Friday, July 29, 2011

Gee, I wonder why it's called 'Bear Tooth Pass?'

We left Dubois, where we'd been watching a plume of smoke rising from beyond the ridge of mountains to the northeast. This turned out to be a fire caused by a lightning strike, which the local authorities decided to let burn to get rid of the accumulation of fuel. It began on Thursday, July 21.

By the 27th, the fire had consumed some 10,000 acres, according to the Billings Gazette, and firefighters were controlling it carefully. No homes or property had been lost and they seemed satisfied to let it run its course. Things, it seems, are different here.

We got our first glimpse of the Tetons from a distance.

We set up camp in a scruffy "RV Resort" near Moran Junction, within sight of the Grand Tetons, and David said I should just get my piture and leave. "There's nothing else to do here."

Soon we were up close and started burning up the batteries in our cameras.

Just outside Jackson Hole is the National Elk Refuge. Just inside Jackson Hole in the downtown city park is a gateway arch made of elk horns.

After lunch in Jackson, we rode up over the pass to Idaho just to enjoy the view and to be able to say "been there."

After each stop we'd say, "OK, that's enough pictures of the mountains." Then, we'd come around a curve and have to stop again for more.

We had dinner at the lodge at Jenny Lake, which has a view similar to this from the dining room.

As the sun went down, we were riding along the Lake Jackson shoreline and just had to stop again.

Finally, we packed up the cameras and headed back past Moran Junction to bed. That night, there was a lightning storm with a few strikes close by, but the rain didn't put out the fire and there was still smoke on the horizon in the morning, when we broke camp and headed for Yellowstone, where we were able to get a campsite for just one night.

Next day, we rode up to Old Faithful and joined a huge throng for the 1:37 p.m. performance.

There were an incredible number of people at the huge visitor center to see Old Faithful. David had stopped here 15 or 20 years ago and was amazed by the transformation. We arrived a little after noon, when the geyser had just gone off. It does its thing about every 90 minutes, so we figured we'd have a liesurely meal at the lodge and then watch the show.

The lodge restaurant turned out to be a McDonalds clone, but with higher prices. Hundreds of people, it seemed, were in a line bordered with crowd-control stanchions like at airport security. By 1:20, we'd finally gotten a couple of chicken sandwiches and joined the throng.

Hundreds of people lined the viewing area to watch the geyser blow ...

... which it did, in a suitably spectacular and reliable fashion. It didn't disappoint the fans, despite the sense of deja vu.

We don't see many other adventure bikes in our travels midst all the Harleys, Goldwings and Harley clones. So, we like to compare notes with fellow ADV types, such as this couple from Canada, touring Yellowstone on a BMW 1200GS.

Along Yellowstone's grand loop, whenever there was a traffic backup, you could count on some wild creature's putting on a show, like this bull elk enjoying dinner, oblivious to the crowd.

The upper falls of the Yellowstone River are especially spectacular this year as the record snow melt pushes its way downstream. Note the viewing platform crammed with visitors in the lower right of the photo.

The female elk were especially tame. This gal and her friends, accompanied by a few youngsters, tied up traffic for a half hour near our campground.

The National Park bulletin boards warned visitors to stay away from the buffalo. In our experience, they were hard to avoid.

On our second day in Yellowstone, we visited the lower falls of the Yellowstone River, which answer the question: "What would it look like if you put Niagara falls inside Bryce Canyon?"

Leaving the park by the less-travelled northeastern gate, we encountered a huge herd of hundreds of bison spread out through an enormous valley.

"I wonder what the name of that big, point mountain is?" I asked David. "I don't know," he said.

At the start of the way down from the 11,006-foot top of the pass, there was a small sign on the guardrail that read "Bear Tooth." Doh! From this angle, you just see the peak poking up above the ridge at the upper right of the photo.

The road dropped more than a mile with countless 20 mph switchbacks. At the bottom, we found the pleasantly bustling little town of Red Lodge and ate lunch.

Our trip through the Tetons and Yellowstone and up to Billings began at Dubois (A), passed the Grand Tetons down to Jackson Hole (B), turned north to Yellowstone (C), then climbed up over the 11,000-foot Bear Tooth Pass (D) to Billings, where we met Daniel.


  1. Love the pix. I particularly like the photo of the road thru the mountains with the switchbacks. Reminds me of the Pyrenees many moons ago.
    Ya... Bear tooth... took me a couple reads too. Very nice pix. luv j

  2. Beautiful pix - those Blue Highways.Have fun