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Cross Country Trip, Day 6: Big Sky to Helena

Today was not a good day, at least according to the map. Planning a long vacation to a place you’ve never been months in advance—what could go wrong? Well…

Yesterday we exited west of the park, sneaked into Montana, and stayed in Big Sky. But we still needed to finish our park adventures and then head back north again. The better plan would have been to stay on the east side of the park and then go north, but that’s not what happened. A gentleman I met on the elevator reminded me of why I planned it that way, though. We stayed in a mountain inn with complimentary breakfast for $99. Dwellings closer to the park charge upwards of $300 or more a night.

Montana is unbelievably picturesque. To quote Norman Maclean, “A river runs through it.” Mountains, pines, and lush grasses are cut with sparkling, gurgling water. Anglers abound. (If I use that word for fly fishermen, does it make me athletic?)

Back in the park, traffic is heavy. Every time anyone spots an animal, everyone comes to a standstill so people can grab their cameras and snap pictures. Rubes, all of them. Look, a bison!


The park rangers are not happy with the arrangement and shoo us along as if we live nearby and can see the sights anytime we want. Next time it happens, I’m going to show them the bunk bed pictures and try to buy more time with sympathy.

*Side note: most of Yellowstone is without cell phone service. Being nearly a Luddite, this doesn’t bother me, but I’m wondering if the teenagers in the park are having withdrawal. Possible symptoms may include waking up to the beauty around you, talking to people standing inches away, and thumb spasms from lack of texting.

The park makes up for their lack of phones by posting signs warning you of your impending doom.




Signs not included in montage: “Beware of Armed Badgers” and “Beavers Wearing Crips Colors Are Extremely Hostile and Misunderstood.” Yellowstone is a tough place.

There was even a handicapped accessible sign here:


Their definition of accessible scares me.

This is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, complete with waterfalls.



We also saw a mud volcano. It smelled like sulfur. This was probably my favorite part of the park, and it was slightly less crowded. (People, people everywhere. Oh, the humanity.)





We exited north through Mammoth and Hot Springs which also serves as the park’s headquarters. It was huge and interesting, but of course we had no time to explore. There were also these guys.


Supper was in Livingston, Montana.


Such a cute town. Some towns have a vibe, and this was one. The people were friendly, the town full of charm and character. Interestingly, they get less snow than surrounding communities because they’re nestled between two mountains. They get lots of wind for the same reason.

Tomorrow we arrive in Glacier. We’re all sharing a room again. There’s no television or internet, but our daughter’s been practicing her interpretive dancing skills, and we brought Old Maid and Go Fish. Should be fun.


About vanessagraybartal

Author. Eater. Wife. Mother. Not necessarily in that order.

6 responses to “Cross Country Trip, Day 6: Big Sky to Helena

  1. Enjoyed your Yellowstone posts and writing style. We’re leaving for our vacation there tomorrow. So excited to see….people. However, I am an amateur photographer and I WILL find solitude…and a bear. Right?

  2. Betty and Bob Moore ⋅

    We’ve been enjoying this trip with you. Tell your parents “hello” for us. Continue having a fun and safe trip.

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience. Feel like I was there! Cindy Gatten

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