How To: not be a jerk while camping

I’ve been thinking for a while now that I should mix things up a bit on here. While I never tire of talking about my adventures, I’m sure you all tire of reading about them at times. And over the years, I’ve gained more than just photos from my outdoor experiences. I’ve gained knowledge.

So I’ve decided to start a “How To” series of posts and intersperse them amongst my regular writings. Each will focus on a specific outdoors-related topic.

I started to write up a whole thing about avoiding bear encounters, but in light of my recent weekend camping experience I’ve decided to save that one for a later date.

Pat and I just got back from enjoying our 3-day weekend, and though by no means a horrible camping experience, the people camped next to us were idiots and it got me thinking about some of the other annoying idiots I’ve encountered at campgrounds in recent years. I don’t know if it’s a regional thing or just the sign of changing times, but I went camping all throughout my childhood and I really don’t remember people being so inconsiderate.

So for my first “How To” post, I’ve put together a list of things that should be common sense – but apparently aren’t – and that will make everyone’s camping experiences more enjoyable. Continue reading


Puddles, mud, and freezing cold water – Golden Trout Lakes, Montana

The following weekend, my mom and I headed up into the Gallatin Mountains for our next hiking adventure: Golden Trout Lakes. This is actually a collection of three lakes; we just went to the main one.

The trailhead for Golden Trout Lakes is located off of US Highway 191 south of Bozeman, Montana. Turn onto Portal Creek Road and continue approximately 7 miles to the trailhead.

Portal Creek Road is rough at best. It’s rocky and bumpy and we just barely managed to get my mom’s Corolla up to the trailhead. A high-clearance vehicle would definitely have been preferable. I’m pretty sure everyone at the trailhead was wondering what the heck our little tiny sedan was doing up there. Clearly they underestimate us. We’ve taken our small cars up a lot of questionable roads over the years. Continue reading

Get Lost in Montana – Lost Creek State Park

Spring in Montana is always a bit of an unknown in terms of the weather. Snow, rain, hail, sunshine, and anything in between is usually in the forecast. Sometimes simultaneously. But if there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that it will snow on the first day of high school track season. That was almost an inevitability when I was in school.

Anyway, the point is that springtime adventure plans are always weather-dependent. Sometimes, snow lingers in the mountains well into May and June. And so it was nearing the end of June when we were finally able to head out for our first day trip of 2012.

Looking to venture somewhere we’d never been before, my mom and I headed to Lost Creek State Park near Anaconda, MT. The park is characterized by towering limestone cliffs that rise above the babbling waters of Lost Creek. One road leads into the park, paralleling the creek for a couple miles before coming to an end at the campground. We didn’t stay overnight, but it seemed to be a decent campground. Continue reading

Yellowstone National Park (part VII) – The Northern Section

Well, we’re here. The final post in my Yellowstone National Park saga. Today I’m going to focus on the only remaining section of the park – the northernmost portion. I concluded my previous post at Tower-Roosevelt Junction. From here, the park road travels west to Mammoth Hot Springs and east to the northeast park entrance and Cooke City, Montana.

Map source:

Heading west between Tower and Mammoth, there are a couple small lakes along the side of the road, a one-way drive up and over the Blacktail Deer Plateau, and a short drive to a petrified tree that has, unfortunately, been vandalized over the years. The Lava Creek picnic area has always been one of our favorites. And there are three short trails: a 100-yard walk to the viewpoint for Undine Falls, a 0.8-mile round trip hike to Wraith Falls, and the “Forces of the Northern Range” self-guided loop explaining the cycle of growth and forest fires in the park. In particular, it discusses the fires of 1988, in which approximately 35% of the park burned. Continue reading

Yellowstone National Park (part VI) – Seven Mile Hole

As I promised at the end of my last post, today I bring you the second ever Handstands Around the World guest post, once again courtesy of my mom!

She had so much fun writing the last one that she offered to do another. Well, the only person I know who has been to Yellowstone more times than me is my mom, so this seemed the natural place for her to contribute. The topic of today’s post is a hike that I’ve never done but one which, upon seeing her photos, I immediately added to my to-do list. Hopefully by the end of this post, you’ll do the same!


I have been to Yellowstone National Park somewhere between 100 and 200 times in the 41 years since I moved to Montana. Only 90 miles from my home in Bozeman, it is an easy day trip or even better, a great weekend camping trip. My children and I know the park better than almost anyone we know. I have visited every major geyser basin and some that are less well known and have seen Old Faithful erupt more times than I can remember. I have snapped photos from all of the observation points at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, have stood at the brink of the Upper Falls and near the bases of both Falls, and have spent a lot of time gazing down hundreds of feet into the canyon’s beautiful, colorful depths. Alone, or with one or both of my children, I have hiked the well-travelled trails many, many times and have literally thousands of photos from all over the park. Yet, despite our great love for Yellowstone, it was not until just a few years ago that we finally purchased some bear spray and set off into the backcountry to areas that few tourists ever venture. One such hike—Seven Mile Hole—took us to the bottom of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, a place that I had always longed to visit. Continue reading

Yellowstone National Park (part V) – Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Today we’re going to talk about my favorite area of the park – the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone! I know, I know, I’m doing this all wrong. Yellowstone is about geysers and grizzly bears, not rivers and canyons. Don’t worry, I love geysers too. And bears are pretty cool. But Canyon is still my favorite part. Something about the waterfalls and the contrasting colors is just so incredibly beautiful.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River is 800-1,200 feet deep, up to 4,000 feet wide, and stretches 24 miles between Canyon Village and Tower-Roosevelt Junction. It begins when the Yellowstone River tumbles 109 feet over Upper Falls and ends near Tower Falls, where the water of Tower Creek drops 132 feet on its way down to the Yellowstone River. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Grand Canyon is the colors. The walls of the canyon are painted a variety of hues due to the fact that the area used to be a geyser basin and that many minerals are present in the rocks. Continue reading

Yellowstone National Park (part IV) – West Thumb to Canyon Village

Last week, I left off in the southeastern portion of Yellowstone National Park near Yellowstone Lake. Picking up from West Thumb Geyser Basin, today we’ll continue north along the lakeshore and up to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Map 4.png
Map source:

Yellowstone Lake is giant and also very uniquely shaped, with three protruding arms. It has a maximum depth of over 400 feet and its surface elevation is approximately 7,700 feet. In short, it’s a large, deep, weird-shaped, high altitude lake.

The main park road runs along the western shore of the lake all the way from West Thumb up to Fishing Bridge. The Yellowstone River begins at Fishing Bridge and flows north from Yellowstone Lake through Wyoming and Montana before eventually joining the Missouri River. I haven’t spent a ton of time in this area of the park due to the fact that it’s far from many of the other attractions and also that the campground at Fishing Bridge is permanently closed to tent campers due to bear activity. However, we’ve recently discovered that Bridge Bay campground is a very nice – albeit slightly windy – place to stay. We returned to our site one afternoon to find our canopy laying on its side. Continue reading