Waterfalls and Mountains – Glacier National Park

A visit to Montana’s Glacier National Park had been on our wishlist since long before we began our RV adventure.  Now into our fifth year of full timing, we finally arrived.  Having been here for more than a week now, we can attest to the park’s beauty as awe-inspiring, stunning and dramatic.

Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park east entrance

Within its 1 million acres, Glacier NP is comprised of high alpine meadows, glacially-carved mountain peaks and valleys, hundreds of lakes, cascading waterfalls, glaciers, rolling foothills and unparalleled vistas.  I initially thought the park was named for its existing glaciers, but actually it’s for the work done by earlier glaciers at the conclusion of the last ice age.

Those glaciers left scoured dip valleys, sharp ridges, carved rugged mountains and deep lakes.  Of the 150 or so glaciers known to have existed in the mid-19th century, only about 25 remain.  Global warming models predict that by 2030 – or even sooner – they will be gone as well.

Going to the Sun Mountain
Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, the namesake of the Going-to-the-Sun Road
Jackson Glacier
Jackson Glacier is one of the 25 remaining glaciers

Many hikes begin at trailheads along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the only highway that crosses the park from east to west.  An engineering marvel and National Historic Landmark, the road spans 50 miles and crests at the Continental Divide at Logan Pass (6,646′).

Free shuttles run on the east-west route, with Logan Pass as the transfer point to proceed to either side.  Coming in for a quick visit, folks would probably want to take shuttles or drive their own car (start EARLY) to best see the park in a hurry.

Of course, staying a while and hiking as many of the wonderful trails as possible is really the way to go!

Triple Arches
Triple arches on Going-to-the-Sun Road blend a man-made structure into the surrounding environment
Going to the Sun Road at Sun Rift Gorge
Going-to-the-Sun Road at Sunrift Gorge

St. Mary Area Waterfalls hike

We were camped right outside the east entrance to the park, at Johnson’s of St. Mary RV Park (Steve’s review here).  With dozens of trails to choose from, we decided to warm up with the St. Mary Area Waterfalls hike.  Armed with our latest hiking accessory – bear spray – we tried the park’s shuttle service from the east entrance visitor center at 7AM.  We got off at popular St. Mary Falls and noticed several cars already parked in the small lot.

We followed the moderate trail that descends 200′ to St. Mary Falls and then climbs 250′ to Virginia Falls.  This area was involved in the July, 2015 Reynolds Creek Fire that burned 4,800 acres.  It wiped out all of the trees, but the area is recovering rapidly as evidenced by new growth and the incredible variety of wildflowers – most notably the Alpine Fireweed – blooming in abundance.

Saint Marys Falls Trail
We hiked through burnt stands of fir, spruce and cedar which graced the west end of St. Mary Lake
Alpine Fireweed
Alpine Fireweed

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Saint Mary Falls
St. Mary Falls gushes through a rocky channel, thundering down 50′ feet over two tiers
Unnamed Falls
Unnamed Falls, a quite impressive cascade that drops in a series of four separate tiers
Virginia Falls
Virginia Falls tumbles 100′ down a string of tiers

Since we didn’t even break a sweat on this short 3-mile trek, we added a segment of another trail that continued along the cliffs to descend toward St. Mary Lake.

St Mary's Lake
St. Mary Lake glimmers behind this colorful, but ailing, tree

Eventually we reached a small boat dock (which we actually docked at later in the day) then turned left to Baring Falls, only a couple hundred yards away.

Barring Falls
Baring Falls drops about 25′

From here we climbed back up to the road to end our hike at 5.6 miles, then took the shuttle from Sunrift Gorge back toward the visitor center.

Baring Creek Bridge
Archway of the Sunrift Gorge Bridge
Sun rift Gorge
Sunrift Gorge is a straight steep canyon cut through the bedrock just 200′ off the main road. All of these waterfalls feed into St. Mary Lake, the second largest in the park

Rising Sun Boat Tour

We thought this day in the park was over, but our shuttle driver was very persuasive when she told us it was a perfect day for a boat tour on the lake, if we could get a seat.  When she stopped at the Rising Sun Boat Tour stop, Steve jumped off and got tickets ($26 each), then we had lunch as we waited for our tour.

Rising Sun Boat dock

A family-owned business, the boat tours have been offered at four locations in the park (Many Glacier, Lake McDonald, St. Mary Lake and Two Medicine) since 1938.  The 1.5-hour narrated tour at St Mary’s Lake features classic wooden boats.

