Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hail on Badger Pass

Pictures L to R: Near Henry Lake in Idaho; An RV Pioneer; Montana highway; Beaverhead Rock State Monument.

26 July 2009 West Yellowstone, MT to Wisdom, MT 203 miles

We were told by many, many people that the route we mapped out was a beautiful drive, and boy were they right! Within about seven miles of leaving camp, we crossed into Idaho for about ten miles, driving along the shore of Henry Lake. The mountain peaks to the right of us were just stunning, and you could see that the Madison River follows a fault line. Being a Sunday, there were many people out in the middle of the river fly fishing. We also saw something we’ve never seen before…an RV’er traveling by covered wagon.

When we reached the town of Ennis, MT, we stopped to do some grocery shopping and walk around town for a bit. We ultimately landed at Corral Creek Coffee Company where we had lunch, transferred pictures to the computer, and charged the camera battery since it had died, and I refused to continue until we could take pictures! This was a great coffee shop, as they had all the specialty drinks (lattes, mochas, etc) as well as salads, sandwiches, soups, and a wide variety of cookies, muffins, bars, scones, and other wonderfully fattening desserts—all homemade! (They were also kind enough to let us take up a table for as long as we needed.)

From Ennis, we headed around the Tobacco Root Mountains to the Ruby Valley. What an awesome drive. The road goes through Virginia City, an old time western town that offers visitors a peek of a time gone-by with living history events every weekend. This highway we were on were gently winding roads that followed the base of the mountain ranges. Once we turned south on 41, we were once again traveling along the Lewis and Clark Trail, and stopped at the Beaverhead Rock State Monument, named for the huge rock that resembles the head of a beaver. This beautiful valley, traversed by the Beaverhead River, was the summer gathering site for the Shoshone Nation, and one that Sacajawea, the Indian guide to the Lewis and Clark expedition recognized and told Merriweather Lewis that they would find her people there and that they could help them restock their supplies.

From Dillon, we followed route 278 around Pioneer Mountains and into the Big Hole Valley. I can understand why Lewis and Clark chose this route, as it follows rivers or creeks for most of the way, and the passes were gradual climbs This route took us from 5,500 feet elevation, up over two passes, the highest (Big Hole Pass) being 7,360, and then back down into the valley to 6,000 feet. Going over Badger Pass, the first one, we encountered our first hail-storm of the trip. Fortunately, the hail was only pea-sized and quickly dissipated as we dropped in elevation. The valley floor is a huge cattle ranching community and we were amazed at the gigantic bales of hay we were seeing. It turns out that during the summer, they grow the hay and alfalfa for the cattle to eat during the winter, and leave the 20 ton, 30 ft high haystacks out in the fields were the cattle will be corralled during the winter snows.

Thunder storms are surrounding us on all sides, and the nearest campground is 27 miles away…so when we rolled into Wisdom, MT, Population: 150, and saw the Nez Perce Motel, we opted for a hotel. It is clean and neat, and across the street from a great place to eat—the Big Hole Crossing Restaurant.

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