Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Beartooth Scenic Byway Adventure

We have been in the same place just south of Red Lodge, MT for four days.  The weather has been reasonable but not great.  We have had afternoon thunderstorms a couple days, but yesterday was pretty nice.  We have spent the past two afternoons at the historical society in town, digging through genealogy information.   Dianna's great grandfather, Alfred E Flager moved to Red Lodge in about 1889 and opened the Carbon County Mercantile in 1895.  In 1902 he built what was described as one of the finest mansions in Red Lodge.  That house is still there and is now on the National Historic Register.  We went to see it and take photos, and were lucky enough to meet the current owner.  She gave us a full tour of the place.  Dianna was in 7th heaven.

We planned to leave for Billings tomorrow and spend our last day here taking a motorcycle ride over the Beartooth Scenic Byway from Red Lodge to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park, only about 70 miles away.  The highway has been described as one of the most beautiful routes in the country.

It was about 60 degrees when we started out, but although that is cool we were wearing our cold weather gear since we expected it to get a lot colder.  The West Summit Pass is just a little below 11,000 feet.  There were high clouds that made for hazy sun when we left.  As we headed up the mountains the clouds thickened and it got a lot colder.  By the time we reached the vista point at 9,200 feet it was cold and the sky was threatening.  We figured it was less than 2,000 feet more to the summit so we pushed on.  Soon it began spitting snow, then snowing heavier, and finally it turned to an all out blizzard.  Visibility dropped to only 100 feet or so in places as we crested the summit and started down.  It continued to snow heavily and even began to accumulate on the colder bare spots of ground, although fortunately it did not stick to the road.  If it had we would have stopped immediately since riding on snow or ice is not something to do on a motorcycle.  At times were were riding through tunnels of snow banks higher than a car that reminded me of some of the roads we used to see in Western New York when I was a child.

We finally came to the Top of the World store at about the 9,000 foot level.  We stopped and had some lunch and got something hot to drink.  The thermometer on the post on the porch read 32 degrees.  We talked to the locals and they told us of another route back to Red Lodge.  Dianna did not want to go back over the summit.  Although it was about 60 miles farther, it was much lower.  Rather than continue on to Yellowstone we turned off when we came to the intersection with the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and took that route back home.  By then the snow had stopped and although it was still cold until we got back down to lower elevations, it was much more comfortable and somewhere along the way the scooter odometer turned 30,000 miles.  On the way we stopped at a bakery and had pie and something hot to drink.

All in all it was quite an adventure, although I think Dianna would probably describe it as an ordeal.  Here is a photo of her when we stopped at the Top of the World store.  Due to the weather conditions we did not take nearly as many photos as we planned, but the rest of the photos we did take are in the gallery.



  1. We have been over 100º every day lately; I wish we could have piped some of our heat to you in exchange for your freezing weather. Sometimes, the weather has to be a topic of conversation.

  2. That looks just like Dianna -- glad you told me who it was!
    Like Mom, to me the cold sounds wonderful,

  3. That's gutsy! I've driven in the rain quite a bit now but I wouldn't want to try snow.