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HERBIG IDEA is a creative studio comprised of WHITNEY LYLE and SAM HERBIG. Whitney is a designer who loves to create books, packaging, and do more crafty projects in her spare time. Sam is a film electrician who loves to take photos tirelessly, while finding time on the side to create maps in various mediums (a long-standing hobby, starting with his 3-d topographical map of his hometown, Tübingen, Germany in elementary school).

Together, Whitney's big picture ideas and Sam's impeccable attention to detail, they pull prints in a print shop or set-up a makeshift photography studio. They love to generate ideas and find ways to execute them. 


We're chronicling our travels around the states on this blog. Check it out, if you're bored and sitting on an apple box (you can also check it out from home or the office).

Filtering by Tag: Montana

The be all end all

Samuel Herbig

No more flyers!

Day #58 of our journey was going to take us to the famed Yellowstone National Park. What I knew of the park was mainly wildlife (read: bison) and geysers (read: old faithful). I knew that it was big and I knew that it was mountainous and that's about it. Particularly in the few days before driving down there Whitney kept saying, "if we don't see any bison, I'm gonna be really disappointed." No pressure Yellowstone.

I'd vote for Bugs any day

I'd already been feeling pretty shabby, so much so that Whitney had been doing a lot of the drive from Brownies Hostel, which had taken us through Browning, MT (at that time seemingly consumed by a fierce public office election) and across vast stretches of prairie. As I was drifting in between my two co-pilot states of napping and taking pictures we traversed the big sky country for endless hours. The ridges of grass green hill chains bobbing up and down in front of the windshield, with puffy white clouds overhead. All the while we were being accompanied by the mountains of the Lewis Range to our right. Signs of open ranges continuously warned us of roaming cattle and the biggest hinderance to our progress was a road construction site which we were lead through by a truck with a Follow Me sign on it.

In Helena, we stopped to load up on groceries for the next few camping nights. Since neither of our sinuses were feeling particularly groovy, we decided on chicken soup for the evening (NOT from a can). We also grabbed some granola and other supplies that had worked out well for us in the past and then continued on our path towards the park.

Coming down south along route 191/287 we entered the park from the West, with the end goal being the campground at Madison Junction. You'll think this is crazy, but we actually had enough time to set up our tent, and then make the roundtrip to the visitor center near Old Faithful. All during day light!

Of course, we saw bison galore already on that very first drive through the park. I mean it's pretty tough not to. They are big, they are slow and they make a funny huffing noise when they're grazing. Reminds me a little bit of the times growing up when we would stay on farms in Switzerland or the Landwirtschaftspraktikum (yep, that word is street legal in Germany) when being around 2000 pound animals was a daily occurrence.



Tempting as it was, we didn't spend too much time away from the campground, because we still had to make dinner and wanted to get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

We woke up the next morning to Whitney feeling the effects of a worsening sinus congestion. So after just making a bit of tea, we intended to set out to get Whitney to a shower, so she could hopefully drain her sinuses to relieve the pressure. Due to a series of unfortunate decisions and events, we didn't make it to a place with showers until Evanston, WY! We started with the best of intentions on a trip clockwise around the Yellowstone park.

One of the thoughts Whitney and I would discuss later at length regarding Yellowstone is, that it was perfect for a sick day or two. The reason is simple: Yellowstone is laid out to be explored by car. Sure there are hikes and most of the attractions of the park can't be seen from the road directly. However, almost all of the spectacular sights and amazing nature can be enjoyed from your car or otherwise after a very short stroll from the parking lot. So if you're not feeling well, which neither of us were, this park is about as good as it gets.


The first time I pulled over the car, was at Gibbon Falls. They are tame in comparison, but it set the tone in terms of what we could expect for the rest of the day. Not necessarily regarding the kinds of attractions, but more the company we'd be "enjoying". It's certainly a busy park and more than once I asked myself, how the park service was ensuring the proper preservation, when the crowds were already so thick in late May?

Snow and hot springs: one day

We drove up to Canyon Village, got gas which was surprisingly not over priced (I know, right?) and then I wanted to go up to Dunraven Pass and Mt. Washburn. Naturally, we weren't going to go on a hike with Whitney feeling worse for the wear as the day continued. Still, I wanted to see the other side of the park, but realizing that it wasn't all that I had hoped it to be, I soon turned back to continue our loop around the park.

