Big Sky, MT, part 2 – and the National Parks

Lake McDonald at Glacier National Park

The most direct route between Vermont and Big Sky, Montana goes THROUGH Yellowstone National Park. The route includes the only road in Yellowstone that neither one of us had ever been on – Sylvan Pass, near the east entrance. That road opened early for the season, 3 days before our arrival. The next most direct route was an interstate. Hmmm, not much discussion needed. Let’s go through Yellowstone!

We do enjoy visiting National Parks early in the season, before the crowds arrive. Yes, some roads are closed, some services are unavailable, and many/most hiking trails are closed being either snow-, slush- or mud-covered late into the spring. Yet the majesty of the parks remains on display, colored in snow and early spring blossoms. Large critters are coming out from their winter routines. National Parks in the northern US are reawakening with spring.

Still frozen Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone did not disappoint. The drive over Sylvan pass included a dusting of new snow, 8-foot snowbanks at the summit and amazing views of Yellowstone Lake. Meadows were dotted with hundreds of elk and deer and scores of bison and big horn sheep. We stopped in at Madison Campground, where we first visited Yellowstone together 35 years ago. It was a treat to just be in this iconic park again.

Looking back at Apgar Village from Rocky Point

The most direct route from Big Sky to the Alaska Highway (commonly known as the AlCan) skirts the perimeter of Glacier National Park. We opted to spend a night at Apgar Campground, one of our favorites. The visit would have been just great if all we had time to do was admire the views of the high, glaciated peaks beyond Lake McDonald. That a few lower-altitude hiking trails were open, and we had time to hike to Rocky Point on the far side of the lake for different views of the peaks, made it better still.

The real treat was the unplanned, serendipitous meet up with two more Vermontanans, Stan and Cyndee. Members of the original 6-pack, we’ve known Stan and Cyndee for 20 years. We were disappointed to miss them while we were in Big Sky as they were away, traveling in their RV and touring the sights in Washington State. A text message changed everything.

Stan: ‘Where are you?’
Doug: ‘Glacier NP.’
Stan: ‘We’ll be there for dinner tomorrow.’

You bet we stayed. Although our respective travel plans allowed us to cross paths for only one overnight, we once again became (temporary) neighbors – side-by-side campsites – for 15 hours. In that time, we enjoyed happy hour, walked with Sugar the wonder Sugadog around the Apgar Village while chatting and seeking great views, collaborated on dinner, got caught up on friends and adventures, slept (just a little) and lingered over coffee before a big round of see-you-later hugs. Although we miss Stan and Cyndee in Vermont, we’re so happy for them in their new home in Big Sky. We love Stan and Cyndee and know we’re always gonna be crossing paths sometime, somewhere…

Even the canvas shopping bags are Vermontanan!

For anyone who’s interested, more central Wyoming, Yellowstone NP and Glacier NP pix…

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