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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