Thursday, April 06, 2006

Beartooth Pass

Well, today we're back to winter. Four inches of unwelcome white came down this morning. I swear I didn't intend to talk so much about the weather in this blog, but when it starts consuming your life, what else is there to discuss? Springtime becomes something of a delusion of grandeur here in Utah's north. It toys with us for weeks, 70 and sunny one day, four inches of snow the next and the very next day, it's summer, 95 and dry. End of the great soggy sog. Bu-bye Spring. I say all of this because just last Sunday, we spent a grand afternoon christening our new orange kayaks (soon to be in many of my photos, I'm sure), a Christmas gift from my mom and dad. We floated carelessly in the sunshine on the only completely thawed reservoir around, Willard Bay. Normally it's populated by bugs and hillbillies but lucky for us, we had the place to ourselves, save for a few fishermen. It was heaven. The only part of the day that I regret was when I took off my favorite hat (a Shred Alert Hippie beanie), tucked it behind me and then managed to knock it out of my boat and into the water, somewhere. I searched the internet in vain for a replacement, but no one has it in brown. I guess I'll have to wait until next winter. Aside from that, the day couldn't have been better. This Saturday, when it's 70 and the snow is gone again, we'll be bobbing along in our boats, dipping our hands in the cool water and just enjoying the company of fish.

Here are two Spring shots I took about five years ago over Memorial weekend on Beartooth Pass in Montana, "America's most scenic highway" according to the venerable ol' Charles Kuralt. My dad and I were in Yellowstone, taking pictures for my Photographing the West class (he drove, I snapped) and took a side trip up over the pass and down into Red Lodge, Montana. The Beartooths are stunning. With 20 peaks over 12000' and countless pristine lakes and streams, it's paradise. The pass is 45 miles long, with the first half passing through snow-covered meadows and frozen lakes, and a rambling little establishment aptly named "Top of the World," where in the summertime, you can buy overpriced Ritz crackers, Montana state flags and "I survived Beartooth Pass" patches complete with a stitched road curving into a grizzly's gnarled mouth. Fun stuff. They've even got outhouses. But the day we drove through, everything was boarded up tight, still slumbering under ten feet of snow. Farther up, you'll pass (again in the summer) numerous sparkling tarns and mossy alpine tundra, but that day, deep patches of snow still blanketed the ground. After cresting the 10974' summit, we switchbacked down the canyonside 4000 feet to the quaint, tiny town of Red Lodge, Montana, my dream abode. A mining town established in the 1880s and still going strong today, Red Lodge charms your boots off with its restored main street complete with upscale lodging and dining, a pizza joint, a bakery and rides on a historic Pony Express stagecoach. Red Lodge is cozy and beautiful, but it's the Beartooths that should be on your life list. Go!

The day we traveled over the pass was the second day it was open for the season and skiers (the tiny black dots) were ripping down the faces on the summit and hitchhiking back up to go again. I felt like I was witnessing a Warren Miller production. It was awesome.

The road was sandwiched by 20-foot walls of snow until the south side broke away leaving us a window on this beautiful view. We could see for miles across the high flats of the Beartooths to the northern range of the Absarokas, the snowy peaks along the horizon. Imagine this in the summer. Green, as far as the eye can see.


astrobeck said...

I'm with you on the weather thing.
Feast or famine it seems for a while. then it's all nice, and the world is round again.
Can't wait to see the web site.

Here's to Spring, and warmer days!

Anonymous said...

Great website! Been searching for a webcam at The Top of the World on Beartooth Hwy.
My family and I just returned from a trip across 212. It is our 4th time to cross is just spectacular. What "Lofty Mountain Grandeur"!
Hope to camp and spend some quality time there someday....always just "passin'" through, leaves us frustrated to see more and experience it.
Oh, Red Lodge! We love it too, love the Carbon County Steakhouse!
Also, the new construction on the hwy. going over and descending on the Red Lodge side is quite impressive. Last time we were up/down it, it was scarey seeing all the washes underneath the road as you lookedup. Very unnerving feeling. Looks like they performed a miracle there. Would like to be around to see those "catch nets" in action!
Love your website!
D.S. from Indiana