We had relatives vist when we lived in Whitehall, Montana for a couple years. We decided to drive east to Red Lodge and take the Beartooth Highway back West to Cooke City to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone. A trip through the park would complete the tour.
Let me start by saying that I'm partial to the Going to the Sun Highway in Glacier National Park. The Beartooth Highway however is all that and then some. 60 miles of the most amazing scenery and mountain vistas you'll find anywhere. CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt went so far as to declare it 'the most beautiful drive in America'. I kid you not, it is that glorious of an experience.
The first leg of the drive out of Red Lodge involves climbing the side of a mountain like a Mountain Goat. Going to the Sun is a white knuckler for me, this had every fiber of my being tightened up in fear. I don't do well with heights. You climb the side of the mountain at what surely feels like a 45 degree angle and are treated to a stunning view of the valley below as you climb. WAY BELOW! Before you know it though your at 8000 feet and starting the leg of the journey on an alpine plateau that takes you across two mountain ranges and reaches heights of 11,000 ft.
If you go you must stop and visit the fire tower. Just as you start the downhill trek you'll come across it. Do it. You won't be disappointed. Up in that tower you'll be treated to one of the most tantalizing views of a mountain range you'll ever come across. The day before the ranger told us a momma grizzly and two cubs strolled through as well.
I tell you about the Beartooth because of a very cool experience I had at the very top that smashed any pre-conceived notions I may have had about personal limitations.
A few miles from the first rest area and overlook there is another overlook/parking area. The mountains are still holding onto their snow in mid-august like a mother clutches her baby when a stranger passes by. Down in the bowl of the valley on the east side of the overlook is a beautiful blue/green alpine lake and to the west is more snow covered peaks.
On this day we could see snowboard trails on these peaks. This was extreme snowboarding in an ultimate adrenaline junkie heaven. No bunny hills here, this was the real deal and one wrong turn could be fatal. We stood on the edge of the mountain to the east overlooking the lake watching the herd of mountain goats half way down the steep face. The mountain goat kids were playing in the snow, bouncing and chasing each other and ol' Billy goat gruff kept an eye up the hill at the small crowd watching them.
We stood watching the goats when down the hill from the parking area strolled the crazy kid with the snowboard. "Dude your crazy" I thought reminiscing about days gone by in my youth and bombing ski runs (on a smaller scale) and jumping 20-30 feet in the air. I was most definitely envious in a wistful way. "This guy is going to do it!" I said to my wife as he looked over the edge and dropped his board.
The crowd had gotten quiet, not that we were boisterous in the 40 degree - 30 mph winds (oh yeah, bring a jacket) but a definite silence fell. We were all thinking the same thing, "No way!". With a single hop the end of that board dropped out of site. No hesitation to think about the consequences, simply strapped in and BOOYAH/SAYONORA over the edge. Everybody stepped forward to watch as the boarder sizzled diagonally across the face of the mountain then somehow turn it around and back across. The mountain goats took off and were halfway to the lake in the blink of an eye. Amazing. What an arena to play in. They call it Top of the World for a reason.
Now here's the best part and made the whole crazy experience of this boarder on Top of the World just a little bit more unique and special. Right before the descent the hat and goggles came off for a final adjustment. When the hat came off a cascade of long sandy blonde hair poured out of that hat. I was stunned because I was close enough to see with my own two eyes.
"Dude" was a girl. Oh man, You go girl!
I had to smile.
If you can dream it you can do it. What's your dream? What's stopping you?