Jason really wanted to visit Montana before we traveled further west. So, I navigated us to the closest town-West Yellowstone, Montana. West Yellowstone is located just outside the West Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. It’s definitely a tourist town. The main street is packed with t-shirt shops and restaurants but, I had other ideas in mind. First on our agenda was the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. This wildlife center is a nonprofit that takes in bears and wolves that are unable to survive in the wild. They have an aquarium with otters and endangered cutthroat trout. There are also birds of prey on display. It’s a neat place to visit. We got a kick out of the theater. They have a video explaining what to do if you encounter a bear in the wild. They also have a large display of products like “bear proof” coolers and trash cans that they have put in the enclosures with the bear. Spoiler alert! They aren’t bear-proof. We learned a lot about animals. Did you know that grizzly bears and brown bears are the same species? Or, that bear gallbladders are sold on the black market to make traditional Chinese medicines? Me either.
The boys enjoyed the IMAX theater in town next. They were showing Thor. Our campground, Buffalo Crossing RV Park set us up with discount tickets to the movie. They also gave us a gift certificate to Yellowstone Trading Post (a huge gift shop next door), free ice cream cones, and a bottle of hand sanitizer as part of a “welcome packet” for guests. The staff were super friendly as well.
The next day, we had some surprises in store for the twins. I booked Charlotte a reservation at a local high ropes course and zipline company. She spent two hours climbing, balancing, and jumping from platform to platform. She started out nervous and hesitant. But, it was so satisfying to see her confidence grow as she moved to harder and harder sections of the course. She loved soaring on the ziplines. It made her feel brave and strong. I just loved watching her!
Jackson did not like heights and was not interested in joining his sister in the sky. So, we made him an appointment at a shooting range. Jackson loves firearms. He is the most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to guns. He reads books about them, watches YouTube videos about them, and is a very proficient marksman. We shoot clays as a family. My husband and I decided to take training to be certified air rifle instructors and we started a local youth rifle team for the sole purpose of allowing Jackson to compete. Generally, he isn’t allowed to shoot at public ranges because he rarely meets the age requirement. But, apparently Montana is the place to be if you are a twelve year old with an affinity for firearms. This was an especially exciting prospect because the range we found had a Class III license. This means that they hold a high level clearance to own fully automatic weapons. Jackson was able to choose two guns to fire in the range that he wouldn’t have the opportunity to fire in most other places. He chose a military MP 5 submachine gun and a handgun called a Desert Eagle. They even let him take home his paper targets as a souvenir. He had a great time.
Montana was a fun place with unique activities. If you decide to visit West Yellowstone, Montana, you will be just a few miles from Yellowstone National Park. The west entrance is popular with anglers and a great place to see wildlife. We spotted bison in this area. We were thrilled to also finally see elk for the first time on our cross-country trip. Yellowstone is truly beautiful. You can read more about our Yellowstone experience https://underanelmtree.com/2022/07/31/yellowstone-and-grand-teton-national-parks/ here.