Sorry for the hurdy-gurdy approach to my journal these days, but I wanted to put the final touches on the Yellowstone National Park adventure I had with Mom, Dad, Chris & Nicole. If you haven't read the prior posts, you may want to before reading any further.
I awoke bright and early Sunday, as Dad went outside for a smoke and the sound was just enough to roust me from my slumber. It had gotten cold the night before, and the morning sun was already busily melting the frost on the Hoosier's Hotel roof, which was plop, plop, plopping onto the sidewalk.
Cooke City was quite tranquil, either because the locals were sleeping off the Saturday night fun had at the Miner's Saloon or perhaps they were already up and out hunting or something. As I said before Cooke City is an end of the road sort of place. We had breakfast at one of three places open, and the Chinese waitress (with a wedding band on...I'm thinking international matchmaking) was also serving as cashier and cook when we arrived (later a woman who was either Estonian or Ukrainian came in to help...very odd). We downed the oversized pancakes and bad sausage and headed out of town (but not before a fewpictures), back into the park for the last time.
The morning just kept getting better, as we spotted plenty of bison and Elk heading back through the Lamar Valley. The valley floor, so full of activity just 16 hours earlier, was quiet and serene. We decided to try and get back to Missoula before night fall and I had secretly decided to make it to Dillon, so my brother could get to do one of the things he really wanted, stop at the Patagonia Outlet. We made pretty good time to mammoth Springs and stopped there for some Yellowstone souvenir shopping and some grub.
We drove past the sights that two days earlier had been so alien that I felt like I was on the moon and headed west towards West Yellowstone. Our bald eagle was busy somewhere else and we quickly worked our way past packs of cars stopped to look at Elk...Elk! Ha! We'd marked Elk off on Friday....Amateurs!
Heading out of West Yellowstone we took the back roads. The countryside was expansive and lonely...the only people who seem to habituate that part of the state are ranchers and fishermen. We drove past miles and miles of vast ranch land before heading back into the Horn Mountains, clearing Reynolds Pass and meeting up with the famous Madison River. We passed feeders like Deadman's Creek, Secret Lake, and Papoose Creek. The area is just gorgeous. We finally reached the town of Ennis, where the road turns west towards Twin Bridges. Along this stretch we passed through Virginia City and Nevada City, the latter being a complete ghost town (now maintained by the state). The area had the misfortune of being part of the gold rush and was heavily mined using the abhorrent hydraulic technique, which has left the entire stretch from Virginia City to Alder looking like one big messy gravel pit with huge piles of Rick and tailing ponds scattered along the way. Disgusting.
It was at Twin Bridges that I revealed my plan, "it's 4:30 PM", I said, "...we're 28 miles from Dillon and the Patagonia Outlet, which closes at 5:00 PM. I think we can make it." my brothers eyes lit up as he tried to act cool, "only if you want" was his response. So I turned south on Montana 41 and drove like a bat out of hell to Dillon. We passed some amazing farmland, all green and shiny contrasted against the brown of the surrounding Ruby Range. We arrive in Dillon at 4:55 PM and, to our delight, were welcomed into the store. We spent the next hour or so, the only customers in the now closed store, shopping and telling the employees about our adventures. They loved us!!! And they loved our cash too!!!!
We arrived back in Missoula about 9:30 PM, tired and happy. What an adventure we had.The gang