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Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area -- Day 13

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area -- Day 13

After leaving Lake Couer D'alene it's.... Washington! We finally hit Washington! We've been on this road trip from Pennsylvania for what seems like forever now! I had no idea what to expect really with Lake Roosevelt NRA, I just knew we had a week more of time to burn until our apartment was ready to move in so I picked an itinerary that snaked around Washington state a bit. So we landed on Lake Roosevelt NRA first. It was pretty neat to see, not that we had time or the ability (with the two dogs in tow) to do a whole lot.

The Grand Coulee Dam Lake Roosevelt NRA
The Grand Coulee Hydroelectric Dam

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area (NRA) is a U.S. National Recreation Area managed by the National Park Service. Situated in the state of Washington, the NRA is centered around Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake, a reservoir created by the Grand Coulee Dam. It's really just a big ol dammed up Columbia River.  The dam is one of the largest concrete structures in the world, serving multiple functions such as hydroelectric power generation, irrigation, and flood control. It is also, by generating capacity, the largest generating plant in the area...oh and the world! Pretty crazy!

Grand Coulee Dam Spillways
Check out those spillways rushing down with water!

The lake stretches approximately 130 miles and offers a plethora of recreational activities. Boating, fishing, swimming, and camping are among the most popular. Various boat launches and campgrounds around the lake accommodate a range of visitor preferences. The lake is also a fishing hotspot, home to a variety of fish species including walleye, rainbow trout, and sturgeon.

 Adding to its recreational appeal is Fort Spokane, a site near the confluence of the Spokane and Columbia Rivers. Fort Spokane served as a military fort in the late 19th century and later as a boarding school for Native American children. Today, it's a historical site where visitors can learn about the complex interactions between Native Americans and European settlers through museum exhibits and walking tours.

Fort Spokane Entrance -- Lake Roosevelt
Fort Spokane entrance gate


The area is rich in cultural history, having been inhabited by Native American tribes like the Colville, the Spokane, and the Sanpoil for thousands of years. Petroglyphs and other cultural artifacts can be found throughout the area, offering glimpses into its rich cultural heritage.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, after whom the lake is named, was a key figure in the New Deal projects that led to the Grand Coulee Dam's construction. The dam and lake have been instrumental in the Pacific Northwest's economic development, especially in agriculture and energy. However, the dam's construction also had significant social and environmental ramifications, including the displacement of Native communities and changes to the Columbia River's natural flow and ecology.


Lake Roosevelt (Columbia River)
Check that lake view!


Ecologically, Lake Roosevelt NRA is home to diverse flora and fauna. Birds like osprey, eagles, and herons are common sights, and the surrounding land provides habitats for deer, elk, and other wildlife. The lake itself is an ecological system facing challenges related to water quality and natural resource management.

Lake Roosevelt NRA
Somewhere off of the Hawk Creek Trailhead


Educational programs and visitor centers offer further information about the area's natural history, geology, and cultural heritage. These centers often include exhibits, guided tours, and activities suitable for both children and adults.


Fort Spokane Bridge -- Lake Roosevelt NRA
Fort Spokane Bridge!


While the scablands are more commonly associated with the channeled scablands of Eastern Washington, carved by the Missoula Floods, Lake Roosevelt NRA does share some of the geological features characteristic of the larger Columbia Plateau, of which the scablands are a part.


We stayed in Kettle Falls, WA for the night at Columbia Point Resort. It was a quaint motel right on the outskirts of town, but it provided everything we needed. Including a shower. Oh man private showers were hard to come by on this trip. Well at the KOAs at least. We of course were here on a Monday so dining options were thin and ended up getting pizza Westside Pizza. For being in the middle of nowhere it was fine, for being pizza it was...not the best. Maybe it's my east coast roots showing. 
The area they allowed dogs to go to the bathroom was odd too. It was like behind the motel in a dimly lit lot with sparse grass growth. I thought the boys were gonna step on a rusty nail or something.

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Lake Couer d'Alene -- Day 12

Lake Couer d'Alene -- Day 12

After Glacier National Park we trekked towards the panhandle of Idaho as we were entering the final stages of our PA to WA road trip. The Coeur d'Alene area provided a nice stopping point on our journey. We decided to take in some views of Lake Couer d'Alene before settling in at Camp Couer d'Alene for the evening. It was a nice place to rest our heads but it was hilariously obvious that it used to be a KOA.

We had the Hermit's Retreat Cabin which faces away from everyone else into the wilderness which was nice. I could use my propane gas stove and cook in peace for the last time before we hit Washington.

Lake Coeur d'Alene in Idaho's panhandle is more than just a pretty place to take a dip; it's a full-on experience that's got a little something for everyone. This isn't just a local gem; people come from all over the U.S. and even beyond to see what the fuss is about. And let me tell you, it doesn't disappoint.

