From Cody to Carhenge with a Jackalope in-between

DSC_7698After a marvelous time in the mountains of Wyoming and Montana, it was time to head east through the high deserts of Wyoming and across Nebraska and eventually back home to Kentucky.

Map of trip from Cody to Grand Island, Nebraska
Map of trip from Cody to Grand Island, Nebraska

After a restful evening at the Moose Creek Lodge in Cody, Wyoming, I was ready to hit the road running early the next morning. I had visited Cody in 2013 and so I didn’t spend a lot of time, but I did want to get back over to the Buffalo Bill Center and take some pictures of some of the numerous statues there.

Buffalo Bill Cody statue in Cody, Wyoming
Buffalo Bill Cody statue in Cody, Wyoming
Plaque under Buffalo Bill statue
Plaque under Buffalo Bill statue
Sumoflam with Chief Washakie Statue at buffalo Bill Center
Sumoflam with Chief Washakie Statue at Buffalo Bill Center
Old Cody Theater in downtown Cody, WY
Old Cody Theater in downtown Cody, WY
Courthouse in Cody, WY
Courthouse in Cody, WY

After about 30 minutes in Cody, I was soon heading southeast on Wyoming Highway 120 towards Thermopolis. This is a scenic drive through rolling hills of sage brush.

Wyoming 120 to Meeteetse, WY
Wyoming 120 to Meeteetse, WY
Wyoming 120 heading east
Wyoming 120 heading east
Mountains and Sagebrush as seen from Wyoming 120 - I believe this is Wapiti Ridge
Mountains and Sagebrush as seen from Wyoming 120 – I believe this is Wapiti Ridge and the Absaroka Range
Wyoming 120 a few miles north of Meeteetse, WY
Wyoming 120 a few miles north of Meeteetse, WY

I drove through the town of Meeteetse (Where Chief’s Meet) and then on to Thermopolis.

Welcome to Meeteetse, WY
Welcome to Meeteetse, WY
A cuddly bear on a corner in Meeteetse, WY
A cuddly bear on a corner in Meeteetse, WY
An old Bank building (1901) in Meeteetse
An old Bank building (1901) in Meeteetse

The drive from Meeteetse to Thermopolis is generally through high desert grasslands and hills. This is the vast interior of Wyoming, the open range land of ranchers and of solitude. You’re more likely to encounter more antelope than cars along this route, which was my case (which I did!!)

Hill country in central Wyoming south of Meeteetse
Hill country in central Wyoming south of Meeteetse
Antelope in open range along the side of Wyoming 120
Antelope in open range along the side of Wyoming 120
Antelope just stared back at me...didn't run
Antelope just stared back at me…didn’t run
One more nice wildlife shot of antelope on WY 120
One more nice wildlife shot of antelope on WY 120

As the drive gets closer to Thermopolis, there are numerous unique rock formations which break the monotony of the seemingly endless sage brush grasslands. These open up to layers of mesas which provide a visual texture for miles. (OK, I lied, there were more cars than antelope – see photos below!)

The Road to Thermopolis
The Road to Thermopolis
Beautiful vista north of Thermopolis, WY on WY 120
Beautiful vista north of Thermopolis, WY on WY 120

Hwy 120 ends in Thermopolis. This town is home to the world’s largest mineral hot springs and the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. From the south Thermopolis is the gateway to Yellowstone Country, and coming from the north it is the gateway to the Wind River Canyon.

Welcome to Thermopolis, WY
Welcome to Thermopolis, WY
A sign about the Hot Springs of Thermopolis
A sign about the Hot Springs of Thermopolis
Large Sign about the Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis
Large Sign about the Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis
Welcome to the Dinosaur Center
Welcome to the Dinosaur Center
Flags fly in Thermopolis
Flags fly in Thermopolis

Of course, I always keep my eyes peeled for unique things when I drive through a town.  Here are a couple of good ones.

Antler Arch in Thermopolis
Antler Arch in Thermopolis
An old neon sign for the Coachman Inn
An old neon sign for the Coachman Inn

Since I was pushing to get to Carhenge before dusk,I rushed through Thermopolis and proceeded east towards the Wind River Canyon on US Hwy 20.

US Route 20 is actually the longest highway in the US, spanning 3365 miles across the country from Newport, Oregon through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and ending in Massachusetts.

US Route 20 heading to Wind River Canyon and Boysen State Park
US Route 20 heading to Wind River Canyon and Boysen State Park

The Wind River Canyon drive follows US 20 along the Wind River for about 14 miles and into the depths of the canyon, sometimes 2400 deep. It is amazingly scenic as the highway winds it’s way around 34 miles of bends and through Rock carved tunnels, finally opening up near Boysen State Park and ending up in the small town of Shoshoni.

