Saturday, September 3, 2011

On Top of the World

Day 6: Sept. 1, 2011

I really don’t have a lot to write today--instead I should just upload the 200 or so photos I took, to tell the story. We left our campground at Red Lodge and almost immediately began to climb the mountains via the Beartooth Highway, a road called “the most scenic in America” by Charles Kurault. We were oohing and ahhhing constantly, going up and up, negotiating switchback after switchback.
At about 8,500 feet, we were at the level of the clouds which were drifting between the mountains.
We began to see small glacier remnants, and soon we were able to get out and walk around on them, to Roxy’s delight. She even took a taste of one (she thinks snow is doggie ice cream.) I just kept snapping photos constantly, and trying not to get too frightened as we drove along some very curvy, not really wide roads.

It was COLD up there, too-- we were already dressed in jeans and sweatshirts but I changed to my fleece-lined sweatshirt at some point. The wind blew, and our hands were cold, but we hardly noticed. The scenery was simply too spectacular.
The official height of the Beartooth Pass is given as 10,947 feet, but our gps calculated it over 11,000 feet, as you can see from the photo. Mo did GREAT! The drive took us about 3.5 hours (to cover about 65 miles), because we stopped so often. Plus of course, the switchbacks were 20mph.
We finally “came down” into Cooke City, where we stopped for some lunch. The altitude was getting to me a little bit and I was feeling very tired. I really wanted a nap, but Cooke City was not the place--it was a single road with businesses catering to tourists, perhaps all of one mile long. But only 6 or so miles down the road, we officially passed the entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

The road was beautiful, with Soda Butte Creek running along next to it. We found a level pull-out next to the creek, stopped, and made ourselves some hot tea. Then I pulled out the bed and took a nap for about 45 minutes, while Joe read his book. It was the perfect “rest stop”.

At about 3:30pm or thereabouts, we started driving again. Almost immediately we were into the Lamar Valley looking for the wildlife which is supposed to be visible. The very first animal we saw was this lone bison, walking up the road toward us!
Next we saw a small group of pronghorn antelope….
And then a large herd of bison at the very side of the road, causing a happy traffic jam of eager photographers.
Leaving the Lamar Valley, we crossed the Yellowstone River….
And then arrived at Tower Junction, and headed south on the main Park Loop. We enjoyed the incredible vistas of the valley as we climbed higher again, and then going around to the other side of the mountain, were treated to a landscape of forests. Between Tower Junction and Tower Fall was the canyon carved by the Yellowstone River. It is quite impressively deep, and the walls were very interesting.

Then we arrived at Tower Fall and pulled into the crowded parking lot. We joined a lot of people who stopped not just for the view, but to pick up sundries and snacks at one of the Yellowstone General Stores. It was 5pm--Cookie Time . We spent a short time at Tower Fall, which was really beautiful, before continuing on our way.

After passing another lone bison walking toward us on the other side of the road, and a traffic jam caused by some elk (I saw one of them--he was huge!-- but there was no place safe for us to pull off and stop), we finally arrived at Canyon Village. There are all kinds of things here, including an interpretive center, an amphitheater, a lodge, store, post office, gas station and car repair, etc. But most important to us was the campground, where I’d made reservations in advance. (These, btw, turned out not to be necessary--all but the three smallest campgrounds in the park had vacancies when we arrived.) We found our campsite and stopped for the day at about 6:00 or so, very early for us! We decided to stay here and not go back to see anything else, or to attend the ranger talk. We are hoping to go to sleep early--despite our midday rest, we are both tired and decided we had earned a break. There is time tomorrow for lots more adventures.


Aimee said...

This IS sensational. This is someplace I would love to see, too. Of course, *I* would fly there and then rent a car. *grin* Truly spectacular - thanks for sharing the pics!

Tom M said...

The pictures are great.
Some where you mentioned the frig. It was always a problem for us. The wind would always blow out the pilot light.
We pulled a 20 foot trailer with a station wagon on one trip up and down the switch backs.