Nine hours and 450 miles later we arrived here at the Yellowstone Basin Inn in Gardiner just 1 mile outside Yellowstone National Park. We now have an apartment for the next 6 days!
Mr L was once again a most excellent driver across the incredible scenery of Montana. We took the route of the US-2 and then onto the US-89 which had us drive over the Rockies and the continental divide. Rivers to the west of the divide flow into the Pacific whereas rivers to the east flow into the Mississippi River. Fortunately the Sun Road (partly traversed yesterday) is closed throughout its whole length so we could not go that way – this had originally been Mr L’s plan – so we had to drive around a more reasonable and scenic route across the Rockies which took us up to a height of 5200 feet. We then drove for many miles across the North Plains/prairies of Montana. Plains which were yellow and barren for much of the time but nevertheless stunning in their wild beauty with the snow capped Rockies as a backdrop.
Townships were mostly small and basic and then we came upon roadworks on the US-89. In Montana they appear to repair the whole road all at once so when you see the sign that says ‘no pavement’ it means no road! We drove some way on rough ground and then were stopped until a pilot driver arrived to guide us through the remaining 4 miles of roadworks and uneven terrain.
Our lunch stop today was in Choteau, a small town of 1600 people that could have been a film set from a Wild West film. We ate at a great little deli, the Outback Deli, recommended by the the lady holding the ‘stop’ sign at the aforementioned roadworks. Whilst in Choteau, Mr L fortunately agreed to fill up on ‘gas’ – Mrs L was a bit anxious as fuel was down to half full – there was not another gas station for many miles so Mrs L knew she was right to be anxious! Montana is not a good place to get low on fuel. Some hundred miles or so down the road we came across a big town, Great Falls, which even has a university! Great Falls has a population of 59,000 and is the 3rd largest city in Montana, a state which has a population of 1 million people living in its 147,000 sq miles. A useful fact from Mr L is that Montana is the 4the largest state in US with the 44th largest population. States bigger than Montana are Alaska, Texas and California.
The Plains eventually changed into a very snowy trees and mountain backdrop landscape with temperatures dropping to just above freezing. This then changed to dramatic rocky scenery with crevasses and canyons with backdrop of mountains from the Little Belt and Big Belt Mountain ranges, both sections of the Rockies – stunning snow capped mountains sitting above the Plains and rugged landscape.
Wildlife viewed today consists of 2 deer, a couple of birds that might have been hawks, some buffalo that weren’t actually wild and then some elk by the side of the road as we drove into Gardiner. Mr L also reliably informs me that it was not a blue parrot we saw yesterday but in fact a not very rare Stellar Jay! It was a very pretty blue bird whatever it is called!