2010 Aug 18 – Day 7 – Billings, MT to West Yellowstone, MT (Zoo Montana)

Before we left Billings we went to Zoo Montana, a 70-acre open enclosure zoo and botanical garden.  The zoo opened in 1992 and over 70,000 people visit annually.  I love animals and am happy that all the larger, reputable zoos now have good natural habitat enclosures and the critters are well fed and well cared for.  Zoo Montana isn’t really big as zoos go, but it had nice pathways and big open pens.  None of the animals we saw portrayed any of the stress behaviours I have seen in years gone by.                                                               Bald Eagles                                                                Grizzly   Sitka Deer – they are not very big and have very reddish antlers
      Siberian Tiger – I love the white spots on the back of the ears.                                Red Panda – these little guys are so cute.
Wolverine – don’t mess with these fellows, they are fiesty and mean.                                                            Wolf, obviously.

                      The flowers in the botanical garden were lovely.

After we finished at the zoo and gardens we headed southwest to the Montana-Wyoming border and through another high winding mountain pass.  The summit of Beartooth Pass is 10,947′ above sea level and, like the Going-to-the-Sun Road through Logan Pass, is only open from mid-May to mid-October.  Because of the high elevation snow storms can occur even in mid-summer and the pass is notorious for high winds.

                       Looking one way and looking the other way.

Beartooth Pass is often called “the Most Beautiful Drive in America” and it was stunning on the sunny day with which we were blessed. The 68-mile road enters Wyoming just south of Deer Lodge, MT and then re-enters Montana 17 miles south of Cooke City close to the eastern entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Beartooth Pass is a great ‘motorcycle road,’ with plenty of zigzags and switchbacks.  Over a 12-mile stretch you make an elevation rise from 1,600m (5,200′) to 2,400m (8,000′). The above photos are panoramic stitches of several photos to try capture the scope of the space.  Unfortunately the page width of the blog settings doesn’t allow them to be displayed very well.  You can get the idea though.These two photos give a good idea of the many corners and switchbacks on the route.

Yellowstone National Park is primarily in the state of Wyoming, however the north boundary is in Montana and the west boundary is along the Montana and Idaho borders so we went in and out of Montana and Wyoming a few times that day.  Our three-night hotel reservation was in West Yellowstone so we pretty much did a diagonal drive through the park and out again on the Montana side. It was fitting, I think, to be greeted to Yellowstone by a few members of their bison herd.

Yellowstone is huge and there are many loop roads and trails to explore.  Our three-night stay lasted four and I could have lingered for another week.  Each day we explored a different part of the park so we did see a lot of it, but there was a lot left to see when we checked out and drove south.  The next few blogs will be very photo heavy with all the geysers, basins, formations and colours that we saw.

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