Little Chief
Our boat “Little Chief” at Baring Dock, where folks were allowed to check out the falls we had hiked past earlier.  Note the scarred trees in the background

Instead of describing the tour, I’ll let my photos tell the story of of the immense mountains and lake scenery we viewed during our relaxing ride.

St Mary Lake
Diseased trees displaying orange and brown contrasting colors
Wild goose island
Iconic Wild Goose Island, a little spot the initial glacier failed to carve out of the deep lake
Wild Goose Island
A different perspective – Wild Goose Island seen from Going-to-the-Sun Road

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Glacier National Park
Heavy Runner on the far right and Reynolds Mountain to its left
Fullisade Mtn
Fusillade Mountain on the right and Gunsight Mountain on the left
Baring Dock
Crystal clear St. Mary Lake with Dusty Star Mountain in the background
Little Chief Mountain
Little Chief Mountain on the left and About-to-be-a-Dog Mountain on the right
Baring waterfall
A waterfall cascading from Sexton Glacier to Sunrift Gorge, running under the Going-to-the-Sun bridge, through Baring Falls and into the lake
Divide Mountain
Divide Mountain marking the border between the Blackfeet Indian Nation and Glacier NP

East Glacier NP shuttle

The shuttles on the east side of the park run only every 45 minutes – far too long between shuttles when the park is busy.  After the boat tour we waited 40 minutes for the next shuttle, which zoomed right by because it was full.  Now we were getting very unhappy.

We started walking toward the visitor center and our car, but it was a daunting 5-mile walk along the busy highway with no shoulders.  I suggested we wait at the next shuttle stop just up the road, but it went to Logan Pass – the opposite direction.  Steve agreed with me that it was better to take a trip up to Logan Pass and back and see the scenery, than to sit around and stew for another 45 minutes hoping for a shuttle with space.

Rising Sun Dock
An unhappy camper waits for the woefully understaffed shuttle service

It turned out to be a good move.  Enjoying our first scenic views of Logan Pass, we ended up back at our car an hour later.  This is terrible shuttle service – these shuttles should be running every 15-20 minutes like on the west side of the park!  We never took the east side shuttle again, instead driving our car early in the mornings to guarantee parking for our hikes.

And these hikes were just for starters!

 



 

Dams, Waterfalls and Prairies – Great Falls, MT

The city of Great Falls is named after a series of 5 waterfalls flowing downstream on the Missouri River, running through the heart of town.  Within this 15-mile stretch of the river exists an overall elevation change of over 500′.  This dramatic drop in the river gave the Corps of Discovery, led by Lewis and Clark, a hard time on their historical westward expedition in July, 1805.

Great Falls of the Missouri

Going overland around the falls was such a challenge that it took them a month to move everything upstream above the last waterfall – a scant 18-mile journey.  This area is considered the Great Falls portage, the midpoint of their westward journey that symbolizes the most grueling stretch of the expedition to this point.

Portage of the Great Falls Diorama
A diorama of the portage of the Great Falls

We delved into the Portage at Great Falls at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Interpretive Center, viewing the exhibits that chronicle the entire route of the Corps of Discovery.  We watched a 30-minute video that brought to life the experiences of that historic expedition.  It reminded us that we’ve intersected and visited many sections of the Lewis and Clark Trail as we’ve zig-zagged along during our travels .

Missouri River
Missouri River cutting through the city of Great Falls

The 5 waterfalls (Colter, Black Eagle, Ryan, Rainbow and Crooked Falls) made the city of Great Falls “the Electric City”, as each one (except Colter, which is submerged now) sported a hydroelectric dam.  Lewis and Clark could never imagine that the obstacles stalling their journey could turn into projects that would meet the region’s energy needs.

Corp of Discovery
A new member of the Corps of Discovery points to Black Eagle Dam (he’s the one with no rust on him – yet)

Lewis and Clark Trail

On June 13, 1805, Lewis set out in search of the falls of the Missouri River, which the Mandan Indians had alerted him to.  Within one day he not only discovered the Great Falls, but went on to find four more.  On our visit we saw the same waterfalls, similar in appearance except for the dams constructed behind them.

