Western Montana


The last time Sally and I visited Yellowstone National Park, we were busy the whole time, keeping the kids from running off the trails and annoying the folks at the campsite next to ours. Now that we're retired and only have ourselves to take care of, we were determined to do all the things we couldn't get around to then. So when we arrived at the park headquarters at Mammoth Hot Springs, we headed straight to the ranger's station to learn about backcountry permits and fishing regulations.

To keep our costs down, we set up camp at an RV park outside of Yellowstone, not far from West Yellowstone, the western entrance to the park. And even though we were supposed to be taking it easy, I set the alarm for six so we could start our day bright and early.

On the drive into the park that morning, we saw a herd of antelope grazing in the plains and two hawks soaring overhead. We had our backcountry permit, so we parked the car and headed off along a trail, aiming for one of the fire watchtowers. When we'd been her before with the kids, this area was still blackened from the 1988 fire, but now itís all grown back and looks as lush as any other part of the park. We even came upon a pod of moose wallowing in the creek!

Hiking is tiring work, so by the time we got back to West Yellowstone, we were more than ready to sit down to a nice dinner at the Three Bear Lodge and Restaurant. It gave us a good chance to look over our maps and make our plans for the rest of the week. I'd wanted to go fishing on one of the Yellowstone lakes, but Sally convinced me that we'd be better off doing a little learning first, outside the park. I've pole fished before, but fly fishing is new to both of us, so after a little talking, I came around to thinking she was right - this would be a great time to learn to fly fish! So the next morning I arranged a trip with one of the local fly fishing guides at Hebgen Lake, a popular cutthroat trout fishing spot that's not far from West Yellowstone.


I just love this part of the country so much. Looking across the big meadows at the bison grazing and lowing is such a peaceful thing - it makes me think about the way this countryside must have been before the pioneers came along.

I have to admit that I was a little nervous about our fly fishing class with the guide. I don't know a whole lot about fishing, and I hate the idea of being wasteful, so I wanted to make sure that we were going to eat any fish we caught. But once we showed up at Hebgen Lake, Jay, our guide, put all my fears to rest. He told us how to release any fish we didn't want to keep and said that in his opinion, fishing was more about spending time in nature than it was about catching and keeping fish. I really liked his way of thinking, especially when I found how peaceful it is out there on the river.
  Steve picked up the casting motion faster than I did, so Jay put him to work on the river while he and I worked on swishing the line out and over the water. And you should have seen Steve's face when he felt the first tug on his line! I knew right then that we'd be doing a lot of fly fishing in the future. Steve was hooked just as much as that fish was. We had such a good time with Jay that we asked him to meet us in Yellowstone a few days later at his favorite spot.

That afternoon, we visited the Museum of the Yellowstone and saw fabulous movies about bears and the big Yellowstone fires. I did a little shopping in Christmas in Montana and the Madison Gift Shop, then we went to the Bookworm's to pick up A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean's famous book that includes a lot about fly fishing.

Steve and I have had such a grand time here, that we're determined to come back as soon as we can, maybe in the winter so we can try a Klondike Dreams Sled Dog Tour and a little cross country skiing in the park. And we had a thought - we'd love to hear from all the RV travelers out there who've been to Yellowstone. If you tell us what your favorite sights were, we'll put them on our to-do list!
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