Whether you're into boating, fishing, or just lounging on the shore, Lake Coeur d'Alene has got you covered. But it's not just about what's on the water; the area around the lake is just as captivating. Think hiking trails through scenic woods, charming local shops, and plenty of spots to just sit and take in the view.


Beauty Bay Recreation Area
Beauty Bay Recreation Area -- Lake Coeur d'Alene


Geography and Natural Beauty

Lake Coeur d'Alene isn't your average lake. Spanning over 25 miles and reaching widths of up to 3 miles, it's a vast expanse of shimmering water that's dotted with hidden bays, tucked-away coves, and a sprinkling of islands—some of which have the charm of being privately owned.

But what really sets the scene is its origin story. Picture this: glaciers from the last Ice Age carving out this massive basin, setting the stage for the lake we see today. And those surroundings? Pure magic. The lake nestles amidst rolling hills blanketed with evergreen forests. And as if that wasn't enough, it's flanked by majestic mountain ranges—the Coeur d'Alene Mountains to the east and south, and the Spokane Range giving a grand display to the west.

The result? A jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring landscape that sticks with you. Whether you're there for a day or a week, Lake Coeur d'Alene has a way of leaving its mark, offering a visual feast that's hard to forget.


Beauty Bay through the trees
Beauty Bay from up high


Recreational Activities

Lake Coeur d'Alene is like a playground for anyone who loves the water. Seriously, this place is a boater's paradise. You'll see everything from swanky yachts to humble kayaks crisscrossing the lake. And if you're into sailing, get ready for a treat. The winds here can be a bit tricky, but that's all part of the fun.

Fishing more your speed? You're in luck. The lake is teeming with all sorts of fish, like northern pike, kokanee, and bass. It's like a fishing trip and a scenic tour all rolled into one.

But maybe you're the type who needs a little more adrenaline in your day. No problem. This lake is a hotspot for all kinds of water sports. We're talking jet-skiing, wakeboarding, and tubing. It's like an amusement park on the water.

Of course, if you're looking to dial it back a bit, you've got plenty of options too. The lake's got its fair share of quiet beaches and hidden coves, perfect for a leisurely swim or a picnic. It's the kind of place where you can go full-throttle with water sports or just chill and soak up some rays.


Lake Couer d'Alene
Lake Couer d'Alene


The City of Coeur d'Alene

The city of Coeur d'Alene, which shares its name with the lake, is your entry point to all this natural beauty, and let me tell you, it's a destination in its own right. Imagine a place that's got that small-town charm you love but also offers all the modern goodies you can't live without. That's Coeur d'Alene in a nutshell.

Hungry? The dining scene here has got you covered, whether you're in the mood for gourmet eats or just a good old-fashioned burger. If you're into art, the galleries around town are worth a visit, showcasing everything from local talent to renowned artists. And for the shoppers among us, the boutique shops are a treasure trove of unique finds.

But one of the best parts has to be the downtown area, especially in the evening. Picture this: a leisurely stroll with the lake in the background, the air filled with the sounds of local musicians doing their thing. It's the kind of atmosphere that makes you forget to check your phone, and in today's world, that's saying something.


Lake Couer d'alene Tubbs Hill
Lake Couer d'Alene from a trail -- Eastern Tubbs Hill


Seasonal Attractions

Lake Coeur d'Alene hits like that friend who's always got something new to show you, no matter when you visit. Seriously, each season here has its own special vibe.

Summer is the blockbuster season. The lake is buzzing with people soaking up the sun, splashing in the water, and just living their best lake life. It's the go-to time for all those classic lake activities like boating, swimming, and fishing.

But don't sleep on fall. The area turns into this incredible canvas of reds, oranges, and yellows. It's like the trees are putting on their own autumnal fireworks show. If you're into scenic drives or hiking, this is the time to do it.

Winter, on the other hand, is when the lake goes into chill mode. The crowds thin out, and the place takes on this peaceful, almost magical quality. If you're into ice fishing, this is your season. And let's not forget about the skiing and snowboarding options nearby.

Then comes spring, the season of fresh starts. The whole area seems to wake up from its winter nap, with plants blooming and animals coming out to play. It's a fantastic time for bird-watching or just capturing the beauty of nature through your camera lens.



Rapi the Dachshund is taking in the lake views
Rapi the Dachshund taking in the lake views

Wildlife and Ecology

Lake Coeur d'Alene isn't just a hotspot for people; it's also a thriving community for all sorts of critters. If you're into bird-watching, you're in for a treat. We're talking bald eagles soaring overhead, ospreys diving for fish, and a whole lineup of waterfowl that'll keep you reaching for your binoculars.