Entering Wind River Canyon on US 20 from Thermopolis
Entering Wind River Canyon on US 20 from Thermopolis
One of many spectacular views of Wind River Canyon
One of many spectacular views of Wind River Canyon

I have been through this canyon twice before and have always been amazed at the engineering genius of gnawing a path through this wild gorge. There are even a number of pullouts that provide unique views up and down the length of the canyon.

One of tunnels tunnels on US 20 through the Wind River Canyon. These tunnels are hewn stone and must have been a massive undertaking.
One of tunnels tunnels on US 20 through the Wind River Canyon. These tunnels are hewn stone and must have been a massive undertaking.
Tunnel #3 on US 20 through the Wind River Canyon
Tunnel #3 on US 20 through the Wind River Canyon
Welcome to Boysen State Park in the midst of the Wind River Canyon
Welcome to Boysen State Park in the midst of the Wind River Canyon
History of the Wind River Canyon
History of the Wind River Canyon

As I left the canyon, the spacious Boysen Reservoir was to my right (looking West) and beyond the lake in the distance were the snow capped peaks of the Wind River Mountain Range. Gannet Peak, Wyoming’s highest mountain at 13,804 feet, is part of this massive range that stretches about 100 miles from north to south. There are more than 40 named peaks over 13,000 feet in this mountain range. US Highway 26 and US Highway 287 skirt this range to the east in Wyoming through Dubois and Lander. I hope to drive those roads sometime in the future.

Boysen Reservoir with the Wind River Mountain Range in the distance.
Boysen Reservoir with the Wind River Mountain Range in the distance.
Another view of the Wind River Mountain Range behind Boysen Reservoir
Another view of the Wind River Mountain Range behind Boysen Reservoir
US Route 20 north of Shoshoni, WY
US Route 20 north of Shoshoni, WY

Just past the south end of Boysen Reservoir, US 20 continues into Shoshoni and the southeast towards Casper. Shoshoni had the appearance of a dying town to me. There were a few old buildings with some nice Native American murals, but the town really appeared dead.

Old Motel Neon sign in Shoshoni, WY
Old Motel Neon sign in Shoshoni, WY
Highway Signs in Shoshoni, WY...part of the sand Creek Massacre Trail
Highway Signs in Shoshoni, WY…part of the sand Creek Massacre Trail

The Sand Creek Massacre Trail in Wyoming is dedicated to the remembrance of the Sand Creek Massacre which took place on November 29, 1864.  The trail follows the paths of the Northern Arapaho and Cheyenne in the years after the massacre. It traces them to their wintering on the Wind River Indian Reservation near Riverton in central Wyoming, where the Arapaho remain today. The trail passes through Cheyenne, Laramie, Casper, Shoshoni and Riverton. The trail was dedicated August 6, 2006

The seemingly run down business section of Shoshoni, WY
The seemingly run down business section of Shoshoni, WY
Detail of Mural on front one of the buildings in Shoshoni
Detail of Mural on front one of the buildings in Shoshoni
Another view of downtown Shoshoni, WY. Note the remnant of another nice mural in the center of the photo
Another view of downtown Shoshoni, WY. Note the remnant of another nice mural in the center of the photo

Heading east on US Routes 20/26, I immediately drove by a number of unique rock formations along the side of the road. The sandstone pillars have been eroded away over centuries of time to create these nice designs.

Rock formations east of Shoshoni, WY on US 20
Rock formations east of Shoshoni, WY on US 20
Another rock formation on US 20 east of Shoshoni, WY
Another rock formation on US 20 east of Shoshoni, WY

US Highway 20 then provides us with a typical long drive through the sagebrush of Wyoming…

US Route 20 in Wyoming
US Route 20 in Wyoming
Another highway scene along US Route 20 in Wyoming
Another highway scene along US Route 20 in Wyoming

It is a bit of drive, but fortunately, there is a rest area east of the small town of Hiland.  A couple of nice history signs as well.

Wyoming's Wildlife?
Wyoming’s Wildlife?
Bridger Road Historical Marker at Rest Area on US 20/26 east of Hiland
Bridger Road Historical Marker at Rest Area on US 20/26 east of Hiland

About 4 miles from the rest area on the south side of the road is a turnoff to Hell’s Half Acre (near Powder River, WY), a large scarp with deep ravines, canyons, caves, rock formations and hoodoos.  I have a love of these types of things.  I was so very disappointed to see a chain link fence keeping visitors from being able to grasp the full extent of this place.

