August-September 2021

Hello Friends!

After a six month hiatus and much needed break, now seemed as good a time as any to update the blog. The last several months have been a whirlwind and you’re about to see why! Here’s what we were up to in August and September.

Montana Continued…

After reluctantly leaving Paradise, Eric and I headed to the trees to enjoy the cooler temperatures in the lush northwest forests of Montana. When I say lush, I do mean LUSH.

We had a fantastic time hiking, biking, and exploring the wilds.

A narrow single track that hadn’t been used in ages.
Hiking adventures
Grizz was a happy dog….
Eric was a happy man…

Oh, and of course I was a happy girl. I would have inserted a photo but my smile was so big that’s all you could see!

This area was seriously gorgeous and we all had a great time! Despite the beautiful terrain, one of my favorite memories of this area was the butterfly infestation! They were everywhere!

They even infiltrated our shoes.

How many butterflies can you count in the photo above? (Answer……There are actually sixteen butterflies on this shoe!)

Glacier Bypass

Views from the road

As you may remember, due to the high volume of travelers and new Covid-19 regulations, we were unable to get passes to enter GNP in July/August. That didn’t stop us from enjoying the area though! In fact not getting in now really paid off later in the year (more on that later!)

Plus, sometimes the views are just as good from farther away!

We were also able to stay about 50 yards away from the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route which spans from Canada to Mexico!

Life is good…and the views aren’t bad either!

Willow Creek Reservoir

After getting news of an upcoming heatwave, we made the decision to head towards our nearest water source finding a sweet spot away from the crowds.

We enjoyed the water during the day and spent the cooler evenings biking the surrounding hills.

Smoke filled skies
The occasional clear afternoon
Cercarial Dermatitis

Unfortunately, this is also the place I learned about cercarial dermatitis or Swimmers Itch. After a dip with Grizz one morning I got out and was drying off when all of a sudden I was itching like crazy. Initially, I didn’t think too much about it. The itching went away after 20-30 minutes. Later that morning, I got a bit warm and decided to go out again. I air dried in my chair and oddly started itching again. It was then I noticed my upper legs and arms were speckled with little pink dots. Eventually the itching got so bad I was going insane. I lifted up my shirt and went into shock when I saw that nearly every square inch of my torso was covered in pink dots. Suffering, Eric and I went into research mode. This is when we discovered I had become host to a parasitic snail larvae. Nice.

Needless to say, we didn’t do any more swimming and ended up moving farther from the reservoir and closer to the river to stay cool and keep Grizz out of the water.

Not a bad move if I don’t say so myself!

We adored this spot with stunning 360 degree views of the river, reservoir, and surrounding mountains. Within a few days the smoke returned with a vengeance and our suffocating lungs begged us to move on. So, with heavy hearts we packed up knowing our time in Montana was nearing the end.

Montana: Out with a Bang

Of course…Montana wasn’t going to go out without a bang! The scenery was phenomenal.

This boy loves Montana!

Wyoming

Wyoming is nothing to whine about. In fact, I would argue that this stretch of road offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.

Layers upon layers upon layers
Can you spot my little friend munching on a piece of trash left by a careless visitor?

Home Sweet Home

The Bighorns

Eric and I were pretty stoked when we arrived to find our favorite spot in the Bighorns was right there waiting for us. Untouched and pristine—A rarity it seems. Unfortunately, despite distancing ourselves hundreds of miles, we weren’t able to outrun those brooding fires raging throughout the West. In fact, the Bighorns were also on fire just east of our location. For the entirety of our visit we became obsessive wind watchers and rarely left the van for more than a few hours in case we needed to flea the area. Fortunately, we were never faced with that decision. The only thing we had to decide was how long we could tolerate the smokey smells that permeated the van, especially at night.

It was miserable at times, but I suppose the fact we made it 2 weeks just shows how much Eric and I adore the Bighorn Mountains! We did have to limit our activity levels because it was hard to breath, but here are a few pictures of our time here.

Taking Advantage

We had one fantastic day while we were there and took full advantage!

No smoke = Day Ride!
My favorite trail!
Worth the hike-a-bike!

Smokey Sunsets

Animal Encounters

This photo bomber swiped my bike gloves and chewed my feed bag.
More daily visitors aka: Grizz’s playmates
I spotted this moose while hiking with Grizz. Thankfully he didn’t see it! (About 40 yards away)
This moose was much larger, but harder to spot. Can you find it within the trees?