 

Great Falls of Missouri
Great Falls as first seen by Lewis in June, 1805
Great Falls of Missouri
Today the Great Falls of Missouri is the Ryan Dam Great Falls
Ryan Falls Dam
Close-up of the falls below Ryan Dam

The second fall Lewis saw was what he called Crooked Falls:

Crooked Falls Dam
Crooked Falls

During the expedition he saw another, saying: “here the river pitches over a shelving rock, with an edge as regular and straight as if formed by art, without a niche or break in it; the water descends in one even and uninterrupted sheet…”

Rainbow Falls Dam
Rainbow Falls Dam
Rainbow Falls Dam
Close up view of Rainbow Falls

Two miles above Rainbow Falls, Lewis came upon the fifth cataract, 26′ high and nearly 600 yards wide.  He called it simply “upper pitch”, and it was later renamed Black Eagle Falls.

Black Eagle Falls Dam

Black Eagles Falls Dam
Black Eagles Falls Dam

Rivers Edge TrailFollowing the Rivers Edge Trail along the both sides of the Missouri River provided us not only with scenic views of the river, dams and waterfalls, but also a variety of wildlife, grasslands and other attractions.  It traverses the Lewis and Clark National Historic Interpretive Center, the Giant Springs State Park and a protected river frontage lined with commercial and business development.  This is one of those times when we really missed our bikes 😦

Northshore Trail
Verifying our location on the North Shore Trail along the river

Walking along, we came across the historic Giant Springs landmark, also discovered by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805.  It’s one of the largest freshwater springs in the country. I jumped when a rattlesnake rattled next to the path as I walked by, but by the time Steve got there to save me it was gone.  No picture of that snake!

Giant Springs of Montana
Giant Springs, as its name implies, is huge and flows at a rate of 156 million gallons of water per day, at a constant temperature of 54º.  This is really beautiful and shouldn’t be missed!
Great Springs
Giant Springs is crystal clear, and submerged emerald green vegetation shimmers in the sun

Giant Springs feeds into Roe River, which is only 201′ long and was once listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s shortest river.

Roe River
One of the world’s shortest rivers feeds into the longest river in the U.S. the Missouri River

And here’s just a few of the many wildlife along the river.

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl winked at me then went back to sleep
Weasel
Weasel!
White Pelicans
White Pelicans
Bullocks Oriole
Bullocks Oriole

 

Rivers Edge Trail

 

Rivers Edge Trail, Great Falls Montana
Art under the bridge

Just minutes from Great Falls is the First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park, an archaeological site.  Long before the arrival of Lewis and Clark, native people used this site for at least a thousand years.  The term “first people” refers to the indigenous peoples in the area and is preferred over terms like Native American and Indian.

First Buffalo Jump State Park

There are more than 300 buffalo kill sites in Montana, and First People’s Buffalo Jump is one of only three protected buffalo jumps in the state.  It consists of a mile-long sandstone cliff; there are remnants of drive lines on top of the cliff that hold up to 18′ of compacted buffalo remains below.

First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park
Looking up at the mile-long sandstone cliff where the buffalo were driven to their death – very sad

Here we followed the 3-mile loop from the visitor center to the jump.  With a trail guide in hand, we learned about the first people, the prairie and the buffalo jump story.

Buffalo jumps were a way to kill large numbers of the animals at one time without many of the risks associated with a close-proximity ambush.  Once the animals were driven over the cliff and incapacitated, they would be slaughtered.  Their meat, hides, and bones would be used by the hunters to feed and clothe their families, and to make various tools and weapons.

Buffalo Jump
Steve stands where the poor buffalo were driven over the cliffs

The visitor center had exhibits of archaeological evidence showing this place as a well-used hunting and food processing area for hundreds of years.  The kind of bones and artifacts at the foot of the cliff confirm that the bison were killed and at least partially butchered where they fell.

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While there are no more bison roaming around here, we can only imagine what the stampede might have been like.  We did see a few critters during our walk, though:

First Peoples Buffalo Jump
And that concludes our one-week stay at Great Falls, Montana!

 



 

Out and about in Red Lodge, Montana

At an elevation of 5,555′, Red Lodge is set against some of Montana’s highest mountain peaks.  According to tradition, a band of Crow Indians left the main triage and moved west into the foothills of the Beartooth Range many years ago.  They painted their council tepee with red-clay, and this old-time artistry resulted in the name Red Lodge.