Hell's Half Acre Sign in Wyoming off of US Route 20/26
Hell’s Half Acre Sign in Wyoming off of US Route 20/26
A view of the Hell's Half Acre scarp, Wyoming
A view of the Hell’s Half Acre scarp, Wyoming
A massive hoodoo pillar in Hell's Half Acre, Wyoming
A massive hoodoo pillar in Hell’s Half Acre, Wyoming
Rainbow colored landscape of Hell's Half Acre
Rainbow colored landscape of Hell’s Half Acre

It was here that I met a new friend…a fellow traveler, a fellow photographer, a fellow blogger.   A a professional photographer, Derek Ace does some amazing work.  You can see some of his best work HERE. Turns out that Derek is from Middleton, Wisconsin, which had me talking right away since Middleton is also the home the National Mustard Museum, one of my favorite places (see my post about this from my old blog).  You can really get a nice sense of Derek’s work from his Facebook Photo stream.  I am glad to have made his acquaintance on this trip and I am looking forward to what I believe will be an amazing set of photos from HIS visit there.

Powder River, Wyoming
Powder River, Wyoming

Not too far east of Hell’s Half Acre is the little dot on the map known as Powder River, Wyoming.  There are probably less than 40 people here. However, there was one place that took me back…and in the middle of nowhere too.

An old neon relic of the past, the Tumble Inn Lounge/Cafe, with a vintage neon look in Powder River, WY
An old neon relic of the past, the Tumble Inn Lounge/Cafe, with a vintage neon look in Powder River, WY

Apparently, as late as 2005, this place was being used a strip joint and oil workers, folks from Shoshoni and nearby Casper, would venture their way to this hole in the wall place. It closed in November 2005 and now sits as another ghost on a basically deserted highway in the middle in Nowheresville, welcoming the passersby.

Highway US 20 east of Powder River, WY and heading towards Casper
Highway US 20 east of Powder River, WY and heading towards Casper
Entering Casper, Wyoming
Entering Casper, Wyoming

I really didn’t have much time to spend in Casper, but I needed gas, so I stopped and filled up.  While at the gas station, a giant Cloud Troll decided to show me the direction I needed to go in as I headed towards my next stop, which was Douglas, WY. (By the way…I LOVE looking at clouds!!)

A giant cloud troll shows me the way to Douglas, WY
A giant cloud troll shows me the way to Douglas, WY

From Casper I jumped on Interstate 25 to head east toward Douglas.  This was one of the few Interstate ventures I took while on the road.

I-25 East out of Casper, WY
I-25 East out of Casper, WY
There's a jackalope in them thar hills!!
There’s a jackalope in them thar hills!!

On the approach to Douglas, which is the “Jackalope Capital of the World”, there is a giant jackalope up on a hill overlooking Interstate 25.  It is the first sign of Jackalope everywhere….

Welcome to Douglas, Wyoming, home of the Jackalope
Welcome to Douglas, Wyoming, home of the Jackalope

This trip was my second one to Douglas, the first with my son Solomon back in 2007.  I also wrote a guest post about the Jacakalope for author/blogger Tui Snider’s Mental Mosaic Blog (see my article HERE).  However, on this trip I wanted to make sure I also got my Jackalope Hunting License.

Giant Jackalope in front of Douglas Chamber of Commerce Visitor's Center
Giant Jackalope in front of Douglas Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center
And a Sumoflamalope was also spotted in Douglas, WY
And a Sumoflamalope was also spotted in Douglas, WY

In the visitor’s center I was kindly greeted by Chamber Assistant Director Patty Morrell who took time to show me around, tell me a bit of history AND get me all set with my OFFICIAL “Limited Non-Resident Jackalope License”.  She also was kind enough to slip me a Jackalope Sticker and a Jackalope pin.

My Official Jackalope License
My Official Jackalope License – I love the Chief Licensor’s name – Adam Lyre

The Visitor’s Center has a number of unique Jackalope goodies…here are a few

New Douglas Chamber of Commerce Logo with a Jackalope
New Douglas Chamber of Commerce Logo with a Jackalope
A cuddly Jackalope
A cuddly Jackalope
Stagbunny "The Movie" Promo
Stagbunny “The Movie” Promo

In 2006 there was a movie called “Stagbunny” about one man’s hunt for the elusive Jackalope.  Here is the trailer (get ready to chuckle)

Posing with some of the collection in Douglas
Posing with some of the collection in Douglas
Another Jackalope is spotted in Douglas
Another Jackalope is spotted in Douglas
Kissing the Jackalope goodbye
Kissing the Jackalope goodbye

I should note that the Douglas Visitor’s Center also has some nice trains to look at if you are interested in these.