Hint: It’s about one thumb length from the bottom right quadrant of the photo. You can see its left horn and a little bit of the body/legs/face.

This was my favorite animal encounter this year. Well, distant encounter that is. Stop looking, there are no animals (that I’m aware of) in this photo. But, it is a photo of where there were thousands of migrating elk of various sizes passing through just the night before. It was dusk and too hard to capture them from this distance. Luckily, we had some binoculars so that Eric and I could watch from afar. It was such a sight!

Moving on…Again

Leaving Wyoming

Eventually, the risk of being in the Bighorns far outweighed the reward and we were forced to move on.

Next stop…

South Dakota

Yes, you are seeing this clearly. After 854 miles, we were still getting smoked out. This was a very bad fire season for much of the West, Northwest and Canada! No matter how far we went, it seemed we couldn’t escape it!

It was here we decided that maybe a trip back to the good ole Midwest was in order. At least we did have one nice day while here and found a fantastic spot to come back to for next time!

Next time!

Road Trip to Grandma D’s

Somewhere flat.
Are we there yet???

Now, these cross country drives are not our favorite but Grizz is only happy when it’s over!

Ok, ok. Grizz is also pretty happy during rest stops.

Kansas

Day 1

Kansas never disappoints when it comes to finding lovely overnight spots for absolutely zero dollars. It is by far our favorite Midwestern state in that regard!

We stopped just in time to get in a 5 mile walk, dinner, and a sunset! The humidity was up there but tolerable. Guess we should have enjoyed it while it lasted!

Day 2

Ah, Kansas. Another one of our favorite lakes! I have yet to walk all the way around it but one of these days! Last time we were here it was cold and rainy. This time hot and humid. Oh, and an overnight storm that left us fearful of hail and tornadoes! Yay. Felt so good to be back in the Midwest! You ever know what you’re going to get.

A lovely sunset before the storm

Missouri

Home Sweet Grandmas

Grizz made his spot known. It was Sadie’s favorite spot too. Dogs are a good judge of comfort, it’s my favorite chair too!

It was great to spend time with the old peeps and their really lovely air conditioner! Ahhhhhhh…..

Of course, one of our favorite things to do while visiting is go out to the farm!

The Farm

The greatest place in all of Missouri: Mary & Lindell’s Farm <3

The Welcoming Committee

Nameless: The sweetest cat I’ve ever met.
The Crooked-Barn Cow
The Three Amigos

And lets not forget…

Baaaah-B Marley

Thank Yous

A huge Thank you to the following people to make Missouri worth a visit each and every time!

Mary and Lindell for having us; the Old Peeps for putting up with us (ok, well ME); Brenda D for the amazing bike ride along the Katy Trail; Jim AND Brenda D for hosting me at their home, feeding me, and listening to my outlandish, anti-societal ramblings; Kim H, Mr. Biggles, Keith, and Jim for the pool time, drinks, fantastic pizza, offer for bullets (haha) and company; Jen and Clay S for taking the time out of their seriously busy life to see an old friend and for the Stem to Table Farm microgreens (YUM!); Kristina M. I’m so happy to have seen you’re smiling face and meet your two beautiful girls; Vic R and his lovely wife Amanda for also taking time for an old friend; and my dear friend who always makes time to hang when I’m in town, Robin R, you are an amazing human and I love you!

Iowa

Bloomfield

A quick over night at a fantastic nature preserve.

Cedar Falls

We paid $20 to listen to gunfire all day long. Lovely place to live for 3 months (my first travel job was here), horrible place to van life.

Fonda

A fantastic find!

Minnesota

Minnesota ended up a drive by this year. Not a lot of van life options without hitting the more northerly forests. Maybe next time.

North Dakota

Hankinson

A green grassland
Grizz approved
Nice hiking and biking options (on and off trail)
Big sky and wide open spaces

Friend or Foe

Friend
Foe

It was here we learned that Grizz had a hidden talent: keeping cows away from the van. Each time a cow would get within 10-20 feet of the van, he would jump out and chase them all away. After catching a young calf scratching its back against the bike rack one morning, Grizz’s skills proved invaluable during our stay here! It also gave him a job, a huge amount of confidence, and a cute little strut.

