A Love Song for West Yellowstone

During the last week of November, I came down with a severe case of cabin fever. Lacking the time to flee for an extended get-away, I decided instead to plan a day trip to somewhere, anywhere awesome. When discussing this notion with my ever-helpful boyfriend who has aspirations of dog mushing, he suggested the idea that I should go to a place where it is “always cold” to scope out the area for his hypothetical future Iditarod practice. Thus it was that I found myself preparing for a journey to the fantastic town of West Yellowstone, knowing that it would most likely be an indoor adventure.

I greeted the early morn with a cacophony of curses as I struggled to get myself together and pick up my brother by 10:00-ish. In the tradition of all great explorers, I readied the made-from-powder-chai-teas that we would require to sustain us on the long path ahead to destinations unknown-much as I imagine Lewis and Clark must have. I arrived at my fellow adventurer’s condo and screamed “On your six with chai and Wheezer!” My brother responded with a warm acknowledgment along the lines of “Whatever, weirdo” and proceeded to load into my car some sort of survival pack and what appeared to be a hatchet. When I inquired as to why we might need a hatchet he responded, “It is an
e-tool, please” and walked away muttering “amateur.” Equipment in place, we jumped into my trusty steed, aka the Black Thunder, and headed west, but also south.

This is probably not news to you if you are reading Bozeman Magazine, but I feel that I must take a moment to proclaim, holy whatever, the Gallatin Canyon is rugged and magnificent beyond all reckoning. I have driven through it many times, and have yet to feel anything less than awed by the scenery. As I stared in slack-jawed wonderment at the overwhelming beauty while cruising through the mighty Gallatin Canyon, I couldn’t help but think, “We get to live here!” followed shortly by, “There is a place in West Yellowstone that sells fried pickles!”. The rest of the ride was shared in pleasant camaraderie as we discussed our mutual fear of the panic-inducing icy road and crooned along with the lyrical offerings of such artists as Florence and the Machine and Nine Inch Nails. As predicted by my dogsled enthusiast boyfriend, the closer we got to West Yellowstone, the more snow we encountered.

Upon our arrival in the town of West Yellowstone, we parked Black Thunder and went in search of the fried pickle place. In short order, we discovered that not only was my favorite book store of all time, The Bookworm, closed for the season, but so was the purveyor of pickles. Slightly disheartened, and still a bit frazzled from the picturesque but harrowing drive, we took to the streets in order to find acceptable substitutes. It did not take long before we wandered into the lovely Arrowleaf Ice Cream and Sandwich Shop and were consoled by delicious food from a proper grill. There was even a deck of cards upon the table, with which we played Spit. I must admit, I found this to be a much more enjoyable game when played with my brother than when played with my mom whose strategy involves chanting, “You suck.” Fortified by tasty food and a pleasant dining atmosphere, we sauntered over to a nearby old-fashioned candy shop, where they were kind enough to sell us homemade fudge. After further exploration, we parked ourselves at an inviting shop called the Book Peddler, and browsed amongst the colorful displays for quite some time.

At this point, due to our rather late start and overwhelming fear of driving back on the icy road in darkness, we were forced to forgo our plan of visiting the always fascinating Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, and hit the road. We had hardly driven out of town when traffic came to a screeching halt to allow an enormous bull and cow moose to cross the road. I pulled my camera out of my bag with frantic speed and attempted to capture this fortunate encounter in digital form. As I gaped at their awkward grace, my brother bemoaned his lack of moose tag. I could hardly have asked for a more perfect end to an excellent day trip.

So, should you find yourself in a bit of a cabin fever-y funk, may I be so bold as to recommend a short jaunt to our nearby community of West Yellowstone. As always, I found the drive to be beautiful, the hospitality to be exceedingly friendly, and the town to be charming.

Happy exploring!

After visiting the west at the age of thirteen, Jamie Balke has been coming up with progressively more elaborate schemes to never leave.