Thursday morning welcomed us with sunshine and warm weather; a nice change from Wednesday’s rain. The plan was to drive north through Jackson and check out Yellowstone National Park. We underestimated two things about Yellowstone; the total area and the swarms of tourists. The park was gorgeous and a true testament to our country’s commitment to preserving its natural beauty.
Our collective mood was heavy as we left the park early Thursday evening. Very few words were said as we set our compass for home leaving many new friends and places behind. The clock was ticking and we had nearly 800 miles of pavement to cover in less than 24 hours. The decision was made to drive through the night and arrive in Hawley late Friday morning. We had to go through Beartooth Pass before getting to the interstate in Montana. The ascent began in the early evening just as the sun was setting. For the first time on the whole trip I (Shane) looked to the future and wished we didn’t have to drive through eastern Montana and North Dakota. The road corrected my wandering mind and brought me back into the present by leading us through arguably the most beautiful landscape of our entire 7,417 mile trip.
Lower in the mountains we passed a pristine glass lake with a single fishing boat on it as elk chased one another around on the far side. As we climbed higher the snow began to dominate the landscape and the mountain lakes remained frozen. The low sun cast shadows of giant pines and mountain peaks across frozen valleys where grasses and flowers fought melting snow for a new season. After a dizzying series of switchbacks we found ourselves parked at the summit of a mountain in the Beartooth range. We both exited the car and took in the 360 degree view of mountains upon mountains. Nate walked over to a ledge with an immaculate view of a range to the east. I literally ran the other direction and climbed to the peak of a granite mountain to catch the final moments of the day. The wind blew cold, but refreshing as coyotes howled below. If the trip was a movie, this was our final scene. We could see everything behind us and before us; the road we had traveled and ones we have yet to discover. Every person, every place, and every road brought us to this very moment and it could not be more perfect.
As the last drops of sunlight faded behind an eastern mountain I climbed down and met Nate back at the car. As we stood by the car and took in the last moments of a dying day I turned to Nate and said, “I don’t know if I have ever lived in a moment as much as I have lived in this moment right now.” It was at that point that Nate expressed his reluctance to leave this all behind and we decided that this trip would not end, but only take a break.
Nate and I returned safely home after cruising through Montana and North Dakota Thursday evening and early Friday. With what seemed like an unlimited supply of energy drinks and 90’s hip hop blaring on the radio we glided along I-94 with a never-ending horizon before us.
Life is different now that we are home. It is hard to put into words what we experienced and how we have grown, but perhaps it is evident in our past writings. We hope to organize an event where we can share our experience, answer some questions, and show our supporters some behind the scenes video in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for more information on that.
Some of you accountants out there might have noticed we only gave away about half of what we raised. Well, that is true, and it leaves us with only one option; ANOTHER TRIP! We promised you all from the start that 100% of the money donated would be given away along our route, and we will continue with that promise. We are still very much in the planning phase, but we plan to hit the road again in late July to continue the journey. If you didn’t get a shout-out don’t worry, we will get you on the second trip!
We want to thank you (our supporters and fans) from the bottom of our heart and from the amazing people we met. Without you none of this would even be possible. Please stay tuned for more Project Wildness posts and updates on our next journey and our appreciation event.