Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary

Located on East 2nd Street is the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary. The space originally started as an exotic zoo until a concerned group took action and took over the space, founding the Beartooth Nature Center in 1987. Their mission is now to “provide lifelong sanctuary to non-releasable native wildlife and share a message of conservation and education” (yellowstonewildlifesanctuary.org).

The Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary.

The sanctuary is home to a wide variety of wild animals native to Montana. All of these animals are unable to be reintroduced to the wild for various reason–many because of human interference whether they were attempted to be kept as exotic pets or taken out of the wild and acclimated to human interaction. Each animal has a unique story and circumstance.

Lurch the turkey vulture who suffered a wing injury and can no longer fly.
Thor, the canadian lynx was born on a fur farm and rescued later by an individual caretaker who later realized he was too much work before turning him over to the sanctuary. He has poor eyesight and never learned how to hunt.

 

 

 

 

The staff and volunteers at the sanctuary not only maintain the animals and their habitats, but work to educate the public about these animals and the importance of conservation. The sanctuary runs a variety of camps and other educational activities for the youth and people of all ages.

Apache is a gray wolf who was born to a breeder and later relocated to a wildlife center. She never learned how to survive in the wild on her own.
Speedy was the runt of her litter at a bison farm. She was later purchased by a caretaker but became very destructive before ending up at the sanctuary.

 

 

 

 

The areas surrounding the different habitats feature beautiful gardens and grassy areas, and even a designated picnic area for guests. The sanctuary while maybe not the ideal outcome for any wild animal, is realistically the best case scenario for the ones that ended up here. The staff is friendly and the area pretty and well maintained. It is definitely worth the stop to see some beautiful animals and get educated about them in this area located in the gateway to Yellowstone.

Overlook of the grassy areas intertwined with habitats in the sanctuary.

Beartooth Rally

July 15th marked the start of the 23rd annual Beartooth bike rally. Motorcyclists gather from all over the US to ride the highway, and use the town of Red Lodge as a base.

Bikes of all shapes and sizes from all different areas line Red Lodge’s main street. 

Bikers gathered in Red Lodge on Friday night, filling the streets and bars with the scent of Bud Light and cigarettes–but in the best way possible.

Many people set up tents where they sold rings and leather accessories among other things–and there was even a pop up tattoo shop open though the weekend. One couple was selling rings and metals that were “true frequency” products–meant to “generate fluctuating anisotropic energetic potential”, “increasing coordination and strength and enabling you to fulfill energy demands with greater efficiency” (from their flyer).

Charlie Little and his wife, selling their True Frequency products.
“Tips to pet my boner” seen at another pop up stand selling rings and other biker related products.

 

 

 

 

 

This rally is huge for the small town of Red Lodge, and an extremely interesting gathering of a unique culture and group of people, who all come here with the same intent of rallying through the Beartooth Highway with other like minded individuals.

A group of bikers gather at the local gas station on Saturday morning before the rally officially begins.

Alternative Lodging

Part of what makes Red Lodge so incredible is its proximity to not only the Beartooth highway and mountain range, but also the national forests and hiking spots located all over the area. There are definitely plenty of options to get outside and even save some money on a hotel room in town. (Just don’t forget your bear spray).

A 10-20 minute drive along a dirt road has potential to take you to some incredible places.

There are around 20 Campgrounds within the Beartooth Ranger District. The different grounds vary in terms of size, camper or trailer access, dates open, price, and whether or not they have bathrooms, water, hosts, etc. With so much variety, it is easy to find a site that fits specific need and wants of campers.

Due to my status as a broke college student, I focused on finding sites with no fees associated–and still managed to stay in some incredible spots.

The Palisade campground is located off the West Fork Road just a few miles outside of town. There are only four spots–so if trying to camp here during peak tourist season it is wise to get here and set up camp fairly early. While visiting in late May/early June I didn’t run into any problems getting a spot here later in the afternoon.

The view from the Palisades campground.
An abundance of trees and wildlife makes this spot feel calm and secluded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The area features many hiking trails and is friendly towards larger groups trying to camp in one spot. It is very ideal if you’re wanting to get away but still be able to reach town fairly quickly.

Grassy meadow makes an ideal spot to pitch a tent.

If you’re willing to drive a little further outside of town, or are coming from the scenic Beartooth Highway, the M-K site is another incredible, free option. It is off of the same road as two other campgrounds, so there are multiple options within the same area if you’re looking for something a little different.

This campground is not hosted and has no amenities aside from a rock fire-pit. It has about ten sites and offers some incredible views of the Beartooths, the mountain highway, and the night sky.

Mountain and highway views visible from the wooded tent site.
Whatever campsite fits specific needs of the camper, it is important to come prepared with a car that can get where you are trying to go and all the necessary supplies. (i.e. bear spray!)

