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We set off from Carmel California on May 25th for Idaho, Wyoming and hopefully Montana. The plan started out with a week in Jackson Wyoming as the state had lifted their quarantine on May 8th. When Idaho relaxed theirs on May 16th I added a few nights there. I also made tentative reservations in Montana with the hopes that they would lift their quarantine and start reopening Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. On May 18th Grand Teton National Park along with the lower half of Yellowstone National Park via two Wyoming entrance gates reopened.

We split the drive to Idaho into two back to back 7 hours by overnighting in Winnemucca Nevada. As we crossed the border from CA into NV we felt a bit like fugitives on the run. Most gas stations in CA had closed their restrooms though highway rest areas were open. The opposite was true in NV. In ID both were open. Fast food restaurants along the route were still limited to takeout only. I thought I'd pick up a pair of waterproof hikers when we got to NV as our retail stores were still closed but there were long lines of people waiting outside to enter as other people exited at the outlet mall in Reno so we passed. In rural NV you'd hardly notice anything is different other than casinos being closed. We stayed at the Candlewood Suites so we could have a kitchen and there were about two dozen cars parked overnight.


Donner Pass along 80 (there's a nice rest area nearby)


IMG_20200525_1354389.jpg.583e9eeab16db3a01919c18dc90ff094.jpgNotice the fan. There's a small microwave behind the fan in case we have trouble finding places to eat. Also notice the skeleton dog with the poncho and cowboy hat. His name is Barf.

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We spent 3 nights at Redfish Lake Lodge just south of Stanley Idaho in the Sawtooth National Forest which reopened on the 22nd. This was our 4th time staying here and I was able snag our favorite cabin, Getaway, at the very end. We drove up through Twin Falls where we had a picnic at Shoshone Falls and Ketchum where we'd stayed last October for their really fun sheep festival. Between Ketchum and Redfish Lake we saw some mule deer and pronghorn along 75 as we drove over Galena Summit arriving on a very quiet Tuesday after the Memorial Day holiday weekend. We don't usually travel at this time of year as the weather starts to get too warm for us and there are normally too many people on the road. However this is anything but a normal year. At check-in we were informed that there was currently no running water due to a main line break but we couldn't care less (and water ended up being restored quickly). Our cabin had a kitchen and we had packed a week's worth of food since we weren't sure what we were going to find. Turns out the lodge had reopened their onsite restaurant with tables spaced out and staff wearing masks so we made a reservation for Wednesday evening.

Shoshone Falls

Deck of Getaway cabin

On Wednesday morning we hiked 8 miles to Bench Lakes from the trail head near the lodge. The hike offers great bang for the buck as it doesn't take long to get up to the ridge line where you have a view of snow covered mountains on the right and Redfish Lake on the left. We climbed to 7750 ft and coming from sea level I was surprised I didn't notice the elevation while on our hike though I did fall asleep for 15 minutes after we got back to our cabin. There was still some snow near Bench Lakes but overall the trail was much drier than we expected. We spent the rest of the day relaxing on our deck except for a quick trip to Stanley to see if the post office there could help me with my mail hold problem. Mail holds seem to only work 50% of the time. Dinner tonight was the first time we'd eaten at a restaurant since March 15th. The food is really good at the lodge. Mark had tagliatelle with clams and I had trout.

Redfish Lake


Second Bench Lake

View from the lodge restaurant


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On Thursday we walked the short nature trail near the still closed visitor center with boardwalks over Fishhook Creek and ate breakfast at the lodge restaurant. After breakfast we went on another walk to the still closed campground at the end of the still closed road where we picked up the trail on the other side of the lake. It's possible to circumnavigate the lake via a 12ish mile hike though we didn't end up going far. The lodge will also shuttle you by boat from their location on the north end of the lake to the south end of the lake so you can hike half that distance back or just hike on the other side of the lake and take the next shuttle boat back. Lunch was fish and chips from the lodge's outdoor grill. I realized how much I'd missed fries! More lazy time spent in the afternoon on our deck with occasional walks to the main lodge to pick up their wifi and check on reopening news. Montana will lift their quarantine and reopen the northern half of Yellowstone National Park with their three entrance gates on June 1st. Xanterra, the concessionaire that runs in park accommodations, also moved up the reopening dates of their cabins at Old Faithful to June 8th so I grabbed a couple of nights there. The Blackfeet Tribe however which borders Glacier National Park to the east decided to extend their quarantine through June 30th so my plans for Glacier are in doubt.



