling.

We spent our time at a nice house we rented through VRBO just off highway 89 and 14. 45 minutes to Bryce and an hour to Zion, the perfect location!! Because we travel with our dogs, a lot of research goes into where we stay and how close it is to dog friendly hikes. We try everyday to either do one long hike that takes most of the day with the dogs, or do a morning hike with them and then go to a national park in the afternoon.

There are two gems for hiking with dogs both within 30 minutes drive from our house. The first is the Virgin River Rim Trail. It is a 30 mile long trail, but the best section is from mile 6.5 to 11.5, and we hiked this as two separate day hikes from the Cascade Falls trailhead. The views from the rim are amazing!!!! It is a bit of a workout to get up to the rim, it had me huffing wind, but once up there it meanders at elevation flat along the rim. A perfect hike with our babies.

The other amazing area for hiking with our dogs is at Red Canyon. Most people drive right through this on their way to Bryce or only stop for pictures on the side of the road. It isn’t a huge park, but there are miles of amazing trails. It was August so we had to go early in the day to make sure it didn’t get too hot. Plenty of water needed- for all these hikes, no water sources in most trails in Utah. Definitely hit this area up and don’t just drive through it!

We had plenty of afternoon, evening time to hit up Bryce and Zion. At Bryce, we hiked down into the canyon near sunset. We were totally alone down there. It was silent. It was mystical and beautiful and special.

We did two hikes in Zion, one up to the canyon overlook and one in the canyon up to the Watchman. It was hot as balls! 100 degrees both days when we set out. We passed so many people without water, what idiots. Bring water people!!!! The bonus of hiking in the hot late afternoon early evening is that it’s always less crowded. We are always able to find many moments of quiet and solitude. That is soooo important to me. It’s why I won’t do hikes like Angels Landing- I do not want my experience with nature to be crowded, loud, and regulated. I want to be able to hear the silence and appreciate the sights without a gaggle of people around me. This is possible even in the most crowded parks, it just requires a little extra effort and planning.

Next we were off to Moab. I love Moab so much. We’ve been here 5 times in as many years. It is a little oasis. So much beauty to be found. The desert, canyons, red rocks, mountains, Moab has it all. Now it was August, and it was over 100 degrees everyday. To get around this, the first day we went up to the La Sal Mountains and hiked up to the top of one. The temp was max 75 degrees up there. It was a tough hike, up and up and up, but well worth the 360 degree views. There was also beautiful aspens and wildflowers everywhere!

We didn’t go up to our favorite park, Deadhorse State Park, this time. We elected to do some dawn hikes to arches in the canyon instead and then went into Arches in the evening. I love scrambling and climbing on slickrock. It’s so fun and makes me feel like a kid again.

The end of this trip is rapidly approaching. It makes me really sad. I often wonder if I would be better off in life if I never went to college and med school. Would I be happy living in a van, traveling the country with my dogs? I think I would be. In my reality though, I love being a doctor, and I have to continue being one- there are hundreds of thousands of dollars of loans to pay off after all.

Coast to Coast Adventure, days 29-43

My husband Rob and I have quit our jobs and are moving from Dayton, OH to Medford, OR with our two dogs Moose and Schuyler. Before we settle there, we are embarking on a 2.5 month adventure across the US. I’ll be working as a hospitalist when we get to Oregon in September.

California. We spent three days driving from Montana to the California Coast. We stopped in the middle of Washington state first- a bleak part of the country that looks like any of the states of the Great Plains of the Midwest. We made a pit stop in the lovely little town of Hood River for lunch from a charming bistro. It was nearly 100 degrees that afternoon, so we settled for a short stroll in town. From there our first stop on the coast, Florence Oregon. A charming old downtown area made this town stand out, and we spent an hour walking around and then picking up dinner. This was our first time anywhere on the coast in Oregon, and the dunes there were insane! They are huge, they go on for miles. There were a lot of ATV areas there, but we elected to stay far away from that.

We kept on driving down the coast, stopping at an Oregon state park- Cape Arago. This place was truly spectacular. It was like something out of Lord of the Rings. The rainforest comes right up to the shore. Like nothing we’ve ever seen. We spent a couple hours on trails on the coast, and really fell in love. This was also our first time seeing sea lions!

We really enjoyed watching these guys bark and roll around and slip into the sea. From here we drove to our next vrbo rental in Crescent City, California. We had a beautiful drive along the coast and stopped at a beach where we had the whole thing to ourselves. A lovely little treasure.

