Off to the American West
A Change of Plans
Exciting times are always in store when you head for the rugged terrain of Montana and Wyoming. My journey was originally supposed to take place in the early summer and send me through California, up into Utah, and through Wyoming and Montana. But I decided to push the trip back to the early fall and then had to cut the trip down in order to make it back in time for a good friend’s wedding. The destinations of choice were now the Tetons and Yellowstone.
The goal was to take a solo road trip, find camping spots on the fly, and fish most any day I could. Preparation for the trip started back in spring since I was originally set to leave in June. So by the time my fall trip rolled around, most of the heavy lifting and planning was complete.
Maybe it’s because I was raised with my dad telling me, “it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it”, but I packed a ton of gear and food for a two week solo trip. That mentality of preparedness definitely has its times, but there’s also excitement when you go into the unknown and are slightly under-equipped and have to make do with what you have on hand. Anyhow, I packed almost everything that you could need on a two week solo trip into the back of my rig, forgetting that National Parks are nowhere near as secluded as I always think they will be. I am pretty positive I could’ve survived in the Alaskan tundra fairly comfortably given my supplies.
The plan was to make my first stop near Missoula or Rock Creek on the way to the Tetons. Changing my mind mid-drive, I cruised past both those destinations and headed for Bozeman which would shorten my drive the next day. Part of me wanted to stop at Rock Creek because I knew it was an almost guaranteed solid day of angling. The other part of me just couldn’t stop because Rock Creek is the area that my dad and I camp and fish together every summer and it felt wrong to work the creek without him. I kept on trucking and darted straight to Bozeman before turning south to a campground I researched ahead of time.
Chasing the Long White Line
Along the way I enjoyed loads of music. I’ve been labeled an old man in many ways, and my music taste definitely takes partial blame for that. I cut my teeth on classic rock and now listen to mostly older country, folk, some rock n roll cuts, and a few modern country artists that have kept true to the genre’s sound. I also geeked out on a couple of history and business podcasts because 11 hours of music puts you in a sort of robotic trance. A nice mixup in the drive came when my old buddy Taylor called to catch up. It was great hearing about all of his recent bass adventures and getting the update on how his family has been doing. He’s been ripping lots of bass lips lately and it’s a real passion of his. Loved hearing him talk about the connections he’s made through the journey.
Views from Spanish Creek
As I rolled south of Bozeman, I crept up on some majestic countryside. I pulled off the road near Spanish Creek and made my way along the long gravel road to my campsite. A ranch was on the left side of the road in an incredible little setting placed at the bottom of rolling hills. The timing couldn’t have been better because the sun was setting over the smoky horizon and made for an incredibly vibrant and burning-orange golden hour. I traversed a hillside for some time and looked across to an adjacent hill at just the right moment to see a grizzly cresting the grassy mound. It was a good distance away from where I would be sleeping for the night, but it was a necessary reminder that I am indeed in grizzly country.
Arriving at the campsite, I found the area busier than expected considering there was maybe one car I saw on the way up. After all, it was almost Labor Day weekend and people were getting their last fix of exploration for the summer. Turns out the campsite was a popular spot for folks to put their horses in a corral for some backcountry trail riding. There were spots for horses... just not for me. The actual sites were full so I pulled into some overflow parking and decided to hunker down in my rig in the parking spot overnight and hope no one would raise a fuss.
The night at Spanish Creek was the stepping stone to the rest of my adventure. Now it was time for a two week adventure of camping, fishing, exploring, and disconnecting from my phone. There’s something extremely American about solo trekking, and also something very isolating. The journey ahead would be an eye opening one.