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.

 

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

A Look Into the Town Economy

Looking to the west standing in the center of the town we can see the entrance into the downtown. There is an American flag in the distance with shops and restaurants lining the road.

Ennis looking west

Ennis has a very large tourist population over the summer because of the abundance of fish (11,000,000 trout) which brings a very large fly fishing culture and West Yellowstone being extremely close. Virginia City which is to the West of Ennis an old time gold rush town that has now been turned into a historical site is also a reason why there are so many tourists coming through the town.

Fishing lures

Colorful fly fishing lurers with sequin used for fishing to attract fish to the hooks. These are sold by The Tackle Shop in downtown Ennis. The store is dimly lit with display lights hitting their products. There is an outdoorsy vibe due to the products carried in the store.

Signs and picture frames

All made in Montana products at this lovely store called My Home in Montana. This store carries only products made right here in our state. The store is full of objects ranging from tourism products (trinkets, etc) to fishing gear, baby wear, jewelry, candy and more.

Shoes

The Nearly New Shop in downtown Ennis is a non-profit goodwill organization. For more information on this store and what its purpose is, please go to the ‘Nearly New Shop’ tab on the main page where I will delve deeper into this store.

Paintings and jewelry

The RiverStone Gallery. This gallery is owned by a husband and wife who are both painters. The wife, Lexi, does paintings along with creating jewelry. Her husband, Burn makes paintings and also has his work on mugs and canteens.

KH Concrete

KH Concrete is an Ennis, Montana right off the side of the road on Highway 287. It is a concrete company serving Virginia City, Norris and Sheridan. With all the growth that is happening in Montana, Ennis has also seen its fair share creating a lot of business for this small company.

Ennis Cafe storefront

Ennis Cafe a small American diner is one of the only cafes in the downtown area that is open until 4pm. Many of the other restaurants in the town close at 2 or 3pm. This gives the business an edge and drives sales when everywhere else is closed.

Downtown Ennis looking east

Standing in the center of downtown Ennis, here is the view looking east toward the Madison mountain range. Cars full of locals and tourists line the sides of the roads. Parking is free in downtown Ennis!

Dogs of the Town

During my time spend in Ennis I noticed there was an abundance of dogs everywhere I go. I am a dog person and found myself wanting to photograph some of the dogs I see around town. Below are just a few of the dogs I met on my journey exploring Ennis, Montana.

Wuff

This is Wuff, he is a Bernese Mountain dog and he resides at the Silvertap Lodge. His owners live on the premises and own the lodge. He spends a lot of his time outside during the summer months greeting guests and laying in the grass. Quite the life!

Biggie

This beautiful black dog is Biggie and he is a mutt. He is eight years old and lives in Ennis. He loves spending his days on the ranch and playing fetch. His owner is a cattle herder and says he loves running around on the open property.

Silver

Silver the Mastiff. Silver this three years old and is a full grown 150 pound grey Italian Mastiff. He was born in Italy and the owner purchased him through a breeder in Washington who is friends with the breeder in Italy. He loves to lick and play and I am pretty sure he would be much taller than me when standing on his hind legs. This photograph really does no justice to his size.

Lucy

This is Lucy, a mixed boarder collie . She is one years old and is very curious when it comes to cameras. Every time my shutter clicked her head turned more and more to the side staring at the lens. She is very energetic and loves to chase ground squirrels and rabbits in her free time. She also loves to watch television.

Sugar

This is Sugar. She lives at the Madison River Fishing Company store in downtown Ennis. She is a Brittany Spaniel and loves to hangout outside the storefront meeting new people and dogs. She is extremely friendly but appears a little annoyed by my camera lol.

Tap Into Ennis

Tap Into Ennis is Montana’s first combined brewery and distillery festival. It took place on Saturday May 20, 2017 from 3-7 pm at the Lions Club Park in downtown Ennis, Montana. The crowd was filled with both young and old as people celebrated good vibes and beer.

Liquor presented at a booth

There was both beer, wine and liquor at this festival. For a $25 entry fee you get a mug to go around to the different booths and have a sample of their beer. Shots were also provided by vendors.

Live music setting the scene

At the festival there was live music performances that took place. This man is part of a local band that performed for a few hours. The music was relaxing and set the mood.

