This morning the lady on the front desk confirmed time that Beartooth was closed and that Chief Joseph was open. Definitely a bad news, good news story, although as previously mentioned, Chief Joseph required me to retrace my path back to Wyoming. Still, I had heard good reports about that route and the mission was on!
But first, breakfast, post office and petrol. I ordered a cappuccino and was presented with a mug that was 90% froth. My Facebook friends got to see that. Not good. The post office (three postcards on the way, Schatz) and petrol were routine and I reversed my course of the previous day. It turned out to be just over sixty kilometres. I was quite thankful for the bright sunshine of the lower elevation east of the mountains, as the mountains were enveloped in angry looking clouds. As per yesterday, the cross wind was still present and some gusts were very disconcerting, so I traveled at a sedate 55 mph. As the speed limit on Montana country roads is 70, I was overtaken often.
The turn off to Chief Joseph was soon climbing through a number of switchbacks, as I have learned to call them (hairpin bends for everyone else) and there were a number of scenic turnouts. The route is beautiful. What a pity it became darker and overcast as I ascended. The photos are rather dark and I hope to manipulate them when I get home. It was a terrific ride albeit slower than I would usually go because the road was wet in places.
Chief Joseph was a leader of the Nez Perce Indians at the time of the war between them and the US government. The issue was, as usual, that the US had reneged on the terms of two treaties . Chief Joseph eventually tried to flee to Canada via Yellowstone, and this road follows the route he took his people. I may be able to visit the Big Hole National Battlefield tomorrow, where the great battle was fought which precipitated that event.
The Byway ends in a T junction with..... the Beartooth Highway! Now the GPS had let me know that Beartooth was closed, but it got it wrong by seventeen miles! I saw that there was a sign saying that, so I decided that I would do at least some of Beartooth, seeing as I was there. It was brilliant, although very cold, with my thermometer flashing at me 2.5 C, 1.5C, 0C! I proceeded cautiously and stopped for a few photos. Again, a pity they are so dark. I went down to Bear Lake on the dirt road, which was wet. All was well until I noticed some lighter colored mud.... Yikes! Ice! The bike lurched and slid but, with thumping heart, I managed to keep it upright and on the road. I took my photos and then gingerly went up the road again.
There were no cars because the road was closed to through traffic and there was just the odd Parks vehicle around and they all ignored me.
About fifteen miles down the road was Cooke City, Montana. It was 1.30 pm and time for lunch. As I dismounted it started sleeting heavily and did not stop. After I had eaten I quickly consulted my weather app and saw that snow was forecast in two hours. I had no intention of being stuck in Cooke City so togged up, knocked the accumulated ice off my saddle and got going, notional destination Gardiner, Montana, which is a small town situated about five miles north of Yellowstone's northern entrance.
This road actually passes through the park and by the time I arrived at the North Eastern entrance my gloves and everything else were soaked. The lady ranger very kindly heeded my suggestion that I not be required to produce my annual pass. The handgrip heaters were the only reason I could keep riding, but I had pretty well decided that I would stop in Gardiner whatever the cost of a room. There was snow and slush on the road and, with my gear soaked (my skin was dry because of the waterproof liners) I was freezing. And what I feared was the clouds or snow descending and causing a whiteout, which would a) force me to stop and b) make me vulnerable to being hit by the car that decided to keep driving. One thing that struck me as I was proceeding through the park at a velocity somewhat in excess of the speed limit, was the smell of sulphur dioxide from the geysers!
At the northern end of the park, Mammoth Springs, the road descends rapidly and then levels on it way to Gardiner. As it descended, it got warmer. Soon it was a balmy 5C! Nevertheless, I pulled into the Best Western, but when I could not get them to charge an acceptable price, I decided, hang them, it's warm, I'm going to Livingston, just an hour up the road.
It was not raining in the valley and soon I was drying out a and making good time. The Best Western here is $55 cheaper and they have even given me a garage for the bike!
Where to tomorrow? I'm not sure yet. All I I know is, it must be west from Livingston, Montana. The clock is winding down. The trip is in its last days.