Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Some of the Beartooth Highway and Chief Joseph Byway. Caution: Read carefully; this could be confusing.

At the Salt Lake City KOA, Salt Lake City, Utah...

Before we begin, let me tell you that I have added some photos to the previous post, "Yellowstone!" Because I have taken so many photographs on this trip, I sometimes overlook some that would add some interest to a post, so I occasionally have to go back and add them to a post that I've already published. I think it turned out better, and I hope you think so, too.

As you can see from the location header above (which I wish every blogger would put in their posts), we are suddenly in Salt Lake City, and I'm not even finished posting about Wyoming! Well, the problem is that I haven't caught the blog up with the trip, and I'm trying feverishly to get that done. I can just hear you now--"Okay, Mike, but what does this have to do with Salt Lake City? I thought you were spending the summer in the Rockies!" 

Well, just so you'll know, we are, technically, still in the Rockies; the Wasatch Mountains just east of Salt Lake City form the Wasatch Range that is part of a whole panoply of ranges that form the Rocky Mountains from New Mexico into Canada. It just doesn't seem that Salt Lake City itself is mountainous, because it's not...but it almost is, especially if you look to the east toward the beautiful Wasatch range. The problem is that the city itself is situated at the bottom of the mountains and on the edge of a large salt flat that contains the Great Salt Lake. Its lower elevation means that it gets hot here in the summer, so it doesn't feel to us like we're in the Rockies, either. Confused? Well, if you were here, you would understand. 

But hang on--there's a little more to this side story that I need to include. We're really here because we are bidding goodbye to Larry and Carolyn, our caravan partners, as they leave us here in Salt Lake City and make their way back to Arkansas to take care of things back home. They expressed a desire to see some sights here on their way home so, having visited here several times over the years, we insisted on accompanying them for a last hurrah and perhaps some guidance to places we think they might like to go. 

To make this explanation even more confusing, we got a call while en route down here from Wyoming, and we learned that we will be joined here in Salt Lake by Doug and Michelle, whom you met in our Quartzsite post from a few months ago. They are arriving on the same day that Larry and Carolyn are leaving so, unfortunately, they will miss each other by a few hours. They are all great people, and it is a shame the whole bunch won't get to meet. Sometimes, I wish we could have a gathering of all the friends we know in the RV world, so they could get to know each other and enjoy their company as much as we do. 

Now, in the paragraph below, we are going to return magically to Wyoming, at least in print. However, since we are here in Salt Lake, having leaped ahead of the normal blog-posting sequence, never fear: You will be reading in a later post about what we're doing in Salt Lake City right now. However, in the next post, you'll read about the Tetons, as I catch up to keep things in some kind of chronological order with our trip. I just hope I can remember it all. It wouldn't surprise me if you're scratching your head, but this is my best hack at explaining why you're reading a post about Wyoming when we're in Utah. I think I should also get some kind of award for the longest digression ever from the title of a post.

Now, let's back up to Wyoming and the real subject of this post. (I'll bet you thought I forgot, didn't you?) Well, I almost forgot to include this post about the Beartooth Highway and the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, but thanks to a suggestion by dear friend and avid reader Janice, I remembered that I hadn't mentioned it, and, of all things, it certainly couldn't be left out. 

There's a twist, though. We seem to be jinxed in seeing the Beartooth Highway, one of the most scenic in the country, according to the late Charles Kuralt, an anchor of CBS TV's Sunday Morning for 15 years. A few years ago, we had tried to drive the road, which stretches from Red Lodge, Montana to a point near the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park. However, the western states' forest fires were so bad that year that the views were almost totally obscured by smoke. After driving a short distance, we realized this would be a wasted effort, so we turned around and went back to Billings. We then decided to head for the Pacific Northwest, but we couldn't find any reservations on such short notice, so we just abandoned the effort and slowly made our way back to Texas.

This time, there was no smoke to obscure the scenery, so we set out from west to east, exiting through the north entrance to Yellowstone. We hadn't traveled very far until we noticed one of those dreaded construction signs flashing the message that the Beartooth Highway was closed ahead for construction and that we should exit at the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, which would take us back to Cody. Well, that was a fine kettle of fish! We've now driven trips of several thousand miles to drive this highway, and we still won't be able to see it all even this time!

As it turned out, however, the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway was gorgeous, and it was something we wouldn't have wanted to miss anyway. So one day, we'll hope to make good on that final leg of the Beartooth.

