Monday, June 13, 2011

Some More Beartooth

One more look at the view heading down the final hill leading to Red Lodge taken this past weekend when LC, James and I helped to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Beartooth Highway...........

After gorging on a community bar-b-cue of hamburgers, pulled pork, baked beans, coleslaw and chocolate chip cookies my Mountain Boy, who magically always turns into an 18 year old when we find ourselves in the mountains, asked me if I wanted to ride the Beartooth.
That was no small suggestion.
We had already traveled from Cody, made a brief pit stop in Belfry, taken much time wandering through Red Lodge.
The Beartooth had been open for less than a week and it was a long winding drive high into the mountains before hitting the Chief Joseph Highway short of Cooke City and heading home to Cody.
Whew!  It was going to be a long day.
But yes...........I absolutely wanted to see this place.
Because I always turn 18 years old as well when we find ourselves in the mountains............

A map of our route:
As I am writing this entry I am with great interest also watching the GOP debate on CNN.
My Mountain Boy just asked my dog who she would vote for as the Republican candidate.
According to LC Jamie has already decided that Tim Pawlenty would be her choice.
Because his name has "paw" in it.
This crazy man makes me laugh.............
Some pictures taken not too far outside of Red Lodge.
The quiet highway was filled with multiple opportunities to pull off and take some time to enjoy scenes of the beautiful streams and mountains.
Up ahead we could see snow touched mountains and deep canyons.
I had no idea what we were headed into, and that the warm and sunny day and all the signs of the impending Summer would soon be gone............ 
Within twenty minutes of leaving the beautiful and small isolated mountain town of Red Lodge we began to climb.
The road became steep and winding with literally switchback after switchback after switchback.
We were heading deeper into the mountains...............
This highway contained everything I am a sucker for - "Christmas trees," the endless wild and rugged and rough landscape of untamed mountains, streams.
It was unspeakably wonderfully gorgeous...............
We pulled into a small parking lot while I took some pictures and watched as young snow boarders geared up to head into the snow.
There were already a couple of downhill skiers making their way down this hill............
Still climbing, still maneuvering continual switchbacks, we pulled into a rest area.............
The last time LC and I were standing at the overlook at Dead Indian Pass on a warm, windy and sunny morning I took pictures of little...........somethings.
Chipmunks maybe?
I am not certain, but on that day I was more than a little surprised that such small and seemingly fragile animals could exist in such an inhospitable environment.
Dead Indian Pass is incredibly windy and incredibly freezing for much of the year, and yet these little things survive.
Not only survive, but also seem to thrive.
We also saw these small active hyper-active creatures at the rest area high in the mountains along the route of the Beartooth Highway..............
By this time in our drive (and still in the early stages of the trip) we had climbed enough that there were now no more rivers or streams.
There was increasing amounts of snow visible in the mountains.
But the most dominant scene was decreasing numbers of trees and increasing amount of dirt and rock.
We were soon reaching altitudes and conditions where nothing could grow any longer.
As we continued further we saw many signs of old rock slides, and we also saw many cable net barriers that had been installed in attempts to contain the slides.
Driving further I looked out over the mountains at the huge amount of rock.
And then when we eventually climbed high enough and the world became nothing but white, I finally understood why road crews must fight so continually to keep this road open to the public.
It must be a huge job.............
A surprising and completely unexpected peace sign............
My Mountain Boy took a picture of this family from California traveling on two bikes.
We talked to them for a good while about Cody, and may actually have talked them into visiting the Cody Rodeo last night..............
One more touring bike.
We passed many motorcycles during this trip.
I have spent a lot of time on bikes in the past, and empathized with the many we passed in the snow.
It was very very windy and very very cold.
Reading about snow covered roads through the pass in June, and feeling just how cold it actually was, were two different things.
It was truly a brand new experience for both LC and I.............
As per LC's request I posted my "snow pictures" in the blog post entitled Beartooth Highway.
The experience can only be described as extraordinary:

After wandering in a magical, white, snowbound universe of switchbacks for a seemingly long time we finally dropped down far enough to begin to see life again.
Tall and majestic and so-very-beautiful pine trees poking through the snow on the back side (and Wyoming side) of the highway...........
A look-out fire tower high in the mountains.
If you look on the map there are campgrounds and lakes and streams throughout this drive.
All of them were buried in snow............
Continuing to drop down.............
Lake Creek Falls............
Not far past the falls we turned off the Beartooth Highway and turned onto the Chief Joseph Highway taking the scenic route home to Cody.
Throughout our entire journey we saw only one sign of wildlife and that was the little chipmunk thingys at the rest stop high in the mountains.
There was no chance for any wildlife viewing throughout our snowy trip - both the terrain and the climate precluded growth of either plant or animal.
As we were traveling Chief Joseph I saw this animal standing right by the side of the highway preparing to cross over the road.
At first I thought it was a large deer, and then as we closed in on the animal realized that it was in fact an elk.
 Thankfully he did not cross the highway but turned and ran in the opposite direction...........
Mountain scenes late in the day on the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway.
It is a beautiful beautiful place.
But there is something about the light in the late afternoon and early evening that make it even more breath-taking.
51 year old women like to feel like they are 18 sometimes............
Jamie visiting a new sculpture at Dead Indian Pass..............
Just as Beartooth Highway is filled with switchbacks, Chief Joseph Highway also has its fair share of the same.
A hugely interesting, beautiful, climb up and down the valleys leading through the mountains and eventually home...........

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.........Unknown

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