Our stay at Paradise Gateway B&B had come to an end. We finished our delicious breakfast (check out the pics on our previous post), hopped in the van and slowly rolled out of this beautiful property. As we pulled past the main house, there was Pete. With a big smile and friendly wave, he called goodbye from the second story deck. Pete and Carol had been wonderful hosts and as we drove down the gravel drive toward the highway, we talked about how we couldn’t wait to visit them again.
It was a beautiful chilly morning, sunshine and temperatures in the low forties. A perfect start to a late summer day in Southern Montana. But, the weather was predicted to change as we headed south. Our trip through Yellowstone to Old Faithful and then into Grand Teton was to be filled with a mix of sun, rain, snow and a combination of all three.
But first, we must take our daily detour. One we had taken everyday and twice one day, during our stay at Paradise B&B, the Old Yellowstone Trail (O.Y.T.). If you’re ever visiting this beautiful part of the U.S., and especially if you’re staying with Pete and Carol, please take this quick diversion when you’re heading south towards Gardiner & into Yellowstone. You won’t regret it and you’ll be following in the tire tracks of earlier explorers that travelled this road over 100 years ago.
The word trail is kind of a misnomer, in the name Old Yellowstone Trail, with today’s vernacular. Today, when we think of trail, we think of hiking or biking like The Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail. When we think of trails in the past, we think of routes and famous wagon trails, such as The Oregon Trail or Santa Fe Trail. The Old Yellowstone Trail was never either of these.
The O.Y.T. was an ambitious idea that came from a group of small town businessmen in South Dakota. The year was 1912, the automobile was in its infancy and roads were not what they are today. The idea was to establish a cross country automobile route. Bold thinking at the time, and the O.Y.T. was born. “In the 1910’s and 1920’s “Trail” was used to mean a long distance auto road” as quoted from yellowstonetrail.org. Check out their site and get the whole story.
We turned south out of the driveway of Paradise Gateway B&B onto Hwy 89. The turn off to the O.Y.T. was just up the road to our right. If you’re on Hwy 89 South heading to the park, you’ll know your turnoff is very close when you see the Absaroka Beartooth Historical Landmark on the left hand side of the road. Turn right when you see the street sign for the trail and you’re on your way back in history. The road is not paved, but is a well maintained gravel road.
We learned about this little treasure from Pete, the first night we checked into the B&B and, it became a daily pleasure. If you ever get the opportunity to stay with Pete and Carol, please take advantage of Pete’s knowledge, stories and friendly banter about Yellowstone and the surrounding area. Pete told us that, not only was this historic route scenic, there was very little or no traffic with great close up views of wildlife. One of the animals he said we’d see was pronghorn antelope. And, as you can see from the pics, he was dead on.
Another gift from the O.Y.T. which turned into a theme through our entire vacation, lots of birds. If you’re blowing down Hwy 89 at 65mph (yes that’s the speed limit), you’ll see birds but, you’ll miss more than you see. With each drive down this little section of the O.Y.T., we saw lots of birds as we drove slow on every trip. Not a great number of species but, lots of birds. We saw American Kestrels, Mountain Bluebirds, Sparrows along with other small songbirds and various hawks we couldn’t identify. So if you’re a birder, bird watcher or just want a great slow ride off the beaten path, take advantage of this little treasure.
As we turned right off the highway onto this dirt and gravel road, our thoughts and conversation turned to what we had experienced the last four days. We drove through the fields bordered by mountains we’d seen everyday and past the put in point for our amazing paddle on the Yellowstone River. We couldn’t help but smile and at the same time feel a little tinge of sadness. We had become familiar with the sites and sounds of this beautiful area and would miss it.
Crossing the bridge at the end of the trail and turning right, we were back on Hwy 89 and headed toward Yellowstone. We had a big day ahead, full of new adventures and we were ready.
Living in the Moment is what we do while enjoying our time in nature. If you missed any of the other Living in the Moment Series, you can click on them here. Just After Take Off, Day 1, Day 2 Mammoth Hot Spring, Day 2 Traffic Jam, Day 2 Undine Falls and Lava Creek, Lamar Valley – Slough Creek, Day 2 Trout Lake, Lunch at Otter Creek, Mount Washburn, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Paddling the Yellowstone River, The Tiny House. Please look forward to our next post as the adventure continues.