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.

The RiverStone Gallery

Tucked away in a quaint wooden building on the east side of downtown Ennis is the RiverStone Gallery. It is owned by husband and wife Lexi and Bern Sundell. Lexi has been painting since her teens learning from her uncle who was very skilled in oil paints. Bern has been painting all his life. Together they opened a gallery featuring both of their artwork.

Lexi Sundell working on her latest painting of a moose
The artist’s palette

Lexi and Bern both love working with very bight colors. All of their paintings feature bright tones with interesting textures. In their gallery over the summer they get people from all over the world coming into the store. Ennis being on the way to Yellowstone National Park allows for this international exposure.

Bern’s current painting

Their gallery is well lit with light hard wood floors and nice presentation lighting. The studio also has excellent natural light filtering into it which allows the bright colors of the paintings to really pop in the sunlight.

Lexi’s painting of a crow
Lexi’s lone buffalo painting
A wandering grizzly bear by Lexi

Bern has been approached by the Made In Montana company to have his images placed on items such as mugs and canteens to be sold in souvenir shops all around the state of Montana. Below are some of the items that the couple sell wholesale.

Artistic mugs
Not your average canteens
More of Bern’s work

The Nearly New Shoppe

Ennis’ The Nearly New Shoppe. This store is full of new, used and vintage items all donated by residents of Ennis and surrounding areas. It is a great way for people to unload things from their home they no longer need / use and donate them to a good cause.

The front of the store

Upon entering the store I talked to one of the ladies at the front and asked her if I could feature the store in my photography project. Lynn, the manager and owner of the store was more than trilled to have the shop featured. I was able to go behind the scenes and see the back room of the shop where all the sorting and pricing happens.

Boxes of clothing just dropped off
Sorted goods that are waiting to be priced
The pricing station

The back of the store works in sections. There is an area for the newly dropped off items that need to be looked over to make sure they are in sellable condition. Anything that is too beat up / doesn’t work / stinks is thrown out. All other goods are put onto the store floor.

One of the volunteers for the day, Colleen, grabbing cargo shorts to have them priced

Once the items are tagged and put onto the store floor there is a color coded system that begins. Items are tagged with a certain color (white is the color of June). The items from that month last in the store for three whole months and once the time is up, the items are bagged and sent to Bozeman where they are then shipped to Texas where a recycling company pays for the goods by the pound.

The silent auction

The silent auction of the store is a place where high value items are put on silent auction for two weeks. The store does not set the price of these high priced items but instead lets the people of Ennis decide the price through bidding.

Hat stand
Books upon books
Organized clothing
Jewelry & the front desk

This store is all non-profit and donates all the money made at this store. Last year the store made $120,000 that it donated to various charities. One of the largest grants the store gives out is scholarship money to local students looking to get a higher education. This store is also run by the women’s club.

The fantastic volunteers for the day who were so helpful and knowledgeable. Thanks!

The Hidden Places

The hidden places are parts of Ennis that the average tourist or person passing through will most-likely never experience.

Axe and copped wood at the Silvertip Lodge
Intersting stones with an intricate pattern
Small walkway in the middle of downtown Ennis
Old-Time Iron Fence
Overlooking Ennis looking East on the top of a large hill
Secluded picnic bench with flower petals
Bright colors highlighting the motel

The Rodeo

The Ennis, Montana pen sorting competition at the Ennis rodeo grounds. This event drew hundreds of people to the grounds to watch and cheer on those participating.

Dan getting ready to compete in the Rodeo competition

Pen sorting is the sorting of cattle moving them one at a time from one pen to the other. The idea is to mark a specific cow you want to heard into the other pen. Once selected you charge at the cow and attempt to separate it from the group and move it into the smaller cage.

Leather saddles
Horse about to compete

Below are images of the men and women competing to get the cattle from one pen to the other as soon as possible. Everyone works in teams of two. The goal is to get all of the cattle into the smaller pen one by one the fastest.

Woman attempting to block the wrong number cattle from getting into the pen
Man in deep concentration
Men in action
The cattle
Woman getting ready to charge the cows
Singling out the brown cow
Attempting to break up the group

The Legendary Ronald “Doc” Losee

Storytime remembering Ronald “Doc” Losee 1919-2017. This event was a memorial held by the city of Ennis to remember the cherished orthopedic surgeon Doc Losee. This was an extravagant event filled with many emotions. The event drew about 300 people who came to honor the man.

Doc Losee

“I am so damned glad Olive and I chose to do our thing the way we did and where we did it. I’m so damn glad we weren’t fooled by the gods of power, of money, of fear, of hate, of fame. I’m so damned glad we’re human, imperfect, and know those things. I’m so damned glad we needed to little law, that we never sued. I’m so damned glad we could dream, we could think, we could pray, we could work, we could play, and that Olive is my wife and we are parents and grandparents. I’m so damned glad I was a doctor, that I learned so much about life and creativity, and so little of killing and destruction. I am so damned glad that Olive and I were taught to love people, and that we did love people. Like all people,we need our privacy for rest and repose. And, as life is given to us,we shall always come fourth to love some more!” – Ronald “Doc” Losee

Doc’s favorite truck

I am not sure where to begin with explaining this experience. I went to this memorial not knowing what to expect. I didn’t know anything about the man and it was rather intriguing to go to a memorial of someone you have never met before. While walking in, part of me felt as though it was inappropriate to be there, but at the same time seeing all the love and laughter in the room made me feel welcome.

Jerry and Joe from the Lion’s Club Brilliant Bar-B-Que

The memorial began with stories from those close to Losee documenting their time together. Stories came from his son, friends and fellow doctors. Through the stories and from the laughter in the crowd I can see the love everyone in the room had for doc. He was truly a cherished member of the Ennis community and the people loved him.

Memorial table
Dr. Joel Cummings sharing a story of Doc
The Madison Valley Manor Chior singing Doc’s “Little Asshole” song

Doc was an orthopedic surgeon who went to Dartmouth University for undergrad and came to Ennis, Montana. The town was in desperate need of a doctor and Doc went back to Yale to study orthopedic surgery. He came back to Ennis and became the town’s surgeon. He is a world-renowned surgeon in his field and is widely known in the medical community. He was not a greedy doctor and for example surgeries for ‘tennis elbow’ in Bozeman would cost $3,000 but he would only change $184. He was not in the business to make money but to help people. I learned about how caring this man was and the staple he was in the community. It was hard being here surrounded by people who know the man and I know nothing. At the end, Justin Lubke a cinematographer in the town created a beautiful video of doc that included an interview and images of him throughout his life. This was an extremely emotional moment for everyone in the room and a lot of tears were being shed. Even I began to tear up at the beautiful film for a man I never met before. I am happy I went to this memorial and got to know Doc just a little bit even though he is no longer with us because he was a positive light in this world.

The legend himself

Abstract Ennis

My first day in Ennis I couldn’t help but pay attention to the small details around the town. From paint chipping to abstract patterns in glass windows to shadows. The downtown was small but there is a lot of character that goes unnoticed to most. I wanted to capture these beautiful things I saw that many will overlook. Below is my compilation of these objects.

Bike racks lined up along a wall
Lock on a window pane
Chipped paint on a merry-go-round ride
Metal works
Frosted flower pattern on a window
Chipped paint on a lightpost
Glass window at sunset
Shadows at noon
Monochromatic nails
Antique door
A little bit of brick showing through
Chipped paint on a merry-go-round pt. II