With a couple of short trips under our belts after getting our scooter back, we decided we needed a long day. A drive on the Bear Tooth Highway to Red Lodge seemed just the ticket. We would pass multiple state boundaries: ID>WY>MT>WY>MT>WY>MT>WY>ID (I think we got them all in!) We prepared well and left early because this would be our longest scooter day yet!
Much of the drive was very familiar, so the first two hours through the park were routine. We knew what rest stops we would use for breaks not too many pictures were taken. Driving through Ice Box Canyon, however we spotted another nest. We zoomed in with the camera and this may be a golden eagle nest. We are amateurs and can't confirm, but they weren't bald eagles, and we are pretty sure they weren't osprey.
This is our favorite part of the park. We can never get enough of its beauty.
A little farther down the road we made a quick stop near some cliffs where we thought we might find some bighorn sheep. We pulled out the binoculars and scope and searched in vain. It seems there are quite a few boulders the color of bighorn sheep, but we could not find boulders that had horns or moved. It was probably too warm here.
We drove on in to Cooke City and had luch at our favorite Cafe in the area. Everything is made from scratch - even the burger buns are baked each morning. Susan had a simple burger and Trey had the Chicken Mozzerella Pesto Burger (he is a bit more complicated.) We ate some fruit for dessert and continued on our way. There wan't much time to dawdle.
Just Past Cooke City, we passed a sign that said "Open Range." We've driven through areas like this before and know to watch for cattle. They were everywhere - almost as thick as Bison in the park! Here is a little fellow who wanted to share the road with us. He quickly bolted into the trees as we (slowly) drove passed.
Between Cooke City and Red Lodge is the Bear Tooth Pass. It is filled with photo opportunities and it is quite difficult to keep the shutter silent as we drive. Here are a couple of the lakes and pastures we passed on our way up.
The terrain in places had rock rivers flowing thorugh it.
Once we got to the top, you could begin to see the other side. We stopped at the overlook and you can see distant smoke from the Montana fires that were burning. We had seen some hazy smoke on the Wyoming side of the pass, but this smoke was more intense.
We drove down the pass, oh, so beautiful, and into Red Lodge. They were having a car show that weekend and classic cars were parked everywhere. It is difficult to see in this picture, they the closer you get to the horizon, the more you can see smoke filling the valley.
Our return trip back up the mountain seemed smokier than the way in.
Neither of us suffer from breathing problems, but the valley was so filled with smoke to the point we could feel the difference in our lungs. We also had to put in eyedrops to remove the blur that occurred. When we got to the top, Bear Tooth was almost obscured.
Once we got home we tried to compare our "to Red Lodge" photos with our "from Red Lodge" photos. You can see the difference just a few hours made in these shots.
Going up 1 PM
Coming Down 5 PM
At the top 1 PM
At the top 5 PM
You can see how the smoke washed out all the color and put a haze over the area (and a film on our lungs!)
Returning to Cooke City, we used Pilot Peak as a homing beacon. The city is nestled near the foot of that mountain. It helps us keep our direction and lets us know how close we are. This day it was a bit shrouded.
On our side of the Pass, the smoke lessened, but it was still worse that it was when we passed the first time. The farther we drove, the clearer the air became. That was a welcome circumstance!
We drove through the "Open Range" area again and were again met by bovine wishing to share our highway.
We passed through Cooke City again and then into the park. We stopped at a favorite picnic area and ate a quick, small dinner by the river.
Driving back through Lamar Valley, we came across more bison on the road. Are you getting tired of Bison pictures yet?
We drove on through the valley and then through the other areas of the park on our way home. We didn't think we would make it home before dark. By the time we got to our RV park, there was just enough of a smokey haze to make a pleasing sunset. While we didn't make it home before the sun set, there was still plenty of light as we pulled in to our campsite.
We hope to return to Red Lodge before we leave the area to see it when there isn't so much smoke in the air. The areas on either side of the pass are magnificent and we don't want to miss it at its best!
We put 333 miles on our scooter this day - our longest day yet. We were tired and a little stiff, but it wasn't too bad and we think we would like to do more long days like this. We felt blessed to be home safely and enjoyed our full day on the road.