Sheldon

After nearly six months, we’re still kicking ourselves for not sticking around this place longer (my bad!). It was so quiet, extremely beautiful, and boasted a long distance trail. Next time!

New Salem

A hidden gem!

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The campground where we filled up on water.
Interesting and diverse scenery

We were in the vicinity and had a National Parks Pass so we decided to stop at the Theodore Roosevelt NP. It was extremely diverse but we just weren’t feeling the vibe on that particular day. The area really funneled people into town to spend money and there was minimal van life options so we kept heading westward.

Montana, Montana, Montana <3

Full Circle. It was inevitable that we would somehow end up back in Montana this year despite the fact that it was completely unplanned. Maybe our subconscious minds knew that we needed uplifted so it sent us back to one of our absolute favorite states? Either way, we returned and loved every minute of it!

Fort Peck

We thought we skipped Mt and went straight to the Pacific for a minute there!
A quaint little stop for the night where we spent my 44th year on this planet.

Glacier National Park

My time had finally arrived! No more special tickets. Just me and my mountains. A birthday wish come true. The cross country traveling had played its toll on Eric and I but I wasn’t going to let anything come between me and my excitement to finally get to Glacier. Unfortunately, we just had time for a drive-through but I know some day, I’ll get back when I can spend some time in the back country!

Day 1

Not a soul in sight.

We trialed a few amazing spots, this one being the winner.

It was on-and-off again raining which created some amazingly dramatic skies.

Grizz and Mommy were SOOOOOO happy!

And when I say happy, I mean really, really happy! Capital “H” kind of Happy! Perhaps exuberant would be a more appropriate word.

This had to be one of the most beautiful places we’d ever seen!

We played and ran and jumped and laughed and grinned until our faces were numb and our cheeks were permanently creased. Then, one of us had the bright idea to look the area up thanks to one bar of internet. As the sky was quickly darkening and the traffic on the main road slowed to one-two cars every half hour, we realized we had nearly made a horrible mistake! We were on reservation land.

Time to go!

This mistake could have caused us a lot of trouble with the local Blackfeet as well as a $500 fine. Thankfully, we found a campground and gladly paid their kindly reduced rate of $20 for a partial nights sleep.

Day 2

It was another rainy day which ended up working in our favor. I’m just going to let the photos speak for themselves!

And this concludes Van Morrison’s visit to GNP. Next time, I plan to get out the hiking gear and get lost.

Paradise

After a torturous drive cross country x 2 in less than two months, we felt like we deserved a brief stay in Paradise to wrap up September!

So we hiked and biked and enjoyed the last bit of Montana we could get before winter!

Stay tuned for October-December coming soon!

Until next time friends…

6 Responses

  1. Barbara McNeil

    Wow and Wow! These photos are amazing! My face is smiling too!
    Happy 2022!

    • Jenni

      Thank you Barbara!!! 🙂 Nothing makes me happier than putting smiles on the faces of others <3 Happy 2022! Glad you are well!!!

  2. Brenda Dunne

    I was starting to wonder if you had dropped off the earth. Beautiful pics! Love to hear about your travels. Thank you for sharing some of your time with us this summer. Hope to see you again next time you come through.
    My news – I will be retiring this spring. After March I will just work one day a week and use up some PTO until June3, then will be fully retired. Our biking group is going to New York to ride part of the Erie Canal Trail in August, so I will need to get into shape for that.
    Safe travels and happy life, friend!

    • Jenni

      Brenda! That is AMAZING news. Cheers to early retirement! Your trip is going to be fantastic. I can’t wait to hear all about it. NY isn’t ready for all you crazy cool women! 🙂 I wish I was there to help you prepare! You’re the best cycling buddy!

  3. Debbie DeVonce

    Jenni, I absolutely love your blogs! I always feel like I have joined you, Eric and Grizz on your adventures! I can’t believe you saw two moose!!! Your pictures are absolutely amazing! I can’t wait for the next blog!!

    • Jenni

      Thank you Debbie! It’s been too long. I’m going to try to push more out soon to try to catch up with the year. Thanks for reading and I’m glad you feel part of the crew. We feel so fortunate to live this life while we can! And yes, TWO moose! It was awesome. I’m glad Grizz didn’t see them though. Moose are a bit more cantankerous than cows. hehe

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