Another day…another road trip.
I got another late start today, but it kind of hit me at the last minute to go for a drive late this morning. Actually, that is usually the case so I can’t lie. I could not sit in the trailer again. The fires are picking up and the air has gotten worse. I needed to get away and see some scenery.
I wasn’t sure where yet when I started the truck but I ended up stopping a few miles down the road and looked at the atlas before I got to the highway. I decided to go east this time. I thought about going to Billings and then taking the scenic route back through the central part of the state. I needed to be back by a 6:30 P.M. or so. As I drove along eastbound on I-90 I thought about it more and that meant going to Billings plus the route back might be a hurried trip to get back in time so I stopped in Livingston to reassess my “plan”.
I decided, instead, to go south and do the northern road in Yellowstone NP, entering through Gardiner and exiting through West Yellowstone, then heading north on 191 the way I have driven several times lately. I decided on this route because of time constraints plus it is usually the least busy part of the park. It is also a great drive with mountains, meadows and the incredible terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs.
I went through the Gardiner entrance, which is the classic entrance with the arch.
I remember man years ago driving through this arch to go in and out of the park, but they have re-routed the road now and it is off to the side. I, for one, think this should have been left alone. For one, it was the traditional, original entrance. It is history; leave it the hell alone. If memory serves me right, it looks to me like they re-routed the road to go through more downtown shopping than it used to since you have to go around a loop to now go through it. This should have never been allowed to happen.
The area around Mammoth encompasses not only the terrace hot springs, but also lots of touristy shopping, food, and the Park HQ. It was very busy, but honestly I think I have seen it busier in the past. Needless to say I did not stop though. Not going into crowds for one, but I am just wanting scenery from the privacy and socially-distant interior of my truck; I have done all this stuff a time or two in the past anyway.
It’s amazing how when you drive in this entrance you start going up, then down. It has not been that long ago that they realized that the park is actually a giant caldera of an ancient volcano.
That means when you go up and them come back down you have actually entered the volcano. As you drive along you will see signs for various natural and thermal features and to stay on the trail or you can die. Even this lake had a small fumarole on the right side of it (but it is out of camera range):
I did not see many animals along the way. Other than touristas, I only saw one deer and a few bighorn sheep and that was about it. No bear, moose, antelope or even bison.
There are a lot of beautiful meadows in Yellowstone, mountains, and rivers along with the animals and geysers.
The trip north out of West Yellowstone is one to really avoid right now. There are MANY miles of road construction going on along the roads in the extreme NW corner of the park on 191. I took 191 this time because I was going to make a stop along the way but it took me about THREE HOURS just to get through the construction so I could not make the stop I wanted to make after all.
A better alternative (at least for now) is to go 287 through Hebgen Lake area and Earthquake Lake toward Ennis. I wrote about this route a few months ago and it is quite spectacular. In fact, it really is a much more beautiful, varied, and interesting drive than 191; I would recommend this route as opposed to 191, which goes on the outskirts of Big Sky and follows a river through the canyons – pretty but all the same. Whenever I am down that way I will take the 287 route from now on.
So that was today’s adventure. Not too far away and plenty of scenery. There were a lot of people out, but not the usual Yellowstone craziness.
See you next time!