Vacation Part IV: The Long (and Winding) Road to Yellowstone

The day we left Keystone, South Dakota, we knew it would be a long day. We had a full day of driving ahead of us with a few ideas for side trips (Devil’s Tower, most notably). But the sky was a spectacular blue and we were in good spirits so we headed off…

I should have been worried when this guy chased us out of town… Seriously, staged shoot-outs scare the crap out of me.

The Presidents glowed their stoic approval of our trip in the early morning sun…

We also spotted two wolves running through a field. They were eating…something…heard our car and took off. But I got a quick shot of them before they disappeared. I am a ninja with a camera, seriously.

And finally! Welcome to Wyoming…ah. I kinda loved Wyoming. It was just so expansive and the  sky really does go on forever there.

First side trip of day…Devil’s Tower. You know I grew up watching a lot of movies so this iconic set piece from Close Encounters of the Third Kind was pretty cool to see in person. From where this photo was taken we were still 30 minutes away from it.

We’re getting closer! It’s pretty odd. They think it was formed by a volcano or something? I dunno but it was pretty gigantic.

How gigantic you ask?

So big that the blue dot you see on the side of it? That’s a climber. There are actually several climbers on there if you click on it to view it larger you might see more.

For some reason, I really enjoyed driving across Wyoming. I think it was a combination of the ridiculously expansive sky, scattered with endless popcorn clouds and the green fields that go on forever in both directions. It just feels very much like the rest of the world doesn’t even exist.

But then, after quite a long while of driving, the world comes back! In the form of the Bighorn National Forest. Pretty spectacular sight.

After what felt like quite a long time driving (a couple of hours)? We got to Bighorn.

I love these old signs! And from here we pretty much drove straight UP the mountain! Did I mention I’m prone to car sickness and slightly afraid of driving near steep drop-offs? It was going to be a long day, is what I’m saying…

Near the top of Bighorn the sky was a dark blue and the mountain was covered with some pretty serious snow! Wow!


Dale was very excited that Betty made it up to close to 10,000 feet. I was excited I didn’t pass out on the way up or down.


Coming off the other side of the mountain was pretty spectacular. There is the Bighorn Basin. It goes on for miles in every direction and makes you feel like the insignificant little flea you are in the face of Mother Nature. I loved it.


Next thing I knew we were in Montana! We were headed to the Beartooth Highway and Beartooth Pass, considered one of the most scenic drives in America–and the most beautiful entrance to Yellowtone.

From wikipedia:

The Beartooth Highway is the section of U.S. Highway 212 between Red Lodge, Montana and Cooke City, Montana. It traces a series of steep zigzags and switchbacks, along the MontanaWyoming border to the 10,947 ft (3,337 m) high Beartooth Pass. The approximate elevation rise is from 5,200 ft (1,600 m) to 8,000 ft (2,400 m) in 12 mi (19 km) in the most daring landscapes. (My tummy was not amused).

Along the way we came across the Smith Mine Disaster site–where 74 men died. Interesting that they leave the mine there, slowly decaying, in memory of the men who died there in 1943.


We drove up a perilously winding and narrow road for what felt like the rest of my life. I was woozy to say the least.


When we got to the very top of the mountain there was a sign my mind would not process. I asked the ski bums hanging out what we need to do. They were going to stay until the road opened–they were just here to ski. We had to turn around and backtrack all the way back down the mountain and cut over, across Wyoming to Cody in order to go to a completely different entrance to the park. We’d already been in the car for about 12 hours. We were within two hours of our hotel–if the road had been open. So we had to turn around (I cried, I’m only a little ashamed to admit it). I took this photo at 7:10 p.m. We got to our hotel around 1:30 a.m.

Here’s a quick video of me on the way back down the mountain. I was feeling a little sorry for myself and pukey. It’s embarrassing. You can also hear Dale start to laugh openly at me. Hee!

We did stop and have the best fish and chips of our lives in Cody, Wyoming, and had an awesome bartender named Clay listen to our sob story. Once we got into Yellowstone–in the dead of night–two more roads were closed creating further delays.


At least a cute bear was waiting for us in our room…

One Reply to “Vacation Part IV: The Long (and Winding) Road to Yellowstone”

  1. Oh man, I had always wanted to go to Wyoming n Montana -the landscapes look breathtaking from your pix – well done!! (and sorry for not checking it out earlier, but had been a bit busy to say the least!!)

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