Gone Fishin'

HEY!

I'm not actively blogging here anymore. But if you got here because you were searching for something about bikes, you might want to check out my latest project, Vermont Goldsprints. In summer of 2014, I bought a used goldsprints racing setup and have made it a mission to get more bikes in more people's faces by putting on fun races in unexpected places. Come join me!

7.04.2007

Yellowstone Part II: Cardwell to West Yellowstone

When we turned off in Cardwell, we gassed up at the small station/casino/R.V. Park that was the only thing off the exit and took a picture of the billboard at the end of the last post.

There are two ways to get from Cardwell to West Yellowstone, and the choice between these was one made hastily as we were underway from the gas stop. The map I printed a few days before had slipped between the car seats, so I took the route with the most convincing signs for Yellowstone (Route 2 to 287 instead of Route 359 (to the same road, 287, just a few miles south). I think Google Maps had us going the other way, probably in pursuit of some small mileage savings that would become meaningless over a day of driving anyway. We followed along the highway for a mile or so and then turned south along Willow Creek and past the Lewis and Clark Caverns.

High canyon walls surrounded us and the 70MPH speed limit was a cruel joke in light of the twisty road. We made 55 and were thankful for it, with my eyes mostly on the road. I remember a big bird in the river, maybe a heron, then two of three vanloads of University of Texas geology students stopped at some roadside outcrop.

We met 287 and the landscape flattened a bit. Of course, the road flattened but huge mountains formed the horizon out the drivers' side window. This was farm country, Montana- style. &0 miles an hour and a straight road as far as you can see with a high plateau on the right leading to alpine meadows, forests, and rocky peaks. I'm used to knowing the names of my mountains, that was easy in Vermont. Here, I was hard-pressed to keep the names of the ranges straight. There is no lifetime big enough to see all the hummocks, high valleys, talus fields and peaks that caught my eye on the way down. Straight ahead, there was the road, fields, the occasional pickup. To the left, a long bench, a few "ranchettes" perched on its edge, then downslope, a river, a few fly fishermen, lots of real estate signs.

Then, the speed limit drops and you're in Ennis, with western saloon-style storefronts, t-shirt shops, and blink and it's gone and you've turned east into the mountains. You start climbing. More RVs on the road now, more beat-up 15-passenger vans pulling dories, more fishermen in the river. By now, some have pulled into a shady bend while their guides prepare and serve lunch, right on the boat. A few lodges and outfitters along the side of the road now.

The road climbs through broken rock and pine trees. Quake Lake, younger than Alaska's statehood, passes on the left. The fields are gone. Every few miles we see a loaded cycling tourist headed the other way. The air is cooler and drier.

Next is Hebgen Lake (which spilled to form Quake Lake in the 1959 earthquake), also off to the left. Houses in the west don't rot and fall down, they dry out and get hollow, then blow away into dust:














After Hebgen Lake, there's a right angle intersection with 191 South, which comes straight down out of Bozeman. You stop, and turn right onto a pine-lined four lane highway that is perfectly straight for several miles right into the heart of West Yellowstone, the gateway town to the Northwestern entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Only the federal government or a paper company could set a road this straight. I felt like I was in Maine headed from Millinocket up to Baxter State Park.