Old Train Engine on display at the Douglas Visitor's Center
Old Train Engine on display at the Douglas Visitor’s Center

Before heading out of town I came across the White Wolf Saloon in downtown Douglas.  Another great Kitschy place.  Had to take a couple of shots.

White Wolf Saloon in Douglas, WY
White Wolf Saloon in Douglas, WY
A couple of characters in front of the White Wold Saloon
A couple of characters in front of the White Wold Saloon

Of course, I had to move on to get to Carhenge in time so I was back on US 20 heading east towards Lusk, Wyoming. US 20 and US 26 split at Orin Junction south of Douglas and that is where US Route 18 begins and joins with US 20.

US 18/20 to Lusk, WY
US 18/20 to Lusk, WY

This section of highway parallels the railroad tracks from Orin to Lusk and is pretty desolate, but there are a few things to be seen…

US 20 east out of Orin, Wyoming
US 20 east out of Orin, Wyoming
Interesting mesas can be seen on US 20
Interesting mesas can be seen on US 20

But, one of the more unique dots on the map on this stretch of highway is Lost Springs, WY.  In 1976 the town was designated as the smallest incorporated town in America.  At the time, its population was eleven.  In 2007 I drove through and, at the time, it was one of only a handful of towns in the US with a population of 1.  Here is a photo of me from that visit.

Sumoflam at Lost Springs in 2007
Sumoflam at Lost Springs in 2007

On this visit the town had boomed back to a population of FOUR….

Lost Springs in 2014 - ironically I was wearing the same shirt 7 years later!!!
Sumoflam at Lost Springs in 2014 – ironically I was wearing the same shirt 7 years later!!!

I had hoped to actually drop into their Post Office/Shop, but they were closed.  Nevertheless, here are a couple of shots of Lost Springs today (I took some in 2007 too).

Lost Springs Store and Post Office, Lost Springs, WY
Lost Springs Store and Post Office, Lost Springs, WY
Welcome to Lost Springs
Lost Springs Welcomes You. Well, not quite…nobody was home.
101 Main Street, Lost Springs, WY
101 Main Street, Lost Springs, WY
Lost Springs Public Facilities
Lost Springs Public Facilities (Better than those in Hell, Michigan mind you….)
Another view of the Lost Springs store and post office
Another view of the Lost Springs store and post office
The Lost Springs Chuckwagon??
The Lost Springs Chuckwagon??

Back on US 18/20 I continued east.  Lots of highway and long trains and even an old truck stop in the middle of nowhere.

US 18/20 east of Lost Springs, WY
US 18/20 east of Lost Springs, WY
The road goes on forever and so do the trains
The road goes on forever and so do the trains
3 Sisters Truck Stop sign near Manville, WY
3 Sisters Truck Stop sign near Manville, WY

From Manville it was on to Lusk, Wyoming.  Yet another small town on the road, Lusk boasts a population of about 1500.  Just a stop on the railroad tracks, it does offer one unique site….an old wooden train water tower.

Lusk, Wyoming
Lusk, Wyoming
Old Red Wooden Water Tower
Old Redwood Water Tower
Redwood Water Tank
Redwood Water Tank in Lusk, WY

IMG_6595The old water tower was originally built in 1886 to furnish water for the Fremont, Elkhorn, Missouri Valley Railroad Steam Engines. The town of Lusk was established at the same time. The wooden tower is round, with a diameter of about 25 feet. The tank is about 25 feet high on a 25-foot base. The structure is believed to be composed of Douglas fir, while the tank itself is redwood. It is apparently the only surviving structure of its kind in Wyoming.

US 20 East out of Lusk, WY
US 20 East out of Lusk, WY

After a brief stop  in Lusk it was eastward towards Nebraska, with a flyby past Van Tassell, the last town in Wyoming.

Van Tassell, WY
Van Tassell, WY – Population 15
A scene from Van Tassell, WY
A scene from Van Tassell, WY

And into Nebraska I rolled….

Sumoflam in Nebraska
Sumoflam in Nebraska
On the border, there is a building with a windmill growing out of it....
On the border, there is a building with a windmill growing out of it….

This section of US 20 is also called the “Bridges to Buttes Scenic Highway” and runs for about 200 miles across northern Nebraska. This is Nebraska in its rawest form, as the subtle and rolling sandhills transform into striking and majestic bluffs and buttes.

