Sunday, September 11, 2011

Labor Day holiday, the Beartooth Highway and more

We rode the lifts at Showdown's Labor Day picnic in the Little Belts

The sinkhole waterfall on the Boulder River south of Big Timber

The "Bear's Tooth" namesake for the Beartooth Mountains

Katie at the outflow of one of the many Beartooth Plateau lakes

These elk got into the Gardner River in Yellowstone to escape the heat
  • I'm back to work, which would explain the delay in posting.
    For years we've spent the Labor Day holiday in the Front or Glacier.
    This year we were looking for something different, so we headed south and had the following adventures:
    Our goal was a drive of the 69-mile-long Beartooth Highway, which many think is the match or superior to Glacier's Going-to-the-Sun Highway.  Jury's out.  It depends on my mood.  I'm still in the Going to the Sun camp;
  • We stopped along the way and saw the new art addition to the Bair Museum in Martinsdale.  It is terrific because they've taken the spectacular art from the house and put it on the wall where you can get a good look at it, putting good facsimiles in the house;
  • We stayed overnight in Big Timber at the Grand Hotel in the shadow of the Crazy Mountains.  The hotel has been converted to a Bed and Breakfast and the restaurant has been upgraded to a first rate eatery. We spent $80, including tax, and got a great night in a classic old hotel with a high-end breakfast the next morning.  The restaurant is a bit pricey, but worth it.  I ordered vegetarian and asked the chef to surprise me and he whipped up a delicious and well-presented southwestern meal;
  • We took an evening drive south of Big Timber down into the Boulder River as far as the natural bridge, where the river dives into the limestone aquifer and comes out the other end a good-sized waterfall.  I thought the drive took us into a valley far prettier, more remote and less populated than the nearby Paradise Valley.  We'll return;
  • We went through Red Lodge to hit the Beartooth Highway, getting there early enough that the sun was to our back or overhead most of the 8-hours we spent there.  We did the drive very leisurely, stopping for four hikes that included the Crazy Creek Cascades, a ridgewalk at the pass, and a stroll past several small lakes into the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness.  I still can't imagine why this highway wasn't included in Yellowstone Park's boundaries;
  • We drove through Yellowstone's Lamar Valley and despite the heat and broad daylight saw a large wolf out in the open. So did a throng of other tourists who tied up the highway;
  • We stayed in Gardiner at the Absarokee Lodge, which still charged in-season rates --- $125 a night.  We're used to the $70 it charges when we usually visit in mid-October;
  • Yellowstone was full of fire and we really sweltered and choked on smoke in our river-side motel room, not getting much sleep;
  • We drove back by way of US 89 and stopped at Kings Hill's Showdown Ski Area where owner George Willett every Labor Day runs the lifts and treats anyone who shows to live music, free lift rides, and a picnic lunch.  I'd say upwards of 300 people showed up for a great afternoon of fun.  I particularly enjoyed riding the lifts down after climbing Porphyry, where the ski hill is located.

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