I dragged our poor Whitney out of the car again and again: "Do you want to see the Yellowstone Falls?", "Should we go to Inspiration Point?", "I'll take the South Rim Drive out to Artists Point, okay?" or "How about the Sulphur Cauldron or the Mud Volcano?"

Ladies and gentlemen: no words!

Over and over again, Whitney said "I'm really not feeling so hot, but I want to get out of the car anyway." I was really glad that she did, because she'd let me know about the different things she recalled from coming to the park the first time when she was 9 years old. That time the family had travelled out with her grandparents. That's important to note, since Pop-pop (amongst many others) has been a driver of our artistic expression, and I never even met the guy. Also, at Painters Point she sneezed like a four year old. You know, snot hanging by thick threads out of her nose all the while she's looking back at me at least as shocked as I am looking at her. It was funny, you had to have been there.

Pop-pop himself was a painter (oils and water colors) and going through his catalogue a couple of years back in order to make a book of his work, turned into a learning experience of sorts for us. Looking back, it was around that time that we, and certainly I, felt compelled to get back to creating more art from scratch. With my hands. With paint.

Whitney recalled going out to Artist Point with Pop-pop and showed me the colorful earth and rocks surrounding the Yellowstone River Canyon, just below the water falls.

A little later we stopped at the Sulphur Cauldron and Mud Volcano (the names!). It was the first of many stops along the parks famed thermal elements. If you have any inclination of going, just go. I can tell you all about it here, but it's just incredible to see the sheer number of different springs and pools and geysers, and mud pots and so on. The park service was also quick to illustrate that the thermal features were constantly in flux and could change at any point. Hot springs slowly moved over hundreds of feet. Geysers go dormant and reemerge. As a matter of fact the area surrounding the Mud Volcano had completely changed in the 1980's due to a number of earthquakes. A sharp increase in the ground temperature following the quakes has been killing the trees along the hillside ever since.

Finally, our loop took us by the grand stage of the Old Faithful. The area around the geyser is completely built up with shops, the visitor center, restaurants, you name it. It is a bustling complex ready to handle many, many tour busses filled with tourists from far away countries and loads of minivan's filled with vacationing families form not so far away. The geyser itself is surrounded by a large circular boardwalk, which has conveniently placed benches along the edge to view the geyser. Considering, that people used to throw logs and rocks and handkerchiefs into the geyser back in the day, the boardwalk it probably a sound idea.

Regardless of the commercial noise surrounding Old Faithful, it is a fantastic experience to watch it explode into the sky. We were particularly lucky, because just before the eruption a rain storm had moved through, darkening the sky and making the steam and white water shooting from the ground all the more visible against the sky. I wonder what it would have been like, to see the geyser back when none of the buildings were there. Back when you had to take an expedition many weeks long to get out there. What it would have sounded like, just the rushing of the wind in the trees, and the water shooting into the sky...

The end of the show

The end of the show

We treated ourselves to milk shakes at one of the restaurants (which were delicious!) and got back in the car to get back to the campground. You see, before we left in the morning we were sure it wasn't going to rain, but because you're an attentive reader you remember the "dark sky", right? We were worried that the rain had gotten into the tent and we wanted to either deal with it, or prevent further soaking. Luckily, though the tent had seen a sprinkle, nothing seemed to have gotten wet.

On the way back from Old Faithful I had also spotted a bison herd near the road and I really wanted to get some good pictures of those guys. Whitney relented and back out we went to get Sam some bison. Not far down the road was a little off shoot of the main loop where we found at least a couple hundred bison grazing.

Bison, not buffalo (don't be a European!)

Bison, not buffalo (don't be a European!)

From a distance, we were able to see big bulls, nursing calfs, play fighting youngsters and more. It's a marvelous thing to be able to get in such close proximity of such large mammals. That these guys were mercilessly slaughtered isn't easy to stomach, but considering their relatively peaceful demeanor it isn't hard to imagine either. Anyway, I got my pictures!

Back at the campground we made another simple dinner, and then headed up to the "amphitheater" to hear a ranger talk on the parks history and flora and fauna. Whitney and I were quickly getting to like these talks and if you're the National Park visiting kind, it's worth checking them out. I for one really liked getting context for my visit and being able to ask some questions afterwards (i.e. "What's it really called, a bison or a buffalo?"). Tired but satisfied we went to sleep, soon after.

