The first cloudy day, began as I left NE Wyoming for Montana. Aside from the early-day storms in western Montana, this was the most interesting day of the journey so far. Most of the day (588 miles) was spent traveling across the length of Montana, but the most spectacular part of the trip was in the last 200 miles or so: about 50 miles east of Butte, MT, there was an abrupt, upward climb on I-90. It is as though the highway developers found a way upward, snaking through deep canyons bound by massive, rounded rock formations, spotted here and there on the vertical slopes with pine trees that managed to find purchase in a pocket of fertile soil on the boulders. The climb lasted about 15 minutes, and at the top, there was a highway marker proclaiming the top of the International Divide at ~6400 feet.
Then, it was a gentle downhill ride towards Butte, and then on toward Missoula. It was during the last 50 miles or so before Missoula, that the spectacular downhill ride began: this time there were no massive boulders…the interstate snaked down through valleys, bound on both sides by steep, pine tree slopes rising hundreds of feet, in a myriad of peaks and valleys, spinning past the windshield in a breathtaking panorama of pine green, mountain earth brown, and granite gray. And, it seemed, for the case where anyone could be jaded by the natural display on both sides of the Interstate, there was a BNSF railway train with several miles of loaded coal cars pushing four diesel engines down the mountain on the south side of the interstate at nearly the same speed as auto traffic (75 mph!).
It was impossible to take pictures on the up or down experience, but even if possible, those images could not possibly capture the intensity of seeing the magnificence of this small bit of nature. I-90 through Montana…definitely a worthwhile NATURE trip.
Back to earth, Billy. Rest in Missoula tonight, and it is on to Ellensburg, Washington tomorrow.