carocali (carocali) wrote,

The road not travelled...

Okay, this is unedited, so I'm sorry for the mistakes.  We wanted to get on the road and I fell asleep last night , so I didn't get to review it.

Also, you can access the pictures through the link from day 3 (I think) on my kodak account.  Yesterday's pictures are called Chief Joseph, the day before is Lewis and Clark.  Hope that helps!

Off to Yellowstone - in the snow!




October 4, 2007


Red Lodge is a quaint little town on the outskirts of Bear Tooth Highway.  After deciding against the Bear Tooth Inn (which had an outdoor hot tub and no other occupants) last evening, we ended up at the Pollard Hotel in the downtown area.  While we didn’t have the lovely wilderness at our feet (and a strange little man who ran the whole inn by himself) we did have a charming little room that’s in the “1000 places to see before you die.”  We got up and were treated to a complimentary breakfast (and I mean a real breakfast, not the crappy continental crap you get at a Super 8) as part of the package. 


As we savored our delicious meal, we overheard a couple talking about Bear Tooth Highway.  It was, in fact, closed – probably for the season – because they got three feet of snow last night!  We bitch and complain if we get three inches back home, but this community takes it for what it is and moves along. 


I butted into the conversation about the overpass and they started telling us what their plans were for the next few days.  Joy and Terry, the couple we met, were in from Denver to see the BT Hwy and were sorely disappointed to hear it was closed.  The four of us started talking, and Terry showed Kathy an alternate route to Yellowstone (our next stop) through highway 72 and onto Chief Joseph Scenic Highway.  He said it was really spectacular in itself and that it was a better alternative than what we had planned.  We chatted them up a little more and thanked them for their assistance.


Red Lodge is very cute, so we wandered in and out of the shops before we headed from town.  Joy and Terry kept hanging around and we ran into them at every turn.  We figure we’ll probably see them hanging around Yellowstone as well tomorrow and poor Terry will be dragged to another spot that Joy wants to go.  Forty years of marriage will do that to you, I guess.


We finally hit the road after filling our tank (there’s not exactly gas stations along the way, so that would’ve been bad had we forgotten to do so) and ran immediately into construction.  Now, they don’t do construction like they do in Chicago; this is a bunch of guys and gals, a lot of big trucks and a one lane highway that shares the traffic.  We pulled up to a light and were told we had to wait for the other traffic to go through – about 5 to 10 minutes.  The signal gal came over and Kathy offered her a Diet Pepsi.  She was elated that someone paid her attention.  The light finally turned and we were off, making our way over the brown dirt filled with rocks and potholes.  They play ‘follow the leader’ with a construction vehicle and that snakes in and out of the construction, dodging the bobcats and the workers (hopefully).  When we safely made it through the zone, he zipped around to lead the traffic the other way.  There are certainly worse jobs than this, and the scenery ain’t too bad either.


The road held towering mountains along the way that were obscured from view.  The puffs of clouds hovered as we sped past, yet towards them.  They never seemed to go away, following us like this nasty weather pattern.  One mountain reminded me of the Prudential rock, littered with salt and pepper along the top as accent.  The dark blues and purples were majestic as we drove; the meadows housing a few sporadic trees as embellishment.


We saw the sign for Chief Joseph Scenic Highway and made our way up the mountains.  You don’t realize how high you really are until your ears start popping. We climbed up and turned a corner to find a bright red rock formation in the foreground of the desolate mountains being hidden away from us.  The amber waves held a herd of cattle that munched lazily, unaware of being watched, or caring.  More turns, different angles, breath-taking beauty that would have been emphasized if the sky were blue (as Kathy mentions every so often). 


There is a dullness to this landscape that I’m sure isn’t really there.  Everything is muted to an unfair level as we trolley through.  Rain, and now snow, has been following us and plaguing our pictures, but to be honest, what we are capturing is just as beautiful.  While I’d certainly love to see something other than gray (and I wouldn’t mind WARM) there is a pull to this landscape. It seems lonely; it’s almost sad to see the matted world of color that is ready to shine through being forced to sit idly by and let the weather have all the fun.  Even the big sky around the bend from the red plateau has a haze around it that stops the view.