Bridges to Buttes Byway in western Nebraska on US 20
Bridges to Buttes Byway in western Nebraska on US 20
Rolling hills of US 20 in western Nebraska
Rolling hills of US 20 in western Nebraska

From the rolling hills, the scenery opens up into beautiful buttes on the approach to Crawford, Nebraska.

Buttes of Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford, Nebraska
Legend Buttes of Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford, Nebraska
US 20 approaching Crawford, Nebraska and the Butte Country
US 20 approaching Crawford, Nebraska and the Butte Country

After the long drive from Casper through the prairies of eastern Wyoming, I had to make stop in Crawford, “The Garden Beyond the Sandhills.”

Welcome to Crawford, Nebraska
Welcome to Crawford, Nebraska
Old house in Crawford, NE
Old house in Crawford, NE

From Crawford I headed southeast on Nebraska Highway 2 towards Alliance.  This highway was a nice drive through the small town of Hemingford, Nebraska.

Nebraska Hwy 2/71 heading southeast towards Hemingford
Nebraska Hwy 2/71 heading southeast towards Hemingford
Nebraska Hwy 2/71
Nebraska Hwy 2/71
Old church near Hemingford, Nebraska
Old church near Hemingford, Nebraska
Welcome to Hemingford, Nebraska
Welcome to Hemingford, Nebraska
Hemingford water tower
Hemingford water tower

I loved the little police station in downtown Hemingford.  One of the smaller ones I have seen.

Hemingford Police Station
Hemingford Police Station

From Hemingford it was on to Alliance, one of my main destination goals for this trip….

Alliance, Nebraska
Alliance, Nebraska

My object in Alliance was the famed Car Art spot “Carhenge.

Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
Wide view of Carhenge
Wide view of Carhenge

Due to the nature of this great roadside attraction, I have actually done a full blog post on Carhenge.  You can see that HERE. So, I’ll just add one last photo below…you can see the rest on my other post.

Glowing sun on Carhenge, in Alliance, NE
Glowing sun on Carhenge, in Alliance, NE
Sumoflam at Carhenge in Alliance, NE
Sumoflam at Carhenge in Alliance, NE

From Alliance I still had a ways to go as I continued on Nebraska Hwy 2 towards my final destination for the day, Grand Island, Nebraska.  This section of Hwy 2 is also known as the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway.

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway on Nebraska Hwy 2
Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway on Nebraska Hwy 2
Nebraska Highway 2 Sandhills Journey
Nebraska Highway 2 Sandhills Journey

The drive from Alliance to Grand Island was still about 272 miles so I was literally driving into the sunset over the beautiful rolling Sandhills of Nebraska. The Sandhills represent the largest remaining grassland ecosystem in the United States that is still virtually intact for both flora and fauna. It is the largest sand-dune area in the Western Hemisphere and one of the largest grass-stabilized dune regions in the world. I wish I could have taken more time to see it, but I did get to enjoy a fabulous sunset as I passed the small town of Hyannis, Nebraska.

Sunset over Beem Lake in the Sandhills of Nebraska...
Sunset over Beem Lake in the Sandhills of Nebraska…

I continued for a couple more hours on Nebraska 2 finally arriving in Grand Island about 1 AM after a drive of about 720 miles and on the road from 7 AM to 1 AM – 18 hours.  Yes, I was tired, but I was certainly happy with the wonder of the day’s journey.

(8450)

Montana Trip: US Highway 89 thru Montana – South 89

89 South in Montana
89 South in Montana

After spending a nice day with my children and grandchildren along US Highway 89 north of Great Falls, it was time to begin the long trip back to Kentucky  the next day. I would begin the return trip with a quick jaunt south on I-15  to Great Falls and then south on US 87/89 towards Kings Hill Pass on the Kings Hill Scenic Byway, which runs along US 89 from the US 87 junction to the US 12 junction just north of White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

Welcome to Conrad, Montana
Welcome to Conrad, Montana

Before moving on, I should mention that on the previous day we made a quick stop in Conrad, Montana to see if there is anything interesting there.  Conrad is south of Shelby and just off of I-15, so it is easy off and easy on.  Conrad is just a bit smaller than Shelby.  Not too much, but they still have a nice looking old theater and an old 70s style motel. A nice stop for the nostalgic-minded.