Red Lodge Montana
Red Lodge, Montana

Although it’s a destination town as well as a home base for lots year-round activities, Red Lodge retains a laid back atmosphere, and we really liked that.  It’s also a gateway to Yellowstone National Park by way of beautiful Beartooth Scenic Highway, which we had driven just a few days previously.  It’s a quaint historic western town with a bustling main street surrounded by unspoiled beauty.

Broadway Street, Red Lodge Montana
Broadway Street, Red Lodge Montana

We always try to patronize small town businesses.  Here we bought scones at Wild Table and beer at Red Lodge Ales Brewing Co. (although we weren’t crazy about their beers), grabbed a few things at the natural foods store and got some hiking items at another small shop.

We learned that our friends Dave and Faye were not too far from Red Lodge, and we were happy to meet up with them for beer and pizza, and lots of exciting discussion about their upcoming Canada/Alaska adventure.  We’re so envious!

Dave and Faye
Safe travels to Alaska, Dave and Faye

We had fickle weather while here, thunderstorms and hail several afternoons and a storm that shut down the Beartooth Scenic Byway for a couple of days.  Fortunately we had already completed that drive.

On one of those bad weather afternoons, a wind microburst shook Betsy as we heard large tree branches breaking all around us.  Betsy got some scratches on one side, but we felt very fortunate one of those large branches didn’t fall on the roof and cause major damage.

Several of our neighbors came over and we all pitched in to cut up the branches with chain saws and move them into large piles.  It was really a mess that took park personnel a couple of days to clean up.

Perry's Campground
We lucked out – this branch could have caused a lot of damage.  In 20 minutes it was cut up and moved, thanks to good folks pitching in to help!

Our favorite entertainment here involved cute little piglets seven miles south of Red Lodge. For one evening we became small-time gamblers, doling out $10 to bet on “racing” pigs. Turns out the Bear Creek Saloon hosts these races, and also serves one of the best steak dinners we’ve had in quite a while.  After “pigging out” ourselves, we were excited to learn more about the races.

We learned that after a lengthy legal battle their Pig Racing was eventually made legal in House Bill 433 in 1993.  We’re glad, because we had a blast and got a lot of laughs – although our little piggy didn’t win.  The races are dubbed Bear Creek Downs, with proceeds funding local scholarships.  Good stuff, and be sure not to miss this attraction if it’s happening when you’re here.

Pig Races
And their off!
Bear Creek Downs
Coming down the back stretch our red piggy was looking good, but the blue one in front hogged the whole track!

The piglets are all between 5–6 weeks old and are “retired” at 10–12 weeks old.  They’re well-fed and taken care of, and they actually seem to enjoy the race and the attention of everyone urging them on.

Pig Races
Heading to the gates to duke it out.  A face only a mother could love!

Next we were culturally entertained.  We learned about a recently-opened music and art center founded by philanthropists and artists Cathy and Peter Halstead.  We’re not art exhibit types, but the location was intriguing and the price was right – FREE!  So we drove 40 miles on beautiful Hwy 78, which was by itself worth the trip.

The Tippet Rise Art Center is set on 11,500 acres, containing a working cattle and sheep ranch.  With the Beartooth Mountains rising from the west and golden prairies all around, it’s a nice backdrop for the unusual exhibits here.

Tippet Rise Art Center

Since the artwork is distributed throughout the vast and hilly landscape, the guided van tour took over 2 hours to complete.  Although we didn’t “get” the meaning of most of the exhibits, we enjoyed learning how they were created and constructed.

DayDreams by Patrick Dougherty
Daydreams by Patrick Dougherty – made from willows gathered from neighboring ranches and streams
Inverted Portal / Ensamble Studio
Inverted Portal by Ensamble Studio
Beethoven's Quartet / Mark di Suvero
Beethoven’s Quartet by Mark di Suvero
Tippet Rise Art Center
Foreground: Two Discs by Alexander Calder (on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum). Background: Olivier Barn by Alban Bassuet with Laura Viklund and Arup engineering
Tippet Rise Art Center
An unusual Port-a-potty blends in with the landscape

Our guide imparted that just as sculpture and architecture are designed to provoke surprisingly intimate connections with a vast terrain, the simplicity and small scale of the Olivier Barn’s music hall is designed to enfold listeners in the vastness of the musical encounter.  Whatever…

We were packed into very small vans for the tour, and it was difficult getting in and out of them repeatedly.  I realize it was FREE, but just saying that it might be better to pay a few bucks and get more comfortable transportation with some kind of PA so we could actually hear the driver.

