Bad Land – Makoshika State Park, Montana

Now that I was home from Washington, I’d settled back into my mom’s house in Montana and was excited to spend the summer exploring. Our first family road trip was over Fourth of July weekend, when we packed up the car and headed east. Our destination: Makoshika State Park, also known as the Montana badlands. The name Makoshika (muh-KO-shih-kuh) hails from the Lakota phrase “maco sica,” which roughly translates to “bad land.”

Makoshika State Park is located off of I-94 in eastern Montana, just outside the town of Glendive. The contrast between eastern Montana and the western part of the state where I grew up is stark. For starters, eastern Montana is very much lacking in the mountain department. It’s flat. And hotter. And dryer. Sometimes it can be difficult to look beyond a first impression, but once I did, I realized that this area is beautiful in its own right. The geology is very unique, there are different species of flora, and the badlands landscape is subtly colorful.

Makoshika is the largest state park in Montana, meaning there is much to explore. There’s one road into the park – Makoshika Park Road – and a visitor center, campground, rustic campsites, and many trails. We began by stopping at the Visitor Center and then setting up at Cains Coulee Campground. Continue reading

Liebster Award!

A few weeks back, I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Allison over at Travel Gourmand. Thanks, Allison! She’s recently (well okay, semi-recently, it’s taken me way too long to get around to making this post) been recounting her adventures through Greenland! It’s already on my Ultimate Travel List but every single photo of hers has only increased my desire to go there. Someday. When I have money. When will that be?

Anyway, getting back on topic here…the Liebster Award was created in 2011 to encourage bloggers to discover and promote new and emerging blogs. Continue reading

The Scenic Route – North Cascades Highway, Washington

Summer 2011 was the summer of road trips. I graduated from college in early June without any plan in terms of jobs. My travel plans, however, were plenty. But first, I had to make it back to Montana.

I had my car out in Bellingham with me, but my mom and sister had driven out for my graduation as well. So we formed a mini caravan (with my sister bouncing back and forth between cars to alternately keep my mom and me company) and headed for Montana. Since it was the last time we’d be making this drive for the foreseeable future, we decided to take the scenic route. We left Bellingham and headed south on I-5 for a few miles before exiting onto WA Highway 20 – the North Cascades Highway. It’s the slow way home, adding about an hour and a half of driving time (though mileage-wise it’s actually a bit shorter), but it’s a very worthwhile detour. Continue reading

Get Outside in Bellingham, Washington

I’ve bragged before about the town of Bellingham and how I spent a fabulous 4 years living there while attending college. Located in the northwest corner of Washington, right on the coast, Bellingham has its fair share of gloomy, rainy days. But when the sun comes out, the rays of light shine down on a beautiful part of the country. And everyone heads outdoors.

I’ve previously mentioned the Chuckanut Mountains just south of Bellingham, but there are plenty of more local places to catch some sunshine too. Like much of the west coast, Bellingham is a very environmentally conscious city, and this includes maintaining a good system of parks and trails. There are walking and biking paths, forests, lakes, and waterfalls all within the town boundaries. Continue reading

Beyond the Moonscape – Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho (part III)

Today is an exciting day for me on Handstands Around the World. Today features my very first guest post! The guest author: my mom. She’s been reading my posts since I started this blog and she’s always been there to help me remember the details of our trips, proofread, and remind me of my propensity to overuse the comma.

This time she’s the one doing the writing and remembering and comma using. There will probably be substantially fewer commas in this post.

Anyway, my mom and sister returned to Craters of the Moon last year and were able to explore the newest addition to the park – the Wilderness Trail, which departs from the furthest point on the loop road and extends 5 miles across the lava fields.

These are their adventures: Continue reading

Lava Tubes – Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho (part II)

One of my favorite adventure activities is exploring caves. I’ve never truly gone spelunking (it’s on my to-do list), but if we’re somewhere with a cave, we always sign up for the tours. As it happens, formation of caves in lava flows is fairly common, meaning there are a few caves at Craters of the Moon that are open for exploration.

Unlike many parks, entry to the caves at Craters of the Moon is free, though we did have to obtain a permit at the visitor center. The reason for the permit system is two-fold; to limit the number of people entering the caves, and to protect the local bat populations against White Nose Syndrome, a disease that is currently decimating bats all across the country. To prevent the spread of this disease, any clothing or gear (including cameras) that have ever been in another cave or mine are not allowed inside the caves at Craters of the Moon without following proper decontamination protocols.

Once we obtained our caving permit, we proceeded to the Caves Trail, located just past the halfway point on the park loop road. At this trailhead is the 1.6-mile paved trail to four different caves. All four caves are lava tubes – caves that form when the top layer of lava hardens over while molten lava is still flowing beneath the surface. Once the flow of lava ceases, what remains is essentially a tunnel. Continue reading