I originally didn’t plan on going that far but as I was driving the TRNP loop, I was thinking about where I would go next. I had planned to explore the southwestern part of North Dakota but the hotel where I was planning on staying was not available when I needed it. I could have probably found another hotel but it started me thinking.
I had never seen Yellowstone National Park. From Medora, Yellowstone was seemingly an easy day’s drive. And right next door is Grand Teton. I had already traveled most of the way there and who knew when there would be another opportunity. I was already over 1,600 miles from home. Another 400 odd miles would not be that major a trek.
The more I thought about it, the more attractive the idea became.
So next morning (it’s now Monday, September 14) I headed west on Interstate 94. I topped off the gas tank in Beach and a few miles past Beach, I crossed into Montana, and headed toward Billings. The road was very similar to the road from Williston down to Beach – rolling prairie with cattle and hay more than grain. It was a lovely drive and seemingly mostly flat.
Just east of the little town of Rosebud, Montana, an overlook gave a lovely view of the Yellowstone River on a beautiful day.
As I’m driving I’m watching the western horizon looking for the first sign of the Rocky Mountains. Not seeing anything.
However, from time to time I noticed the road went up in a shallow climb and then leveled off for a while, settling maybe 300-500 feet higher. By the time I stopped for lunch in Billings, I was up over 3,000 feet. From there, I got off the Interstate and followed Route 212 west and south in pretty much a direct line for Yellowstone an easy 125 miles, or so I thought.
From Billings, the gradual climb continued until the GPS was showing a little over 5,000 feet above sea level. But even at that, I still wasn’t seeing the mountains.
Then, finally, off in the haze, I saw the first hint of greater heights.
Not exactly an impressive view, but on I drove …