The West is worth it

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Yellowstone National Park

It happened out of the blue: I fell in love…With the state of Montana! My family has just returned from a fabulous vacation to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. It’s a trip we’ve been trying to make for five years. But as we all know life (read: time, commitments, money) sometimes gets in the way.

The trip did not disappoint. We all enjoyed the beauty the parks have to offer: mountains, waterfalls, geysers galore and of course lots and lots of wildlife. Yet as glorious as the Tetons are, as thrilling as it is to see a mama bear and her cub playing in a meadow, or bison grazing just outside our cabin, my heart now belongs to state of Montana.

I loved the people; they reminded me of Hoosiers. I loved the towns; friendly and quaint with a backdrop of the Absaroka Mountains. I loved the wide, open spaces. But most of all, I loved Beartooth Highway.

Charles Kuralt once called it “the most beautiful highway in America” and I’d have to agree. Built in 1936, Beartooth is a section of highway 212 that runs between the cities of Cooke City and Red Lodge, Montana. To be fair, a good stretch of it zigzags into Wyoming; so I guess I love both states. It is one of the highest and most rugged areas in our country, and not for the faint of heart. The highway is full of curves and switchbacks, which allow it the most wonderful views imaginable.

Along this drive you’ll wander through the Custer, Gallatin and Shoshone National Forests. The elevation rises from 5,000 to 8,000 feet. There are 20 mountain peaks that reach over 12,000 feet. Beautiful lakes, green meadows and snowcapped mountains galore; I was in heaven. My advice? Visit Yellowstone, see the Grand Tetons, but add the Beartooth Highway to your travel plans.

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