Too Much Time to Think on a Road Trip

Jenn and I have realized over the past week or so, that when driving for several hours a day, we have lots of time to think about things that we clearly have never considered. We’ve come up with some pretty silly questions that we just don’t have answers to. Normally, if it bothered us enough, we’d just look up the answer. That really hasn’t been an option for us though since we’re driving through the wilderness. So instead, we just ask everyone we come across. So here’s our list of dumb questions.

What’s the tallest mountain in the continental United States (not including Alaska)?
After asking several people, we came to the conclusion that it must be Mount Whitney (in California).

Are horses native to North America or were they introduced by the Europeans?
We kind of went both ways on this one. We both established that there were definitely horses in Europe going back at least to the Middle Ages. This means that they were probably introduced to North America (it doesn’t make any real sense that the exact same species would be in both places, because if they were they would have had to have been that way for a long long time and probably would have evolved at least somewhat differently). The only holdout though was that we were both pretty certain that the plains Indians had herds of horses. After asking several knowledgeable people about this we decided that the early European explorers introduced horses to North America. It was only later when the settlers pushed the Indians back to the plains that they had herds of horses.

If the entire Flathead area is a reservation, how come so many white people own land on it?
The Flathead Indian Reservation is a very large reservation in northwestern Montana. As we were driving through it to get to my family’s cabin (on reservation land), we realized that there just aren’t very many Indians there. In fact, I’m pretty sure there are more white people that live there than Indians. Back in the 1930’s, the tribes gave parcels of land to individual tribe members. Some of these people sold their land to white people (including 5 acres of lake front property to my great Grandfather for about $300). So that’s why white people own land on the Reservation. Sounds like a very unfortunate circumstance for the tribes. I think this is one of the few reservations in the country that is actually on really nice and valuable land.

Elk kind of look like horses. How come they were never domesticated and ridden like horses?
Alright, I know, this is kind of a silly question, but we were curious (and probably hopped up on espresso). No real definitive answer on this one. I guess we decided that their legs weren’t as strong as horse’s legs and that they were probably harder to catch. They do live in the mountains and all. Also, they have horns (or antlers…pokey thingys). I imagine they’d use them if you tried to jump on their backs.

Road Trip Update

Friday — We made our way through Phillipsburg, Anaconda and finally Butte. We learned all about mining and its history in Montana, along with how gold veins are created. We also drove up to explore Granite, a large ghost town on top of a mountain near Phillipsburg.

Saturday — Drove up to Missoula to see the rest of the family. Had a very lovely BBQ with the Fam, and then hung out on the deck drinking beers with our hosts.

Sunday — Went to breakfast at the Ox. Went to downtown Missoula and my sister and I bought a bunch of books. There should be no shortage of reading material at the lake. It was very hot again, so we went tubing down the Clark Fork River. A delightful way to spend the afternoon.

Today — Heading to the cabin at Flathead Lake for the next two days. I plan on doing nothing but reading, playing cards and piecing together a puzzle.

Our Yellowstone Tour

Yellowstone Park was pretty darn cool. I was skeptical (I thought it would be a lot of people and not very much but trees to see), but we had a good time.

We saw tons of buffalo, and even ones that were right on the road. They are very large beasts. A couple of dumb people were driving their cars right up to them and getting out to take pictures. We tried flashing our buffalo gore sign (previously posted), but the silly people wouldn’t listen. We resorted to drive by shoutings of “You’re gonna get gored!”, with the windows closed and AC on, of course.

At one particular pullout Jenn and I both spotted a large pasty beast about 20 feet into the woods. We pulled over, thinking it was some sort of strange albino buffalo species, but upon closer inspection we realized that it was the rear end of some pale naked tourist. We quickly moved on.

We headed over to Norris, where there is a lot of geyser activity. We decided to do this because we wanted to see that kind of stuff, but had already decided to avoid Old Faithful because of masses of traffic and gawking tourists. Norris was very cool. We took a bunch of pictures (on Flickr now) on our one mile hike around one. There was a longer hike with more geysers, but as we hobbled back to the car, we both agreed that we were much too sore from our seven mile hike.

Later in the day we headed over to Lamar Valley. We were hoping to see some good wildlife, but we only saw a few dears and a bunch more buffalo. Despite that, it was easily one of the most beautiful parts of the park and definitely worth the drive.

Here’s a map of our route through Yellowstone Park, starting from the South Gate and ending at the North Gate. Our route is highlighted in orange.

A map of our trip through Yellowstone Park

We stayed in Gardiner, Montana last night. It’s a very small, but cute town. This morning we headed up to Bozeman and ate lunch at the Pickle Barrel. Now were resting in a delightful coffee shop in downtown Bozeman. I really like this town a lot. Onward to Helena we go.

Geyser in Yellowstone

Bubbling stinkified pool:

Wyoming Desert

There’s nothing there…