It’s 3PM and 50 lovely degrees as I leave Bozeman.
I’m thrilled to be driving 89 again – why am I on 89? Because the new road is open! The refurbished, re-designed and newly guard-railed former stagecoach from Gardiner to Mammoth is finally finished! It opened two days early to a bit of fanfare (ribbon cutting) yesterday.
I enjoy the scenery of Paradise Valley since there is both snow and fall color. The trip feels so short compared to the route to West that I almost got used to!
Near the Gardiner airport I see a sizeable elk herd, with some cows hurrying away from a big bull. Tis the season.
I feel some excitement as I drive through the Gate and turn right onto the freshly paved and painted blacktop. It’s very smooth, like the new Dunraven road. And there are small groups of elk grazing the rolling hills to the right.
There are several “caution” signs and the posted speed is 15. Good. I see the first of many guardrails above a sharp U-turn and smile at the handy pullouts. I notice green spray on the hillsides, which is probably some kind of seeding compound.
There is a nice pullout next to the pond on the right, with a big herd of pronghorn nearby. Boy, there are a lot of sharp turns and two that are complete “U” turns. I feel bad for the big trucks and busses that will come up this route, but then I remember the S-curves on the higher section of the Gardiner Canyon road.
I pull into one of the high pullouts and feel a brisk wind. I stay in my car and scan around. Nice view of Everts and McMinn bench. I see sheep!
I continue going east and slip into another pullout. From here I realize that Kite Hill is above me. Wow, Allison has had a front row seat to all this! I enjoy the views and decide this will become my new Allison-visit pullout.
I return to the road and catch a glimpse of the top of the Terraces ahead. Oh, there is what remains of the route the Park eventually (and rightfully) abandoned, the one that ended behind the Hotel.
I am now driving on the newest part of the road curving in a wide U-turn down towards the post office. Ahh, yes, this is a huge improvement. I merge onto the main road where elk always gather on the grassy center strips.
There are several bison clogging the road right at the 3-way stop sign.
I head east towards the high bridge and enjoy my drive through the Blacktail.
At Elk Creek I see Stacy, Dale & Faye so I join them. They have no wolves right now but did see Junctions for a good while this morning in Lamar. Unfortunately, the pack headed out towards Cache.
I find elk up on Specimen, and several bison.
As I pass Boulder, I notice a handsome bull elk on the south side of the road, with a harem of about 20 cows. At midpoint I see a coyote mousing. There are more elk in Soda Butte Valley.
It’s a gorgeous day and the Park looks beautiful.
When I get to Silver Gate, I see that Dan and Rick have been busy chopping and stacking wood. The house is ready for winter!
Today I saw: bison, a coyote, elk, pronghorn, a miraculous new road and the spirits of Allison,
Richard and Jeff.