Orpheum Theater in Conrad, Montana
Orpheum Theater in Conrad, Montana
Northgate Motel in Conrad, Montana
Northgate Motel in Conrad, Montana – Clean and Quiet

Since it was early morning, I didn’t stop in Conrad on the way to Great Falls. Rather, I was in town before sunrise and on to US 89 south, which joins with US 87.  I had to head east through town past Malmstrom Air Force Base just as the sun came up. It was a beautiful Montana morning.

Sun peaks over the hill east of Great Falls on the morning of May 27
Sun peaks over the hill east of Great Falls on the morning of May 27
Sunrise near the Highwood Mountains east of Great Falls
Sunrise near the Highwood Mountains east of Great Falls

US 87/89 passes by Belt, Montana, but I didn’t drive through there on this trip as I wanted to get down US 89 and into Yellowstone and US 212 over Beartooth Pass.  Just shortly after passing by Belt, US 87 continues east and US 89 breaks off southward toward Monarch, Montana and pretty much follows Belt Creek, which at the time I was driving the route, was a raging creek with all of the winter runoff in full force. This is the beginning of the Kings Hill Scenic Byway.

Kings Hill Scenic byway
Kings Hill Scenic Byway in Central Montana
US 87 and US 89 split south of Belt, Montana
US 87 and US 89 split south of Belt, Montana
US 89 south towards Monarch, Montana
US 89 south towards Monarch, Montana
A view of Belt Creek from US 89 north of Monarch, Montana
A view of Belt Creek and the entrance to Belt Creek Canyon  from US 89 north of Monarch, Montana
US 89 approaching the Belt Mountains north of Monarch, Montana
US 89 approaching the Little Belt Mountains north of Monarch, Montana
Old cabins on a hill with the early morning light as seen from US 89 north of Montana 427
Old cabins on a hill with the early morning light as seen from US 89 north of Montana 427
Beautiful views abound on US 89 through Montana (and Big Sky views abound too)
Beautiful views abound on US 89 through Montana (and Big Sky views abound too)

I reached Monarch, Montana at about 7:30 AM. Monarch was originally established to service the silver mines in the area. It is near the Sluice Boxes State Park.

Monarch, Montana
Monarch, Montana
Deer on the roadside in Monarch, Montana
Deer on the roadside in Monarch, Montana
A nervous doe stares me down in Monarch, Montana
A nervous doe stares me down in Monarch, Montana

The drive through the Lewis and Clark National Forest is very nice on a spring morning. Wildlife was in abundance and the raging Belt Creek could be heard, the smell of pine in the air.  It was very refreshing (with the car windows down of course!)  Soon enough, I was passing through the town of Neihart.

Welcome to Neihart, Montana (oh well...not all photos come out perfect!)
Welcome to Neihart, Montana (oh well…not all photos come out perfect!) The sign says ” Our small town is like Heaven to us, please don’t drive like Hell through it.”

Neihart had a few unique things so it was well worth a short stop for a look/see.

US 89 runs through Neihart, Montana
US 89 runs through Neihart, Montana
An old barn in Neihart, Montana
An old barn in Neihart, Montana

I always like the unique shops on road trips, and Neihart offered one of those up in GJ’s Junkers Delight….fun signs, unique metal art

GJ's Junkers Delight in Neihart, Montana
GJ’s Junkers Delight in Neihart, Montana
Love this sign on GJ's - This ain't no museum, this junk is for sale
Love this sign on GJ’s – This ain’t no museum, this junk is for sale
This scrap metal dude apparently guards GJ's Trailer
This scrap metal dude apparently guards GJ’s Trailer

From Neihart, US 89 begins to offer a spectacular drive through the Rocky Mountains and gets you up to Kings Hill Pass which hits an altitude of 7,385 feet. Kings Hill Pass is part of the Kings Hill Scenic Byway which passes through the Little Belt Mountains in the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana, United States.

I saw numerous snow runoff formed waterfalls that fed into the raging Belt Creek. This was one of the nice ones.
I saw numerous snow runoff formed waterfalls that fed into the raging Belt Creek. This was one of the nice ones.
Most of the drive on US 89 south of Neihart is in the pine forests.
Most of the drive on US 89 south of Neihart is in the pine forests.

As the altitude climbed I could see that there were ski resorts and then I came across the Showdown, Montana sign near the summit of Kings Hill Pass.  Created in 1936 and originally called King’s Hill Ski Area, Showdown is a small-scale ski area that caters mainly to weekend skiers.  It also has nice summer activities for bikers, hikers and campers.

