We finally dragged ourselves away from the Black Hills, and began the trek to Yellowstone. Our scenic route required some preparation. Chris had to make the decision of how to cross the Big Horn Mountains with Aunt Glady in tow. After doing some research, he decided to take the South Pass on Route 16 and avoid the North Pass Route 14, which has switchbacks (hairpin turns of 180 degrees in a small area) and a very long continuous descent with no pull-offs to rest the vehicle. With our plan ready, we hit the road. Yellowstone or bust!
As we approached the Big Horns, we saw plenty of signs warning travelers that the South Pass is the safest route. We were glad to have made the right decision, and it was a beautiful sight to see the majestic peaks come in to view in the distance…
The Big Horns shared their glory with us as we passed through. We saw a moose foraging, and Chris stopped at the highest point on Route 16. This was our first experience of tundra, as our mountains back in PA do not come close to these heights. To be fair, PA mountains start so much closer to sea level that it is like comparing apples to oranges.
The Big Horns do feature peaks over 13,000 feet high, but this is the high point along Rte. 16. These areas above the timber line feature alpine tundra plants that survive a harsh existence in the winter. We were glad to be passing through in the summer.
Descending from the peak, we were in for a treat and a little trouble. We drove down through one of the most beautiful river gorges I have ever seen. The landscape was quintessential Wyoming.
Is this Big Horn country or what??!!
And now for the trouble. Our first pull-off to get a better view of the gorge, we could all smell the burning rubber on exiting the truck. And for the first time in my life, I witnessed our brakes actually smoking. Not just a little puff, but some serious smoke that would have easily signaled Indians! We rested the brakes, while we enjoyed the scenery, and we made sure to make more frequesnt stops on our continued descent and Chris utilized second gear. WE even had a bathroom break – I can’t tell you you how nice it is to tow your bathroom with you on long driving days in open territory. If I remember correctly, it was a 7 % grade for 18 miles or thereabouts. WE eventually made it safely down and across the rest of Wyoming passing through some badland areas and miles upon miles of sagebrush. We easily fell in to the rhythm of a flat road extending in to the distance. Until suddenly, Chris hit the brakes and pulled over, his facea little pale. “Oh my gosh, the steps are down!” he exclaimed as he hastily hopped out of the truck. In his haste, we were not at a pull-off, so we were sitting partly in the road He returned to tell us that he looked in the side mirror and realized our steps were down on the RV!!! That pit stop back in the Big Horns had left us with our steps down. We must have looked pretty ridiculous driving down the road with our steps hanging out. Not to mention, we could have easily hit something in the shoulder. We had plenty to laugh about that night at our campground, once the danger had passed.
And all’s well that ends well.