Tippet Rise Art Center
Olivier Barn – a cozy all wood barn where concerts are held

And finally, hitting the trails – yeah!

Having been off the hiking trails for a month per doctors orders, I finally eased back into some treks here.  There are many trails near Red Lodge and along the Beartooth Scenic Highway, and for our first outing we chose Parkside Recreational Trail, an easy 3.8-mile gentle and mostly open terrain hike that led us to Greenough Lake.

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Greenough Lake
Greenough Lake
My knees are ready to go!
I think the knee is ready for action!

Since I didn’t feel any pain after that easy jaunt, we went out for a longer trek on the Lake Fort Trail.  We followed it along the creek on a moderate uphill grade in the forest.  Since this was an out and back trail we turned around after 3 miles and stopped for lunch along the creek.

Lake Fork Trail

We spied a waterfall high above on the mountain
We spied a waterfall high above on the mountain
Rock Creek
We love hiking along rushing water
Rock Creek
Lunch with a view, complemented by an awesome soundtrack

While heading back to the car I heard a loud noise and turned to find a young American Dipper demanding food from its hardworking mama.  It was fascinating to watch mama bird bobbing up and down the creek, getting food and stuffing it into the noisy young one’s mouth.  It made my day!

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Our last hike here was on the Face of the Mountain Trail.  At 5.6 miles it was a little shorter than the previous day’s hike, but more difficult with a 1,700′ elevation gain all the way up.

After driving a 3-mile dirt road that was chewed up badly in some spots (our trusty CRV pulled through again), we came to the trailhead on the right.

Face of the mountain trail
The gravel road crosses private land and residences

The first 1.25 miles of the ascent passed through private land consisting of sagebrush, but we were already beginning to get some nice views on the way up.

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The remainder of the hike was on public lands through a mix of sagebrush and forested sections.

Face of the Mountain Trail
From the ridge the view is as far as your eyes can see

We really enjoyed the views of Red Lodge and beyond from atop the ridge on this cloudy but beautiful day.  Although the trail continued through the forest and up the mountain for several more miles, we completed our goal of reaching the ridge and started back. It was a good moderate hike, and the views from the top were worth the effort.

Face of Mountain Trail

The meadows and hillsides were adorned with all kinds of vibrant wildflowers set against thick sage brush.

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Red Lodge Montana
Red Lodge as viewed from our destination on the ridge
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I’m so glad to be back on the trails!

There were many more trails to explore, but it was time to move on.

 



 

An over-the-top experience – Beartooth Scenic Byway

After gallivanting in and around scenic Cody, Wyoming for a week, we packed up and continued north into our 48th state, big sky country – Montana!

Welcome Sign Montana
Hello, state #48!

We chose our first stop at Red Lodge Montana, largely due to Hans and Lisa’s great review of the town and Perry’s Campground (Steve’s review here).  We’re having a good time here, and I’ll give the details in my next post.  But for now let’s take a drive on the famed Beartooth Highway, a National Scenic Byway and All-American Road – which several of you have told us is a must-do.  And you were right!

I was curious what makes a highway a National Scenic Byway and All-American Road.  We have driven many byways (17 out of 32) during our travels, but I didn’t pay much attention to the designation until now.

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According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, to be designated as a National Scenic Byway a road must possess at least one of six intrinsic qualities and be regionally significant: archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic.  To receive an All-American Road designation, a road must possess multiple intrinsic qualities that are nationally significant and have one-of-a-kind features that do not exist elsewhere.  The road or highway must also be considered a “destination unto itself.”  That is, the road must provide an exceptional traveling experience so recognized by travelers that they would make a drive along the highway a primary reason for their trip.

Let’s see if the Beartooth Highway lives up to its designation.  And because it’s a scenic drive, this post is loaded with pictures.  Are you ready?  Then let’s go!

Bear tooth Highway
Beartooth Highway is a stunning 68-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 212

This section of U.S. Highway 212 runs between Red Lodge and Cooke City, Montana, with a large portion running through the northwest corner of Wyoming.  It’s the highest elevation highway in Wyoming (10,947 feet) and Montana (10,350 feet), and the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies.  So high it’s only open mid-May through mid-October. We began our drive from our campground located right on Hwy 212 just 3 miles south of Red Lodge.

