Saturday, October 17, 2015

Geezers, Wyoming and South Dakota - West Yellowstone to Red Lodge, MT

Day 6

We woke up to cold temperatures and heavy fog so we didn’t have much incentive to get out of bed today.  We finally did get up and around and got on the road by 9:30.  Today’s route would take us across Yellowstone and the scenic Beartooth Highway before finishing the day in Red Lodge, Montana.

The entrance to Yellowstone is just to the east of the town of West Yellowstone and we were very surprised to see long lines of cars at the entrance station.  When we were here last year there was very little traffic, but it was in October, not the middle of September.  We finally made it into Yellowstone and joined a long line of cars slowly moving into the park.  There was some event going on because there were also hundreds of bicyclists on the road.  The scenery was beautiful and the sun was slowly burning off the fog so it wasn’t such a bad place to be in a traffic jam.  We finally made it to the Madison junction where the majority of the cars and bicycles turned south towards Old Faithful, and we turned north. We had one long delay of about fifteen or twenty minutes due to road construction, but some buffalo kept us entertained while we waited so it wasn’t so bad.

At Mammoth Junction we turned east towards the northeast entrance to the Park, which is the start of the Beartooth Highway.  At one point we saw many, many cars parked along the road, which usually means animals so we stopped.  It turns out someone had spotted a wolf, but it was so far away the only people that could see it were the ones with spotting scopes. Driving in Yellowstone is always fascinating and beautiful! 

The fog burned off and it was a beautiful day.
We had to take at least one buffalo picture.
A mini traffic jam when somebody claimed to have seen a wolf, but we couldn't see it.
We continued our drive east and saw more buffalo, but we had seen so many last year we decided not to stop as it was taking longer than anticipated to get across Yellowstone.  Finally we made it across the park and were on the Beartooth Highway, which has been designated an All American Road and is very scenic.  Just outside of Yellowstone we stopped around two for lunch at the Bistro restaurant in the small town of Cooke City.  We had eaten dinner there last year and really enjoyed it.  After lunch it was time to enjoy the drive on the Beartooth Highway to Red Lodge.

We leave Yellowstone and travel on the Beartooth Highway into the Beartooth Mountains.
The west side of the Beartooth Mountains is heavily forested with many lakes and rivers.  We made many stops to take pictures and enjoy the scenery; it is a very beautiful drive.  We were soon above the tree line and we started to see snow along the road.  We finally reached the 10,947 foot Beartooth Pass Summit, so we stopped to look at the vistas.  The temperatures had been in the mid-fifties all day, but at the pass, the temperature had dropped to low forties and it was very windy.  We walked out to the high point and looked out at the amazing view.  We could see the switchbacks of the road we had just driven on below, as well as lakes and beautiful terrain.  As I hiked around, I could really feel the almost 11,000 foot altitude and was easily winded.  We finally were getting pretty cold, so it was time to start our descent down the east side of the Beartooth Mountains.

A beautiful day for our drive on the Beartooth Highway.
The were many lakes and streams along the highway.

We took a short hike to an old highway bridge.

Looking back at the current bridge.

Another of the numerous lakes.

We're almost at the nearly 11,000 foot Beartooth Pass.  Notice the snow poles.
Beartooth Pass

Looking down at the road up.

The east side is much drier and only sparsely forested, but is much steeper.  We followed an amazing set of seemingly endless switchbacks before leveling out for the final fifteen mile drive into Red Lodge, Montana.

We enter Montana.  It's much drier on the east side of the mountains.
We stopped at a viewpoint and had lots of chipmunks posing for us.

The many switchbacks on the way down the east side of the mountains as seen on our GPS.
Looking down at some of the switchbacks.
We reached Red Lodge around 5:30 and checked into our hotel.  Red Lodge was bigger than we thought it would be and had an interesting looking downtown area.  When we got out of the car we were surprised to find it much warmer, and the temperature was now up in the mid-seventies.  We went out to a Chinese restaurant that had gotten good reviews on Trip Advisor and had a pretty good dinner.

Tomorrow we drive to the Canyon Ranch near Big Horn, Wyoming where we have rented a house, and will meet our friends.  Geezer VIII starts tomorrow!

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