Tag Archives: Road Trip

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!

American Road Trip West, Part 8

Horseback riding in the Absaroka Mountains of Montana (pronounced Ab-sor’-ka). I’ve been looking forward to writing this post.

The Skyline Guest Ranch is three miles east of Cooke City, on Highway 212. A  log structure purpose-built as a bed and breakfast out of timber salvaged from the Yellowstone burn of 1988, Skyline hosts guests who want to run around the mountains by various means and for various purposes—horseback riding, snowmobiling, fly-fishing, hunting, backcountry camping—or guests who want to sit on the porch and enjoy the view.

Skyline Guest Ranch, Cooke City, Montana
Skyline Guest Ranch, Cooke City, Montana

Our purpose was to ride in the Rockies. This is the way to see the mountains: from the back of a horse!

Say ahhhhh!
Say ahhhhh!

Wrangler Rob, on his trusty steed Sue (a gelding), led us up and down, through the forest, and over rocks—for two hours.

Rob on Sue
Rob on Sue

Dave and I are seasoned riders, though out of practice for many years. I don’t know how rookies do this! Not that I want to deter you if you’ve never ridden a horse and you’re burning to try it in the Rockies. Just a caution: don’t panic. The horse knows what he’s doing, even if you don’t.

Here we are close to the turn-around point. As you can see from my right hand, I wasn’t altogether relaxed! It wasn’t a sheer drop to my left, but it was pretty steep and a long way down. But I was having a blast!

Turn around HERE?!
Turn around HERE?!

To give you an idea of how steep it was, to take this picture Rob had to dismount on the right and crouch on the mountainside, then remount on the right because it wasn’t safe to mount on the left, the side from which you always get on a horse.

Shortly after Rob took this photo, he said, “Do you want to turn around here? or where it’s wider?” “Here” was the width of a horse, with DOWN to the left. So I said, “Wider.” Duh! Well…”wider” was two horse-widths! Our horses had the maneuver done before I had time to freak out.

An afternoon shower on the way back did nothing to dampen our enjoyment of our ride in the mountains. We were just glad we were off the rocks by the time it started raining, not that slippery rocks would have bothered Mason and Rodman.

Now, when I’m lounging at home, drinking my morning coffee, my mind often wanders back to this ride. It was great! No, more than great—it was one of those lifetime greats.

If you go to the Skyline Guest Ranch, these guys await you.

The herd at Skyline Guest Ranch.
The herd at Skyline Guest Ranch.

American Road Trip West, Part 5

The Buffalo Bill Center of the West at Cody, Wyoming is a Smithsonian-quality museum. Don’t go through Cody without visiting it. Western art, firearms, history of the plains Indians, western geology, natural history, and all things Buffalo Bill Cody under one roof. Plan on spending no less than four hours here; your ticket is good for two days.

Only upon reflection did I realize what was missing from the history of the West—there was only a nod to the explorers and pioneers pushing West. One wonders if telling their stories would necessitate exposing the ugly side of people and events—best left untold in a family venue? Or are we tied in knots by political correctness? The sins were great on both sides, as was the extraordinary courage. One side may prevail, but no one wins at war.

Nevertheless, it’s a five-star museum of the West. Enjoy the photos.

Buffalo Bill Cody and an Indian Chief telling a story in sign language.
Buffalo Bill Cody and an Indian Chief telling a story in sign language.

Annie Oakley's trunk from the Wild West Show.
Annie Oakley’s trunk from the Wild West Show.
Native American Clothing
Native American Clothing
Turkey Vulture in a rehab raptor demonstration.
Turkey Vulture in a rehab raptor demonstration.
Fine Art of the West
Fine Art of the West
Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear

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