While I still slept well, the evening was as windy as I had ever spent in my trunk, rocking the entire car in wave after powerful wave. At about 6:30 am I woke to sirens, and with the wind from the evening before I wondered if bad weather wasn't coming my way. However, the sky didn't look particularly threatening, and there was nothing on the national weather service site for the area. So I have no idea why the sirens went off.
My goal for today was to work my way across Montana and head south toward Yellowstone National Park. I still had a lot of Montana to cover before I would get into the mountains, and so it was good to get an early start. Eastern Montana was interesting. The morning was hazy, and the landscape had a lot of badlands. In the distance I knew there would be mountains, but there would be no seeing them for some time. Then about 10:15 am mountain time I gazed my first snow topped mountain peaks of Beartooth Mountains
. By noon I would be traveling Hwy 212—the famous Beartooth Highway
—in these mountains, climbing higher and higher. Soon I came across snow on the ground and had to stop and play in it. My first stop was a little premature because this road just continued to climb. Near the top, everything was covered in snow and the view was breathtaking. I stopped a few more times for pictures, including the frozen Twin Lakes some thousand feet below my vantage point. And my summit stop was at 44.974957°, -109.434730° at a posted altitude of 10,947 feet. The snow was at least 18" deep here, and the temperature in the lower 40ies F. I wanted to walk over to a rocky patch I saw a couple hundred feet away and noticed shortly into the walk I was working really hard. At first I thought it was just the work of trudging through the deep snow, but then it dawned on me: altitude. I was getting much less air per breath than I typically get at the 800 feet I'm use to. It was really interesting to experience this phenomenon.
While playing in the snow at high altitude is a lot of fun, I had to continue and descend. I entered Yellowstone National Park around 4:30 pm MT. Shortly after arriving I saw my first buffalo resting in a grassy field. On my first visit to Yellowstone I also saw buffalo right after arrival, and I really like this fact. I would not have thought one of the largest tourist attractions in the United States with all the traffic it brings, sitting atop a super volcano, spanning the otherwise fairly empty states of Wyoming and Montana, would have such a concentration of wildlife, beauty and appeal. But I guess I too cannot resist the allure of this place. Driving through Yellowstone is an experience in and of itself.
While I had been to Yellowstone once before I certainly didn't see everything that one trip. This time I did the Lamar Valley, Tower Fall, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Hayden Valley, before stopping at Yellowstone Lake for the evening. The first time I was at Yellowstone the GPS messed up my location and I wasn't able to see Old Faithful. There were no rest areas I could camp at near the park and I was worried I wouldn't be able to see a geyser. Then it dawned on me that I was in a place with several hotels and no one was going to notice my car in a lot of cars if I just pulled into a parking lot and slept for the night. That worked so well I decided that was the plan this time. So next to Yellowstone Lake I found a nice parking spot and climbed into my trunk for the night. And like before, I slept soundly on this 640,000 year old caldera