Our house was nice, just one house down from the Ocean. There was a great beach by the house where we watched sunsets and walked in the morning.

We spent a few days exploring the coastline. We wound up in a little beach town called Trinidad, and found the trails and scenery to be spectacular! You hiked up on the coastline and cliffs, then down to pristine coves, and then through rainforest. Truly an ecological treasure.

Unfortunately Crescent City itself and the areas around were not good. It was like we went back in time to the 80s. Run down, terrible restaurants, nothing cultural of note (Except racist restaurants with Indian statues out front). We went on one trail to the beach that was covered in disgusting horse shit everywhere. The saving grace was the beach itself. Seemingly untouched by man, without any other people for miles and miles. We spent a long time on the beach, watching a sea lion swim and bald eagles fly overhead. It was a spot where you just felt like could exist 100 years ago, when we hadn’t come in and ruined the environment yet.

Lastly, the main reason we came to this section was to see the redwoods. We drove through the parks and took a short hike (since dogs are banned ours stayed in the car, the weather was cold). The trees were incredible. They just make you understand what an ant must feel like in the world. Hopefully we humans don’t destroy them, and they live for many more years.

From here we drove to Tahoe City. Lake Tahoe is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. The fact that you have the lake, many other alpine lakes, the mountains for hiking and skiing all right there- one of a kind. With that being said, I’d never been there in the summer. The traffic and tourists were awful!!! We had to change our plans quite a few times to try to avoid the people and get the solitude we desired.we were able to do a few good hikes, but we will definitely need to come back when it is not so crowded.

From Tahoe, we drove just a few hours to Mammoth Lakes. I have been waiting my whole life to see the high Sierras, and this area did not disappoint! The only downside is, we are still not in good enough shape to do a lot of the harder trails up into the remote mountains. So we had to settle for those in our wheelhouse closer to town. We WILL be back here again and do a backpacking trip!!!

We hiked to many spectacular alpine lakes. It was hard to choose a favorite. The only downside is that due to the high snowpack year, the bugs were awful!!! There was still snow on a few of the trails we did as well. We also stumbled unexpectedly into what has now become my favorite hike we’ve ever done. We went into the hike without expectations of how it would be. The hike is at saddlebag lake and twenty lakes basin. Well. What we found was incredible. Mountain views everywhere. Snow still on the trail, requiring kicking steps and route finding. So many beautiful lakes, everywhere.

I think I loved this hike even more because I wasn’t expecting it. The first lake you see is saddlebag, which is perfectly fine and scenic, but once you get into the lake basin, it is spectacular. It was a dream. We will definitely hike this again, I will remember it forever.

The other hikes we did we to some crystal clear lakes around Mammoth. I continued to swim in them, and it is now somewhat of an addiction I think! They are sooooo cold, but it is exhilarating!!!

Mammoth was a lovely town. We will definitely be back here.

Our new home in Oregon will be within a days drive of all these wonders. I cannot wait to come back. Thanks, California.

Coast to Coast Adventure, Days 19-28

My husband Rob and I have quit our jobs and are moving from Dayton, OH to Medford, OR with our two dogs Moose and Schuyler. Before we settle there, we are embarking on a 2.5 month adventure across the US. I’ll be working as a hospitalist when we get to Oregon in September.

Whooooo… a lot went on this last week or so. We’ve been in Montana the entire time, and I have to say that the wilderness of Montana is continuing to be my favorite place. We barely even scratched the surface, and I plan on coming back again and again. The Beartooths and Red Lodge continue to have my heart. When we were looking for a new place to live, I explored all options in Montana, but unfortunately couldn’t find the type of job I was looking for. My new job in Medford is still at a tertiary care hospital, that’s fairly big, especially for being in a smaller town- so I think it will be the best of both worlds: good job, good location.

Back to our time in Montana.

The next day we drove to my FAVORITE, The Beaten Path. I had aspirations of backpacking this trail for a night or two, but I’ve got to get over my fear of sleeping in the wild first. So we will put a pin in that, but I am GOING to hike this whole trail one day.

For now, we settled on the easiest, but still ridiculously scenic hike to Elk Lake. It’s 7 miles roundtrip, but for Montana it truly is an easy hike, with only a couple steep areas. Otherwise a nice, winding grade takes you through the valley to the lake. The sound of the water rushing through the canyon and cascades really adds to the whole ambiance.