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Today we made our way to Jackson. We usually like to stay in the park but this year there are limited accommodations available. Only Dornans, Signal Mountain, Colter Bay and Flagg Ranch will be open with the latter three not reopening until June 5th so we opted for a condo in town instead. It's 86 degrees in busy downtown Jackson. I guess that's to be expected being a Friday afternoon in one of the earlier mountain resort towns to reopen. Every place we walked into had hand sanitizer at the entrance and staff wearing masks. We settled into the condo and I received my auto cancellation email from Xanterra for my reservation at Many Glacier on the 15th. I was also holding a reservation at Lake McDonald which is still scheduled to reopen on the 15th but decided to cancel that as I didn't want to only be able to access the west side of the park. I have confirmed plans through the 10th and will try to figure out what we want to do after that over the next few days.

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Our first day in Grand Teton started out with an attempt to hike to Phelps Lake from the Laurance Rockefeller Preserve only to find that it was still closed. We continued along Moose-Wilson Rd to the Death Canyon trailhead and hiked to the Phelps Lake Overlook. On the way a marmot posed for us near the road. Moose-Wilson Rd is in good condition, the last mile to Death Canyon trailhead is rutted but passable and the trail to the overlook was drier than we expected.




Phelps Lake

After the hike we entered through the Moose entrance where there was a short queue. We headed up Teton Park Rd with plans to drive up to Signal Mountain Summit but found that closed as well. We made a quick stop at the still closed Signal Mountain Lodge to walk down to Jackson Lake. This year only cabins with kitchens will reopen at Signal Mountain.

Jackson Lake from Signal Mountain Lodge

We decided to continue up toward Pilgrim Creek to look for bears where we immediately ran into a traffic jam. I could spot a grizzly sow and two cubs in the distance from our car and guessed that it was 610. Pilgrim Creek Rd was closed and rangers were out for crowd control. We slowly made our way to an open turnout and started to walk back when we spotted 610 and her cubs heading in our direction so we just waited for her to come to us. What a nice first day sighting!






Next was a quick stop at Colter Bay where the convenience store and gas station was open. Gas was also available at Signal Mountain and Dornans. As it was getting too warm to hike we decided to head back south and do some recon to see what else was open. Pacific Creek Rd was open to the Two Ocean Lake trailhead but closed to the campground. River access at both Cattleman's Bridge and Deadman's Bar were closed but Schwabacher Landing was open. Lunch was pizza on the deck of Dornans which was quite busy as it's the only place to eat in the park. They had both decks open and we were thankful there was still a shady table on the lower deck. Pizza was something else we hadn't eaten since they closed our farmer's market in March. We had ambitions of walking to the bridge and looking for moose but decided we'd had enough sun and slowly meandered back to the condo along Moose-Wilson Rd. We have only traveled between late September and early May so the park is busier than we're used to but other than the bear jam it hasn't been too bad. I'm guessing that it's quieter than late May in a normal year. Only Gros Ventre campground on the southern boundary of the park has reopened.

Pizza with a view

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Wow @Patty - Marmots and Grizzly families soon in the adventure.  


Good luck with places opening in time and access, etc.  Hope you see some wolves in Yellowstone.


Be safe and watch out for crazy drivers!


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Great start @Patty, and nice to see the bears. I think I ate pizza from that same location almost three years ago to the day. I just finished reading a book at on Wyoming the other day, I have to admit it gave me the urge to return to Grand Teton and the area. So l will be following along with interest! 