Showdown Montana Ski resort
Showdown Montana Ski resort
Sumoflam at Kings Hill Summit in Montana
Sumoflam at Kings Hill Summit in Montana
The views south from Kings Hill Pass
The views south from Kings Hill Pass at 7,393 feet
Ski Trails of Showdown near Kings Hill Pass
Ski Trails of Showdown near Kings Hill Pass
US 89 south of Kings Hill Pass
US 89 south of Kings Hill Pass

From Kings Hill Pass US 89 heads down hill towards White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

US 89 south of Kings Hill Summit
US 89 south of Kings Hill Summit
I had to stop and get this shot of the pretty male Mountain Bluebird
I had to stop and get this shot of the pretty male Mountain Bluebird
Horses graze in verdant meadows under the snow-capped mountains of the Big Belt Range
Horses graze in verdant meadows under the snow-capped mountains of the Big Belt Range
US 89 heads into rolling hills about 5 miles north of White Sulphur Springs, MT
US 89 heads into rolling hills about 5 miles north of White Sulphur Springs, MT

The end of the Kings Hill Scenic byway is about 3 miles north of White Sulphur Springs, which sits at the base of three mountain ranges. A truly beautiful setting.

End of Kings Hill Scenic Byway at US Route 12
End of Kings Hill Scenic Byway at US Route 12
US 89 in White Sulphur Springs, Montana
US 89 in White Sulphur Springs, Montana at 8:30 AM
A ghost sign on an old building takes you back to the hey day of White Sulphur Springs
A ghost sign on an old building takes you back to the hey day of White Sulphur Springs
Battling peaks of hay challenge the snow capped peaks in the distance south of White Sulphur Springs
Battling peaks of hay challenge the snow capped peaks in the distance south of White Sulphur Springs

From White Sulphur Springs US 89 continues south towards Livingston. This portion of the drive has some spectacular mountain views, especially of the Crazy Mountains (also known as the Crazies). I can envision the awe of pioneers as they realized they would have to get past them.

The Crazies as seen from US 89 near the Smith River Valley in Montana
The Crazies as seen from US 89 near the Smith River Valley in Montana
US 89 and the Crazy Mountains in Montana
US 89 and the Crazy Mountains in Montana
Another view of the Crazies
Another view of the Crazies
Mountains and plains as seen from US 89
Mountains and plains as seen from US 89

Wyoming lays claim to being the pronghorn capital of the world, but Montana has to be a close second.  Some of my best pronghorn photos have come in Montana.  I saw a small group by the road near Wilsall and stopped for a visit.

A curious pronghorn enjoys the morning sun
A curious pronghorn enjoys the morning sun
Mountains from US 89 near Wilsall, Montana
Mountains from US 89 near Wilsall, Montana
A small family of pronghorn Antelope scamper across a field near Pulis Lane in Wilsall, Montana.
A small family of pronghorn Antelope scamper across a field near Pulis Lane in Wilsall, Montana.

From the Wilsall area I continued south towards Livingston, Montana.  The mountains scenes were breathtaking on this section of US 89 near Wilsall. I knew that on the other side of the mountains sits the city of Bozeman, where I lived from 1971-1973. I loved Bozeman.

Mountain views are breathtaking
Mountain views are breathtaking near Wilsall, Montana

Wilsall, along with Clyde Park,  is in the Shields River Valley.  The Shields River was named by Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in honor of John Shields when they arrived here in July 1806.  This area was also visited by the famous trapper, trader and scout Jim Bridger in the 1860s.

A sculpture of a pioneer/trapper overlooks the Shields Valley
A sculpture of a pioneer/trapper “Thunder Jack” overlooks the Shields Valley – artist Gary Kerby
Sumoflam and Thunder Jack
Sumoflam and Thunder Jack

The above sculpture by local artist Gary Kerby was dedicated in 2006. Titled “Welcome to the Shields” it is nicknamed “Thunder Jack.”

Welcome to Wilsall, Montana (with the Welcome Bird on top of the sign!)
Welcome to Wilsall, Montana (with the Welcome Bird on top of the sign!)
This day there were beautiful clouds over Wilsall, MT
This day there were beautiful clouds over Wilsall, MT
Bank Bar in Wilsall, MT.  Old neon and a question...is there a drive thru ATM at this bank?
Bank Bar in Wilsall, MT. Old neon and a question…is there a drive thru ATM at this bank?
Wilsall Mercanitle Company in Wilsall, Montana
Wilsall Mercanitle Company in Wilsall, Montana
Wilsall Grocery Neon sign
Wilsall Grocery Neon sign

And of course, I finally found a nice wall mural on this trip.  This one on the side of the Mercantile building takes you back to the early 1900s in Wilsall. This was painted by Gary Kerby, the same artist that made the pioneer sculpture pictured above. Gary is a resident of Wilsall. Kerby has painted murals in Montana (I saw another of his works in Cut Bank last year), Oregon and Washington.

