July 10th ~ Beartooth Highway (Day 1 of 2)
Tim and I are continuing on our 3.5 month epic RV road trip through the western USA and Canada.
The 68 mile long Beartooth Highway is a National Scenic Byways All-American Road. It runs from Cooke City to Red Lodge, winding in and out of Wyoming and Montana. Charles Kuralt considered it America’s most beautiful drive.
To get to the Beartooth Highway, you can depart Yellowstone National Park through the north-east exit. Crossing the top of Yellowstone took us through the Lamar Valley, where we witnessed large herds of bison far below us, followed the Yellowstone River and admired more of the brilliant wildflowers.
Surprise #1 ~ We had barely departed Yellowstone when the heavens opened up. First it poured, and then much to our surprise, it hailed! The pavement started to turn white. We simply pulled off to the side of the road and waited it out. We sure did feel sorry for the motorcycle riders that were caught out in it, and thought fondly of our motorcycle riding friends back home.
For maybe the first five to ten miles of the Beartooth Highway, honestly I was feeling a little let down. Yes, it was pretty, but so are many other roads we have traveled over the years. I was having a hard time justifying the lofty title it had been bestowed.
Things started to improve when we came to a beautiful waterfall that cascaded in front of two bridges. We hiked to the second bridge to get a closer look.
And then BAM, I had to start eating my words as it became clear why this has long been a favorite of many.
Surprise #2 – The roads were by now very narrow, no shoulder and only an occasional guard rail, with steep drop offs to the canyon below. We were climbing our way steadily to a lung-popping altitude of 11,000 feet and believe me this was the LAST thing I thought I would see…
OK, I’m sure that I have not seen it all, YET, but this one sure was a first.
And finally we reached the summit!
Coming down the backside, as we closed in on the town of Red Lodge we stopped at another scenic overlook, Rock Creek Vista Point, at only 9190 feet in elevation. The view was superb, and the chipmunks were friendly.
We completed the drive into Red Lodge, where we had made reservations at the Red Lodge KOA, just on the outskirts of town.
Then we made an executive decision…
We really did not have a set time-table, and the lighting had been so dismal for photography, that we decided to stay over an extra night and drive the Beartooth Highway AGAIN.
I’m so glad we did.
Please check out our next post to see a couple of my favorite pictures from this trip – so far anyways.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful that I can still be surprised! I mean really, a UNICYCLE in the middle of nowhere, riding by himself to an altitude of 11,000 feet! I’m thinking that is one for the record books.