Coast To Coast Adventure, days 15-18

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 arrived into Red Lodge,Montana, and right into our adorable vrbo rental. It was a cute little house right off Main Street. We only stayed there 2 days, I’m wishing it could have been longer! It even had a yard with a hot tub and fire pit, and fresh strawberries to pick.

After getting settled in, we hiked out on the West Fork Trail the next morning. This trail was a little rough. It was through a burn area for nearly two miles. The burn zone was super harsh and the sun was beating down on us the entire time. To make it worse, it was slightly uphill the whole way, and you could see the creek the entire time, but the trail never got close to it. There were a lot of wildflowers, but that’s the only good thing about the beginning of this trail.

Finally, the trail entered forest and abutted the creek. The dogs and I got right into the creek, and it was amazing! So cold and the water was beautiful and clear. I wish I could have gone swimming!

We then hiked onward till we got to a lovely waterfall, and then into the forest some more. If we kept going on the trail, eventually it reached some meadows, but the dogs and we were tired and hot, so we turned back. On the return trip we saw a huge multigenerational family with 29 people!!! Seniors and infants alike. They were only 1.5 miles in, and they were really struggling with the heat. I hope they ended up making it to the falls, the poor kids all looked so miserable. Heat exhaustion just waiting to happen!

The next day, we packed up out of the house and drove up my favorite road ever, the Beartooth Highway. If you ever have the chance to do this, please do it. It’s amazing. Words and pictures hardy even do it justice.

It puts the road through Rocky Mountain Park to shame. I’ll have to weigh it against Going to the Sun road when we go to glacier next week. The most wonderful part is that it isn’t even very crowded. We had plenty of space to ourselves. We roamed on the tundra quite a bit and scrambled up a couple of big boulder piles as well.

The dogs loved seeing the snow. They played and rolled around on it, until Moose decided he needed to throw up all over. Partly my fault on this one, I fed him part of my breakfast bagel sandwich. 😬

We drove down to the Island Lakes Campground, intent to camp for the night. The. The mosquitos swarmed us. I mean swarmed. It was awful. Moose was still acting sick, and very lethargic, so we drove back to Red Lodge and stayed in the Yodeler Motel for the night. Besides the creepy bathroom it was actually pretty nice and a big room.

The next morning, we got going relatively early. It always takes forever to reload the car, get the dogs fed and situated, and honestly- for Rob to poop 1-3 times. That man’s IBS drives me crazy, I swear. We then drove out to West Rosebud Road. Unfortunately we had to take a long detour because a bridge was out, so it took a couple hours.

The dirt roads in Montana all go through ranches. So the roads are public but all the surrounding land is private. We drove up to the Mystic Lake trailhead. Lake is actually a misnomer, since it’s a reservoir. It is both very cool and also a little jarring to see all the power generated from the dam and the whole system for how the water is collected. There were a bunch of men up there working, and honestly, that has to be an amazing job. Can’t beat the location!

The hike up to the lake was BRUTAL. The first mile is totes relaxed with a mild incline and some woods. The creek that is from the dam is amazing, and filled with huge rocks and rapids.

After the first easy part, the hike gets real real quick. Up rocky switchbacks and boulder fields, the terrain is both steep and unstable. Careful footing is absolutely necessary, as some areas right off the trail have a drop of several hundred feet. Add to that a dog pulling you and generally behaving like an asshole at baseline, and it adds some tension to the hike.

The way up we had a gorgeous view of the valley. I was on the struggle bus for this hike. If this hike was in Ohio it would have signs every ten feet saying “Extreme Danger” and “Hike at Your Own Risk” but here in Montana it’s no big deal. We passed by several families with young kids, all just out for a walk in the park. I was passed by an older guy in his 60s who carried no more than a walking stick and his bear spray. He wore jeans, as did a woman and her daughter who were toting Subway to the top. All that’s to say is that these peeps were keeping it super casual, and I was literally dying. I actually cried tears of joy when I finally reached the top.

Compounding the physical difficulty, I got one of my lovely exercise induced migraine about 2 miles into this 6+ mile round trip. After many years of analyzing their pattern, unfortunately the last few years I have come to see that strenuous exercise is an almost guarantee for a migraine. So here I am, super obese again and trying to hike myself back to good health again, and BLAM! Migraine comes calling. So then not only am I huffing and puffing and resting every 100 feet, I’m buckled over with pain, blurry vision, and nausea. Just trying to hold my water down, so I don’t get dehydrated and die of heat stroke.

Super fun time.

Migraine troubles aside, this was a very rewarding hike. I mean, that view. It’s like rounding the corner and coming into an enchanted world right out of Lord of the Rings or something. (Yes I’ve seen those movies, I’m a nerd.) As soon as you see the lake, the wind just pounds into you. Sustained winds of 60+ miles an hour were nearly knocking us off our feet.

At this point I had taken 2 excedrin, a flubiprofen, and a zofran. My head was still pounding, but thankfully started to ease up a little when the meds kicked in. And bonus, I didn’t puke. Of course going back down is always so much easier. In this case until we got past the boulder fields, I couldn’t relax. The footing was so uneasy, and rocks rolled right out from under me way too often.

Now as I sit here in my post migraine haze of lightheadedness, photophobia, and nausea, I am grateful for the Quality Inn where I can relax in tub and let my head settle down. Looking forward to chowing down on some Mexican food very shortly. Yum.

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