Wild Mustangs

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Wild Mustangs at the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.

August 19, 2018

The night before yesterday it rained, so we woke up to beautiful weather and the clearest skies we have seen in weeks.  It was the first time in awhile there wasn’t smoke in the air.

We headed to the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.  Adjacent to it is the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.  We saw some wild horses and they are beautiful.  They looked healthy to me.  There is an organization called the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center who is actively involved in helping to ensure the continued success of these horses.  I was fascinated with the stripe going doing each horse’s back and found some interesting information on the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center website.    This website discusses the distinct colors and markings of the horses.

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Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.

We spent some time at the Devil’s Canyon overlook.  Wow!  While we were there we saw someone water skiing down the canyon.  There was a great campground at the end of the paved road where there is also a boat ramp.  If we come back this way again, I’d like to camp in the campground and kayak through the canyon.  There is the potential to see a lot of wildlife here.  We saw LOTS of scat.

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Devil’s Canyon in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.
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Bighorn Canyon National Recreation area with a water skier going down the canyon.
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Bighorn Canyon National Recreation area with a water skier going down the canyon.

After we left the recreation area we went on Highway 14A into the Bighorn Mountains.  This is another scenic highway.  It does not disappoint.  Unfortunately, it started to get hazy again by the time we got into the mountains, so the views were marred by haze.  Nevertheless, the road is astonishing.  It was an incredible engineering feat to build it.

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Juniper berries. We’ve seen lots of these bushes around the area and love the way they smell.

As we go around the country, we notice that a lot of amazing road construction as well as campgrounds, lodges, and other facilities were built in the 1930’s.  The Civilian Conservation Corps built a lot of buildings, trails, campgrounds, and other facilities that we benefit from today.  It’s interesting to me that so much of the stuff we enjoy the most was all built around the same time frame.  You can’t help but wonder how they manage to build these roads in these difficult terrains.  I, for one, am very thankful that they did!

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FAA air traffic control stuff (that’s a technical term) on Medicine Mountain.

We went close to the Bighorn Medicine Wheel.  We visited it a couple years ago and went back because we saw marmots and pikas while we there.  I didn’t get a look at any Pikas, although Regis saw one briefly.  But, there were lots of marmots.  I also saw a little chipmunk actively feeding on natural food.  Since I mostly see chipmunks begging for food in picnic areas and rest stops, it was amazing to catch sight of one eating a good and proper diet for a chipmunk.

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Chipmunk eating a natural diet in the Bighorn National Forest.
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Chipmunk eating a natural diet in the Bighorn National Forest.
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Marmot in the Bighorn National Forest.

It started to rain on us on the way back and the temperature is now quite chilly.  Hopefully, all this rain will clear up the air and help this dry spell.

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Regis caught this hawk in flight in the Bighorn National Forest. We think it might be an immature Red-Tailed Hawk.

Beartooth and Chief Joseph Highways

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Alpine lake on Beartooth Highway.

August 16, 2018

I think the whole west is smoky right now.  We may have moments in the morning where it doesn’t seem so bad, but as the day progresses the smoke and haze increase.

After we left Glacier National Park area, we headed toward Red Lodge so we could drive the Beartooth and Chief Joseph Highways.  Once we got off interstate 90 to head south, about a mile off the interstate, we saw our first bear.  The bear was running full speed across a field.  When it saw us, it did a U-turn and headed full speed the way it came.  This is a picture of a bear butt.  I’m sure it was a brown Black Bear.

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Bear butt. Probably a brown Black Bear running full speed. We traveled in many national parks, forests, and state parks and haven’t seen a bear this year until we were about a mile from the interstate. Go figure!

We waited until the next day after setting up camp in the Red Lodge area and then headed out for a drive on the Beartooth and Chief Joseph Highways.  I recently met a woman (Robyn) who said the mountain views from these highways may be the best.  I understand now why she said that.  It was one of the most amazing drives through mountains that we have ever taken.  The haze greatly diminished the view, but it was still awesome.  I can’t imagine how much better it would be with a clear view.

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Chief Joseph Highway

Our most amazing animal encounter was with a fox.  I got out of the car to take pictures and the fox eventually came right past me as if I wasn’t there.  I stood still so as not to do anything to spook the fox, but the fox seemed oblivious to me.  It was very skinny and very intent on hunting.

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Fox along Beartooth Highway
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Fox along Beartooth Highway.

This is a great drive for people who cannot hike to get great views.  All the views are accessible by car.  There are lots of public land locations with bathrooms, so it is a great way to spend the day and be comfortable.  For those who want to get off the beaten path, the public lands are highly accessible and there are numerous hikes and water access points along the route.  It’s amazing.

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Beartooth Highway.

I apologize ahead of time for all the pictures, but we took so many I had a hard time selecting them down.  At this point, I’ll just show the pictures and caption them. (Note:  We drove the Beartooth Highway earlier in the day with the most haze, so the pictures are not very good.  The better pictures are later in the day by the time we went on the Chief Joseph Highway.  Nevertheless, the views from the Beartooth Highway were amazing.  It is essential you put both on your bucket list if you have never been to either.)

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Chief Joseph Highway
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Beartooth Highway
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Abandoned Smith Mine near Bearcreek, Montana.  Sadly, 74 people died in a mining accident in 1943 at this mine.
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Chief Joseph Highway
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Chief Joseph HIghway
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Beartooth Highway
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We wanted Dart to be able to play in the snow. Some places were too dangerous. If you slipped over the edge, it was a long fall to the bottom. It took us awhile to find a safe place to let him play. He was happy to get some quality time out of the car.
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Interesting mesa formation view from the Chief Joseph Highway.
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Obvious mudslide that wiped out several houses along the Chief Joseph Highway.
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Can’t stop at a rest stop out west without these chipmunk visitors.
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A Pika that appears to be gathering for the winter. Notice this little one has a yellow flower in its stash.