So the adventure began before it even began. A pre adventure, or a warm up adventure you might say. Just like last year, we decided to make our trip out to the trail a journey in itself. Last April I bought a 1993 Honda Civic for $300 specifically to drive 2,400 miles across the country from Florida to southern California with nothing but my dog, my buddy Schweppes, pockets full of wishes, and a head full of wishful thinking.
We made it… But just barely. After blowing out the exhaust in the northwest panhandle; breaking the air conditioning around Mobile; losing a Hubcap outside New Orleans, cracking the radiator in West Texas near El Paso, then blowing it up completely while climbing out of Escondido California… We arrived near the Mexican border (sweaty, wind burned, almost deaf, and excited as we’d ever been) and donated the car to a young girl who had never owned one, was getting ready to start college, and had an uncle who owned an auto shop. It all worked out perfectly, and a wonderful adventure was had, as well as another long trail checked off the list, five and a half months later.
So here we were once again, deciding to road trip out to this new trail in the northern reaches of Montana; nearly another 2,500 miles from where I’d be driving from in Florida. I didn’t want to throw away money on a rental, so I decided to gamble even bigger with my own personal vehicle… My 1997 Toyota 4runner with 255,000 miles and a deteriorating front passenger wheel bearing. If something happened on the way, the cost of fixing it, shipping it home, or simply giving it away would cost me way more than a rental. However…If the gamble paid off and we made it without any set backs, we’d end up saving hundreds and hundreds of dollars by avoiding the rental route. Regardless of whatever happened, it would be an adventure one way or the other; and that’s how I make all my decisions nowadays. “What’s going to provide the greatest opportunity for excitement and impromptu adventure?” If something shitty happens… Oh well. There will be a silver lining and it will all work out, so long as you stay positive and resourceful. Just enjoy the ride and keep putting out positive energy, no matter what.
So on June 12th, ten days before our scheduled start date, I left Florida with CatFox (my little dog Katana) to meet Schweppes at our friend Coma’s house in Asheville, NC. We’d all met on our Appalachian Trail thru hike back in 2014 and had been regularly visiting each other ever since…
Day 1 June 12, Monday
After a long 9 hour drive up to Asheville, I was greeted with a beer, lasagna, and great company. We stayed up late, catching up and recounting trail tales of times long past before calling it a night. Schweppes, Katana, and I all slept on the front porch in the cool Appalachian night air. The pre adventure would begin tomorrow…
Day 2 June 13, Tuesday
As far as our road trip went, we hadn’t planned it out even a little bit. Everything was totally on the fly. Our only goal was to visit as many states and major cities we’d never been to. So over a hearty breakfast, I pulled up a map on my phone to see what was nearby. Lexington, Kentucky was only a couple hundred miles away, and neither of us had ever been…let’s go there.
So a few hours later we were in Lexington; another state and major city checked off our list. The goal then became to try and visit state capitals or famous cities within the new states we visited. Where to next?
We made our way West to Louisville, then over the Ohio River into Indiana. From there we shot across Indiana into Illinois where we stayed the night in a rural, interstate-side motel. The 4runner hung in there like a champ; aside from the fact it didn’t have AC.
Day 3 June 14, Wednesday
We got a late start, but pushed across Illinois, then over the Mississippi and into St. Louis, Missouri by early afternoon. It was crowded, and temps were in the 90s, so we decided not to hang around. Leaving katana in the vehicle was not an option, and towing her around the city looking for dog friendly establishments didn’t sound fun either. Honestly, we were just miserably hot, even running 70 miles per hour with the windows down.
We’d put together a loose plan to hit Little Rock, Oklahoma city, and Kansas City… But the southern heat was killing us. So we decided to head north to cooler temperatures! Putting St. Louis in our rear view mirror, we made for Chicago.
Arriving in the early evening, we had a famous deep dish pizza at a joint called Giordano’s. One of the best pies I’ve ever had in my life!
After pizza, we continued north into Wisconsin and stopped just south of Milwaukee to stay in another motel. The 4runner continued to perform…
Day 4 June 15, Thursday
We had a quick breakfast in Milwaukee before pushing on to Green Bay in search of some famous cheese curds. We found them just outside of Green Bay at a rural cheese factory named “Scray Cheese.” Here I had the best, freshest, and squeakiest cheese curds of my life.
