My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Drive on The Beartooth National Scenic Highway

Last year, while at Yellowstone NP, I was reading a local magazine and saw an article on the highly scenic Beartooth Highway. I put it on my bucket list for this year and invited my friend, Kathy, who lives in Bozeman, Montana in the summer, to come with me.  She made a counter offer to have me come spend two nights with her, and she would do the driving so I could focus on the scenery and the picture opportunities. She extended the offer to Bob, when I talked him into joining me.

So last Wednesday, we got up and left her condo around 7:30 A.M. and drove the ninety miles to the east end of the highway, entering via the town of Red Lodge.  This is a beautiful little touristy town and Bob knew of a candy emporium there.  He wanted a picture of the outside but we had to take pictures of the wonderful inside as well.  And Bob bought us each our a truffle of our choice. I had the huckleberry chocolate one.   I loved the collections of license plates, old phones, and the collection of children's firetrucks.

Some of the truffle choices

License plate collection


Phone collection and some of scores of baskets of candy

  On the drive, I "let" Bob have the front seat so I could scoot back and forth across the back seat  to take in all the views.  Some of my pictures were taken while the car was moving. 

The highway curved and climbed and we oohed and aahed and had to use most of the pull outs  to saturate ourselves with the fabulous views.  This road winds through mostly national forests and wilderness areas so there are hardly any signs of human activity. But we did have lots of fellow travelers enjoying the partly cloudy to fully cloudy day. We had to put our coats on near the pass due to the high chill factor from the winds. But the cloudy skies really set off the mountains.

Big mountain scenery exists all along the highway

The clouds did their part to add drama

Bob and I with Kathy, our host, tour guide, and chauffeur on left

We saw several small glaciers and lots of glacial lakes

A glacial lake

The beartooth mountain for which the Beartooth Range and Highway are named

Bob photographing several of the switchbacks

Clay Butte, a former stream bead, which if full of marine fossils

 One of our most interesting experiences was on the side trip to the Clay Butte Lookout Tower.  It is now manned by volunteers,  to talk about it's history. But they also look for fires and use the Osborn Fire Finder to figure out the coordinates of the fire.   The finder is just a disk marked in the numbers of 1 - 360 degrees associated with compass points, and which you just turn until you can see the smoke  through a pair of wires across from your eye hole.  Then you report the number under the eye hole, together with an estimate of the distance the fire is from you. The volunteer was a very interesting man who had been volunteering at the Yellowstone Associate Institute for the summer session. 

View of fire tower from road far below

Volunteer Interpreter with fire finder
 Our trip back was through the Lamar Valley and then the middle of Yellowstone.  We came back out to the main road through the north entrance by Gardiner, Mountana and got home just as dusk was officially becoming dark. 

A truly awesome day spent with marvelous friends.

For more information about the Beartooth Highway, click here. Their map shows our route.