Today we took an unplanned detour to see the Beartooth Highway! The Beartooth is a high mountain pass road that goes from Red Lodge, MT into Yellowstone NP. It is very narrow and twisty and and has spectacular views! Mom and Dad drove it when they went to Yellowstone & I'd never been on it, but I was planning to take the RV when I go to Yellowstone/Tetons. We discovered that Red Lodge was only 40 miles from the Wal-Mart we were staying at and decided to take the morning to check out the Beartooth, we would have to drive a bit later this evening, but we could still make it work and get to our reservation in Oregon by Sunday night.
Mom and Dad were ready to go a whole hour before our planned departure time so I quickly threw a few things into a bag and we were off. The area around the Wal-Mart was "crack-butt" ugly as my Dad said. Flat and dusty and had a large smelly refinery right next door, so it was crazy to think that this amazing mountain pass was just 50 miles away! Red Lodge is a cute little town, but we didn't explore much, we went through quickly on the way up and on the way back they were having their 4th of July Parade so we were trying to get out fast so we could get on the road.
I kinda wish I'd taken a picture of the refinery just for contrast!
We weren't sure if we were going to stop at the Wal-Mart in Butte or push on to Missoula so we set out planning to decide along the way. When we got to Bozeman we decided to push on to Missoula. The landscape was slowly beginning to change! There were more and more mountains and they were getting bigger! The engine in Dad's RV overheated a few times, he even had to pull over to let it cool!
Around mile 220 we began going uphill. There was a pull out to put chains on which means one thing...a big mountain is coming! We climbed for 8 miles! Up, up, up! And it was steep! I had to kill the cruise control and back off on my speed! Then at the top...it was the Western Continential Divide, elevation: 6393! Last week I'd crossed the Eastern Divide at an elevation of 2610! Going down was easier, it wasn't as steep!
I'd planned to meet up with Mom and Dad at the rest stop at mile marker 168. When we got there however, the exit was closed! So we had to push on to the rest stop at mile marker 143. We were going to have dinner and keep moving toward Missoula and the Wal-Mart (that is right next to the Missoula International Airport) , however, we were 40 miles from Missoula and overnight parking is allowed in the rest area and the rest area seemed very quiet. So we decided to stay! We are parked along the edge, there is a river a few feet away (but there's a lot of undergrowth and a fence) and the Montana Highway Patrol has already come through and cracked down on folks not following the rules! So it should be a good place to sleep! Here's hoping!