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August 02, 2005

Yellowstone to Billings

August 2nd. Up early to the supermarket to get food for the day knowing it was a long drive and that at around mid-day we would be unlikely to be close to anywhere to buy lunch. We left West Yellowstone and straight away hit the West Entrance to the park which is on the outskirts of the town.

I handed all the paperwork we were given by the Ranger to my wife and we set off into the park. A few moments later she said 'we've got a problem there are roads closed in the park'. Pulling up at the next turnout we surveyed the information. Yellowstone has a large figure of 8 road and the West Yellowstone entrance is on the western edge of the bottom of the figure of 8. Having passed through Yellowstone twice before, we knew what we wanted to do. We had planned to cut across the middle of the park and head up the eastern side of the upper part of the figure of 8 after seeing the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It was this section of road that was closed. Therefore we changed plan and headed up the western edge.

We stopped at Norris Geyser Basin and had a walk around one the trails we had not walked before. We were not long out of the crowded car park when the magic of Yellowstone kicked in and I forgot my frustration at not being able to see what I had planned to see. This was the third time I have been to Yellowstone and it still had the impact of an alien landscape with lush green wooded slopes giving way to dead grey bare earth punctuated by deep blue pools frothing and bubbling steam and silver grey dead tree trunks. It really is other-worldly to gaze around at.

Heading north we drove straight through crowded Mamoth Hot Springs (having thouroughly explored them in a previous visit) and headed east across the top of the park towards the Northeast Entrance. We paused for our picnic lunch in the broad lush Lamar Valley and watched a heard of buffalo across the other side of the creek.

Onwards we travelled climbing out through Colter Pass and then close to the Beartooth Highway turnoff we hit roadworks, thankfully we were not held up for long. The Beartooth Highway was still closed and so we took the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway (296) towards Cody. The drive really came alive as we climbed up away from the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone and up towards Dead Indian Summit. There is a thrilling series of hairpin bends with wonderful views from the apex of many but none to compare with the view from the pull out at the summit. It was marvellous to look back at the cramatic drive we had just taken.

From there it was a hum-drum drive through farmland up the 120 and into Montana (becomes the 72 in Montana) and on up to Billings. Our hotel was just off the I80 and easily found. Following the obligatory dip in the pool for the kids we ate at a nearby Outback Restaurant and then turned in (following a can or three of liquid refreshment for Dad !).

Posted by Graham on August 2, 2005 11:29 PM
Category: 2005 Going to Glacier ?
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