Published: July 16th 2012July 9th 2012
Alarms set for 7.30am today but took a while to get everything in motion. Finally had decent wi-fi so caught up on emails, NRL results, Wimbledon, Tour de France and saw Mark Weber won British Formula 1 Grand Prix as well. Kerry went on Facebook to find her sister Julie was still online at 1AM Aussie Time (go to bed Julie !!).
Had a basic continental breakfast included and had cereal (Frosty Flakes again !) along with a muffin and Minute Maid OJ. Kerry so kindly sliced half a banana to make it more interesting.
It was easy to load the car today as it was parked right out front of our log cabin and we hit the road around 9.30am.
Our first stop was going to be across the border into Montana at a place called Red Lodge. It took us about 1 and half hours to get there and most of the journey we were driving in what looked like moon craters with the big Mountain range to our left. Every once in a while we would come across a farm where they were growing corn and it was so green and fertile which looked so
There was a bit of roadworks going on and one section we needed a pilot driver to navigate through. He had a big sign on the back window saying “Pilot Driver, Follow Me”. Funny thing was he just drove along one side of the roadworks until we reached the stop and go man at the other end and he would do a u-turn and head back the other way. Strange but I guess it keeps him employed.
When we arrived in Red Lodge I was hanging for a coffee but this is no place for Starbucks being a real country little town. The main street was nicely decorated with USA flags where they probably had a 4th July parade a few days back. We went to a little cafe to order take away coffee and it was crap. Once Kerry told me it cost $1.00 I had a small sip and then poured it in the gutter.
Stopped at a gas station for one more cleaning of the windscreen and windows and then headed on to the Beartooth Highway. This is America’s # 1 scenic drive and something I had long dreamt of doing. It climbs
across the mountain range to a peak of 11,947 feet (Australia’s Mt Kosciusko is the highest peak at 7,310). When we started the climb it was a beautiful sunny and warm day around 30 degrees.
I thought this drive would be difficult and a little scary. I read about people struggling with altitude sickness and the volatile nature of the weather where even in summer a snow storm is possible.
As it turned out I had nothing to fear as the drive was remarkably smooth, the road surface in great condition, visibility was excellent, and our car easily handled the inclines which were mostly switchbacks. As we reached the peak there were a few pullouts where we took some happy snaps and Luke & Elise took the chance to play in the snow at the top.
I was surprised at how little snow there was at the top. When I first researched this scenic byway (as they call them here) I read that the top of the drive they have about 30 feet of snow to clear. The road opens Memorial Day weekend at the end of May and is closed again by October.
winter in USA was very mild and snowfall down on normal levels, and since we arrived here they have had drought like weather and heatwave conditions which has removed a lot of the snow. When we reached the peak the temperature had fallen to 16 degrees.
When we came across the Top Of The Mountain shop we pulled in and I bought another T-Shirt with Beartooth Mountain signage and a licence late for Nebraska to add to my growing collection.
When we reached the bottom we arrived in a village called Cooked City which is just outside the North Eastern entrance to Yellowstone National Park. This place won the USA small town competition in 2011. We had lunch here with a nice Tomato Basil Soup, and a Toasted Sandwich with Corned Beef and Cheese (too many slices of Corned Beef for my liking). Kerry had the BLT which looked a better option.
Next we headed back to Wyoming and into the park. It costs $25-00 for a week’s pass and we can use that when we go to Grand Teton later as well. Our first sector was driving through the Lamar Valley. I had read this was
where the wildlife tends to gather so we were on the lookout straight away. It was around 4pm and getting close to the 5pm time our lunch waiter said the animals start to come out from hiding.
Luke was first to spot something. It looked like a black rock but after peering through binoculars he declared it a Buffalo. A few minutes later and Elise has spotted something. It’s a deer. Beauty. We now decide to start recorded our sightings on the Ipad. Next I spot a few more Buffalo.
Soon Luke sees something around the corner. It’s not one but more likely 20 buffalo. He tells Elise to start counting them through the binoculars but as we round the corner the number grows as a massive herd is visible. I suggest we round it as 300.
Next we spot a Coyote close to the road, and then we get up close and personal with a bunch of friendly prairie dogs which are so cute. More Buffalo and we see some Mule Deer as well. We get to the loop road junction and head right towards Mammoth Springs. We pass a neat waterfall and some nice scenery
and a deer nearly jumps into my path but thought better when he saw me. When we got to Mammoth Springs we had a quick look at the springs which are flowing a warm acidic water and making some weird landscape formations.
By now it is 5PM and we are hoping to get to our Hotel in West Yellowstone by around 6.30pm for dinner. We come to a stop as about 5-6 cars in front of us are stopped. We look around and see some gases flowing from the ground next to a creek flowing. We gradually move forward and I say those magic words “It’s a bear. It’s a baby grizzly bear !” How excited was I, it was only about 20 metres from the road and I’m guessing it was 1-2 years old after what we saw in Bear Country. It was walking through the grass and as we pulled up alongside Kerry got some great shots. We are so lucky to get this experience I am floating on air for a while.
A few kilometres down the road and another stoppage. This one looks bigger so we start thinking it might be a Black Bear
or even several. Everyone is getting out of their cars and running down the road. What is up there ? Luke offers to check it out. Armed with the SLR off he goes. About 5 minutes later he comes back to tell us there is an accident up the road 6 miles. Great ! We are stuck for 45 minutes going nowhere.
Eventually we start moving and we find out what the problem actually was. A herd of Buffalo were on the road and the Park Ranger had to stop traffic to let them move from one meadow to another meadow. I’m guessing there was a couple of hundred Buffalo and about 40 or more baby buffalo calves running around.
As we drove on past them thew the traffic was backed up where they came from for miles and miles. It must have been at least 5 miles they had taken over the road between meadows.
We get near the Western exit of the park and stop again. It’s another Buffalo but on his own causing havoc. The ranger escorts him off the side of the road near a stream and we get through. Finally out of
the park at 8.15pm. I have been driving since 9.30am so I am hungry and very thirsty.
Fortunately our Hotel the 3 Bears Cottage is only about 1km from the park’s entrance and restaurant is open so of we go. I ordered Fettucince Carbonara but it came with no seafood ! Just Pasta and sauce so I has the Soup / Salad combo as well. The 3 meat chilli soup was awesome. I don’t know what the meats were but I’m guessing their was beef, pork and buffalo. After today’s traffic I think they should just stick with Buffalo Soup. Only kidding ! I had a local beer Old Faithfull Ale which was just OK.
Kerry had the same main meal but was smart enough to order some prawns as well ($4.75 for 4 prawns ! (we are a long way from the ocean I guess). A Pina Collada as well and Elise had a Virgin Dacquiri.
Afterwards we checked in to our room which is quaint. I upload the photo’s Kerry has taken during our long travels today to find she has taken over 150 photo’s today. Thank god for the digital age !
There are more photos below