The Great American Road Trip Season 2, Part 5: The Finale
It feels like our 2023 Great American Road Trip was over in the blink of an eye! We spent our final month traveling through the jagged Bitterroot mountains and alongside creeks and rivers in the quiet pine forests of Southwest Montana. I told Greg more than once that I wasn’t leaving — and he reminded me more than once that there was a week of -30º temps last winter. Fine, Greg wins.
After leaving Glacier National Park, Greg, Roxy, and I drove south to Missoula for two quick nights. We actually thought it was only for a night and as we were hitching up to leave, the camp host came over to ask if everything had been OK and if there was a reason we were leaving a day early. Greg and I were perplexed so I pulled up my calendar and, sure enough, we were scheduled for one more evening there! Hah! I’ve learned a few things about long-term travel during our adventures and this is a big one: it’s really, really easy to get things mixed up or to have to take a moment to remember where you are and what day it is! (Are there any other travelers out there reading this who feel the same confusion at times?)
When it was actually time to go, our next stop was a small town a few hours south. It was an absolutely lovely location in the Bitterroots but the RV park where we stayed left a bad taste in my mouth. I actually debated sharing this next part but I want to be real and let you in on some of the secrets you rarely hear: full-time RV travel is not always glamorous or easy. Go figure!
A few weeks before we arrived at this particular RV park, I called to see if it would be OK to have two boxes shipped there for us. The person I spoke with said that would be fine and to just make sure my name and phone number were on them, which I did. Upon check-in, I asked about my packages (a small one had arrived two days prior and a larger one arrived just the day before) and the woman at the front desk snipped, “You’re really lucky! I didn’t know who they belonged to and I almost sent them back!” Horrified by her terrible attitude, I noted that my name and number were on each but she just shrugged her shoulders and flatly replied, “well, people usually have packages arrive while they’re here.” I had been told over the phone that packages arriving a few days beforehand wouldn’t be a big deal but I guess they were.
If that experience wasn’t frustrating enough, when we got the Airstream hooked up to their water supply, I turned the faucet on to fill Roxy’s bowl and brown, mucky water with a distinct iron smell came out of the tap. I asked maintenance to come check it out and he was very nice but said, “yeah, they’re old pipes. There’s nothing I can do. Just run the water a bit.” It just felt really, really gross. We bought water from the store and used that for everything instead. I don’t mess with brown water.
Now, I know you’re all probably feeling super-horrified, scrunching up your faces like “ewwwwwww” but the location 100% made up for the general grossness of the park where we were staying…
On one of our get-out-and-adventure days, we took a long dirt road up along Lost Horse Creek to the Twin Lakes. Along our way, we found the most beautiful campsite and made note of it in case we decided it was a better place to spend the day than at one of the lakes. It turned out the camp spot was the winner so we made our way back down. Roxy and I set up right beside the creek while Greg strung his hammock between two trees just a few feet away. Roxy kept an eye out for any wildlife while I enjoyed my tea and read Spooky Yellowstone, a book I picked up in the Old Faithful gift shop in June. It was quite possibly one of the most memorable days of our entire trip. I would come back here again and again and again.
When it was time to check out (on the correct day), we made the long drive over to Bozeman, passing the estate where Yellowstone is filmed! This was one of our longer drive days and we got a bit hungry along the way. Thankfully, we’re trailering our kitchen, fridge, and dining room behind us so when we spotted a large roadside pull-off alongside a rapid-filled river, we decided to stop to make some sandwiches. As we ate, a few rafts navigated their way through the rapids. It was so much fun to see!
Bozeman is one of my favorite towns and, as I expected, our stay there did not disappoint. On our first night there, we treated ourselves to a meal at The Naked Noodle. Their “gaucho” is my favorite: pasta, chipotle cream sauce, black beans, corn, green onions, and tortilla chips. Is it healthy? No. Absolutely not. But sometimes a little comfort food is in order! Now that I’m home, I want to stop by my local Mexican market to get some chipotle peppers in adobo sauce so I can make my own “gaucho!”
While in Bozeman, we were lucky enough to get a tour of West Paw, one of our favorite clients who has been working with us for years! Roxy was so stinkin’ happy rolling around their offices and factory in her little cart (see above). I’m fairly certain she was trying to figure out how to re-route every order to go to her house! Her new West Paw peeps gave her so much love and she even went home with a few bags of their super-yumma treats! This girl, I’m tellin’ ya. She had the biggest smile on her face the entire time we were there. There are times when she’s happy and there are times when she is H-A-P-P-Y and this was definitely the latter. Thank you, Mike & West Paw, for showing us how your toys are made and for an unforgettably fun time!
Bozeman had some of the best, most memorable campgrounds of our whole trip! First up was Bozeman Hot Springs, which had 12 — I counted ’em! — 12 separate hot springs pools. We enjoyed them every single day. I loved the 102º – 103º pools, while Greg enjoyed the cooler ones. Give me all the hot water! The campground was full of other campers and at one point, we had a row of Airstreams parked next to us. It was so fun to meet the other ‘Streamers.
