Today I had to go to my storage unit to drop off a few things. While I was out I thought I’m gonna head south and go explore a road I have never been on before. I had thought about it for a few days and finally decided today was the day.
It was a gorgeous drive along a river once I got out of the city. I discovered many forest roads and campgrounds so I now know some good spots to get away to for a few days. I usually don’t stay in many campgrounds – not even in the primitive ones like in the National Forest – but it is a nice change every now and then especially with the abundance of bears in the forests around here. Safety in numbers. Having a hard-sided trailer eliminates many bear problems…but not all of them. You should really carry bear spray if you venture very far from your vehicle and it is not advisable to hike alone. It is the one thing I really don’t care for in the forests here – otherwise it is beautiful.
I got down to the turnoff for Big Sky, which is a resort town that wqas made popular by Montana native Chet Huntley (those of you who are of “a certain age”, shall we say, might remember that name from the famous news team of Huntley/Brinkley on the NBC Evening News in the 1960s). I opted to continue on straight south on US 191 toward the junction of US 287, just north of West Yellowstone.
Just past the intersection is The Soldier’s Chapel. I had to stop for a look and it is a small chapel with an incredibe backdrop.
I was actually surprised the amount of people who just drove right by as I was pulling out of the drive. It is a few hundred yards off the highway so it is somewhat hidden.
Driving on south the landscape started to open up…
and then a big surprise…
I have now been to Yellowstone seven times (including this trip) and I did not realize I would be within the park boundary. I drove into this sliver of the park on the Montana side and saw a truck stop and then back up – probably a chipmunk, I thought since that is what it usually is. I drove past, not planning to stop, and there it was. It has taken me seven trips to this park and finally I got to see a grizzly bear. And it was a pretty big one, standing out in the meadow eating something. I went ahead and thought I should turn around and have a look since this is the only one I have ever seen. I swung around and it walked into the woods just as I got there so I have no picture. Oh well, I got to see one!
I turned around and resumed my adventure, turning onto US 287 to head back north. I stopped and got a picture of my furry travel companion at a roadside historical marker near Hebgen Lake:
The historical marker was telling the story about a lake up ahead that was created by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake. The lake was named Earthquake Lake. Ironically there were two USGS men who were there in that area and they just happened to witness the slide. I definitely want to go back to learn more about this site and area.
I continued on, pulling in to check out some of the campgrounds, historical sites and trailheads I came across along the way. Past the lake the surroundings opened up into that infamous “Big Sky”:
Heading north toward Ennis it was much different scenery than what I had driven through the past several hours as you can tell by the above picture. I have been to Ennis before and even posted about it, along with Virginia City, in an earlier post, but I came in from the north on that trip so this is all still uncharted territory for me. There is Forest access as well as fishing access on world-class waters along the highway, in the Forest, and on BLM land. An abundance of fantastic recreation!
As I went north I saw a few of those Forest access roads and decided to take one. I took a right turn at a place called Cameron, MT and went back into the woods toward Bear Creek Campground. The road was clearly marked, which was good as I have not gotten a Forest map yet.
When I turned I saw a sign about an old schoolhouse ahead seven miles on the right so that was a bonus! The road was in decent shape, and at the seven mile mark there was the school, still on its original site from 1909:
I went on back to the campground and discovered it was a horse campground for pack trips and hunting – the latter definitely not my thing. I turned around and went back the way I came in. I took a couple of other turns on other roads and found some spectacular scenery and got in a bit of off-roading to boot.
I got back down to the highway and finished up my adventure some eight hours and many new places later. It felt good to get out on an all-day drive and see some new things. I am ready to go again!
It’s finally starting to feel more like a retirement now!