Monday, May 23, 2011

Chief Joseph Scenic Highway - Part 1

Yesterday was a very long but also very wonderful day for me, my Mountain Boy and my Jamie dog.
The plan was to drive the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway to Cooke City in Montana:
Even though the weather forecast called for rain in the afternoon the morning was warm and sunny and very beautiful, and both LC and I really wanted to explore in the mountains.
We resolved to just take the day as it came.
If it rained it rained.  
After too-many-stops before leaving Cody we had money and gas and snacks and ammunition and hit the road at 9:45am heading for the Chief Joseph and making our way to Cooke City.
Uncomfortably late for a long and scenic mountain drive but again, in exploration mode we were in the mood to just go where we had the opportunity to go regardless of the weather and time. 
After traveling for only 20 minutes we turned onto the byway and started to climb almost immediately. 
It was a gorgeous morning and Cooke City was a long drive, but it is almost impossible to not stop frequently along the way.
This drive is too beautiful, too panoramic, and in the last six weeks or so since our last trip up this way has gotten even greener and even more stunning.
I love this drive.
It is steep and winding and more gorgeous than I can describe...........
A lot of climbing still to go before we lost Heart Mountain completely.........
The early part of the 7% continuous climb on the Chief Joseph Highway is made up of interesting and beautiful red rock formations, wide open ranch land, snow covered mountains in the distance and few trees..........
The Beartooth Mountains looking like a mirage in the distance...........
I have said a number of times in this blog that Juneau Alaska was the most beautiful place I had ever lived.
I can't say that anymore.
Wyoming (at least in the portion we now live in) is a very beautiful and extremely diverse land.
There are many parts that I have seen that are equally as beautiful as Juneau..........
These were the pictures that I took of the first section of the Chief Joseph Highway on April 1 when we were last up this way:
When we arrived at Dead Indian Pass in April the weather was absolutely freezing.
Gale force winds, freezing temperatures that did not exist back at 5100 feet in Cody, and much snow and ice.
Yesterday it was also windy, though not as windy as in April.  Still cold and still with snow.
But it was Spring in the mountains and yesterday Spring was visible in all directions in the mountains..........
On the rocks adjacent to the overlook we watched as a new family of.....somethings......chipmunks??  danced and played and scurried...........
I made a few attempts to get pictures of them while they ran and darted quickly in and out of rock crevices.
Finally I caught up with one of them when he briefly rested in one place.
Sweet little creatures playing in a very precarious and rugged place..........
The overlook at Dead Indian Pass was where we turned around during our last visit.
Today we traveled much further.
But I took many pictures before we left.
Looking out over forever on a clear day.............
Heading down the back side of Dead Indian Pass the highway looked like this.
Seemingly non-stop and continuous switchbacks.
We dropped down a few thousand feet and then climbed again.
And then dropped and then climbed some more.
A beautiful drive with panoramic views and continual overlooks where we could pull off to take pictures.
We were traveling slowly.
It is difficult to make progress when you stop every five minutes to photograph one more beautiful scene.
But that was OK.
That was the whole point of the day............
I saw this creek and asked LC to pull off the highway so I could take some pictures of it.
Unexpectedly we pulled into a small campground in the middle of nowhere...........
All along the highway were signs reminding us that we were in bear country.
And right now in Cody there are signs outside seemingly every store letting people know that they sell bear spray.
Walgreen's sells it.  So does K-mart and Wal-mart and convenience stores and gas stations and many tourist stores and outdoor stores.
There is no doubt that this is bear country.
There were also many signs at the campground reminding people of this fact - including the electric fence that completely surrounded the campground, the bear paw signs designating camp sites, and the bear proof food storage containers also found at every site............
Directly across the road from the campground is a trail head.
It goes high into the mountains and right at the trail head is a board containing the usual trail head information.
A trail map, information reminding people that they are heading into bear country, emergency contact information, pack it in pack it out info, and also information about this being not only bear but also wolf country.
I took this picture of the shot up wolf sign. 
I am not sure if it was shot up because all country people (in all parts of the country) seem to enjoy using signs for target practice, or if this is an indication of the resentment that every Wyoming resident I have talked to feels towards the uncontrolled state wolf population.
There are currently no wolf hunts allowed in the state (even though there are current legislative attempts to change that) and the wolves are having very adverse affects on farm animals in the state.
I said at the start of this blog that LC and Jamie and I had a very long but also very great day yesterday.
Lots of pictures.  Lots of good times.  Lots of good memories.
More blogs on this day to follow..........

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