But the wildlife scene here isn't just for the birds. Venture into the quieter spots around the lake, and you might just bump into some of the local four-legged residents. Deer and moose are pretty common sights, and if you're really lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a bear—just make sure to keep a safe distance!


This dog on the other hand... I have no idea
Schatzi on the other hand... I'm not so sure


Conservation Efforts

Lake Coeur d'Alene has been subject to various conservation efforts to preserve its natural beauty and delicate ecosystems. Authorities and local organizations have engaged in water quality monitoring, fish population studies, and educational outreach to ensure that the lake remains a cherished destination for generations to come.

Lake Coeur d'Alene is more than just a geographic landmark; it's a cultural and natural treasure that encapsulates the beauty of Idaho in its pristine waters, rich biodiversity, and endless recreational possibilities. Whether you're an avid outdoor enthusiast or someone who just wants to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, this magnificent lake has something special to offer you.

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Glacier National Park -- Road Trip Day 11

Glacier National Park -- Road Trip Day 11

After visiting Flathead Lake we settled into to our cabin at the West Glacier KOA. The morning after we headed over into Glacier National Park! Thankfully, a few nights before coming, we realized we need a car reservation to get into the park! After an intense browser refresh session, we made it in and got our reservation! Once again, dogs are not allowed on trails in the park, but the views and pullouts are more than enough to take in the beauty of this park while on a road trip. Glacier was insane. I cannot wait to go back (without doggos) to fully appreciate this park!

Since we WERE with dogs, we couldn't do any of the trails of course. We did make the best of it however. It's a stunning area. We started on the west end in West Glacier and came into the park through Apgar. We started Going-To-The-Sun Road and drove it all the way to the east end of the park at St. Mary. The first few miles of Going-To-The-Sun Road along and near Lake Mcdonald was under construction. They are repaving a large section of the road, and while we were there a large portion was already torn up and it was just a dirt road, which was actually kind of cool, it makes it seem much more ...natural I guess?

The problem was, it was a fairly dry period so the thousands of cars driving on the road was constantly kicking up dust. Yeah your car is going to get dirty but who cares, the problem is...and you could see it quite well...all of the trees and vegetation near the road was coated in a thick coating of dust. There were water tankers that drove around during the busier times of day to wet the road in an effort to keep the dust to a minimum.


Dust on Going to the Sun Road Glacier NP
A storm started rolling in and started kicking up more dust on the road as we were leaving. We couldn't see ANYTHING!

I'm not a biologist but I imagine this is detrimental to plant health. This has to inhibit growth via blocking sunlight and thus photosynthesis right?? This study says I might be right. 

A stream flowing throuhg Glacier NP
That water color though...

Glacier National Park in Montana is like the crown jewel of American wilderness, and it's not hard to see why. This place is massive, covering over a million acres right up against the Canadian border. Established way back in 1910, it's one of those spots that makes you realize just how epic nature can be.

You want lakes? Glacier National Park has got more than 130 of them, each with its own unique vibe. And it's not just about the water; this park is a botanical wonderland, home to over a thousand different kinds of plants. Oh, and let's not forget the wildlife—this place is crawling with everything from grizzly bears to mountain goats.

But what really sets Glacier apart is its role as part of the "Crown of the Continent Ecosystem." That's basically a fancy way of saying this area is one of the last truly wild places in North America. It's like stepping into a world that's been untouched by all the noise and clutter of modern life.


Glacier National Park peaks
Mountains for Miles


We can't talk about Glacier National Park without mentioning its namesake glaciers, but here's the kicker: those glaciers are disappearing, and fast. Back in the day, around the mid-19th century, this area was home to about 150 glaciers. Fast forward to 2021, and that number had dwindled down to just 25 named glaciers. That's not just a bummer for the scenery; it's a big deal for the whole ecosystem.

See, glaciers aren't just pretty to look at; they're like the park's water towers. They store water and slowly release it, affecting everything from the rivers that flow through the park to the animals that call it home. As these glaciers melt away because of climate change, it messes with that whole system. River flows change, which can affect fish populations, and less reliable water sources can make life tougher for all the local wildlife.

So, while Glacier National Park is still an absolutely stunning place to visit, it's also a place that's facing some serious challenges. It's a real-life example of how climate change is affecting some of the most beautiful spots on our planet. If you do visit, it's a chance not just to see nature at its most majestic, but also to understand what's at stake if we don't take care of it.


View from Logan Pass Visitor Center -- Glacier NP
A view from the Logan Pass Visitor Center, right after you reach the highest point on Going-To-The-Sun Road. I don't recommend trying to park there on busy days! We circled around for nearly half an hour burning precious gas. Definitely not the most environmentally friendly thing.