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@Patty wow, wonderful bear sightings and such gorgeous scenery. Fingers crossed that your bookings work out, one way or another. I'm enjoying your TR "from the field".

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We got an earlier start this morning to hike Bradley and Taggart Lakes as the trailhead looked busy yesterday. On the way we saw some elk close to the road along Moose-Wilson. Arriving at 7am there were just a few cars and we only encountered two other hikers on the 6 mile loop. There was some snow on the trail going up to Bradley Lake which was hard packed but not icy so you could easily walk on it.




Taggart Lake






After our hike we had a picnic breakfast and then jokingly said let's go see the bear show. We didn't actually expect bears in the same location as yesterday but lo and behold there were two subadult grizzlies in the same spot where we saw 610 and her cubs yesterday. We again inched our way to a pullout north of Pilgrim Creek Rd and started to walk south when the bears again started coming toward us. These were Blondie's 3 year old cubs that she kicked out last year, a male and a female that denned together over winter. We overheard one photographer say "these aren't the bears I was looking for!" Everyone has been waiting for 399 and her 4 cubs to reappear since some bad behavior last Saturday resulted in a mock charge and hazing. 399 is the 24 year old mom of 610. She emerged from hibernation with 4 cubs this year and had been at Pilgrim Creek on opening day. It's too bad some have to spoil it for all. But we were ecstatic to have two great bear viewings in a row.











Next we headed to the Two Ocean Lake trailhead and took a short walk along the lake shore followed by more slow meandering back to the condo. The park seems a less busy than yesterday. There was no queue to enter as we drove past the Moran entrance. Lots of bison and pronghorn could be seen east of the main park highway. In the late afternoon we wandered around downtown Jackson. There was a small protest in the square but otherwise it was fairly quiet. Dinner was on the back patio of Bin22 where they offered us a choice of 2019 service or 2020 contactless. All of the staff were wearing masks and gloves but we should've asked for contactless just to see what it was. I'm imagining "here catch!" Their scallop crudo was delicious.





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Day 3, bears again. But first we started our morning by driving the south end of River Rd. The majority of River Rd is inaccessible but there's a small section to the north which goes down to the river but is currently closed and another small section to the south which we hadn't driven down before. To our surprise at the end of this section is an old dude ranch that's being restored.






After exploring the ranch we headed to Jenny Lake to hike to the Moose Ponds. Unfortunately no moose but we did find a ruffed grouse. Lots of evidence of beavers here. We turned around when the trail turned into a stream.

Jenny Lake


Moose Pond


It's bear thirty again! Blondie's cubs were out near Leeks Marina Rd this time. They were much closer to the road today so the rangers moved everyone to the other side of the road. As with yesterday the female was being very photogenic while the male spent most of his time eating.


After the bear sighting we continued north as we hadn't explored farther north than Colter Bay yet. We started down the road to Sheffield campground but thought better of it when we got to the creek crossing. Next we tried to head down Grassy Lake Rd but found that still closed so we turned and headed south again and found a nice picnic spot by the lake.


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This morning started with a stop at the bridge at Moose to scan the Snake River area for moose but alas no luck. We headed toward Colter Bay to hike at Hermitage Point and on the way ran into Blondie's twins for the third day in a row. They were farther from the road this time. We continued north and found out we'd just missed 399 and her 4 cubs at Pilgrim Creek. We decided to wait with everyone else to see if she'd appear again, and waited, and waited. People were breaking out chairs. As much as we'd love to see her, neither of us has the patience to hang out in one spot all day so we continued to Colter Bay. Part of the Hermitage Point trails had a bear closure so we were only able to do the Heron Pond and Swan Lake loop. It started getting overcast and drizzled for a bit. We saw no one else on this hike.



