Tag Archives: Occidental Hotel

American Road Trip West, Part 9

The road home—the Beartooth Highway in southern Montana and Highway 14A in the Bighorns of Wyoming.

Looking back at the Absaroka Range from the Beartooth Mountains.
Looking back at the Absaroka Range from the Beartooth Mountains.

Pictures don’t capture the majesty of these mountains.

Chalk Bute overlooking Beartooth Lake in the Beartooths.
Chalk Bute reflected in Beartooth Lake in the Beartooths.

Nor do they capture the gut-clutching, death-defying, close-your-eyes-and-trust-your-driver feelings.

The Beartooth Highway— 8% grade—15 mph hairpin turns! Hair-raising!
The Beartooth Highway— 8% grade—15 mph hairpin turns! Note the “guard rails”—I almost laughed.

Fortunately, there are places to pull in, catch your breath, and stand and gawk at the grandeur.

The Beartooth Pass elevation is 10,947 ft (3,337 m).
The Beartooth Pass elevation is 10,947 ft (3,337 m). See the ribbon of road below?

Then on we drove to the northern route over the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming. And I thought the Beartooth Highway was nerve-wracking! I don’t have many pictures of this route because I was busy coping!

The grade here is 10-11%. Breath-taking is a good description! That’s usually a good thing, but on occasion I didn’t want to give up my breath! (Lots of exclamation points here, you’ll notice.) I almost kissed the flat ground when we got down. And I swore off ever driving in the mountains again unless it was in Glacier Park’s little red busses.

Looking out at the vastness of Wyoming from the northern Bighorns.
Looking out at the vastness of Wyoming from the northern Bighorns. This doesn’t look very high up, but trust me, it is!

In hindsight, when I had recovered and was relaxing at the Occidental Hotel in Buffalo, listening to a cowboy band, I thought of this day as one of the best mountain days I’d ever had. Thanks to my husband for doing the mountain driving, or I never would have had the experience.

Here ends my travelogue of our Great American Road Trip West; the harsh beauty of the West is a wonder to me; the indomitable spirit of the pioneers inspires me; and the enduring evidence of strife between peoples in our country saddens me.

Like Dorothy who stared in astonishment at Munchkinland and said, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas,” the US is a whole of so many vastly different parts. Going from the Midwest to the West is like going from to Mars to Jupiter. Pictures and words absolutely do not convey the feel of the varied beauty of our country. Go see it for yourself.

Speaking of our country…

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!