Driving through Glacier National Park, you'll find the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a notable 50-mile stretch that offers unparalleled views and an immersive experience of the park's natural beauty. This remarkable road, traversing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, stands out for its stunning landscapes and the unique experience it offers to visitors. The band Fleet Foxes even did a song about it!

However, the road's existence and maintenance come with significant challenges. It's located in a highly sensitive ecosystem, where every effort must be made to minimize environmental impact. The process of maintaining the road, therefore, requires a delicate balance between accessibility and preservation. Furthermore, its popularity among tourists, beneficial in raising awareness and appreciation for natural spaces, also contributes to wear and environmental pressures.

 The higher elevations along the road receive TONS of snow per year, and they usually can't start clearing the snow off the road until well into spring. Clearing the snow takes a bit of time too! The road is typically only open for roughly 4 months out of the year. (Mid June to Mid October).

Colored Pebbles in a stream Glacier NP
Look at the color on those stones!


If you're the kind of person who loves to be outdoors, Glacier National Park is basically your dream come true. Seriously, this place is like an all-you-can-do buffet of outdoor activities. Hiking? There are over 700 miles of trails here, so you can walk to your heart's content. If you're looking for recommendations, the Highline Trail and Grinnell Glacier Trail are must-dos. They'll take you up close and personal with some of the park's most iconic sights.

But maybe hiking isn't your thing. No worries, you can also go mountain biking, boating, or fishing. The park is like a giant playground for anyone who loves to be active in nature.

And let's talk about the wildlife for a second. This isn't a zoo; it's the real deal. You've got a good chance of spotting everything from grizzly bears to moose and mountain goats. And for the birdwatchers out there, keep your eyes peeled for eagles and ospreys.


Saint Mary Lake -- Glacier National Park
This view was intense. Such vibrant colors looking over Saint Mary Lake at Glacier NP

Glacier National Park isn't just a big deal in the U.S.; it's got global cred too. This place was named a Biosphere Reserve back in '76 and became a World Heritage Site in '95. That's like the nature equivalent of winning an Oscar and a Grammy.

But wait, there's more. Right next door is Canada's Waterton Lakes National Park. Put them together, and you've got the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. It's not just a mouthful to say; it's also a symbol of how the U.S. and Canada can come together to protect something truly special. It's like the ultimate friendship bracelet but made out of two epic national parks.


Mountains at Glacier NP

 Glacier National Park isn't just a natural wonder; it's a place steeped in deep cultural and historical roots. Long before it became a national park, this land was home to Native American tribes like the Blackfeet, Salish, and Kootenai. We're talking about communities that have been connected to this landscape for thousands of years.

The park doesn't just acknowledge this history; it aims to honor it. So, when you're exploring Glacier, you're also getting a chance to learn about the Native American cultures that have shaped this land. The park incorporates this rich history into its educational programs, making it more than just a pretty place to take photos.

Lake McDonald Glacier National Park
Lake McDonald right before a small storm rolled through.


Glacier National Park is a stunner, no doubt, but it's also got its share of challenges. Managing the impact of all those visitors each year is a big one. Then there's the elephant in the room: climate change, which is already affecting those iconic glaciers and the ecosystems they support. It's a delicate balancing act to keep this place as pristine as it deserves to be.

But even with those challenges, Glacier National Park is still a knockout when it comes to natural beauty and ecological importance. It's not just a place to snap some great pics; it's also a living lab for scientists studying everything from climate change to wildlife behavior. Plus, the park is a cornerstone for conservation efforts aimed at preserving this unique environment for future generations.

When you visit, you're not just a tourist; you're part of a bigger story. It's a chance to experience one of America's most incredible natural areas and to think about how we can all play a part in preserving places like this for the future. Whether you're there for the adventure, the wildlife, or the sheer awe of it all, Glacier National Park offers a deeper experience that sticks with you long after you've left.


Dogs at Glacier National Park
The pups enjoying the view, too. They can't go on the trails, but still admire from afar.


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Flathead Lake -- Road Trip Day 10

Flathead Lake -- Road Trip Day 10

After visiting Pompey's Pillar and settling into Bozeman, MT for the night, we moved onward. We wanted to check out Flathead Lake on our way to Glacier we did! It was a perfect idea because we had a long drive from Bozeman, so by the time we even got near the Glacier NP area it would be fairly late to do anything there. Stopping for a quick hike around and near Flathead Lake was a great mediary. 

Mountain in Montana Wildfires
An unfortunate wildfire on a mountain we saw on our way through Montana. This was right outside of Arlee, MT and was actually on the Flathead Indian Reservation, I believe right off of US highway 93. Not the first wildfire we'd see on our trip :(

 I got thinking while we were here...Man, we had some insane luck on our trip, every day we perfect blue skies, few clouds, rain, fog, smoke, etc. Sure some were excruciatingly hot, but every single day, just banger after banger. Day 10 of our road trip out west was no different! A beautiful day that only highlighted the landscapes.