Beartooth Highway
A steep and twisty climb up the mountains with several 180 degree turns
Bear tooth Highway
The highway workers here appear to also be rock climbers!
Rock Creek Canyon
Looking down Rock Creek Canyon from a 9,190′ scenic overlook

Passing through lush forest, we continued our steady ascent into the arctic-alpine section of the drive on the Beartooth Plateau.  At about 10,000′ the road climbed above the treeline and crossed the alpine tundra on the plateau.

At this point Steve was no longer a happy driver as I constantly asked him to stop so I could photograph the gorgeous, beautiful wildflowers – and they were just about everywhere!

Hell roaring Plateau

Wildflowers at Beartooth Highway

Wildflowers at Beartooth Highway

The fragile tundra was full of blooms with a plethora of blue, pink, white and yellow wildflowers as far as the eye could see.  To appreciate these tiny flowers I had to drop almost to my belly to get good pictures.

We continued on until we reached the highest point at West Summit, elevation 10,974′.

Bear tooth Plateau
Switchbacks to the summit
Glacial Circue
Even in July the glacial cirque had deep snow around it
Alpine Lake
One of many alpine lakes
Bearstooth
That spire jutting up like a fang?  Beartooth Peak – the namesake of the Beartooth Mountains

From here we had not only superb views of the highest peaks of the mountains, but also an excellent look at the distant North Absaroka Mountains in Wyoming.

West Summit, Beartooth Pass
The gusty winds up here just about blew me over!

Bear tooth Plateau

Bear tooth Pass

Construction of the 68-mile route began in 1931 and was completed in 1936.  Built at the cost of $2.5M, it ranks as one of the country’s major engineering feats.

Bear tooth Highway

We negotiated another series of switchbacks as we descended to the Wyoming section of the highway.

Bear tooth Highway
Island Lake and Beartooth Range

Fortunately the Clay Butte Fire Lookout Tower was open when we arrived.  It sits in windy isolation on a butte at 9811′, in the Wyoming section of the mountains.  A 3-mile drive up a gravel road ended at the structure, which was completed by the men of the CCC in 1942.

Clay Butte Fire Lookout Tower
The Clay Butte Fire Lookout Tower

The friendly volunteer demonstrated how firefighters once used the tower’s original Osborne Fire Finder to pinpoint a fire’s location after spotting it.  Although the instrument is no longer used, this tower is still in operation during fire season.

Clay Butte Fire Lookout tower

Clay Butte Lookout tower
All of the furniture had these insulators to protect folks from lightning strikes – scary!
Bear tooth Mountain Range
Snowcapped Beartooth Mountain Range

He also told us the history of Clay Butte Tower and how it has played a major role in fire detection and suppression in this area over the past 70+ years.

Clay Butte Fire Lookout Tower

While Steve continued to listen I walked around and found a few new friends:

Mountain Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird with a snack
Hoary Marmot
Hi there, Marmot
Pika
Another curious fellow

I admired a lavish array of wildflowers on the grounds and hillsides.  Beautiful!

Alpine forget-me not
Alpine forget-me-not
Yellow Columbine
Yellow Columbine
Absaroka Range
These cowboys had their horses loaded up for what appeared to be a long ride

Beartooth Butte was at the bottom of an inland sea millions of years ago, as evidenced by bands of sandstone on the formation.  Crystal-clear Beartooth Lake at the foot of the Butte is the largest in the area.

Bear tooth Lake
Beartooth Lake, where we enjoyed the view during lunch

Continuing south, we stopped at Lake Creek Falls where waters from the big snowmelt were rushing down the mountain:

Lake Creek Falls
Cascading water at Lake Creek Falls

Pilot and Index peaks seen at a different angle from the highway.  These peaks are very distinguishable from both Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and the Beartooth Highway.

Pilot and Index Peak

The 45th parallel is the latitude line that connects this spot along the highway with the prairies of South Dakota, the north woods of Maine, the wine country of France, the deserts of Mongolia and finally right back to this spot.

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We grabbed a quick snack in Cooke City as the clouds began to gather overhead.  On our way back I caught a glimpse of a Moose by the road, and even though it was beginning to rain I had to capture her pose.  She didn’t look too happy about it!

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It was a fantastic drive, and I think the high-alpine plateau was my favorite part – even though the wind was howling up there.  The spectacular views were among the best we’ve seen on our many driving adventures, and as usual my pictures cannot capture the immensity of it all.  We urge everyone to make this a destination drive, as it definitely lives up to its designation as an All-American Road!