Nauru Travel Diary

From Houston to Sydney 2013

From Houston

to Sydney



After yesterday’s heavy rain and thunderstorms, it was a pleasure to wake up this morning to the chorus of birds and clear blue skies.  As our main aim today was to undertake the seven hour drive southwards from Glacier National Park, I rose at 5:30 am, eager to make the most of the beautiful morning sunshine by allowing enough extra time to take a short additional drive into Many Glacier Valley, a significant part of Glacier National park that we had not yet explored, before starting the long drive south.

The effort was certainly worth it.  After yesterday’s rain, the birds and small animals were very active and visible, and the sight of the morning mist rising from the lake up towards the peaks of the surrounding mountains that were illuminated by golden sunshine was breath-taking in the crystal clear morning air.

The drive east, then north, then west to Many Glacier was a sheer delight.  The morning sun made the fields of wildflowers dazzle brilliantly, and the waters of the rivers and lakes were as bright blue as one could imagine.  Many Glacier is a major hiking area, and although we were there by about 8:15 in the morning, tens of well equipped hikers were already out and about, setting off on their day hikes.  The views of the mountains and lakes around the Many Glacier Hotel were truly spectacular – perhaps the nearest thing I have seen to Swiss mountain scenery outside Switzerland.

Tempting as it was to remain in this geographical paradise, we left Many Glacier at about 9 am and started the drive south to West Yellowstone, our destination for the day.  We took a fairly direct route south to Choteau on the 89, then on the 287 to Helena (the state capital of Montana, where we took a rest stop and visited the Capitol), continuing on the I-15 and the 69 before connecting to the 287 once again to West Yellowstone.

For the first half of the drive, we proceeded through the farmlands of rolling prairies with the Rocky Mountains providing a backdrop to our west.  The farms were a diverse mix of cattle ranching, commercial hay farming and irrigated vegetables, interspersed with small towns, most of which seemed to be in a financially depressed state.

As we proceeded south from Helena, the land became progressively more hilly and about 25 miles before reaching our destination we came across an unexpected geographical (and geological) delight in the form of Earthquake Lake. 

The 6 mile long lake was formed suddenly in August 1959 when a strong earthquake (7.5 on the Richter scale) hit the area, causing a landslide of 80 million tons of rock and debris that dammed the Madison River.  Today, Earthquake Lake is marked by the ghostly remains of the trees that were growing in the area before the waters rose standing starkly in the waters.  The sides of the escarpment still seems to be unstable, as we were able to see evidence of large, seemingly recent landslips a little downstream from the massive 1959 landslide.

Another unexpected geographical delight was found just a few miles beyond Earthquake Lake when we came across an area of wetlands that was marked not only by its beauty in the afternoon sunlight, but a dazzling diversity of wildlife – beavers, ducks and newly hatched ducklings, birds with bright red necks, brilliant turquoise dragonflies, and (less appealingly) a snake.

With our unexpected stops, we didn’t reach West Yellowstone until about 6 pm, but despite the length of the drive (just over 400 miles), we arrived feeling quite invigorated by the fascinating and beautiful landscapes we had experienced during the drive.

We are scheduled to stay in West Yellowstone for the next four nights.  West Yellowstone is a service town conveniently located at the western gate of Yellowstone National Park, and I decided to stay here rather than in the park for one very strong reason – when I tried to book accommodation within the park about five months ago, I discovered that there were no vacancies anywhere.

A positive aspect of staying in West Yellowstone is that the internet access seems to be okay, in contrast with our accommodation in Glacier National Park where the glaciers and the internet seemed to be having an intense competition to see which could move more slowly.

Day 4 - Glacier National Park to West Yellowstone


9 July 2013