Flathead Lake Montana
Pristine and stunning Flathead Lake!


About Flathead Lake

Located in northwest Montana, Flathead Lake stands out as more than just an ordinary body of water. It proudly holds the title of being the largest natural freshwater lake in the western United States in terms of surface area. Its sheer size is truly remarkable, spanning an impressive 28 miles in length and 15 miles in width, covering an expansive 191 square miles. If you drive from Polson, at the bottom of the lake to Somers at the top of the lake it takes roughly 45 minutes to get there.

This lake is no shallow pool either, as it reaches a depth of approximately 370 feet at its lowest point. It can be likened to the majestic Grand Canyon, drawing its waters from various sources, including the renowned Flathead River. However, Flathead Lake is not solely defined by its immense proportions or breathtaking beauty. It possesses a profound essence that resonates with its rich history and cultural significance. 

It was actually named after the Flathead Native American Tribe, who have called this region home for countless generations, the lake holds a deep connection to its original inhabitants. Treat it with respect! Situated partially on the Flathead Indian Reservation, it serves as a place steeped in cultural heritage and historical importance. Today, Flathead Lake transcends being a mere picturesque postcard image. It thrives as a vibrant and thriving ecosystem, providing a habitat for a diverse array of wildlife.

 It serves as a harmonious meeting point between the past and the present, where visitors can revel in the natural splendor while also appreciating the profound cultural roots that make this place truly extraordinary.


Flathead Lake
Such a serene place!


Flathead Lake's history and natural beauty are remarkable. This lake is a vestige of an ancient, much larger lake, shaped by the same glacial activities that formed Glacial Lake Missoula. Its impressive depth and distinctive shape are legacies of these geological processes.

The lake is nestled within a landscape that boasts a variety of stunning vistas, encompassing dense forests, rugged shorelines, and towering mountain ranges like the Mission and Swan Mountains. This diverse environment makes Flathead Lake a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a plethora of activities such as boating, fishing, swimming, and kayaking.

The lake is also a vibrant ecosystem, home to a rich variety of fish species. This bustling aquatic life, combined with the chance to spot eagles in the sky, adds an extra layer of wonder to the already magnificent surroundings.


Beautiful Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake is both a breathtaking natural destination and a vital element of the local ecosystem. It functions as an organic water purification system and provides essential habitat for diverse species. Yet, this lake is not immune to environmental threats like pollution, invasive species, and climate change effects. Organizations and agencies are committed to preserving its ecological integrity.

Beyond its ecological role, Flathead Lake is steeped in cultural importance. It's a treasure trove of local legends, stories, and traditions, enriching it as more than a mere physical feature. The lake is a focal point for community gatherings, events, and attracts tourists to Montana for unique outdoor experiences.

Additionally, Flathead Lake is a hub for scientific research and education. The Flathead Lake Biological Station, for instance, is a center of excellence for studying freshwater ecology. The insights gathered here significantly enhance global understanding of freshwater environments, underlining the lake's importance in scientific and educational fields.


Dog on a Rock. Flathead Lake
There he is! Schatzi is king of his rock


Flathead Cherries

The fertile land surrounding Flathead Lake is ideal for farming, and the area is known for its high-quality cherry orchards. The microclimate created by the lake provides favorable conditions for these and other crops, making agriculture an important part of the local economy. Seriously though, there are cherry stands everywhere. Flathead cherries here, Flathead cherries there. I'm disgusted with myself for not getting any on my way through. Perhaps next time I get out to Glacier NP I'll stop by at Flathead Lake again for some cherries!


Lodging? We stayed at the West Glacier KOA of course. The cabins were NOT!!! Air conditioned. But thankfully the weather got cooler, and was cooler in general in this area. We managed. The West Glacier KOA is actually one of the highest rated KOA sites in the country. It was actually pretty cool, and I see why. There was a ton of stuff there, including an onsite restaurant that served breakfast and dinner, as well as a converted AirStream that a bartender was slinging beers and spirits out of, aptly titled the Bear-Stream. Or maybe it should be the beer-stream??

We stayed here for two nights. Tonight, and the night we actually went to Glacier National Park.

Cooking out on the propane stove West Glacier KOA
West Glacier KOA Propane Stove Cooking. You can see the standalone restaurant in the background. We decided to cook tonight instead. I think we were making people jealous over there. I made some delicious burrito bowls. It's totally possible! You can spy my GF's cocktail she got from the Bear-Stream as well. I got an old fashioned because... well why not. 

