Last week, my husband and I spent a week in Montana, hiking, fly fishing, eating, and exploring in Yellowstone National Park and the city of Livingston. This was our first trip with just us two since having our daughter almost a year ago (she stayed home with her Lottie). We missed her a lot but had a wonderful time together as a couple!
Montana is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to and photos simply don’t do it justice. The expanse of the sky, the majesty of the snow-capped peaks, and the vibrance of the colors are impossible to portray without full immersion into the landscape.
I lost my camera battery at the beginning of our trip, so all of these photos were taken with my iPhone. Our first stop was the Old Faithful Inn, located at the Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park. On our way to the hotel, I saw an American Bison for the first time (we nicknamed bison #DaBubbas for the entire duration of the vacation), which basically made my trip.
The Old Faithful Inn has basic rooms, but the lobby/lounge area is gorgeous. It was built in 1903 and has four stories of balconies composed of exposed logs with a huge stone fireplace in the middle. In the evenings, Martha Colby, an incredibly talented cellist and singer, played beautiful music that reverberated throughout the cavernous room. She played a mixture of classical music and western renditions of modern hits, including a phenomenal cover of “Purple Rain,” which was met with a literal standing ovation.
The demographic makeup of the hotel guests was approximately 98% Baby Boomers and then us. Since my husband and I had not yet gotten a photograph together, I asked one of the other hotel guests to take our picture. The photo clarity isn’t quite what I’d expect if I had asked a Millenial, but whatever… You can tell we are having fun!
Temperatures were in the 30s and 40s all week, which was a lovely change from the heat and humidity we’ve been experiencing in Destin. Our first morning, we woke up early, bundled up, and walked over to the Old Faithful Geyser, which was expected to blow at 8:08 am +/- 13 minutes. As we sipped our coffee and enjoyed the crisp 30 degree morning air, we made friends with the largest crow I have ever seen. The Old Faithful eruption was cool, but not as spectacular as depicted in many pieces of the Inn’s artwork.
That day, we hiked out to Fairy Falls and the Imperial Geyser, a base hike of 6 miles that we added a couple miles onto by climbing a steep butte overlooking the geyser and taking a scenic route to look at the Grand Prismatic Spring from afar. At a couple points in our hike, we had to get off-trail to avoid bison grazing in the pathway. I was amazed at how few people venture further than a half mile on the trail. The first half mile was packed with people, but we were pretty much alone the remainder of the hike, which is where all of the best sights were!
After our hike, we cleaned up, packed up, and drove a couple hours through Yellowstone National Park sightseeing. The below photo was taken near Canyon Village and was absolutely breathtaking. What was also breathtaking was experiencing my driving on icy roads with no shoulder through the mountains, talk about some sweaty palms!
Saturday night, we stayed at the Dreamcatcher Tipi Hotel, which was a little hokey, but also really fun. That night, it was supposed to drop into the low 20s, so we were concerned that we’d get cold, but the two space heaters and eight blankets kept us toasty warm. We streamed the Alabama-Ole Miss football game over wifi in our tipi, which was a very unique and somewhat surreal experience.
The surreal experience continued the next morning when we opened our tipi door to see a family of elk only 10 yards away. Montana is a very special place.
We spent the next day fly fishing the Yellowstone River with Brian O’Connor, the guide that took Chatham on his first fly fishing trip twelve years ago. Brian worked with Chatham on some new techniques, resulting in several big, pretty trout making their way into the boat. My only goal was to learn how to cast without hooking anyone, so I was delighted when I caught a few whitefish and a couple of trout! I probably could have caught more, but I kept getting distracted by the beautiful scenery we were surrounded by,
The next day was the coldest one of the trip, around 25 degrees, so we took a bleak and beautiful snowy drive up to White Sulpher Springs, home of the Mineral Hot Springs Motel. This was the first time either of us had seen snow since the powder dusting in Mentone, Alabama, the weekend of our wedding almost three years ago, so an unexpected cold front was a welcome treat on our Montana vacation.
We stayed in Anthony Bourdain’s favorite hotel room: the Pekinpah Suite of the Murray Hotel in Livingston. It was gorgeous and so relaxing. There was a couple staying at the same hotel on their honeymoon so I sweet talked them into taking a photo of Chatham and I together under the classic neon sign, since we had only taken one other good photograph together the whole trip.
We spent one day exploring Livingston and, on a whim, checked out the Wheatgrass Saloon. Sharing the space, we found a treasure of a bookstore, Elk River Books. Most of Elk River’s fabulous selection of new and used titles can be found upstairs. The long staircase opens up to a huge room with high ceilings walls full of books, making it feel like a secret cavern. I was so delighted by our discovery, I asked Chatham to take my photo, and he called me a dork.
The warmest day of our trip (50 degrees or so), we were itching to get outside again, so with a recommendation from Robbie at Timber Trails, we set off for Custer Gallatin National Forest. The six mile hike took us through vibrant Fall-colored aspen groves, across snowy babbling creeks, and up steep switchbacks along Livingston Peak. After our hike, we drove to the nearby Chico Hot Springs, where we soaked our tired legs and people-watched at their Country Club-esque facility.
On our last day in Livingston, the weather was cool but beautiful. We had planned to go on another fly fishing float with our friend and guide Danny Lahren , but the river was too muddy from the snow melt. Instead, Danny took us and his two French Brittany Spaniels to a nearby stream on a friend’s farm. He and Chatham and the doggies waded out and fished for a few hours, while I sat on the riverbank and read. It was a peaceful and beautiful afternoon.
We had an amazing, but we missed our little girl SO much! Our sitter took the below picture the day we were flying back. Carla May did fine all week until the last day, when she was ready for her parents to get home. That day, she carried around a photograph of me and Chatham and gave it “kisses” all day long.
As much fun as we had and as much as I love to travel, I love coming home to this sweet face, too!