We stopped in Green Bay to check out Lambeau Field and have a “Spotted Cow” beer; indigenous only to Wisconsin. After paying homage to the statues of Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi, we were off again and into Minnesota where we did a drive by “waving” as we cruised through Minneapolis while the sun set.
North and Westerly we continued on until reaching the (Hollywood made famous) town of Fargo; on the border of North Dakota and Minnesota. After a disappointing midnight meal at a “Perkins” diner, it was off to bed.
Old faithful continued to run strong…
Day 5 June 16, Friday
We could have continued going straight west from Fargo, but then we would have missed South Dakota. So we went straight south for several hours into Sioux Falls; then made a hard right turn on I-90 to chart a course across South Dakota to Rapid City . On the way, we took a 45 mile scenic loop detour though the “Badlands” National Park where we saw deer, pronghorn, mountain goats, prairie dogs, buffalo, and some of the most unique rock formations I’ve ever seen.
Continuing west, we hit Rapid City as evening was setting in. We wasted no time driving up to Mount Rushmore, where we were just in time to witness the nighttime display/illumination of the famous monument. Awesome experience!
We spent the night in Rapid City. No vehicle issues!
Day 6 June, 17 Saturday
We got an early start and drove up to the famous biker town of Sturgis, where we visited the motorcycle museum and the local Sturgis Harley Davidson shop.
From there we drove 60 miles through the countryside, punching through into Wyoming in the process, then visiting the incredible natural monument called “The Devil’s Tower.” What an awesome natural phenomenon!
After the devil’s tower, we began a long marathon drive across Wyoming. This stretch of interstate was some of the most beautiful, desolate, and unique driving I’ve ever done. I couldn’t get enough of it…as well as the 80mph speed limit.
Crossing Wyoming, we then pushed into southern Montana and the city of Bozeman. We’d been invited by my friend Blaze, whom I’d met on the PCT. Blaze and I had hiked the final 180 miles of the PCT together, then driven back across country in her car from Salem, Oregon to Washington D.C. last year. We’d kept in touch, but I hadn’t seen her since. She was now working in a resort town in Big Sky, and since we were so close, it was as good a time as any to stop by for a visit, catch up, do some laundry, take a break, and have some packages of gear sent out.
We arrived in Big Sky fairly late and cowboy camped on the shores of the Gallatin River. Still the 4runner ran strong.
Day 7-8 – June 18, 19 Sunday, Monday
For two days we hung out with Blaze, her roommate, and her boyfriend; hiking, eating buffalo burgers, playing with the dogs, checking out fly shops, visiting waterfalls, relaxing, napping, playing disc golf, doing laundry, watching movies, etc… Until our packages came in on Monday.
Day 9 – June 20, Tuesday
We said our goodbyes and left Big Sky mid morning. The 4runner was still purring like a kitten, and after 7 hours of driving across rural Montana, we arrived in the city of Kalispell, not far from Glacier National Park.
Our great journey across the country has finally ended, and the real adventure is about to begin. It’s all finally feeling “real,” but not as real as our starting day will feel, I imagine.
Today I’m getting my food and gear in order, and tomorrow we will be visiting Glacier to obtain our permits, as well as catch up on current trail conditions. The day after that… The beginning of the end of the quest for the triple crown begins…
I still have a few loose ends to tie up regarding what I’m going to do with my truck for the next 6 months, as well as what I’m going to do with Katana for these first 100 miles of National Park that do not allow dogs. As usual, I’m trying to stay positive and open minded. Everything always seems to fall into place, so long as I don’t stress myself out while keeping an open mind. We’ll see what transpires over the next day or so….
The gamble paid off and the 4runner hung in there for the entire trip. Yay Toyota!
****I apologize for any typos, grammar mistakes, or poor sentence structure on this post, or any future blog posts. When I do these adventure blogs, I write my daily journals at the end of a full day of hiking, when I’m very tired, at night, and exclusively on the tiny screen of my cellphone. This entire website will be written and maintained completely from a 4 inch cellphone; so please bear with me on any mistakes! Thank you all for following, and I look forward to sharing this journey with you!****