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Pompey's Pillar and Bozeman, MT -- Road Trip Day 9

Pompey's Pillar and Bozeman, MT -- Road Trip Day 9

From Theodore Roosevelt NP we were then headed towards Bozeman, MT on our roadtrip from PA to WA. We didn't have anything planned in Bozeman, just to relax in civilization for a night. We decided to do a quick detour right off of I-94 to Pompey's Pillar on the way there. I never heard of it prior to our trip. I literally only found out about it using the Roadtrippers app. I was looking for any sites managed by the National Park Service. This was close enough. It's a National Monument, managed by the Bureau of Land Management. I figured it was something to do, and a good way to stretch our legs on a long drive and maybe see some cool sights. And...since it's managed by BLM, our America The Beautiful Pass covered our entry! Win!

Rest Stop In Montana
I have to say...Montana has some of the nicest Rest Stops I've been to. Scenic, even. I have the bladder the size of a pea so we're always stopping to pee. Look at these views from just a random rest stop. Amazing! This was on the way to Bozeman before Pompey's Pillar.

During our quick trip to the site we enjoyed the views from the ground. You can climb up a million steps to the top, but not with dogs you can't! The mosquitos and other bugs here were absolutely insane too. There were literally signs at the entrance telling you to bring bug spray. I believe the ranger at the entrance gate told us too. Well. We put spray on, but it was NOT effective. I think it was some crappy "natural" spray with oregano oil or whatever. Nahhh dude, you need the industrial stuff for rural Montana.

Not the greatest way of figuring that out. By the time we got back to the car I needed twelve arms to properly scratch the itch all over my body. Lesson learned I guess!

What is Pompeys Pillar?

Pompey's Pillar is a 120 foot tall sandstone rock, almost pillar like, situated near the Yellowstone River, and an important part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. It's proximity to the Yellowstone River, is what caught my eye the most. There's a few small trails at the site, one of which loops you around to see the views of the river, which we of course did. 

The site is important because of its history. It is one of the last remaining, or only remaining pieces of physical evidence of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Clark literally carved up the rock and wrote this name and date in the rock. It's still there, and National Monument site encased it to preserve it.

The Yellowstone River at Pompey's PIllar
There's a trail that takes you out to the Yellowstone River!


As far as the name Pompey goes, you have to trust that the people back in the 1800's had their best interest at heart. It is actually named for Sacagawea's son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, both of whom were on the expedition. Clark, appreciating the guiding efforts of Sacagawea on the expedition, named the rock after her son, who Clark nicknamed "Pomp". Little Pompey. Thus Pompey's Pillar. Cool right? Sure.


Yellowstone River from Pompey
More river views!

Is Pompey's Pillar worth going out of your way for? No, not entirely. It depends on your reasons and wants for visiting. The sights are cool, if not limited. The history is definitely there. There IS apparently a cancellation stamp in the area, which me missed. It is isn't specifically for Pompey's Pillar National Monument but there evidently is...somewhere...which we missed...a Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Pompey's Pillar location cancellation stamp. 

Is Pompey's Pillar worth stopping off of I-94 in the middle of nowhere to stretch your legs and get a little walking in with some cool sights and history? Yeah definitely. Just please for the love of God bring DEET. And lots of it.

Pompey's Pillar
There's Pompey's Pillar! It was a beautiful day out.


Bozeman, Montana

It's not a big area...but it certainly was cool to see! We headed to Bozeman where we were finally able to load up on more human AND dog food, drinks., etc. We really wanted to visit the brewery Mountains Walking. I've had beers from them before in Pennsylvania using a beer delivery service called Tavour, so I wanted to try them from the source. 

Unfortunately, they didn't allow dogs on the premises, which is wild to me. Mind blowing. Someone brought their dog and just tied it up outside of the brewery... I certainly would not have done that. We simply got some beer and food to go from there and headed to our hotel for the night. 

Mountains Walking Double Grazing Clouds
Me and my double Grazing Clouds DIPA from Mountains Walking in the hotel and not at the brewery :(

Interestingly, Bozeman was the first area we noticed the visual presence of un-housed individuals. This is because Montana is the first state that we drove into that belongs to the Ninth Circuit of Court of Appeals. The Ninth circuit ruled that if someone does not have a place to stay, it is unconstitutional to make laws making public sleeping illegal. 

This can be seen throughout the Ninth Circuit's coverage, including Montana itself, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, and Arizona (as far as contiguous US goes).   Personally, I consider this ruling a win. If someone is homeless and has nowhere to stay, how is it helpful to make it illegal for them to...have nowhere to stay? But that's enough from me, this isn't a politics blog.

Be sure to check out Road Trip Day 10 where we head towards Glacier National Park in Montana, but on our way we stop at Flathead Lake for the evening!