We shared our time at the lake with a nice guy from Pennsylvania. I wish I had captured the beauty of the lake and the area itself better, but being in a valley on a cloudless, hot day, the light just wasn’t conducive to it. In a way I think that’s better, that the real thing is so much more magical and enchanting than the pictures– it truly has to be experienced firsthand to appreciate it.

The worst part of this hike is East Rosebud Lake. All the shore of the lake is privately owned. The people who own the houses are all huge dicks. They are the definition of white privilege. Nearly all of them had the houses handed down to them, and they feel they own the right to dictate who can enjoy the lake. We have never had a pleasant experience with any of the people there.

Our last day in Red Lodge we drove back up the pass. We were plagued with hordes of mosquitos and biting flies in the lake area at the other side of the pass, so our hike was pretty short. The ground everywhere was so soggy from the huge snowpack, it was just a breeding ground for every bug imaginable. Yuck.

We left the Absaroka area and headed upwards towards Glacier. We stayed at a rustic little cabin for a couple nights in the Flathead National Forest area. The hike we did while there was easily one of my favorites. Ten miles, and two gorgeous alpine lakes. I CANNOT get over these lakes in Montana. They are SOOOO clear. Alpine Lakes are my new favorite part of hiking out west, for sure!

This is an area we’d definitely like to come back to. As well as the “Bob,” or Bob Marshall Wilderness. Montana truly has the most wild land left in the lower 48, and we have so much more we want to explore. Wouldn’t it be cool to be the type of person who gets dropped off in the wilderness by helicopter and then makes their own way out? Yeah, it would!

We went to the Jewel Basin area next. This is a great area for hiking and camping only. We were again, unfortunately besieged by bugs. They were so bad we barely took any pictures. The trail we took was the wrong one, it was a loop that didn’t go to any lakes or peaks. It was a lot of work and effort for not much payoff. I would love to go hike that basin again, but for the time being we had to move on.

Up around East Glacier for a few days, we took one day to hike by ourselves in the park. The dogs did NOT take kindly to this and were wailing and clawing at the door of our tiny house by the time we got back. We did an awesome 12 mile loop hike of Two Medicine Lake, with an offshoot to Upper Two Medicine Lake. The upper lake was spectacular. Another turquoise, clear lake. We hoped that by hiking around the lake (instead of being boring tourists and taking a ferry) that we would see some wildlife- moose or brown bears. We did not. Not a one! Real bummer.

We felt very proud of ourselves after this hike. It’s the longest single hike we’ve done. It was moderate in difficulty, and we got it done. Being that I am so overweight right now, it made the accomplishment that much sweeter. I am feeling stronger everyday!

We spent the next couple days and nights around the Glacier area. We drove the famous Going to the Sun road, but were not blown away. Soon after we were there a young girl was killed by falling rock in the road. What a sad thing. Her poor family.

The Beartooth Highway has spoiled us for life, it’s just so much more scenic. Once again I was reminded why I hate the national parks, as we encountered loads of awful tourists. We hiked everyday in the Great Bear Wilderness or National Forest, with the dogs. On one particularly hot hike (it’s been 90 degrees here every afternoon), I decided I was going to swim.

For years we have been going on hiking trips, and I have always wanted to swim in one of the beautiful alpine lakes that we hike to.

Yet I’d never done it.

I was too scared of people seeing me, being offended by my fat, pale body, thinking I was gross or weird. Worried that my actions might somehow worsen their day or make them uncomfortable.

That ended today.

It was so hot out as we started hiking, and the trail was awful and steep and bugs were everywhere. When we got to the lake, I knew it was finally time.

I stripped off my top and pants and dove into the icy cold water.

It felt amazing.

It felt like rebirth.

It felt like it was about fucking time.

It was such a freeing and amazing experience, I can’t wait to do it again. Now if only I can convince Rob to swim next time…

Our last hike was 11 miles down a dirt forest road. It is in fact an “off road” drive, and we saw a bunch of jeeps and buggies who were there just for the drive. At the end of the road is a trailhead up to some lakes and up to a peak. We opted to just go to the lakes, which was hard enough in and of itself!

On our way out of Kalispell, we stopped for a closer look at the Flathead Lake. It is so clear! It’s like Lake Tahoe in that way, and so gorgeous. We also saw a little baby bear on the riverside. It was unfortunately, the only wildlife we saw in Montana. No grizzlies. Just another reason to come back again!

We are headed for California now. In a couple days we will hit the coast and have driven across the entire US! We are now as we speak in Washington! We drove though Idaho today as well, which makes 2 new states for Rob and I . Let’s see what adventures Cali has in store for us!

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