Heron Pond

Jackson Lake


After the hike we drove north and then back south again scanning for bears but didn't find any. We stopped at Two Ocean Lake for a picnic and then decided to take a back route to Gros Ventre. We'd never taken this road before which starts directly across the highway from the Cunningham Cabin and goes behind Triangle X Ranch. There are several free boondocking campsites back here with a 5 day stay limit with beautiful views of the Tetons. The network of roads along this valley was slightly confusing but we made our way onto Antelope Flats Rd and eventually to Mormon Row seeing bison and pronghorn along the way. We stopped at several points along the Gros Ventre River to look for moose but struck out again.



The rest of the afternoon was spent doing a little shopping in Jackson and followed by happy hour at Bin22. We had such a nice meal two days ago we wanted to try some of their other dishes.



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An announcement was made today that Glacier National Park would have a very limited reopening starting on June 8th. The west entrance will be open until 4:30pm each day and the road would be open only as far as Lake McDonald. I'd been holding out slight hope for more access but now it's time to get serious about a Plan B after Yellowstone. We thought of going back to Redfish Lake but they were pretty booked so we're going to spend a couple of nights in Ketchum instead. After that we want to include some time in parts of Idaho and Oregon that we've never visited before so will head to McCall and then the Wallowa Mountains. I would like to include John Day Fossil Beds and need to figure out how best to do that as there aren't too many accommodations nearby.

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I've made good progress on my new plans and found a place to stay in Mitchell OR which is fairly close to the Painted Hills section of John Day. I also booked a couple of nights in Bend and at Crater Lake though the park currently doesn't have a reopening date. I may need a Plan C.

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Day 5, no bears. Well, there were bears, 399 and her cubs specifically, but we kept missing them. More on that later. We started out the morning returning to Gros Ventre to look for moose without finding any again but the river was very pretty in the early morning light. It's also flooding the bike trails toward Jackson.


We then decided to head up Shadow Mountain Rd which is another side road that we haven't taken before. It actually connects to the valley roads that we took yesterday. We found the gate on the southern end open and start up the mountain road. There was more free camping next to the gate as well as up the entire southern end of the road and along the ridge at the top.  The campsites along the ridge also had great Teton views. There was a little bit of snow still left at the top and it looked like they had just finished clearing last winter's deadfall from the road. After about an hour we descended the north side of the road only to find the gate on this end still closed! Damn, there was no warning! Not wanting to backtrack and hour and with the encouragement of some campers on this end, we drove around the gate.



A fox from my dirty windshield

IMG_20200603_0755253.jpg.9bf98ae4b2ab1124680dae2ccdea66b2.jpgThere was actually a big post to the right to prevent people from going around

Back on the highway we cruised up toward Pilgrim Creek finding no bears so we decided to head east on the highway toward Dubois for another scenic drive. Approximately 3 miles past Moran Junction is Buffalo Valley Rd to the left which is elevated above the river valley. We took it Turpin Meadows Campground at the end and turned around. There's another forest service road past the campground that connects back to the highway but we'd had enough rutted dirt roads for the day.



Back in the park we headed up toward Pilgrim Creek only to find out that in the hour we were gone we missed 399 and her cubs on both sides of the meadow, crossing the road and standing on her hind feet and generally being very photogenic! Oh well, we waited a while but got hungry so headed down to Leeks Marina for a lake side picnic. The weather was a perfect sunny, 70 degrees. Someone had left a extremely tempting Signal Mountain Lodge canoe on the shore of the lake (boating is still closed until Friday). Since we'd already committed one illegal act today, we decided not to press our luck. We were enjoying our quiet reverie alone on the lake when all of a sudden over 20 cars drove into the parking lot. We discovered than 399 had been spotted again walking in the direction of the marina. Everyone buzzed around the area and were all gone again within 15 minutes. We enjoyed a few more quiet moments after that and left. It had started thunder storming, what a difference half an hour makes, so we called it a day. We have one more full day in the Tetons before we head to Cooke City MT followed by the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. The weather is changing and it may snow by this weekend.



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You are doing so well with your last minute Plan B arrangements - good job.