View of the beer festival from across the Madison
Girl staring off in wonder
Boy enviously watching girls play
Crowd of people listening to live music as they enjoy their beer
Booth owner talks to beer lovers about his product
Couple listening to the music

Ennis Cafe

Lovely Ennis Cafe located at 108 East Main Street is a wonderful small town American classic diner. The building is all wood and features wood and metal artwork above the first floor. It has a very unique look and embodies the western feel.

Outside Ennis Cafe

Upon walking into the restaurant I was greeted by one of the owners, Darline. The diner was buzzing with business and the clanking of utensils as people eat and the sounds of food being cooked in the kitchen.

Front of the restaurant

Small tables line the front picture from windows with red and green booths along the back wall. This cozy restaurant has green carpet with half wood paneled walls.

The back wall of the restaurant

The first time I came here I got the house salad with balsamic vinaigrette. I also added on chicken. I did not know what to expect but the salad exceeded my expectations. It was delicious! And I am someone who does not normally order salads at restaurants.

Chicken salad from Ennis Cafe

On my second trip back to this restaurant I got the chicken tenders with sweet and sour sauce with the house salad on the side. The tenders were not homemade but were still pretty good.

Chicken tenders with sweet and sour meal

After finishing my meal I met the owners of the restaurant. Their names are Bob and Darline and they have been married for 33 years. Both live in Ennis and have run this restaurant for a few decades. Currently, the property is up for sale and they are looking to sell the property. The future of Ennis Cafe is unknown because the new owner may not want to run the cafe. Bob and Darline and looking forward to retirement and enjoying themselves in southwestern Montana.

Bob and Darline the owners of Ennis Cafe

Ennis Residence

With an estimated population of 884 people Ennis has a compacted residential area around the downtown area. It looks as though it can be in any small town in the United States. The architecture of the homes have a 70s feel to them. On the outskirts of town there are ranches with larger homes on them.

Street sign in Ennis

Some of the homes have overgrown grass, an abundance of older cars sitting outside of the house and dirt driveways. It is a different small-town feel compared to many of the suburb towns I am used to in Chicago. Below are some images of some properties I stumbled across.

Home with cars and trucks outside
Home with overgrown grass
Small white and yellow framed home
Old white garage
View from the backyard of a home of the Madison Range

Above is the property of Joyce and Bob and they were kind enough to let me take photos from the yard. They have been residents of Ennis for 32 years and talked a lot about the growth the town has been having lately and the impact tourism has on the community. They plan on having this lovely property for the rest of their lives.

Residential road

It was very interesting to see the roads in the residential area unpaved. As soon as leaving the town the roads were dirt. It was not something I was expecting but was very cool.

Alleyway in Ennis
Rodeo Drive

Ennis High School is located at 223 South Charles street and is right on the edge of town. It is home of the Ennis Mustangs and is part of school district #52.

Entrance to the high school

Ennis Lions Club park is a park located on the east side of town right next to the Nearly New Shoppe. It is one of the only parks in Ennis and is where a lot of town evens are held like the Tap Into Ennis Annual beer festival.

Ennis Lions Park building

First Impressions – The Outskirts of Town

Being someone from a big city like Chicago with a population of approximately 2.7 million people I did not know what to expect in Ennis. Illinois has its fair share of small towns but I never really traveled to them before. From Bozeman, the drive is extremely scenic and up and down in elevation. Ennis is tucked away by mountains and when entering from the north there is a beautiful mountain range with snow capped mountains that can be seen in the distance to the west.

Coming in on route 287 looking to the west is the Gravelly Mountain Range

To the south, Ennis Lake and the perimeters of the town can be seen. Ennis lake was formed by the creation of the Ennis Dam on the Madison River. It has a very nice blue color and depending on the day can change colors.

Looking to the south on route 287 we can see Ennis Lake and the town in the distance
The Valley Garden Ranch. A privately owned property on the outskirts of Ennis.

Coming in closer to the town there is cattle, ranches, shops, schools and more. Ennis definitely has the small town feel. The buildings are more differential in style and there appears to be no real rhyme or reason to the organization of businesses, churches and more. Restaurants are in strange buildings that at one time served a different purpose.

Looking east there is the Madison Mountain Range with open fields in the foreground used for grazing cattle
The Madison Valley Storage facility right outside of town
KH Concrete also on the outskirts of Ennis

All in all the outskirts of the town at first were populated by ranches and cattle and as I became closer there were businesses, churches, restaurants and more beginning to fill the landscape. Some of the places had a run down appearance to them while others had a modern look creating a stark contrast of the change happening in the town.