"Unexpected Lessons"

Solana Travel Writing, Spring 2021

Natalia Dutt

“Where should we go?” He asked with a glimmer in his eye. I knew this look well. The look that was aching for somewhere new. A look yearning for adventure. Given a surprise week of from work meant we had two weeks to go anywhere. The world was our clamshell as we liked to say. “To the north,” I replied.

To Montana we went. I was eager for the potential to see bears. “I’m convinced they don’t exist,” I joked. We started the drive north. There was nothing but open road and endless possibilities at our fingertips. We drove through Utah and Idaho soaking in the views. Upon entering Montana we were a bit underwhelmed, but knew the more we drove, the more incredible sites we would see. There was absolutely no agenda to this trip, just drive and see where we’d end up.

The first night it was a beautiful free campsite in the middle of nowheresville next to a small creek. We got right into our campsite duties. Me, setting up the tent and filling up the air mattress. Him, cooking dinner- something that I always dread. We have gotten so dialed in our routine that we quickly fell into our rhythm. We casually chatted about the places and things to see whilst in the wild place. “There’s a warm spring by the side of the highway- we could check that out,” he mentioned. “Oooh, that sounds intriguing, lets do it.” So that was it, we had our first stop. As we crawled into bed that night, I felt excited about the possibility of this road trip. It had been a while since I had been inspired by where I had been living, and I NEEDED to get out.


We woke up with the sun and we crawled out of our tent to blue bird skies. I got to work making coffee along with breaking down camp. We packed up the car as quickly as we unpacked and sped dow the dirt road ready to seize the day. We put on a playlist that made us feel alive, and got on the highway in search of the warm spring. We were driving down the road and he suddenly turns off of the road. “I think this is it.” To tell the truth, I was a bit confused and doubtful because shortly after we turned we hit a dead end next to a gravel pit. I had no clue how this would lead us to a beautiful metropolis on the side of a bustling highway, but we had nothing to lose. As we walked beside the highway, semi trucks were flying by us in a blur.  I could only imagine how goofy we looked. We were just two humans with crazy hair that hadn’t been brushed in days with I’m assuming puzzled looks as we looked for our final destination. “Dude, I think this is the best place to hope the fence,” I said. “Looks good enough for me,” was his reply. We hopped a fence and continued walking next to the trash that littered the grass left by individuals too lazy to find the nearest garbage can. “Why is it so difficult for people to NOT throw trash out of their goddam windows?!” I fumed. All my partner did was chuckle at my annoyance. Soon he stopped dead in his tracks and a massive grin came across his face. There it was. One of the most unassuming waterfalls I had ever seen seemed to pop up out of nowhere. We stripped down into our underwear and started the swim across. We swam, jumped, found and underwater cave, and laughed to our heart’s desire. I couldn’t believe how magical this place felt. It seemed like an indicator of how this trip was going to go, swimmingly. For the first time in such a long time I felt free and joyous. 

Leaving the oasis after almost an hour of swimming we started heading north towards the western entrance of Glacier National Park. We were given the coordinates of a free campsite that some of our friends gushed over and set that as our destination. I was so tempted to drive with my head out of the window in hopes that I could take in even more of the gorgeous scenery. As someone who has called the desert home for the last handful of years, I welcome the opportunity to get lost in massive evergreen trees. We got farther away from civilization and closer to the Flathead River. We found our home for the next few days right next to the north fork of the river. We pitched our tent in a small enclave of trees, and took the small trail down to the river. We were giddy with the possibilities of running the river as well as exploring a new national park. That night around the fire we were mesmerized by the sounds of the river and the clear sky that seemed to have new stars popping up left and right. 

The next few days flashed by with a blur. We drove around Glacier, did NOT see any bears, went down some “intense” white water rapids on a pack raft and stand up paddle board respectively. We fell into a routine of being open to exploration. However, like any good road trip, it couldn’t all be rainbows and butterflies. In spending a majority of our time together came with disagreements and annoyance with one another. We used the excitement of seeing new things to mask our discomfort with being annoyed with one another. On the days where it seemed like we couldn’t spend another single moment with each other  we would find a trail. He would take his bike out and I would lace up my shoes and go for a run. It seemed like this moments away from one another is what we truly needed. 

We started the next leg of our journey south to Wyoming in hopes that we could keep on the positive trajectory of the trip despite some minor bumps along the way. We got to Jackson Hole and danced at the top of the pass to songs that sparked joy. We watched the sunset with his arm around me and I had my had nestled into him and felt so safe. We explored the Tetons and made plenty of jokes about titties and the Tetons. We got stuck in Jackson for longer than anticipated due to a car mishap. Though it would have been easy to be bummed about not being able to go to more places on our road trip, but we decided to take the opportunity to see more of Jackson. We found another hot spring, ran another river, ranked the best sloshies in town, and enjoyed the beauty of Wyoming. 

When reflecting on this trip I look back in gratitude of the things that I learned. The first being, never try and plan everything because 9 times out of 10 things will go wrong. Be willing to admit when you are struggling with your partner. It truly checks out to get overwhelmed when you are with the same person all the time. Be kind to yourself and to whoever you’re traveling with. Be honest if you need a break from one another. The last thing to remember is to take every opportunity to see new things! Travel is in such a weird space right now so being able to see beautiful parts of nature brings peace.


Natalia Dutt is an adventurer, connoisseur of trail runs, and a travel writing with the dreams of telling the stories of the world. Currently residing in the desert of Utah, Natalia spends her time climbing rocks, exploring canyons, and experiencing all the beauty nature has to offer.

Instagram: @nataliadutt

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