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.

Pilot Whales

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Pilot Whales off Cape Breton Island.

I went out on another whale tour out of Bay St. Lawrence.  I went on a boat named Oshan.  I thought it was another way to spell Ocean but it is a Gaelic term meaning “standing tall or above”.  It is operated by a family that has lived in the area for over 5 generations.

The tour was incredible.  I can’t begin to describe what the northern tip of Cape Breton Island looks like, especially from the water.  It is stunning.  The captain started the tour by giving the usual safety guidelines like how to put on a life preserver.  He demonstrated putting it on, said tie it the best you can, and then said the next step was to pray.  He told us it was the only life preserver on the boat and he would throw it in the middle of the boat and probably the quickest, strongest person would wind up with the preserver when needed.  After that he told us there were enough life preservers to probably float the boat.

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Cape Breton Island.

Okay, this captain was hilarious but he was also quiet.  Here’s my thinking.  This is a guy who was a fisherman most of his life (a life that doesn’t require interacting with people) and then turned to whale watching tours.  With fewer fish and more tourists available, it’s probably a good choice.  But, this is a quiet, introverted fisherman who has turned into a whale tour guide.  He spoke very little and once we got out to “sea” he said “okay you can start looking for whales”.  He turned out to be a great captain and we saw lots of pilot whales, grey seals, seabirds, and great coastline.

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Home on Cape Breton Island. Notice the access to the sea. It is a rope ladder.

The pilot whales were a blast.  There were many whales swimming together and coming up for air at the same time.  It was like watching a group of dolphins except they are bigger than dolphins.  It was an amazing experience for me.  I hit the jackpot on this trip.  This tour would have been amazing even without the incredible pilot whale encounter.

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Cormorants off Cape Breton Island.
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Guillemot. Look at those red feet!
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Fox crossing road on Cape Breton Island.
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Regis cannot believe this post is one block of wood. You don’t see that very often.