Driving the Great American West

The drive…oh the drive.  There has literally not been one second that I haven’t been awed by the Western landscape from the driver’s seat of our rented Ford Transit.  From the craggy edged cliffs to the mountain roads that wind along beaufiful rivers, the drive from place to place is often as incredible as the destination itself. 

So far this trip there have been two stretches that rank in my top five drives of all time.  The first was the stretch leading from Jackson Hole to Butte, MO. 

The road that winds up the east side of the Grand Teton National Park heading north is stunning and so picturesque that at times they almost seem fake. The mountains in all their size and youth and glory stare down at you in a way that demands your respect for their granduer. Each mile of the drive presents a breathtaking view of the incredibly sharp, snow-capped tips of the “Grand Tetons” from an ever so slightly different angle that leaves you wondering if the view could possibly continue to get any better.  It culminates with a picture perfect shot of the peaks across Lake Jackson and you realize that the answer is quite simply, “Yes.”

Leaving Grand Teton NP to the north on Highway 89 delivers you to the south entrance of Yellowstone. We drove northwest toward the West Yellowstone entrance and were treated to a preview of the flowing rivers, waterfalls, dense forests and steaming grounds that we will be exploring toward the end of our two-week trip. 

Leaving Yellowstone to the west we entered the fourth state of this trip that the family had never been to, Montana (Utah, Idaho and Wyoming being the other three).  I know nothing about Montana and therefore did not expect the rural beauty that was to be our moving picture for the next three hours. 

The road that leads northwest toward Butte (our overnight stop on the way to Glacier) winds along the Madison River and was dotted with fly fisherman angling for trout.  The drive through this area is relatively flat with mountains on both sides and rolling green plains and plateaus that stretch out to meet them. 

Scattered throughout these green fields were deer and pronghorn, an animal that dates back to the Pleistocene period of whooly mammoths and ranks as the second fastest land mammal in the world. 

The climax to this amazing drive was watching the sun setting over the Big Montana Sky shooting colors of pinks and yellows and purples out over the mountains.  As darkness fell, the mountains in the distance became silhouettes against a dark blue sky and between the view, being surrounded by my amazing family, and the divine playlist of great music that seemed custom taylored to the occasion, I knew this would be a drive that I would always remember. 

Drive #2 – Going to the Sun Road. Separate post. 

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