Arriving in the town of Belgrade, Montana is like being in another world. Belgrade hosts the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. Compared to Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago & even Jacksonville, it is quaint with views of mountains in every direction. There are only 7 gates & 3 baggage claim check points. You can’t really get lost in it.
If you hadn’t read my first blog on the flight from Jacksonville, we were lucky enough to take this trip flying first class on American Airlines. What is great about flying first class is you are the first to board & the first to debark. We got our luggage, rental car (minivan) from Hertz & headed out on our adventure. The photo above made us smile and feel like we were in the west, with the train coming around the mountain (on the left) & perfect weather. Had me singing “She’ll be coming around the mountain when she comes”.
We had done some shopping in Bozeman and picked up supplies before heading to our first destination, Paradise Gateway in Emigrant, MT. This bed & breakfast is tucked away in the mountains & sits right on the Yellowstone River. We stayed in the Wildflower Room the first 3 nights in the main house & the tiny house the last night. The tiny house is located a few yards away from the main house overlooking the Yellowstone River. See the 3rd photo below. Pete & Carol Reed are exceptional hosts. Pete has an encyclopedic knowledge about the area including Yellowstone, and Carol makes a delicious breakfast.
Once we unloaded the necessary luggage into our room. We walked around the grounds of the bed & breakfast, taking in the majestic views surrounding us, excited about staying in such a beautiful place and anticipating what was to come. Daylight was dwindling and we were too excited to hang out at the B&B. We found Pete and asked him where he thought we should go to see something special before it got dark. He smiled, gave us detailed instructions and said with confidence “you should see some elk there”, pointing to a spot on a hand drawn map. We headed down the road to look for birds & elk.
Driving down the highway, I spotted a bird of prey flying over the roadway just ahead of us. When we pulled over, we saw there were two birds feigning, swooping and scoping out the alfalfa field below. They were hunting and flew in to roost in a large tree overlooking the field. These hawks were huge. Before getting a close look at them through the binoculars, we thought they might be Golden Eagles. They were Ferruginous Hawks, an adult and an older juvenile. Excellent, two birds we definitely wouldn’t see in FL. We think that it was a parent teaching the younger bird to hunt. We got a photo of the younger one (above) which had something in its talons. Way to go young one!
Light was waning now and we had to find the elk to make the day complete. As we continued down our patch of the unknown, we found the elk in a field way in the distance from the highway. They were right where Pete said they would be. In the days that followed, whenever Pete told us where to find something specific, we could dang sure set our GPS to it.
On our first night, we counted 60 head of elk cows & calves just from what we could see with our binoculars. We could here the bull bugling to his cows, but we couldn’t see him. Then as the light was giving way to darkness…there he was…tucked up against the trees next to his harem. No photos this evening as the herd was too far away & the light was dimming quickly.
We drove a bit more and pulled off in a wilderness area along the Yellowstone River, where we would eventually launch our kayak a couple of days later. We watched our first Montana sunset as the temperature began to drop into the 50’s. That’s 50 F/10 C. It was quite invigorating since we had left Florida in the upper 90 F/32 C. Tired and happy, we headed back to Paradise Gateway excited about what tomorrow would bring.