The scenery in your TR is amazing, really enjoying reading along. I hadn't realised that the bears had names/codes, no reason why they shouldn't as lots of other members of highly sought mammal species do, especially tigers in India.

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The morning started out rainy so we abandoned our plans to hike at String and Leigh Lakes. The stormy weather made the mountains even more dramatic.



We cruised around the Pilgrim Creek area but no one had spotted bears this morning. The rain let up so we decided to hike to Grand View Point. Wow! What a stunning view at the top with a birdseye of Two Oceans and Emma Matilda Lakes to the left and Jackson Lake and the Tetons to the right. It was capped off by a displaying dusky grouse at the top. We saw no one else on the hike. As this area backs right up to the Pilgrim Creek area, we had our sheep bells on and our bear spray unholstered in our hands. Unfortunately neither are good against mosquitoes which we hadn't encountered until today so I'd left the bug spray back in the car.



Jackson Lake and Tetons

Two Ocean and Emma Matilda Lakes


We spent more time looking for bears but it's been a very quiet morning that has been alternating between rain and sun and sometimes both at the same time. Pacific Creek Rd had reopened so we decided to take a drive to the end. The road was freshly graded and the smoothest I've ever seen it. Looks like they're getting ready to open the campground and Swift Creek Outfitters was already open. Wish I'd known they were open earlier as it looks like a beautiful area to ride in.


Lunch was pizza at Dornans again. Inside this time as it was raining but it was not busy at all today. The park has gotten much quieter since the weekend. Tomorrow three lodges and several campgrounds will reopen so it's time to leave! We have three nights in a cabin in Cooke City and two nights in a cabin at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. We stocked up on food in Jackson today as Cooke City has pretty limited options and only the burger/grill places at Mammoth and Old Faithful will be open for takeout inside the park. Nothing else is reopening until mid-June. I'd like to drive up the Beartooth from Cooke City while we're there but the weather is looking iffy. We've never been able to make the entire drive due to weather closures as the pass reaches nearly 11,000 ft in elevation. I don't think I'll have much wifi or cell service until we get to Ketchum next Wednesday.

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Beautiful scenery, your rearranging seems to be working well. You had some great bear sightings.

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Wonderful Dusky Grouse encounter  @Patty - I am jealous.    Very nice photo as well.

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Thanks, everyone. More dusky grouse coming up. And more bears. And wolves. Can someone tell me how to post a video?

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We set off at 6am on Friday, June 5th as we had a 5 hour drive to Cooke City without stops. A coyote trotted down Teton Park Rd. Signal Mountain Summit Rd had reopened so that was our first stop. In addition to the views there was a pair of dusky grouse.






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We entered Yellowstone through the southern entrance and took the route along Yellowstone Lake as we'll be staying at Old Faithful later. We quickly ran into some bison on the road.



We stopped at the Sulphur Caldron and looked for wildlife in Hayden Valley but only spotted some elk and more bison. Dunraven Pass between Canyon and Tower is closed for construction until April 2022 so we had to take a circuitous route.







We exited the park at the north entrance and had lunch at Wonderland Cafe in Gardiner.



As we were re-entering the park, there was a nice herd of pronghorn near the road.






We stopped at Mammoth to check out the great horned owl nest in the pine tree just to the right of the private residence that's just to the right of the still closed visitor center. We could see mama and a small puff of white.



We wanted to take Blacktail Plateau Dr but that was still closed. We turned down the road to Petrified Tree to look for black bears and found not one but 4 bears. A cinnamon black bear sow with two cinnamon cubs and another lone black bear.




Past the Yellowstone Picnic area there was a young grizzly bear.



We drove down Slough Creek Rd to see if the Junction Butte pack is denning there this year. There were many people camped out in the turnouts along the road with scopes and chairs. Indeed there are 17 adults and 18 pups this season. We made a plan to return early tomorrow morning continuing onto Cooke City. Just past Silver Gate we found a moose.