Wilsall Mural in Wilsall, Montana
“Wilsall Unleashed”  Mural in Wilsall, Montana by Gary Kerby
Grain elevator with mountains in the background in Wilsall, MT
Grain elevator with mountains in the background in Wilsall, MT

Continuing south on US 89, there are miles of open range ranchlands with the amazing mountains in the background.

US 89 heading south.  This is about 6 miles north of Clyde Park, MT
US 89 heading south. This is about 6 miles north of Clyde Park, MT
US 89 just south of Clyde Park, MT
US 89 just south of Clyde Park, MT
US 89 north of Livingston, MT
US 89 north of Livingston, MT

Livingston, Montana is one of those wonderful communities nestled in the mountains (like Leadville, CO – see my post about Leadville).  There are old buildings, old neon signs, and majestic mountains framing the buildings.  I spent 30 or 40 minutes in Livingston to capture the feel of this town. The town is also touted as the “Original Gateway City to Yellowstone National Park.”

The mountains tower over the city of Livingston.
The mountains tower over the city of Livingston.
Mountain view from Sacajawea Park in Livingston, Montana
Mountain view from Sacajawea Park in Livingston, Montana
Old Empire Theater in Livingston, MT
Old Empire Theater in Livingston, MT
Dan Bailey's Fly Fishing Supply
Big Fish on the store front of Dan Bailey’s Fly Fishing Supply (see website)
Ghost sign in Livingston, Montana
Ghost sign in Livingston, Montana
Old Coca Cola Ghost sign in Livingston, Montana
Old Coca Cola Ghost sign in Livingston, Montana
Classic Neon sign in Livingston, Montana
Classic Neon sign in Livingston, Montana
Livingston Bar & Grille Neon in Livingston, MT
Livingston Bar & Grille Neon in Livingston, MT
The Mint Neon sign in Livingston, MT
The Mint Neon sign in Livingston, MT
Mountains surround the city of Livingston, Montana
Mountains surround the city of Livingston, Montana

After a breather in Livingston it was on to Yellowstone National Park via US 89.  From Livingston, the highway basically follows the Yellowstone River, which was running very heavy due to runoff from the mountains. The mountain scenery at this point is amazing.

The mountains and the Yellowstone River as seen from US 89
The Absaroka Range (Western Beartooths) and the Yellowstone River as seen from US 89
Wayside Chapel on US 89 south of Livingston
Wayside Chapel on US 89 south of Livingston

Not too far south of Livingston I came across a small wayside chapel with a splendid view of the Yellowstone River and Emigrant Peak (10,915 feet) of the Absaroka Mountain Range. The chapel was built in 1968 and had once sat on a small hilltop overlooking Yellowstone River adjacent to the rest area on US Hwy 89. It’s been a landmark as well as a curiosity. The chapel is always open providing shelter and a resting place for weary travelers. The chapel is 12 foot tall including its steeple; the building is 10-by-14 foot with stained glass side windows. There are eight wooden seats facing a white cross on the pulpit.

US 89 south just north of Gardiner, Montana and the entrance to Yellowstone National Park
US 89 south just north of Gardiner, Montana and the entrance to Yellowstone National Park

I soon found myself in the touristy town of Gardiner, Montana. The town definitely caters to the tourists and adventurers. It is also home the entry point for the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park and the massive Roosevelt Arch. Constructed under the supervision of the U.S. Army at Fort Yellowstone, its cornerstone was laid down by President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. The top of the arch is inscribed with a quote from the Organic Act of 1872, the legislation which created Yellowstone, which reads “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.”

Entering Gardiner, Montana
Entering Gardiner, Montana
Old ghost sign in Gardiner where they claim to sell everything
Old ghost sign in Gardiner where they claim to sell everything

And thus ends my journey on Montana’s US as I enter through the Roosevelt Arch into Yellowstone National Park and eventually into Wyoming.

Sumoflam at Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, Montana at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Sumoflam at Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, Montana at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Looking north to Roosevelt Arch and Montana from Yellowstone entrance
Looking north to Roosevelt Arch and Montana from Yellowstone entrance
At the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park, still on US 89 in Montana
At the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park, still on US 89 in Montana

From this point I entered Wyoming on my way to Mammoth Hot Springs and US 212 which will take me across the northern section of Yellowstone National Park and into the Beartooth Mountain Range.  That will be the subject of my next post!

(6244)