We spend a day in Lander, take a hike up Sinks Canyon to see the frozen falls, eat enormous burgers at the Lander Bar. Alongside the local cowboys, we watch Olympic figure skating and cringe as Sean White takes fourth.
It’s windy as Hell as we head South on Hwy 287. The road is closed to “light weight vehicles” and the rest stops are full of semis, waiting it out.
After a night in Laramie, we cross into Colorful Colorado at 11:03 am. The odometer reads 1053.
In Denver, we stay with Karlie. We’ve known each other since middle school and she’s letting us stay as long as we’d like.
On Valentine’s Day we drive to Rocky Mountain National Park. A sign reads “In case of flood climb to safety”. We see sunken houses, boarded windows, bull dozers and trees with exposed, bare roots. We learn that 18 inches of rain fell between September 11 and 13 of last year. The park had to be evacuated and the eastern entrances were inaccessible due to the devastation of the flood.
Herds of elk graze beneath towering mountains. It’s 36° and snowing lightly. We’ve got the park to ourselves. We cook ribeye steaks for dinner and make a nest in the back of the car, drinking wine and playing chess.
In the morning, it’s too windy to make coffee or cook bacon. We pack up the car and drive out of the park as a stream of cars enter.
We pull away from Missoula at -7°.
The long way, Hwy 278, stretches across the beautiful Big Hole Valley. The cold has turned Wisdom and Jackson into ghost towns. We see three moose and a herd of antelope. Otherwise it’s just us and the cows.
Three nights in Dillon with my aunt and uncle. Yellow fields, blue mountains, endless sky. A night in Bozeman with our friend Layla. The temp is up to 27°.
The highway takes us through Fromberg, MT. A few buildings, a glimpse of a postman and a police car, and we’re back up to 60mph. Scattered antelope, cottonwoods crowding the frozen creek beds, snow-shrouded hay bales. So many bales, sitting, waiting to be reintegrated.
Just past the Wyoming border, a four-point buck grazes on the side of the guard rail. We stop in Thermopolis, home of the world’s largest hot mineral springs. We soak at the bath house and drive through the bison viewing area. We see only their tracks amidst the red rocks emerging from the snow, and a rabbit.
We arrive in Lander just after dark.