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- Road Trip Day 8

Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- Road Trip Day 8

From Devils Tower, which is where we stayed for the night (heck of a KOA there!), we went due north to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The south unit that is, in the Medora area. As per usual, dogs are not allowed on the trails, but what a beautiful sight the park was nonetheless! It was again close to 100 degrees F the day we visited, so no paws on the ground is a good thing!

When telling family, friends, and now ex-coworkers the itinerary of our road trip from PA to WA, this was the probably the national park that turned people's heads the most. Theodore Roosevelt National Park? WHAT IS THAT? 

A surprisingly wonderful park! I knew nothing about it except that it was a national park on our way out west, so why not! See some beauty and get our cancellation stamps, haha. We mostly followed the parks Scenic Loop Drive in the south unit.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park Badlands
A view out into the TRNP badlands. Some people have actually said they prefer the badlands here over the badlands at Badlands National Park!

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is in North Dakota's rugged badlands, and is named fairly obviously after former American president Theodore Roosevelt, who was a 'rugged outdoorsman', despite hailing from New York City (cue the Pace Salsa commercials with the cowboys screaming NEW YORK CITY?!). I wonder if Teddy got his salsa imported from NYC while he was on the prairies?

The park is actually divided into three different sections: the South Unit, the North Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. The South Unit is the more touristy area, and the unit that almost everyone visits, including us. It fit our schedule, and our wants and needs, but if you have the time, please visit the other units. I've heard the North Unit is amazing and way more remote and almost no people. Sounds like an introverts dream.

Couple of Mounds Theodore Roosevelt
Such cool landscapes

Theodore Roosevelt National Park views

Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Cool park!

Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit

There were plenty of prairie dogs here like many parks we've encountered. Alsooooo rattlesnakes. Yeah rattlesnakes. There's signs everywhere warning about them. I'm pretty sure we heard one rattling in the dense dry grasses too. No thanks! I'm not getting attacked on my road trip out west. I have no health insurance during this trip since I left my job to move out west! Ain't no way I'm paying for COBRA. No COBRA, no rattlesnakes. Please.

Beautiful TRNP
Beautiful landscapes on this sweltering day.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park Little Missouri River
A River Runs Through It! Little Missouri River

Theodore Roosevelt National Park
There's so much going on.


Theodore Roosevelt National Park has a bunch of trails, and there's something for everyone, except for people with dogs, of course.  If you're up for a challenging adventure, the Maah Daah Hey Trail is a solid pick. Like, extreme. It's long—like, 144 miles long—and it connects the North and South Units. It's not a walk in the park (wait..), but the views are insane. I'm not sure I'm made for something that intense, but if you are, go for it!

If that sounds like too much, no worries. There are shorter trails like Wind Canyon and Boicourt that still give you killer views of the badlands. You can get some great pics and still have time to chill afterward.

Smoking in this facility
Is that a warning?

After TRNP we left Medora and headed west. We originally had a room booked at the Yellowstone River Inn in Glendive, MT. It looked fine online, but when we got there it was kind of sketchy. When I went inside to check in, a guy was verbally fighting with the desk staff. It kept escalating and the angry dude started pulling people into the argument, like "I WASN'T BEING IRRATIONAL, SIR AM I IRRATIONAL?"

 He said that they gave him the wrong key and walked in on some old guy naked. They kept fighting, and the desk staff started pushing back even more, all the while I'm standing there with an awkward smile waiting to check in. After some time I said screw this and walked out. We booked a pet friendly chain hotel (La Quinta) like 5 minutes away. The inn was only like 70 bucks so not a huge loss. We planned for certain contingencies. But yeah. Weird place. The hotel was more than fine. Oh small town America.

  We had a long drive ahead of us the next morning. Check out Day 9 for the details as we headed towards Pompey's Pillar and Bozeman, MT


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Custer State Park and Devil's Tower NM - Road Trip Day 7

Custer State Park and Devil's Tower NM - Road Trip Day 7

Custer State Park 

The morning after we went to Wind Cave NP and Cold Brook lake we had some time to spare before our next destination on the road trip so we hit up Custer State Park on our drive to do the Wildlife Loop which was highly rated and suggested. Boy oh boy, is it aptly named. We saw wildlife for sure. You'll see why the dogs did not get of the car here! It cost $20 per car to enter the road, as you are then entering State Park Limits. That's a fairly steep price, but this is like a mega state park, so it makes sense. You could spend days just in this park.

Custer State Park is in the ever beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. It's a huge park. 70,000 acres of beauty! I see why but it's often rated one of the best STATE parks in the country! If you're in the area and have extra time to kill, you'd be silly not to go here, even just for the bison sightings.


Bison Lounging in the Mud at Custer
Bison / Buffalo lounging in the mud on a beautiful morning at Custer!

Custer State Park is best known for its amazing bison herds that roam freely across the land. There's countless other animals here, but lets be honest, we all come for the bison.