Let's get to some photos, shall we? This first one is perhaps the piece de resistance. It was our first look at the Beartooth Mountain Range, which we would not be able to traverse fully, including the 10,000+ ft. high Beartooth Pass, because of the detour. Since we had to turn off on the Chief Joseph, we were only able to see 17 miles of the Beartooth Highway, leaving the most scenic part unobserved. It was a nice preview, however, of what we will hopefully see all the way down highway 212 one of these days. So close, but so far. (Sigh.)

Meanwhile, during our 17 miles, we did observe some wonderful clear streams with mountains in the background, as well as several female elks and their calves foraging near the highway:

That's about all the photos we got from this part of the Beartooth Highway, but the ones from the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway made up for it. I'll bet you're wondering why it's named after Chief Joseph. Well, he was chief of a part of the Nez Perce Indian tribe, being chased at the time (1877) by the U. S. Cavalry during the Indian Wars. Chief Joseph chose this route in an attempt to evade the soldiers and flee to Canada. The problem was that the army was having no difficulty tracking the Indians, so Joseph devised a plan for his tribesmen to ride their horses in a large circular series of turns, leaving their hoofprints in a nondescript pattern in soft ground. Then the Indians rode off on harder ground in a direction different from that anticipated by the soldiers, and the plan worked. The Nez Perce got away, but they were eventually captured near the Canadian border. From there, they were relocated eventually to Idaho. Chief Joseph died of natural causes in 1904, said by his followers of a broken heart.

Okay, that's your history lesson. Let's get to the photos and give respect to the resourcefulness of the chief and the U. S. government for naming this beautiful highway for him:

A dying thunderstorm beyond the mountains at sunset. Double majesty.

Do views like this ever get old?

Strangely striated sandstone seemed incongruous with the grayish granite mountains surrounding it.

Mountains and trees as far as the eyes can see.

Evening shadows accentuate these craggy mountains.

This may be my favorite for contrast;
a look eastward from the mountains to the plains of Wyoming at sunset.

More thunderstorms beyond the mountains;
they won't bother us, but they are well illuminated by the setting sun. Their noisy violence will go unheard because of their vast distance from us. The important thing is how far you can see. Those storms are probably a hundred miles away.

What beautiful scene awaits us just beyond this craggy pass? One can hardly wait to see.

As it turned out, we were nearing Cody at this point and, because we were able to drive the Chief Joseph Byway, we weren't at all disappointed in the day. We're still determined to see the rest of the Beartooth, though.

My goodness! Will I ever get caught up? Remember, the next post will be about the Grand Tetons, and then we'll have a post from Salt Lake City, as I indicated while I was digressing earlier in this post. We've got to get caught up before we figure out where we're going next!  So stick around; you can be surprised along with us!

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood



  1. Awwww. I'm so disappointed right there with ya! Was looking forward to seeing the Beartooth Mountain drive one more time through your camera lens. We saw it twice, once from each end. The first trip was the most beautiful, as there was still snow on the ground. Beautiful, beautiful place.

    Could'ya pick a hotter time to be in SLC than August? Yowzers!

    Safe travels to the next destination, wherever that may be.

    1. Well, you know us...ever selfless when it comes to our friends! LOL! If we hadn't been to Salt Lake before, you'd probably go to show us around, too. You wouldn't? I see. Seems to me it was pretty warm when you and Dave were here with us, too!

  2. Great photos and blog Mike! Awaiting the next one!

    1. Thank you! I didnt' know how this one was going to turn out.

  3. Great pictures and History lesson.
    Strangely I think my late wife and I drove the Beartooth but just recognized it as a highway to get from point "A" to point "B".
    Looking forward to more of your adventures.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

    1. Well, we are pretty nutty about mountains, because there weren't any where we grew up. We haven't driven all of the Going to the Sun Highway, either, due to forest fires. Maybe we need to go earlier in the summer.

  4. Another great post. Brings back a lot of memories. Donald from Arkansas

    1. Thanks, Donald. I'm surprised you got through it without medication. It was pretty disjointed.

  5. Hi, Mike! We're back home after a two week camping trip with limited cell service and internet access, so I just enjoyed catching up on your last few posts. A six paragraph digression is quite impressive. I thought some of mine were bad, but yours takes the prize. Your photos have been wonderful, and it warms my heart to know that we're not the only ones who are in awe of the gorgeous scenery throughout this magnificent country of ours. I understand that your question in the photo caption above was meant to be rhetorical but, I have to respond: No, views like that never get old! I continue to be amazed by the natural features of our world every day of my life. Travel safely, my friend!

    1. You're so kind, Mary. Sometimes I don't think I deserve such sweetness, but don't stop--my diabetes is under control.


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