We're staying in a cabin at Antlers Lodge which is at the east end of Cooke City. There's no AT&T cell service here. The wifi is only semi-usable and seems to go out with the slightest bit of weather. We decided neither of us wanted to cook or clean so got takeout from MontAsia which turned out to be quite good. "And not just Cooke City good" Mark said. They also have free wifi while you wait.



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Here's a video of one of Blondie's 3 year olds in the Tetons. Hopefully this works.



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We left at 5am this morning to get to Slough Creek before 6am. We staked out a spot and set up our scope. Not long after a lone black wolf trotted across the valley but went behind a knoll before I could get a photo. That turned out to be our best view of a wolf this morning as the others were glimpses of movement near the den area that quickly disappeared behind a tree or hill. At one point everyone got very excited about a lone black creature moving fast up the hill until we all got our scopes on it and it turned out to be a black bear. The person who pointed it out apologized profusely!



We decided to leave Slough Creek to have a chance of driving the Beartooth Hwy before the storm moved in stopping at the visitor center in Cooke City for a map (they also have free wifi here) and Bearclaw Bakery for some snacks. It was already clouding over as we started our drive. We stopped at several waterfalls, lakes and view points along the drive and watched skiers from the Gardner Lake turnout. We made it to Rock Creek Vista  at the top of the last set of switchbacks before the descent to Red Lodge when it started raining. The weather had moved in earlier than predicted. Our original plan was to go all the way to Red Lodge for lunch before driving back but we thought better of it and turned around. It rained most of our way back and many of the peaks we could see on our way out were obscured but after multiple previous attempts we finally made it across the pass.






Rock Creek Vista

Pilot and Index peaks

In the late afternoon when there was a break in the rain we walked the length of Cooke City which isn't very long.


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Same skier


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We picked up more pastries at Bearclaw Bakery this morning. They're open from 5am to 10:30am. Bring cash as they have a $20 credit card minimum and at $1.50 per banana bread, that's a lot of food. They also serve breakfast. We got a lazy start from the cabin at 6am. Two members of the Junction Butte pack were walking across Lamar Valley where there were herds of bison. They went into some sage and spooked a pronghorn.


We stopped to watch some red dogs play and continued onto Slough Creek where we had more glimpses near the den. We were told early this morning they were howling. I received a text that the Beartooth Pass closed at 7:30am. Slough Creek not only has a wolf den but is the best place in the park to pick up a cell signal.


The weather looked clear so far so we thought we should try to get in a short hike and went to the Yellowstone Picnic area. A short trail leads up to a ridgeline with 360 degree views. We walked both directions along the ridge and took in the views.





We made another stop at Petrified Tree and found the same lone black bear that was busy scratching its back.



Then a quick stop at Undine Falls.


Right before Mammoth we learned that we had just missed a grizzly that went behind a hill. Our plan was to picnic at Mammoth but it started to rain earlier than predicted. We thought we'd drive down to Gardiner for a late breakfast at Wonderland Cafe only to find that Sunday breakfast is the only meal they don't serve so it was back to Mammoth for a rainy picnic in our car. The park feels much quieter than when we've been here during a normal early May. It feels more like late September or early October visitation levels.



Most of the drive back to Cooke City alternated between rain, wet snow and sleet. When we got back to Cooke City it started hailing. We made some hot tea in the cabin and decided to take a chance on another scenic drive along the Chief Joseph Hwy toward Cody. East of Cooke City it stopped raining and the sun even came out at times. This was another drive that we'd never taken before and we actually enjoyed the scenery even better than the Beartooth. We went about 29 miles to the Clark Fork overlook before turning around. Back in Cooke City it was raining again or maybe it never stopped.


Just before the junction of the Beartooth and the Chief Joseph



Clark Fork Overlook

For dinner we opted for takeout from MontAsia again, this time trying their noodles. It's 6pm and snowing. Tomorrow we move to the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. We stayed at the Snow Lodge last October during the last two nights of their summer season and got snowed in for two days. This year we'll be staying there the first two nights of their delayed summer season. Will we make it?



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