Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ramshorn & the Beartooth Highway

Montana is full of places to explore, and this week I was lucky enough to see two amazing places in the same day-Ramshorn Peak and the Beartooth Highway.  In the morning I climbed Ramshorn peak (10,289 feet) with a friend.  The climb was relatively easy, and beautiful as usual.  The Indian paintbrushes along the path were a great bonus, along with the meadows of sunflowers.
We even saw some mountain goats at the top-about 20 yards away.  As soon as they saw us they scattered and absolutely tore down the mountain.
The view from the top was pretty excellent, as always.  How could you ever get tired of this?
We ran part of the way down, flying past meadows of sunflowers and zig-zaggin through winding forest paths, running as fast as our legs could go.  Step.  Step.  Leap over a rock.  Step.  Bounce off the side of the trail in order to take a turn at an angle.  Brake down a steep part.  Accelerate at the bottom.  Whoosh!

We call it technical trail running-if you have to be surefooted or else you will not make it.  One wrong foot placement in a rocky section can land you a twisted or broken ankle.  A slip on the mud can mean biting it hard.  Putting your weight on a loose rock could mean both.

I never want to run on flat sidewalks again.


The Beartooth Highway

In the 1930s someone decided it would be a good idea to build a highway through Beartooth pass in the middle of the Beartooth Mountains.  Then they said "wait, that's not challenging enough, let's build it over the mountains."  Well at least that is how I imagine it must have gone.  Perhaps they had leftover stimulus money they just needed to spend since it was built in the Great Depression.

Anyway, the highway goes over the mountains, zig-zagging up the side with countless switchbacks, and eventually reaches a top height of 10,947 feet.  At the top, the mountains actually turn into a grassy plateau of sorts.  I imagine it is the plane on which the Greek gods battle, seeing as it is the top of the world.
Just look at it.
If there is one thing I learned from our 322 mile road trip to the Beartooths, it is that I need to go back and do some hiking and exploring.

We ended our day by driving back through Yellowstone, encountering the classic buffalo jam, as an entire herd decided to cross a bridge in front of us.  Gotta love'em.


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