Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

"The Most Beautiful Drive in America"


Today we drove what is commonly described as one the most scenic drives in the United States - the Beartooth Highway, A National Scenic Byways All-American Road.   A route described by the late CBS Correspondent Charles Kuralt as “the most beautiful drive in America.”


The narrow pyramidal spire just to the left of the middle of the picture is the "bears tooth" so named by the Crow Indians who called it "Na Piet Say"
We left out of Cody, Wyoming (our current home) and headed to Red Lodge, Montana.  The trip was nearly 200 miles so we packed a cooler with drinks and snacks and tired Spirit out at the dog park prior to our journey.  The plan was to take a faster/shorter route to Red Lodge, explore the town, have lunch and then hit the highway for our scenic drive home. Red Lodge was a pleasant surprise and we spent an hour or so enjoying the town.

 

A short drive out of Red Lodge and we were already commenting on the beautiful scenery (as we have done time and time again in Montana).  The Beartooth is characterized by breathtaking scenery, rugged mountains, rushing streams, deep canyons, scary switchbacks, and the awe of the vast western sky.  High altitudes of nearly 11,000 feet and massive amounts of snow dictate when this remarkable engineering feat is drivable.  The signs say it will be open by Memorial Day, but based on the amount of snow we saw in July, I wouldn’t be so sure.  The remarkable road end makes a dramatic entrance to the northeastern portion of Yellowstone National Park and takes you through millions of acres of wilderness and stunning National Forests.  The many pull-offs encourage travelers to stop and absorb the majestic scenery.

There are beautiful views at the Montana - Wyoming border where the elevation reaches 10,947 feet.


Along the way we stopped at a pull-out that offered excellent views.
We saw entertaining wildlife like this golden-mantled ground squirrel.
While feeding is not allowed, many people come prepared to attract these little creatures with a handful of seeds.
We, of course, love the wildlife.
Spirit found snow at the high elevations and enjoyed playing in it.
We left the Beartooth before reaching Yellowstone and took the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway back to Cody.  This road equaled the spectacular beauty of the Beartooth.  Instead of the rugged granite mountains bearing snow and lush green meadows covered with wildflowers, we bared witness to red rock faces, dry sagebrush fields, and periodic spots of green coloring the river valleys.  The contrast to the Beartooth was fascinating and equally breathtaking.  We were glad our route home took us down this road.    




It is hard to imagine what early pioneers and engineers thought when they were faced with the daunting feat of challenging, and conquering, these mountains and valleys.  Surprisingly this area was first crossed in 1872 by a general and 120 soldiers who were searching for a shorter route home than following the Clarks Fork River.  Even more remarkable was that the road was built in 1936 and followed an almost similar route.  Having seen this area, I would have turned back and headed for Kansas!


It is hard to pass up a Scenic Byway – consider it a national treasure!  These areas earned the designation for a reason and they do not disappoint.  This one certainly did not.  


2 comments:

  1. Beartooth Highway is incredible!! We left Fishing Bridge Campground in Yellowstone today, 7-9-12, after 2 weeks of amazing wildlife, hiking etc. I'm sure you will enjoy your time in the area. Randy and Brad

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  2. Your blog is still not updating so I have to remember to go check it out every few days. Great photos and blogs--you are back in our country again, it's about 2 1/2 hours to Red Lodge from here. Glad Spirit is having fun too!

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