Category Archives: Montana

Missoula to Yellowstone – 280 miles plus a good few more in the Park

 

After yesterday’s long, long drive, today appeared shorter but given the very different scenarios along the route, it was like driving through different countries.  We started off in brilliant sunshine with temperatures in the 20s but 50 miles or so along the way, a peculiar haze covered the sun and the temperature began to fall. We were once again in agricultural country but mainly arable. A further 50 miles and we appeared to be driving through a very flat, very wide basin with mountains all around, albeit some considerable distance away. Was that cloud on the tops of one part of the range or was it snow?  That particular example was cloud but we did see bits of the white stuff amidst the crags.  The temperature was now only 10 degrees and falling. 

 

The sky had darkened a bit more, although there were no rainclouds, just a rather dark and ominous haze. Pollution? Certainly the last time I saw this sort of thing was in China, but although agriculture had given way to mining, there appeared to be no major industry.  It felt as though we were at altitude (blocked ears), but suddenly we were climbing fast and encountered a sign telling us we were crossing the Continental Divide.  Having looked it up since, we discover this is about 8,000 ft in Montana. Strangely, the temperature also began to climb, the sun broke through and we switched from the car heater back to air conditioning.  We followed a river for miles. Sometimes it meandered gently and people fished, but sometimes it was much more aggressive as it swept over boulders. 

 

 

 

Finally we arrived. Yellowstone Park beckoned us in and we duly paid for a 7 day pass for the princely sum of $35. Bargain – even if we only have 2 days. So on we went, encountering a pair of elks in the rutting season. The bull wasn’t having the cow stray anywhere he couldn’t see her and the rangers were doing their best to keep people away from them!  We moved on to Mammoth Springs to marvel at the hot springs and the burbling pools, the salt formations and the permanent smell of rotten eggs. Let the photographs provide a sample of the majesty here and we will crack on with our exploring tomorrow. 

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

Ok, so I don’t have high culture. As a teenager, instead of reading books and listening to Classical Music, I played in a rock band, endlessly repeated pop 45s (and 78s!) on my Dansette record player and… watched cartoons on TV! And here, dear reader, is where this story begins.

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A long time ago, when summers were always sunny, my interest in nature – especially mountainous forests – began. At first, I thought that the place I was watching was referred to by its correct name but, as I grew older and wiser, I understood the error of my ways.

It was really called Yellowstone National Park and… here I am. We’ve seen real elks, stuffed eagles and beavers, mountain lions and coyotes, both post-taxidermy, but not my childhood idol. 

Where is Yogi?!

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Yogi Bear, created and anthropomorphised by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, was a smart-mouthed, lovable rogue who stole picnic baskets from tourists in the humorously named ‘Jellystone National Park’. The creators of Yogi Bear fought a law suit from famous baseball player, Yogi Berra, that my Yogi wasn’t named after him. I suspect Yellowstone/Jellystone didn’t have a connection either!!!

Anyway, back to the story…706B545E-3DAC-4DE2-89C4-C8C66B102285

Yogi was always playful and had a friend, Boo-Boo, who tried to keep Yogi on the straight and narrow. Albeit, without success.

The Park was patrolled, then and now, by Rangers and, of course, Ranger Smith (referred to by Yogi as ‘Mr Ranger, Sir’) chased after Yogi trying to protect the visitors from the ‘wild’ animals who may steal their “Pic-a-nic” baskets.

 

I liked Yogi. Self-deprecating, he wasn’t. His catchphrase still reverberates round my memory recalls… “Smarter than the av-er-age bear, Boo-Boo”.

No, not that I ‘liked’ Yogi (past tense); I still like Yogi!

Smart-mouthed? Lovable? Fun loving? What’s not to like?!

However, we’re not in Jellystone; we’re in Yellowstone. No Yogi or Boo-Boo or ‘Mr Ranger, Sir’; we’ve not even seen any pic-a-nic baskets but we have seen some incredible sights with more to see tomorrow.

(But, I would like to see Yogi! I miss him. CTMQ.)

LATE NEWS: I found Jellystone Park but I think its not the real one! Seriously! Its address is 9900 Jellystone Avenue, Missoula, MT 598086

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“Smarter than the av-er-age bear!”