At the beginning of the wildlife loop road an SUV slowed down almost to a stop on the opposite side of the road of our car and rolled down their window. We're like oh great, what is this guy going to yell at us about. He didn't look super friendly at first. But then he spoke. He said "UP THERE. ACROSS THE BEND. THERE MUST BE HUNDREDS OF THEM. 300 AT LEAST". Thanks for the heads up dude. There were so many bison man. 


Bison squaring up for fight at custer state park
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. Actually I guess they're bison? Everyone uses it interchangeably which isn't correct. There's so many of them!!!


The Begging Burros

The 'begging burros' were in interesting and unexpected addition to our Custer drive. These friendly donkey dudes often come right up to cars, hoping for a snack. They're actually descendants of old pack animals that used to carry folks up to Black Elk Peak way back in the day. Once those trips stopped, the burros were let loose in the park and have since become a sort of unofficial mascot for the park.

We had no choice but to get out and see them since they blocked traffic for awhile! They were incredibly kind and docile. A bunch of kids got out of an SUV and had carrots in their hands. There was little begging to be had, they simply took what they wanted!

Begging Burros of Custer State Park
We met the Begging Burros on the side of the road. They were blocking traffic so we decided to get out and say hi! They were very nice.

Even though they're not originally from around here, they've made themselves at home and get along well with the local wildlife. While they're not the main focus of the park's conservation work, they are kept an eye on to make sure they don't cause any trouble.

There were so many other awesome places we wanted to hit up but didn't have time, like Sylvan Lake and the Needles. I would totally and completely come back to just this park alone. 


A Loner Bison at Custer
This dude needs his space.

There's almost 60 MILES of trail here. How is this place not a National Park? I guess maybe some people don't want the hands of the federal government involved. South Dakota seems to be doing a good job with it. 

Devil's Tower National Monument

From Custer State Park we continued on to Devils Tower National Monument. A bit out the way but completely worth it, I'd say, just for the visuals. Like most National Park Service managed sites, dogs are not allowed on the trails. Thankfully, the sights along the way are still incredible. Not to mention, the walk up to the tower from the parking lot was only 0.2 miles or something so we were able to do that by going one at a time and staying back with the dogs while the other person walked the trail. Not too bad!

Devil's Tower upon entering the area
Approaching Devil's Tower in the car.

This dude was formed by magma that surged upwards and then cooled beneath the Earth's crust. Over millennia, erosion revealed the tower's robust core, exposing its unique, columnar structure. This feature is not only a magnet for geologists and rock climbing enthusiasts but also holds significant sacred value for several Native American tribes. Pretty cool!

Up close and person with Devil's Tower
Boulder Field in front of Devil's Tower


The area surrounding Devils Tower National Monument was striking and showcases a striking color palette of red rocks. It was one of the first things we saw driving into the National Monument Area! 

These red rocks are sedimentary formations,mostly comprised of sandstone or red shale, and their vibrant hue comes from the presence of iron oxide, or rust, in the rock! The contrast between the dark, almost foreboding columns of Devils Tower and the warm, crimson red of the nearby rocks creates a visually stunning landscape that looks almost otherworldly. I couldn't believe it!


Devil's Tower National Monument
What a great festival of color

A Tree and Devils Tower striking a pose
Devil's Tower view from the beginning of the Joyner Ridge trail. (A national park ranger mentioned this was their favorite trail and favorite view of the tower!)

What is crazy to me is...the columnar structure of the tower offers a variety of routes suitable for climbers with varying levels of experience, but it's generally considered a destination for more seasoned climbers due to the technical demands of scaling its vertical fissures and columns. I suppose it makes sense, but I couldn't believe people climb that thing! Never in a million years would I...Looking at it far away is beautiful enough for me. I don't need to know what the rock smells like :). I'm also surprised they allow climbing. I feel like this could potentially damage the rock in a way that is doesn't represent the best for the Natives and the rocks cultural significance. But hey, what do I know.

Lodging for the Night 

Another KOA! A lot of experienced campers look down on KOAs. Bro, calm down, this is our first road trip and we weren't possibly thinking about camping in a tent after day 1. KOAs have readily available things we need for the trip. Like an air conditioned primitive cabin! 

Also, where else are you going to get the views that we had? Insanely cool views from our cabin! 

Spooky Devil's Tower Late Night Sunset Silhouette
Late sunset silhouette Devil's Tower at the Devil's Tower KOA. Spooky!

Propane Stove going at Devils Tower
Cooking with a view. Nothing fancy. I didn't have the energy.

Devils Tower Cabins
Here's the row of cabins at the Devil's Tower KOA. Heck of a red rock background!

Continue on with us to Theodore Roosevelt National Park on Day 8 of this road trip!