Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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From Yellowstone Billings, MT, Thursday, 08 September 2011 8:10pm

After cooking breakfast and burning the last of my firewood, I set out towards the northeast entrance to the park. I made a quick stop at Yellowstone Lake for an early lunch. The lake views were hazy because of all of the forest fires in the park.

The road north was intermittently blocked by buffalo. I must have seen a hundred or so, total, mostly in small groups in the forest or scattered across the plain. It's a little worrisome to be on a motorcycle around them in a traffic jam, because if one decided to charge me, I'd have no practical way to dodge. Happily, they were content to stand around on the road and look at the vehicles.

I didn't really understand why the park is called Yellowstone until I saw the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The river cuts through a dramatic landscape of bright yellow rock formations. There are some great views of the canyon and several waterfalls.

Outside of northeast entrance to the park, the road becomes the Beartooth Highway. I can't remember who recommended it to me, but I'm really happy that someone did. This is one of the most spectacular roads I've ever seen. The Highway goes up and over Beartooth Pass, at 10,947 feet, past high lakes, mountain wildflowers, and impressive rock formations. My only regret was that I didn't do this part of the trip earlier in the day because some of the valleys were in shadow in the late afternoon.

Riding this road, I repeatedly wondered why it was built. It's a long stretch of very well-maintained highway that connects two tiny towns (Cooke City and Red Lodge) by a ridiculously circuitous route. I stopped for dinner in Red Lodge and the restaurant had a local tourism pamphlet that explained: lobbying. As the mining industry in Red Lodge was dying out, a few organizers got the idea to transition to tourism by providing a route to the newly-established Yellowstone National Park. They had to lobby Congress for years, but eventually they got a law passed providing funding.

I'm in Billings, Montana now, where I have an appointment scheduled for tomorrow morning to get my motorcycle's 40,000 mile tune-up done.

Map to date 4849mi