Massive road trip, day 2 – with pictures!

Another fine day! Bison and breakfast and Roosevelt National Park, a long drive across Montana, and a great dinner in Great Falls.

Tom standing under "Salem Sue", a giant statue of a cow
How exactly do I milk this thing?

I forgot to mention that yesterday we got to visit “Salem Sue”, a ginormous statue of a holstein cow just off of I-94. Here’s hoping that wasn’t the highlight of the trip :-).

Sunset from Buck Hill in Roosevelt National Park
The end to a good first day

After dinner last night in Medora, we drove along part of the loop road in the park, ending out at Buck Hill, the highest point in Roosevelt National Park, where we got to watch the sun set. On the drive there and back we saw gobs of prairie dogs (a given around here), numerous bison, wild horses, and some deer.

That night a bison wandered through our campground around 11:30pm, even pausing to drink from the water faucet right across from our camp site. Reminded me of camping trips to the Wichita Mountains 30 years ago, where bison and cattle were regular night time visitors.

Morning sun in Cottonwood Campground, Roosevelt National Park
And it begins again

Sunrise was at 5:03am, and we were up and moving before 7 as a result. After some fruit and conversation, Tom decided to hang in the campground while I went off to take pictures and hike around some.

Bison rolling in the dust at Roosevelt National Park
Oh, that's it - right there!

I went down to the Lower Paddock Creek trailhead, where I encountered two large male bison who weren’t much interested in getting off the (one lane gravel) road for me. One in particularly clearly felt that our little Honda Fit wouldn’t stand a chance in a fair fight, and I was inclined to agree. I started backing down this little road, and halfway down encountered a big SUV heading the other way. I explained the situation to them, and they asked me to pull over a bit, and they’d just pass me and go have a look. Once they’d gone past, I decided to follow them in case they had better luck intimidating bison with their much bigger vehicle.

When we got there, the really stubborn fellow had already moved off the road, and the new folks were able to use their SUV to bully the other guy off as well. I took full advantage and swung into the trailhead parking area and headed out to get at least a little hiking in. When I came back out some 45 minutes later, they’d ambled down a bit, but had happily (for me) remained off the road. The photo above is the cranky one taking a bit of a dust bath – here’s hoping it improved his spirits!

After my safe return, we had a somewhat comical bought of tent folding and packing, and then an excellent breakfast at the Elkhorn Cafe in Medora. From there we began the drive across the great expanses of eastern Montana. I’d forgotten (or never realized?) how much “badland” landscape there is there – I’d always thought of it as much more flat prairie. The only other time I’ve driven across that part of the state it was farther north on US 2; perhaps the landscape is quite different up there?

We travelled most of the day on Montana 200, which large stretches of very little in the way of people or buildings. Towns like Lindsay are really just 8 or a dozen families at a crossroads a heck of a long way from anywhere. Tom did a lot of excellent driving, not all of it in the best of conditions (rain, a detour, semis passing in the rain on narrow roads, etc.), which was really nice.

The nice folks at the Days Inn where we’re staying in Great Falls recommended Bert and Ernie’s for dinner, and they were spot on. The food was wonderful, and our waiter was easily among the best I’ve ever had.

And, on that happy note, to bed. Tomorrow we drive to Glacier National Park. The weather looks wet and gurpy, so I’m not sure how things will play out. Fingers crossed!

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