August 13th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Road Trip, Travel, Uncategorized

Heading south out of Livingston, MT toward Yellowstone NP – a beautiful drive!

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.

Original entrance to Yellowstone through Gardiner was through 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.

Thermal feature – one of countless natural wonders in Yellowstone

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.

Classic Yellowstone, a classic among America’s National Parks

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!

June 6th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

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Roadtrip!!!

Today I had to go to my storage unit to drop off a few things. While I was out I thought I’m gonna head south and go explore a road I have never been on before. I had thought about it for a few days and finally decided today was the day.

It was a gorgeous drive along a river once I got out of the city. I discovered many forest roads and campgrounds so I now know some good spots to get away to for a few days. I usually don’t stay in many campgrounds – not even in the primitive ones like in the National Forest – but it is a nice change every now and then especially with the abundance of bears in the forests around here. Safety in numbers. Having a hard-sided trailer eliminates many bear problems…but not all of them. You should really carry bear spray if you venture very far from your vehicle and it is not advisable to hike alone. It is the one thing I really don’t care for in the forests here – otherwise it is beautiful.

I got down to the turnoff for Big Sky, which is a resort town that wqas made popular by Montana native Chet Huntley (those of you who are of “a certain age”, shall we say, might remember that name from the famous news team of Huntley/Brinkley on the NBC Evening News in the 1960s). I opted to continue on straight south on US 191 toward the junction of US 287, just north of West Yellowstone.

Just past the intersection is The Soldier’s Chapel. I had to stop for a look and it is a small chapel with an incredibe backdrop.

The Soldier’s Chapel – Big Sky, MT

I was actually surprised the amount of people who just drove right by as I was pulling out of the drive. It is a few hundred yards off the highway so it is somewhat hidden.

Driving on south the landscape started to open up…

Along US 191 south of Big Sky, MT

and then a big surprise…

Rider and I at Yellowstone NP (obviously) – US 191 south of Big Sky, MT

I have now been to Yellowstone seven times (including this trip) and I did not realize I would be within the park boundary. I drove into this sliver of the park on the Montana side and saw a truck stop and then back up – probably a chipmunk, I thought since that is what it usually is. I drove past, not planning to stop, and there it was. It has taken me seven trips to this park and finally I got to see a grizzly bear. And it was a pretty big one, standing out in the meadow eating something. I went ahead and thought I should turn around and have a look since this is the only one I have ever seen. I swung around and it walked into the woods just as I got there so I have no picture. Oh well, I got to see one!

I turned around and resumed my adventure, turning onto US 287 to head back north. I stopped and got a picture of my furry travel companion at a roadside historical marker near Hebgen Lake:

Rider enjoying being out of the truck

The historical marker was telling the story about a lake up ahead that was created by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake. The lake was named Earthquake Lake. Ironically there were two USGS men who were there in that area and they just happened to witness the slide. I definitely want to go back to learn more about this site and area.

Wetlands along US 287 in MT near Earthquake Lake
Wetlands along US 287 in MT near Earthquake Lake
Earthquake Lake along US 287 in Montana
One of the many interpretive signs about Earthquake Lake
A better view of the slide area clearly shows where the mountain slid

I continued on, pulling in to check out some of the campgrounds, historical sites and trailheads I came across along the way. Past the lake the surroundings opened up into that infamous “Big Sky”:

Heading north toward Ennis it was much different scenery than what I had driven through the past several hours as you can tell by the above picture. I have been to Ennis before and even posted about it, along with Virginia City, in an earlier post, but I came in from the north on that trip so this is all still uncharted territory for me. There is Forest access as well as fishing access on world-class waters along the highway, in the Forest, and on BLM land. An abundance of fantastic recreation!

As I went north I saw a few of those Forest access roads and decided to take one. I took a right turn at a place called Cameron, MT and went back into the woods toward Bear Creek Campground. The road was clearly marked, which was good as I have not gotten a Forest map yet.

When I turned I saw a sign about an old schoolhouse ahead seven miles on the right so that was a bonus! The road was in decent shape, and at the seven mile mark there was the school, still on its original site from 1909:

Bear Creek Schoolhouse near Cameron, MT
A peek into a window…and the past

I went on back to the campground and discovered it was a horse campground for pack trips and hunting – the latter definitely not my thing. I turned around and went back the way I came in. I took a couple of other turns on other roads and found some spectacular scenery and got in a bit of off-roading to boot.

Look out!!! Avalanche!!!

I got back down to the highway and finished up my adventure some eight hours and many new places later. It felt good to get out on an all-day drive and see some new things. I am ready to go again!

It’s finally starting to feel more like a retirement now!