Whether you’re trying to get away for the night and not looking to stay in a hotel, or are planning an intensive get away, Red Lodge and the surrounding area offers plenty of options that can fit a variety of camping experiences.

View from the M-K campsite.

 

Home of the Champions

Coinciding with Red Lodge’s three day Independence day celebration is the annual “Home of the Champions Rodeo. Red Lodge is historically known for being home to some of the rodeo greats–and has hosted this particular show for 88 years.

The stands are packed with both locals and visitors for this home town rodeo.

Children and their parents, audience members young and old, gather here after purchasing fried oreos and “6 packs” of beer (conveniently packaged loosely in grocery bags) to witness cowboys get bucked off bulls and horses and rope cattle. There is banter between the announcer and the rodeo clown who performs stunts in between main events.

The rodeo clown jumps through a ring of fire on a car made out of a bathtub.
Cowboys attempt to quickly rope a calf.

Red Lodge’s rodeo is unique and clearly important to the community and draws participants from all over North America. An event that really has at least a little something for everyone(even if that’s just witnessing little kids ride around on sheep during mutton busting)–you really can’t go wrong with a good old fashioned western rodeo.

(2nd, 3rd, and) 4th of July Parade

This year marked the 88th year of Red Lodge’s annual parades that fall on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of July. The parade precedes the annual “Home of the Champions” Rodeo on the same three days.

American flags line the main street in Red Lodge through the week.

Each parade held throughout the three days has a unique theme that speaks to some aspect of the town of Red Lodge. This year, July 3rd’s parade was “agriculture” themed–featuring many horses and other agricultural aspects.

A horse carriage carrying veterans as part of the organization, “Operation Second Chance”.
Local boys featured in the parade on the back of an old truck. 

While definitely not the most flashy Independence day parade out there, this small town event is not lacking any character or heart. Residents line the street and the whole town essentially comes together in celebration of the town, its history, and its legacy.

An impressive young unicyclist captivates the local crowd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A line of alpacas have a spot in the celebrated parade.
Aftermath: shortly after the local fire department brings up the tail of the parade residents and visitors scatter–going about the rest of their days.

Search and Rescue at Red Lodge Ales

On the evening of June 16th at 7 PM, the community in Red Lodge came together for an important event and fundraiser for the town’s search and rescue program. For a $10 admission fee, participants gained access to the back lawn at Red Lodge Ales Brewery where climber Conrad Anker gave a presentation and talk that included the importance of search and rescue. Later in the night he also sold and signed copies of his book.

Despite slightly dreary weather, an impressive crowd gathered Friday night at Red Lodge Ales.

The event featured a raffle–with ticket purchases supporting the cause. The raffle featured goods from an impressive array of companies, including Patagonia and Mystery Ranch, as well as from local ones like Paris Montana and Red Lodge Ski Area.

Following the raffle, there was live music by local band, Tom Catmull’s Last Resort under cover of the large tent.

Tom Catmull’s Last Resort fills the lawn with original music.
A search and rescue helicopter that was on display outside the event.

All in all this was a wonderful event to attend. Music was playing, beer from Red Lodge Ales was flowing, and everyone seemed to be having a genuinely good time while supporting an important local cause. This is a community that clearly cares about the outdoors and important measures surrounding it.

 

Red Lodge Ales

 

 

Highway 212

If you’ve heard anything about Red Lodge, it’s likely that you’re familiar with the Beartooth Highway. Proclaimed “the most beautiful roadway in America” by “On the Road” correspondent Charles Kuralt, the highway offers unparalleled views and scenery as it acts as a pass between Red Lodge and Cooke City, and into Yellowstone.

A car makes it’s way past towering rock walls towards the beginning of a series of switchbacks on the pass.
One of many scenic overlooks that are easily accessed from the road.

The highway climbs to 10,947 ft. above sea level and features over 20 mountain peaks. It is also home to a plethora of wildlife and is home to over 900 alpine lakes and hundreds of miles of trails. Pull-offs along the way make it easy to experience the monumental sights or spend some time hiking–there is even a functional summer ski area near the summit that features one lift and a variety of terrain.

A cyclist makes their way down one of the early switchbacks.

The highway features many switchbacks and roadways that have the potential to keep drivers and passengers on the edge of their seat. That being said, it is also a hugely popular spot for motorcyclists–and was voted #1 motorcycling road in America.

About 24 miles into the drive (from Red Lodge) is the boarder between Montana and Wyoming. Though if you continue on the pass you will cross back and forth a couple times, this spot is significant because it is the 45th parallel and exactly between the North Pole and the Equator.

According to Red Lodge’s information center, this is the highest elevation state welcome sign.

Just after hitting the peak of the highway comes a somewhat unlikely attraction. The Top of the World store on the Beartooth Highway in Wyoming is somewhat of a last-stop-shop for gas, food, and a restroom. It features a single old fashioned gas pump, outhouses, and various Beartooth souvenirs as well as snacks and drinks for purchase. The employees bring new stock to the store once a week from Billings. It’s definitely worth a stop even just to stretch your legs.

