From Portland our trip took turn to the East. We traveled three days before we reached the gates of Yellowstone National Park. It was, however, very close that we didn’t arrive to our final destination, Gardiner, on time.
There are basically two ways to drive to Gardiner, Montana from Portland, Oregon. One can drive via south, highway 84 through Boise, or one can drive via north, highway 90 through Spokane, as we did.
We spent our first night in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a small lake resort some half an hour drive from Spokane, Washington. The lake water was beautiful, even slightly too warm for our Northern senses, and the beach was long and perfect for the kids. We took turns to do a morning run with Arttu, to try our brand new running shoes, which we bought from the Nike Company Store located near Portland.
For the second night we drove to a small remote place called Maxville, on road 1 off the highway 90. We booked a small cottage on airbnb. It was located next to the main house and right next to a beautiful creeck.
For the third day, before arriving to Gardiner, a small town right at the border of the northern gate of Yellowstone, we had planned visits to two special sites, which were both conveniently located on our way. The first one was Granite ghost town state park in Phillipsburg, and the other one was Lewis and Clark Caverns state park, a site with caves near Butte.
Gardiner is one of the many ghost towns in Montana that thrived as a silver mining town in the late 19th century. Reaching Gardiner State Park required a four wheel drive, because it could only be accessed through unpaved remote roads.
Google maps took us to bumpy and steep roads high up in the hills. Though somewhere inside me my intuition told me to turn back, we continued climbing up the hill with huge holes and rocks in the middle of the road and without any phone coverage. Suddenly, steam started coming from the hood, the engine turned off and the car stopped in the middle of a steep hill.
There we were on our way to ghost town, which we would never find.
Our radiator cap had come off letting all the cooling liquid out of the radiator. We discovered that the fitting of the radiator hose was broken. The motor was hot. And so was the air outside.
I guided the kids to sit in the shadow under the trees and gave them some left over popcorn from the night before to keep them busy while we tried to figure out what to do.
We pushed the parts back together, added some water, and took the risk to drive to the nearest house where we got some help to get us to a car repair. We drove to the nearest town, Anaconda only to discover they could not help us. We stopped to have a picnic at the (only?) park in Anaconda and Arttu managed to find a person who would fix our car.
We drove over an hour to Belgrade, where Don at Don’s car and radiator repair changed us a new radiator and fixed our car in less than an hour.
So happy we were that we treated the whole family with ice cream. We were able to make it to Yellowstone Basin Inn, Gardiner right for dinner time.
In the morning we would wake up to see the Mammoth hot springs and many more amazing natural and historic sites. Looking forward to everything that we would still be experiencing, I felt anxious of having left so many amazing things – and people – in something that I’d soon be calling the past.