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