I didn’t think things could get any better than Bozeman Hot Springs but Greg totally hit the nail on the head when he booked us a few nights of off-grid camping at Langhor Campground, just north of Hyalite Reservoir. We were perched atop a hill with a roaring river below us where we would see fly fisherman during the day. At night, I would open all the windows to the Airstream and let the fresh mountain air wash in over us along with the sound of the rushing water below. It was so incredibly peaceful and I slept like a rock every night. The only tricky thing about this spot was a lack of amenities — no electric, no fresh water hookup, and no dump station anywhere even remotely nearby. The cloudy weather also made recharging the batteries a bit of a challenge but it all worked out in the end. I loved it here and definitely want to return!
The Dogs of Southwest Montana
You know we shot for our three amazingly awesome trip sponsors while we were here and I have to show off some favorites! The scenery in Southwest Montana is to die for and I truly couldn’t get enough of it. Our doggie models (and their moms!) were all incredible and I’m so grateful for each and every one of them!!!
Mountains, pine trees, golden grasses, a warm sunrise, and an adorable Goldendoodle? Sign me up! Milo and his mom met me at this incredibly beautiful spot one morning to model the Neon Heather Sun Shield Tee (is this not the perfect color for him???) and Charcoal Featherweight Harness from GoldPaw. We hiked up a steep hillside to get to this beautiful clearing just as the sun was peeking up over the mountains in the distance. The sun rays filtered in through the grass, setting everything aglow. It was such a magical moment!
We met Ollie and his mom at a great little town park one evening. There were a million dogs running around but Ollie was way more interested in what we had to offer. ;) WHIMZEES by Wellness are Roxy’s favorite dental treats so I am always super-excited to share them with the dogs we meet on the road! Ollie was absolutely thrilled when we introduced him to the Brushzees treats! Has anyone out there tried these for their dog? They make such a big difference keeping Roxy’s teeth clean! I truly can’t shout it from the rooftop any louder!
If there was going to be one shoot from the trip that I won’t soon forget, it was Goose’s. When Greg and I found this waterfall while out on a hike, we knew we had to make the 1+ mile trek back up to it again to photograph Goose playing with the ZoomieRex InfiniDisc from P.L.A.Y. in the water! Thankfully, his mom was up for it!
It was a sunny day and the forecast said sun, sun, and more sun. We were mid-way to the waterfall when we heard a huge boom of thunder. We picked up our pace and moved as quickly as we could up the steep terrain. The clouds continued to roll in, bringing the thunder closer and closer. Just as we were rounding the bend to the waterfall, it started to drizzle. Quickly, I thought! We need to move! A few moments later, we arrived. I trekked cautiously into the frigid mountain water — pushing aside the instant stinging in my toes — to reach a small, rocky island with a better shooting perspective. I knelt down in anticipation of the first frisbee throw and at that exact moment, the storm reached us with a massive downpour of rain! It only took me a second to remember that camera gear is not exactly waterproof and a wave of terror washed through my body. Thankfully, there was a large pine tree nearby where I was able to position myself and protect my camera from the rain. Goose couldn’t have cared less about the storm and ran and played in the water as if nothing unusual was happening! The rain continued to get harder and harder so we packed up and headed back down the trail before it got too slippery…
As seen above, we were completely drenched by the time we got to the parking lot… at which time the sun also decided to make an appearance (because, of course)!
Montana kept us on our toes the entire trip so it’s no surprise she decided to put her own spin on our photo plans. I’m so glad she did; I love how the waterfall photos turned out!
Our final stop in Montana was Red Cliff Campground just south of Big Sky. Oh my goodness, this is in the running for one of my top camp spots of the entire trip. We had space between campers, big pine trees, a picnic table, grill, campfire ring, and a short path directly behind our camper that took us to the Gallatin River.
One evening, we drove north to the town of Big Sky to hike out to Ousel Falls. There were a lot of ups and downs, which made trekking out with Roxy a bit challenging but her smile was worth it! In hindsight, we should have taken her orange carriage rather than the wagon. It would have been much easier!
On our last morning at Red Cliff Campground, I set up my comfy camp chair by the river and Roxy and I sat out there watching the wildlife while I had my tea. We laughed at a little squirrel in the tree next to us who was yelling at Roxy while looking for a good place to enjoy a breakfast nut. The little squirrel eventually decided to just eat the nut while perched on a small branch…. while continuing to yell at Roxy in between bites, of course.
Leaving Montana was hard. I’m not going to sugar coat it. After 45 days in this magical state, we had to say goodbye… and I cried. I wasn’t ready for our road trip to wrap up and I wasn’t ready to leave the cool mountain temperatures for the scorching hot 100º Las Vegas desert… but that’s a post for another day!
So, where are we going in 2O24???
With Season 2 of The Great American Road Trip coming to a close, you had to know Season 3 would already be planned, right? The only thing to cure the sticks-and-bricks blues is to plan the next adventure! In 2024, we’re starting in SoCal and heading up the California, Oregon, and Washington coasts all the way to the Olympic Peninsula before heading home through Lake Tahoe! Who’s ready???
A big, huge thank you!
I can’t thank you all enough for being a part of our adventure by following along, reading the blog, and leaving comments on here or social media. Thank you to all who met up with us along the way, too! Please be sure to sign up for our mailing list right here so you don’t miss travel updates in the future!
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