Our 2017 vacation was an epic tour of seven different national parks/monuments over two weeks (six in the U.S. and one in Canada). All six of us went on this trip. I named it Galler Expedition 2017. Below is a description of each day with one or two picture highlights.
Day 1 (7/9) was mainly a drive day. We drove to Wall, SD. Of course we had dinner at the Wall Drug Cafeteria.
Day 2 (7/10) we went to The Badlands National Park and then back to Wall Drug for breakfast. After breakfast we went to Mount Rushmore National Monument. We had planned to go to Crazy Horse next, but we decided to skip that in favor of zip lining and alpine sledding in Keystone, SD. That was a great change of plans. Next we went to Devil’s Tower National Monument.
Day 3 (7/11) was a drive to Columbia Falls, MT outside of Glacier National Park. On our way, we stopped for lunch at Missouri Headwaters State Park in Three Forks, MT. This was another great un-planned stop along the way. This park is where the Missouri River starts and where Lewis and Clark stayed in 1805 as part of their expedition up the Missouri River. Their mission was to find where the Missouri River started. While the Galler Expedition of 2017 wasn’t as adventurous as the Lewis and Clark expedition, it is pretty cool to say that I have seen the beginning and the end of the Missouri River.
Day 4 (7/12) we went to Glacier National Park. We started on the West side of the park and drove the Going-to-the-Sun road. We stopped at all of the key sights along the way. We even got in a short four mile hike to St. Mary’s Falls. Even with the hike, we still almost made it all the way to the East gate, but ran out of time.
Day 5 (7/13) we drove straight across the park West to East, but didn’t stop along the way this time. We went to the Many Glacier area of the park for a day hike. Unfortunately, our planned hike to Iceburg Lake was closed due to bear activity, but we picked another hike to Red Rock Falls. On our way back we were lucky enough to find a parking spot at Logan’s Pass. Zach, Joshua, and I hiked a few miles in snow to Hidden Lake and back. Amazing view! Elizabeth and Kristen went part of the way with us.
Day 6 (7/14) we drove to Banff National Park in Banff, Alberta Canada. This is the first time the kids have been out of the country. We were in Banff for lunch. In the evening we went on a horseback ride which the kids didn’t know we had planned. I think they had guessed we were riding horses somewhere along the way, but didn’t know where.
Day 7 (7/15) was primarily a drive day. We drove to Gardiner, MT just outside the North gate of Yellowstone.
Day 8 (7/16) we started exploring the Northeast corner of Yellowstone. We saw a black bear cub after only 30 minutes in the park. I’m sure “momma” was around somewhere, but we didn’t see her. We met Steve (a friend and co-worker who went into the backcountry with Zach and I) and picked up our backcountry permit. We stopped at various spots along the way to Canyon Lodge where the family stayed for the next five days.
Day 9 (7/17) we relaxed a bit in the morning. Zach and I prepared for our backcountry trip. Later in the day we explored Yellowstone a bit more. We went to Old Faithful and stopped at a few other places along the way. We attempted to see the Northern Lights in the evening, but weren’t successful. There was a solar storm, but I think it peaked during the light of the day.
Day 10 (7/18) Zach, Steve, and I went into the backcountry. We hiked 12.27 miles. We saw three grizzly. The third was camped out near our designated camping site so we stayed at another site. Luckily the guys that had the other site reserved were friendly. They were cool with us staying there as well. The rest of the family explored around Yellowstone Lake. They saw a moose and another black bear.
Day 11 (7/19) We woke up to a Grizzly about 200 yards from our tents and it was grazing towards us. We packed up and moved to the food prep area really quick. It ultimately got within about 75 yards of us. I’ll describe this exciting experience in more detail in the detailed daily description. Zach, Steve, and I hiked 15 miles. We saw a couple of coyote. The rest of the family went to Bear World in Rexburg, ID and saw another moose on their way back into Yellowstone.
Day 12 (7/20) Zach, Steve, and I hiked 7.87 miles. It was a relatively short hike, but we were rained on for a few hours of it. We heard some thunder, but luckily it never got really bad. About the time we got to camp the rain let up long enough for us to set up our shelters. After another short bit of rain, the sky cleared. We dried out near a camp fire. The rest of the family went to The Grand Tetons National Park and Jackson Hole, WY.
Day 13 (7/21) Zach, Steve, and I hiked another 7 miles into the Lamar Valley and back to camp. We saw a lot of wildlife. We were even “pushed” off the trail by a herd of about 500 bison. Pretty amazing to see. While chilling at camp a momma grizzly with two cubs paid us a visit. They got within about 50 yards of our food prep area. The rest of the family went to West Yellowstone and to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. They saw a 21 year old Grizzly that weighs 1,000 lbs.
Day 14 (7/22) Zach, Steve and I got out of the backcountry earlier than planned. We were out by about 9:45 AM. We ended up only hiking about four miles and coming out at an alternate TH. We decided we weren’t up for the Specimen Ridge Trail. It would have been about 19 miles, with about a 2,400 ft. climb in just a few miles. There are also no water sources along that route. I was not looking forward to carrying over 13 lbs of water in addition to 50+ lbs of other gear. I think it was a good call. It gave us some extra time to pack up and get an early start home. I hope to hike Specimen Ridge sometime in the future though. Elizabeth and Josh picked up Zach, Steve and I. We dropped Steve off at his car and then Zach and I joined the rest of the family back at Canyon Lodge. We got showers and packed up for the trip home. We left Canyon Lodge around 10:30 AM and drove straight through.
Day 15 (7/23) we arrived home about Noon. We had an amazing trip!