The next morning I was starting to feel better, but no such luck for Whitney. Despite our honest efforts to rest well, drink plenty of tea and to feed ourselves the way Sue would have, Whitney's throat was still hurting and her sinuses stuffed. Being on the road however meant that we could only do so much and Whitney was being a trooper. While in the park, we wanted to visit as many of the thermal springs and geysers as we could, before we had to leave later in the day. So we broke camp, loaded the car back up, made sure that we had all the lozenges and a thermos of hot tea within arms reach and set out.

Whitney self medicating... tsk, tsk

The park has just tons and tons of thermal features. The most famous of them, after Old Faithful, is the Grand Prismatic Spring, but there are so many others! As we headed south along the loop towards Grant Village and the South Entrance of the park we first steered the Omimobile into the Firehole Lake Drive. I guess, because none of the drives features are as bombastic as others in the park it wasn't as crowded, which suited us just fine. Along the route we stopped at the Firehole Spring, Surprise Pool, Great Fountain, White Dome and Pink Cone Geysers before finally arriving at Firehole Lake and Steady Geyser. That's a whopping seven geothermal whatchamacallems! And they're all very different. Some are still steaming colorful pools, others gurgling mud pots, others again spout water high into the air. While I was busy clicking away, Whitney was lamenting the fact that she wasn't able to jump into one of the hot springs. So she did the next best thing: at each spring that was particularly hot and steaming she found the perfect spot to stand in the steam as the wind carried it away from the pool. Even sitting here on the soft bed at an airbnb thousands of miles away, I can still smell the sulphur with each breath as I think back.

As the expedition photographer I wanted to go to the Prism Pool of course. Interestingly, you really can't get that famous overhead shot you always see very easily. You'd have to go on a hike, to gain enough elevation . . . and then hope it's warm enough out that there isn't too much steam coming off the surface of the pool. Still, we got to walk around it and see the other pools as well. It's a neat place and the colors are amazing. It's terribly crowded though with tour bus after tour bus arriving, so we left before too long.

On our way out, we once again stopped for a sandwich at the Old Faithful Visitor Center and (accidentally) saw the geyser erupt for a second time. Not bad! With a little bit of food in our tummies we finally bid the park adieu and began our long treck to Moab. Hang on! We saw some more elk on the way out. 

Elk end

Elk end

In hindsight, I wished we had more time at Yellowstone (as was the case in so many other places). I wouldn't have minded being able to do a hike or two. That being said, with some time and patience and a camera you can explore most of what's there to see. There are also many more pictures from this part of the trip, that didn't make it into the post, but I'll do my best to get them uploaded to Flickr soon. 

Big Sky Country

Whitney Lea


Leaving Seattle meant we were embarking on a more rigorous leg of the trip, and what better way to start that off than with a very long drive. 486 miles long. We drove for so long that we went from lush, green, and mountainous scenery to barren and dry rocks then on to farmland and finally back to freshly growing forests and glacial mountains. We passed a town in Washington state called George. We passed fields of crops that had been labeled for people on the highway to learn about what was being farmed (SURPRISE! Potatoes...). We drove through swooping highways that ran next to rivers that were swollen to the tops of the banks with muddy water. It was like driving through a Woody Guthrie song.

Our destination was Flathead Lake, Montana. Flathead is one of those places that winds up on all these travel lists for "prettiest places in the USA" and "stops out west that you cannot miss!" and whatnot. The thing that really sealed the deal for me was this photo circulating on the internet:



Because we were scheduled (ha! we still has a schedule back then!) to make it to Montana over Memorial Day weekend, I had even booked a campsite right on the lake. It was the most expensive campsite we have had on this trip to date at a whopping $31 for the night, but it was definitely up there on the list of most gorgeous. 

Our campsite was directly on the water

Our campsite was directly on the water

On driving days (which we have deemed to be any day with a drive that is more than six hours) that also happen to be camping days the sunset is a huge factor in how much time we take on the road and how stressed we feel getting there. Luckily, the sunset at Flathead Lake was one of the latest we had seen. It was at 9:24 on May 25. Isn't that crazy? Dangerously close to the sunset times in Norway, where Sam's sister lives. To balance it out we also lost an hour as we drove back from Pacific to Mountain time, another time issue that tends to come up (as I write this we are in the Atlantic time zone, which does not even exist in the United States).

