Monday, May 23, 2011

Cooke City

This mountain range followed us for miles and we stopped continually to take pictures of them.
There was no more high desert plains.
No more cacti and endless and treeless and waterless terrain.
We were truly in the mountains.
The place of snow and jagged peaks and pine trees and lakes and rivers.
I was in love.
I was in love with this place............
The only place yesterday that we saw horses (although there are many signs along the highway warning motorists to watch for horse riders).
As we continued closer to Cooke City the number of ranches increased.
We were still another 30 minutes or so from the town we had set out to see a few hours before, but there were increasing numbers of ranch signs, camp grounds and state park entrances.
This place was gorgeous, peaceful, wild and untamed, isolated.
We eagerly continued on knowing that we were close to our destination.............
We had been seeing increasing amounts of snow in the mountains for a while but were still both surprised when we (seemingly very abruptly) came to this.
The highway was completely clear and it was obvious that the heavy snow piled along both sides of the road was old snow.  It did not look as though it had snowed here in many weeks.
Still.........if there was this much old snow so close to the end of May I had to wonder just how much snow this area actually received each Winter............
I stood outside the truck for a few minutes taking these pictures, all the while realizing that it was not cold at all.
Again, I continued to wonder how much snow had fallen this winter if this much snow was still standing.........
After not seeing any real signs of civilization for quite a few hours we were both surprised to unexpectedly come across this small community buried in snow.
Small front end loaders were busily unburying the cottages and lodges, I guess in anticipation of the upcoming summer season.
How weird and strange and cool to see machines moving the snow so they could prepare their facilities for the onslaught of soon-to-arrive tourists...........
If you Map Quest the route from Cody to Cooke City the Internet says that it is a 75 mile trip that takes about 1.5 hours.
It may be a 75 mile trip but with all the stops and picture taking we were compelled to do, the trip actually took us almost four hours.
Such is a scenic drive.  Such is a drive in the mountains.
Here is a link to Cooke City:
A very small and isolated town located in the mountains of Montana, and only four miles from the North East Gate of Yellowstone National Park.
My first impression confirmed exactly that.
And that it was a sweet and beautiful little town.  
We had skipped breakfast and eaten only snacks since we left Cody so first order of business was to get something to eat.
We drove down to the end of the small town (which took only a couple of minutes), turned the truck around and pulled it into a parking spot outside a bar slash burger joint.
Jamie suddenly became very animated as she always does when she sees another dog, we looked to our left and saw this big and friendly guy comfortably sitting in the back of the four-wheeler.............
We walked into the Miners Saloon, nodded to the one customer sitting at the bar watching sports and then feeling like total tourists ordered two burgers.
As we waited for our burgers LC and I wandered around the bar that was filled with old mining tools and other old fashioned items from life in the mountains way-back-when..........
In an adjoining room two pool tables (complete with pictures of sexy girl/beer pictures pasted to the ceiling above the tables), a band stage and small dance floor.
The more I walked around this bar the more I liked it.
It reminded me of the restaurant and bar in that old TV show about Alaska called Northern Exposure.
A quiet place on a Sunday afternoon but I could easily imagine it being a rowdy and very fun place on a Saturday night in the middle of winter...........
My Mountain Boy asked how much snow was typical in Cooke City and was told 500 inches a year.
We knew that the highway is closed much of the winter and that snow mobiles and snow mobile trails are both extensive and extensively used as the primary mode of transportation throughout the Winter.
When I asked the bartender how often the town was completely cutoff and unable to get either people or supplies in and out of town he laughed.
"We're pretty much isolated all year 'round"
Folks in town make runs to Bozeman (through the north eastern most section of the park) when they want to go on a serious shopping trip.
Real estate (as it is close to every entrance of Yellowstone) is both expensive and hard to find............
On the wall next to the bar.  Too cute.........
Two huge burgers and fries with Cokes for $15...........
Old mining cart and wheel located right outside the bar..........
Our neighbor had suggested that after hitting Cooke City we head back along the Beartooth Highway to Red Lodge (and then circling down to Belfry Montana and back to Cody).
We considered it while we were heading up through the mountains but had taken much longer than expected to get to Cooke City.
By the time we finished burgers and walked back outside into the snow-filled street, and after seeing this sign showing 61 miles to Red Lodge (with more multiple switchbacks) we decided that Red Lodge would have to wait for another day..........
A lovely small isolated town...........
It was 3pm.
LC suggested that we drive the four miles to the North East Entrance to Yellowstone Park, check on the national park access card he had to see if it was accepted at Yellowstone and then head for home.
We drove the four miles, and when we arrived at the gate showed the shiny young kid wearing a national park uniform and Smokey hat LC's pass.
The park attendant looked at the card, smiled at us, welcomed us to Yellowstone and motioned us through the gate.
We drove through the gate, quickly realized that there was no place to turn around and (on the spur of the moment) decided that we would spend some time driving through part of Yellowstone before heading for home.
Since we were already there............

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