The Top of the World Store.
Gasoline option throughout the entirety of the pass.

After hitting these points it is essentially smooth sailing to Cooke City and then Yellowstone. This highway is incredible and after driving it it is easy to see what all the hype’s about. Incredible views and scenery unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Driving this highway is definitely a bucket list worthy activity and something that anyone in the area between May and August should consider. It’s more than just a pass or roadway–driving it is an experience in itself.

Switchbacks on the way down the mountain.
One of the impressive alpine lakes visible from the highway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bear’s Tooth–the small sharp peak visible from this point is the namesake of the mountain range and the highway.

 

Parks and Rec

More than just a popular tourist spot, Red Lodge is a community. There are several outdoor spaces dedicated to residents to enjoy some outdoor activities, or just take some time to escape and enjoy some fresh air.

The Lion’s Club Park is a centrally located community spot, right behind Broadway Ave. and the Art’s Guild building. On old train track sits on the edge of the space, and the open field features goal posts for a quick pick-up game.

Railroad features in between the Arts Guild and the Lions Park.
The park offers a calm location for visitors to hang out outside and get some fresh air.

 

 

 

 

Further down Broadway and a couple of blocks to the east towards the old mine sits a quiet area known as City Park. Less of a recreation spot, this park is a very scenic spot right next to the creek that runs through the town. This is a great spot to get out and experience nature without having to travel far at all. This is an ideal spot to picnic or even to just take a couple minutes to breathe in the crisp air and listen to the water run.

A bench offers a calm and convenient view of the scenery.

On the opposite side of Broadway from City Park is a small but significant skate park. It is a popular spot for local kids to hang out and skate, bike, and scooter. Though there are not very large features at the park, it is a valuable spot for some of the younger locals to improve their skills and get in some activity.

A young resident practices getting some air on his scooter.
Nick revisiting the park that he used to skate at as a kid.

 

The Candy Shop

For anyone with a sweet tooth, the Montana Candy Emporium is nothing short of a dream come true. Rows of buckets full of taffy and other sweets take up most of the store, along with unique signs, displays, and other interesting items. At the front of the store, workers are busy crafting handmade chocolates and fudge.

Candy by the pound–an almost overwhelming selection of sweets.
A display at the corner of the store, also where radio station music can be heard playing.

I spoke with the owner Mike (also the owner of the antique store down the street), who has owned the store for 27 years. A native of Red Lodge, Mike speaks very fondly of his business and his employees. Interestingly, Mike also runs his own AM radio station: “Retro Radio” (1490AM), out of his office in the back of the store. It began when he purchased some old radios for the antique shop, and he realized there really wasn’t anything to be played on them. Now a huge hobby, Mike runs adobe software to organize his music and even makes his own jingles that are reminiscent of retro radio stations of years past.

Mike in his office, otherwise known as Retro Radio headquarters.

The station’s reach is within the town of Red Lodge and plays a little bit of everything from a classic era, including big band, country, rock, lounge, etc.

 

Upon asking Mike if he had any thoughts about the Town of Red Lodge, he explained that he feels as though he had “one of the last great childhoods” here– speaking with nostalgia about a simpler time in a small town where the kids would “grab the dogs and the 22s” carefree and without certain concerns that are more prevalent in our modern day society.

Montana’s Candy Emporium is an interesting space run by an even more interesting man. Almost like a step back in time–conveniently providing a sugar rush alongside nostalgic radio tunes.

Montana Candy Emporium.

 

Free Museum

My first stop in Virginia city was the free museum. With everyday items, clothing, and plenty of newspaper clippings, this museum had everything about the history of Virginia City.

Dr. G.G.Bissell’s Skeleton, used for teaching lessons on the human body and anatomy.

There were glass cases filled with fossils, stuffed “freak lambs”, old newspaper clippings, and even a skeleton. Most of these artifacts came from families that lived in Virginia City.

Fossil collection in the free museum.
Robert Gohn was well known in Virginia City. Hundreds mourned his loss when he passed.

Robert Gohn owned several businesses in Virginia City. He was born and raised there. He became blind in 1920 from a dynamite explosion, but he continued to work. He knew most people by name and could tell when they walked through the door at his bar, ready to serve their favorite drink. When asked about Robert Gohn, Virginia City natives are quick to tell you anything you want to know.

The free museum had everything from newspaper clippings about his death to the exact cup he would drink his whiskey from on display.

A “freak lamb” on display at the free museum.

There are other taxidermy animals on display including a white bear, squirrels, foxes, rabbits, and many more.

This museum is a definite stop when visiting Virginia City. If you want a crash course on the city, the people that founded it, and everything that went on since it became a ghost town. stop here.