I think I'm getting used to this parfait thing

We arrived and set up camp – finally getting the chance to air out our wet tent – and even managed to start cooking before the sun went down. Kids kayaked on the Lake and rode their bikes around the camping loop. Big Arm State Park clearly seemed to be a "locals" kind of park, which tends to be a different kind when compared to all the big national parks we had seen previously. More kids and bikes and dogs. More big groups of friends hanging out. A wider spread in age. Up until this point, much if the national park attendance had been us and baby boomers that had already made it to retirement.

We stayed up late, sitting on a log and sharing a bottle of wine while looking at the lake as the stars passed above and car headlights came around a road on one of the inlets.

The morning brought a slight hangover, parfaits, and repacking the camping gear and the car. We stuck our toes in the cool water and concurred that we would definitely consider swimming if we didn't have to drive for three more hours up to a park named Glacier (brrrrr) that day. Driving while soaking wet wasn't exactly something we were interested in getting into. We were slated to explore glacier that day and wanted to use the time for that!

That's not a pot with rocks in it, people!

That's not a pot with rocks in it, people!

An important detail that shouldn't be overlooked here was that Sam and I both woke up feeling a little sore in our throats and a little stuffy, though Sam definitely felt worse than I. My current theory is that our sinuses kicked into schlime* overdrive when we went from a very humid rainforest atmosphere to a very dry mountain atmosphere. Any ENT doctors out there should definitely feel free to chime in. Us feeling bad hadn't really impacted our plans too much though. We each sucked on a cold eeze as we drove, hoping that would somehow help.

To the glaciers!

Soon we started a very high paced drive through the Montanan countryside. It sure was gorgeous. I think Sam and I both agree that it was some of the prettiest landscape we have seen on the entire trip. A big sapphire lake with rolling emerald hills rising out from it. Cherry orchards in abundance all along the way. Big fluffy and bright white clouds that might drop a little rain even when the sun was shining and the rest of the sky was blue. A huge variety of trees with new growth and many shades of green. Perfectly cared-for log houses with hunter green tin roofs. The pictures we took couldn't even start to capture the beauty we felt we were seeing, despite Sam's abilities.

We took a little detour in addition to the scenic route mainly because I think Sam was having fun with the maps and didn't have phone/internet access while I drove. It was worth it regardless because we saw a few more bald eagles eating something gross in a field and a pheasant running around, its bright red and green feathers a stark contrast to the chartreuse grasses it tried to hide in.

We arrived at the west entrance of Glacier only to learn that much of the park was still closed for the season due to snowy conditions. Luckily a ranger (seriously, rangers are your friends!) explained that we could head over to the eastern side of the park and have a better chance at seeing wildlife and doing a little hiking. We decided to stop by our hostel on the way to the other park entrance, listening to a classical music mix of cello-centric pieces that Sam had put together a few years ago. Along the way, this is what we saw:

Thomas and the gang

Thomas and the gang

See? Totally fitting.
We arrived at Brownie's Hostel and checked into our room. Yes, there is a hostel/bakery near East Glacier national park. A private room was nearly as cheap as our campsite from the night before and came with a bed and WiFi. Win-win. The building was almost 100 years old, but I think that only makes it cooler. After we chucked our stuff, we padlocked the clapboard door (feeling quite a lot like the old dudes of the west) and headed off on our steel horse with wheels to see Glacier. The drive was breathtaking. 

En route we saw tons of livestock and saw plenty of signs about open ranges, which luckily prepared us for a band of real horses that decided the grass was greener *right* on the other side, just next to the road. A few miles later two grown horses and a very very young foal were doing the same. Before I knew it (did I mention I passed out, in the napping sense, on the drive?) we had arrived! Sam seemed a little more antsy to get out of the car than I did, probably because he had been manning the gas pedal unchecked for so many miles.