From Ellensburg to Missoula – 369 miles

It doesn’t sound far when you say it quickly but by the time we had crossed state lines (Washington/Idaho/Montana) and lost an hour into the bargain by crossing into a new time zone, you appreciate the vastness of this country.

 

It was a brilliant morning and we appreciated the ‘big skies’ we encountered. As you take in the 360 degree vista, you quickly recognise that there can be numerous weather patterns as you turn in each direction.  Once again we saw that the warm days will not be here for much longer when fresh signs are being erected with ice warnings, stopping places for snow chains and miles of snow poles.  I don’t usually like the white stuff but a log cabin in the woods with lots of deep snow might be appealing, well it might for about five minutes!

 

So what did we see on the journey?  Mile after mile of agricultural land with names of crops on the fences so you at least know what you are looking at, lots of mountains, beautiful lakes with resort areas for campers, and some incredible roads that appear endless.  I was very excited to drive up and down some of the mountains at 80 mph – seriously, that was the speed limit.  I don’t think I have ever seen road signs in America with such a high speed limit before, so it would be rude to disobey.

We are actually heading for Yellowstone National Park but today have passed loads of national parks, and the great outdoors is very much on offer here.  Sadly, in a way, we didn’t have time to stop and explore and, fortunately, we had pushed ourselves to arrive at the hotel in good time. Less fortunate was the discovery there was no room at the Inn and Booking.com had mucked up.  It took some time and some persistence but we got a decent alternative and went to celebrate with a hot dog and a frozen custard.  That was after introducing Carolyn to Denny’s at lunch time. My goodness we know how to live!

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

Today, as Kath indicated, we began the road part of our Road Trip in earnest. So,… my part of our blog today will be about the roads.

There is a scale about North American roads which impresses and disturbs. ‘Round the corner’ could be several miles and ‘down the road’ could be a hundred or so!

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Sally, our Sat Nav, gave us our first instructions and, as it was my turn to drive, I listened carefully. She told me, “Continue on the I90 for 174 miles”. Nothing else for over two hours! Obediently, on this occasion, I set cruise control at the speed limit of 70 mph and… 172 miles later had touched the brake once and accelerator twice. The road was long, straight, low traffic, relatively high speed and totally trouble free.

After stopping for lunch at Denny’s, Kath and I swapped seats and Sally’s instruction for her changed to “Continue on the I90 for 185 miles”. Simple so far but… within two miles we hit a traffic jam! This was followed by someone’s breakdown, bend after bend, hill after hill, numerous road works and a five lorry pile-up with one trailer on its side. (I tried not to smile when I saw the third truck involved had ‘Jesus saves’ on the cab and was plastered with Biblical quotes. Denny’s was next to Victory Church, a fundamentalist organisation who still believe that Creation took place in 4004 BC. I make no apology for saying they’re wrong… and dangerously so!)

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Kath’s bonus for the afternoon came when the speed limits changed and she could legally do 80 mph for the first time. ‘Legally’ do it, note! Needless to say, every road works we encountered after that increased her frustration (and verbal outbursts as she blamed the world for stopping her driving at 80!). She’s a frustrated F1 driver deep down!

 

And, on the road, we passed signs to the Grand Coulee Dam, which brought back memories for me of the Woody Guthrie song; in Idaho signs for the Purple Heart Trail; Road signs warning of Abrupt Lane Edges; the beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene and its eponymous feeder river. Snow poles and ice warnings reminded us that a pleasant Fall day heralded a much harsher winter to come. Idaho’s Panhandle National Forest echoed days gone by and the little town of Kellogg was named after a prospector not a Cornflakes salesman. Cristal Gold Mine in Silver Valley also mentioned something of the area’s history.

 

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I had one of my CTMQ (Chuckle To Myself Quietly) moments when a sign said, “Two Mile Road 1 Mile” which was followed some junctions later by the more confusing, “Nine Mile Road 1 Mile”. Regrettably, we passed both original signs at speed but I snapped the junction sign itself. 

 

 

 

Similarly, the “C’mon Inn” was a clever name for a business but I didn’t smile at the “Wildlife Crossing” sign in Montana which had been “Game Crossing” in Washington State. 

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And, when we arrived in Missoula, there was no room at the Inn!