So we needed a little laughter; something to brighten our day, since the sun has turned her back on us.  Up and around the bend we go, only to be stopped by lounging cows in the road.  Remember, I mentioned the law about hitting someone’s cow?  This is how it happens.  This is an open range through this whole freaking highway and the cattle could care less if you are inconvenienced.  I swear, one was looking at us like DeNiro in Taxi Driver, almost taking a step forward as we dared to pass.  I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything like it before.


We crawled through the area, unwilling to shell out cash for an injury to a steer and got to the next leg of the highway up to Dead Indian Pass.  This was one of the things that Terry told us to make sure we stopped to see.  From this vantage point, you can see the complexity of the mountain highway as it twists and turns its way through the countryside.  Rock formations and greenery are abundant as the tourists stop to click their one shot and move along.  I, however, was not only able to spend some time freezing my ass off at the top of this mountain while it snowed, but was assaulted by a chipmunk that had no fear.  Many a person must have given this little guy some grub as he was right in my face as I bent to take a picture.  He was very cute.


On our way through the scenic views we found gorges (that were gorgeous) and streams, bright orange trees that framed the mountains and mystic mountains veiled in the thick white vapor.  The end of the scenic highway approached and we did actually hit a small portion of the Bear Tooth, stopping to see the magnificent mountains we’d been chasing with an army of erect pine in front of it. 


The day was getting on, and the light was fading, so my pictures were not as clear as I’d hoped, but we could tell we were up pretty high when we hiked back up about 100 feet and we were both huffing for air.  It was really breath-taking; I mean literally!  I was glad when Kathy made the comment about the thin air and not pointing out how incredibly out of shape I am.


More construction hit us in Cooke City where we had planned to stay.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be a few hotels (with wifi!), a few saloons and amazing scenery, but not enough to keep us there.  We decided to continue on through Yellowstone and on to Gardiner, MT.


The drive started as mostly forest (Gallatin on one side and Shoshone in the other state) and then we officially hit Yellowstone.  We were looking for Yogi Bear, until Kathy reminded me that was Jellystone.  We were told that ‘wildlife is plentiful’ in Yellowstone, but we were told the same thing in Glacier where we saw two birds and a squirrel, so we weren’t holding our breath.  Not five minutes into the park, a Bison was standing peacefully on the side of the road eating the day’s fare. He was immense!  We pulled over and starting snapping pictures of him.  My camera doesn’t like when it gets dark, so mine all ended up blurry.  I figured I’d get out of the car (standing on MY side so as not to disturb him) and I took a full scenery shot.  That worked for the most part, but I’m sure Kathy will have some amazing shots.  We were so excited.


Then we spied some deer trotting along, and the buck actually posed for Kathy.  She took the picture, then he left!  It was awesome – truly a model in the deer world.  More bison grazing along the way stopped us again, and more deer.  It just became second nature this time, especially when the herds and herds of Bison are in the distance.  It’s beautiful to see them in a natural habitat, but there is a tameness about them as they have gotten used to people all this time.  It’s like we’re not even there; they just go about their business and ignore us.


We hit an area called the Scorched Land where there was a fire back in the 80’s.  It looks barren and dark.  I still need to read the information on it, but the area just doesn’t seem to be recovering like the rest of the fires we’ve seen along the way.  As an area catches fire, it burns our, renews and growth peeks out from the land.  It’s beautiful to see how nature provides for itself, even when we interfere.  But this area has little life, except for the three deer that walked out in front of us.  Still, its an incredible site.


The car took us to our final destination through Mammoth Hot Springs where downtown was hoppin – with elk!  They take over the town – literally!  If you wanted to mail something at the post office, you’d have to make a strategic path through elk dung all the way.  The bull elk was stunning; he had at least 18 points on his rack, and a herd of probably fifteen plus females.  He bugled for his gals, telling them whatever he needed to with that eerie guttural tone and we decided to be on our way, not wanting to mess with him.


Passing through the Roosevelt Arch as we exited Yellowstone, we found a cheap little motel along the river and hunkered in for the evening.



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