On my first visit to Yellowstone National Park, I entered the park via the Beartooth Highway, on the northeast side. When I started in the morning, it had been relatively sunny and warm, but by the time I reached the road’s summit, winter conditions prevailed. This was in the 2nd week of July.
The snow had started to accumulate to at least a couple inches, and the clouds made visibility very poor. This mountain road turns and climbs to an elevation well above treeline. What I remember most was the lack of a guardrail, and the eerie bamboo poles stuck into the ground at the road’s edge – a guide for the plows to find the road when their time came.
I had been in 4wd, and I’m sure my top speed was no more than 25mph. At one point I came across a fairly long section of straightaway and decided to test the braking ability ever so lightly. As I did, I could feel there was no traction underneath and I started to slide a little towards the downhill side. That was the last time I made any attempts at braking, and slowed my pace even further. Although not a sheer cliff, the mountainside sloped downward at least 1000 feet, and if I rolled off, it would have been at least a day before anyone would have found me. I found out later that the road was closed minutes after I started my ascent, which explained why I was the only one out there that day.
Upon descending back to the forested regions, I came across this small lake and pulled over. By now, I was just glad to have something flat on the side of the road, and having that crazy drive over the mountain pass behind me. I remember feeling so much more relaxed when I got out. This scene, with the calm lake, and the storm clouds moving out, echoed my state of mind at the time.
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