Sam had a trail in mind in hopes of just gaining a bit of a vantage point and we strapped on hiking boots and winter coats and made our way to a trail head. Each of the three trailheads I had seen at this park had very clear warnings about bear activity, strongly encouraging bear spray for hiking groups with 3 or fewer people. Want to know what I was thinking when I read that?: Seriously, Glacier? Everyone knows I over worry. How can you do this to me? How can I push the warnings out of my mind and take this hike at 5pm at the end of hibernation season through bear country? Ugh. Well, I guess I'll carry these big rocks with me to defend Sam and I against grizzlies. And I'll do my best to make lots of noise since Sam won't be paying any attention at all because he'll be clicking away on his camera. How can I be a better sport than I was at Crater Lake, land of the avalanche?

Well, I can tell you I sure did try. Five minutes into the hike we were climbing over a pretty fresh patch of trees that seemed to have succumbed to a snow melt avalanche just days before. I'm talking 30+ pines using on each other all down a mountainside, though none looked to be more than ten years old. Soon we were safely above the treeline, which helps not only with avalanches, but also with bears (in my mind). We looked up at the small patches of snow on the mountains above and saw a small herd of sheep grazing. Looking out to the other peaks reminded me if my very first hike with Sam to the Tannheimer Tal in Austria in 2007. We've sure come a long way in seven years, but I'm still battling the voice of fear that runs through my brain, making me an inherently overly cautious person.

As a storm rolled in we decided to check out part of another trail we had scouted on the way in and hiked back down. The other trail was in trees (eeek) and I totally forgot to mention the duck we saw at this trailhead in the way in! It was dead. And it had its head torn cleanly from its body. Imagine the stories I was making up there! No wonder I was all cautious on our walk. Who eats just the head of a gall-dern duck?? Rather than get hung up on what kind of animal just eats a duck's head, Sam decided it was time for a photo.

"Uhm, excuse me!?"

"Uhm, excuse me!?"

At this point I was really battling my silly inner fears and the refreshing rain that was rolling in across the peaks above was helping quite a bit. Little creeks were already swelling and the rain pushed water over the edge in little rivulets. It was cool enough that it almost felt like ice rather than rain. We spent a few more minutes taking pictures and then decided to leave mainly because it was unclear that any restaurant would be open after 9, a problem we ran into repeatedly on our trip. It was already 7:30 and we were nearly an hour from town.

On the drive back we saw a female moose preparing to cross the street in front of us as we rounded a bend. Sam stopped in time and I attempted to take a photo before she disappeared, but I realized the settings were all wrong just a moment too late. Luckily Adobe Lightroom could still produce this photo of our moose after we adjusted all the settings a lot.

If a moose runs you over and no one is around to hear it...

If a moose runs you over and no one is around to hear it...

Of course that caused us to miss our turn, and as we backtracked we rounded a bend again we saw a beaver! This time I had the camera settings right, though my ability to photograph wildlife out of a car window leaves much to be desired compared to Sam who grabbed the camera as the beaver crossed the road into his side. Don't worry! We had pulled over to the shoulder already and hadn't seen another car for more then 30 minutes.

First time seeing a beaver! That sounded weird.

First time seeing a beaver! That sounded weird.

Once we got back into town we made the rounds to see if there was anywhere that could feed us. We wound up following nicely hand painted billboards to a bar outside of town that also had a kitchen that was still up and running. Phew!

At the end of the meal we went back to the hostel to work on blog posts into the wee hours of the morning. Well, Sam worked. My hands were tied as he used the computer to organize photos for the posts. Instead I read a little and made several cups of camomile tea for each of us in hopes of soothing our throats. By the time we went to bed we sure slept like angels though.

The morning brought sorer throats and a list of annoyances to deal with. Sam was such on the phone with El Paso traffic ticket people again to see if his letter had arrived. On that call he learned that the first person he spoke to had told him to address the letter to the wrong department. The ticket itself didn't have his proper name written on it and the address they had listed for Sam was incorrect because of the officer's illegible handwriting. Sam was given further instructions on how to deal with protesting the ticket, but there was a lot of back and forth.  Not long after that Skype call was finished, the transformer for the hostel blew. Luckily I had already heated the hot water with salt and lemon to gargle and help our throats. To stop the trail of not so fun stuff, we loaded the car and grabbed one of Brownie's famous cinnamon rolls before skipping town with Yellowstone a mere 7 hours away.

*schlime = mucus in German. I bet you couldn't have guessed that. There are so many words like that in German that I bet you'd be fluent by just knowing a few verbs and throwing on a German accent. E.G. schmutzig = dirty, brezel = pretzel, blumen = flowers, antibebepillen = birth control...