Dino Trip 2003 - Thermopolis to Bozeman, Montana

Dick asked the desk clerk at the Super 8 for a recommended route to Bozeman. He suggested traveling WY-120 through Cody, becoming MT-72 to Belfry, then MT-308 to Red Lodge - the "Scenic Route" - then MT-212 north to I-90 west to Bozeman.

After the gift shop, we left the Wyoming Dinosaur Center at 11:15 AM, over an hour later than planned.

At the rest stop just past the Grass Creek cutoff, we found this sign. We stayed to the walkways. Detail

The Prairie Rattlesnake // Less conspicuous than the pronghorn antelope and the golden eagle is an even more ancient inhabitant of the high plains and valleys of Wyoming, the prairie rattlesnake. Feared by many and respected by most, these pit vipers (so-called because of their heat-sensing facial pits, used to detect warm-bodied-prey) are common in the eastern two-thirds of the state in all but alpine habitats. During winter these snakes hibernate in underground dens for up to eight months. In the spring they migrate away from the dens in search of food (typically rodents and other small mammals) and mates. Studies show that they move from the den in virtually a straight-line path covering perhaps several miles until they find a food source. They stay on their fixed-angle course by using the sun as a navigational aid. When the temperature cools in fall, the snakes return to the same den. // The habitat around you no doubt contains many of these secretive and fascinating reptilian hunters, but there is really very little to fear. Though they are poisonous and seemingly hostile, evidence indicates the chances of being bitten are virtually nil, as long as the snake is not touched, provoked, or frightened. Since rattlesnakes are deaf and cannot actually hear rattling, this behavior is believed to be defensive. A rattling rattlesnake is simply trying to warn off or drive off another creature it perceives to be a threat. // If you encounter a rattlesnake, give it plenty of room and you will be in no danger -- it's probably more frightened than you are. Allow the snake to go on its way and hunt prey like its ancestors have done in this area for thousands and thousands of years. The prairie rattler may not earn your admiration, but it deserves respect as a fascinating and important element of Wyoming's wildlands.

We stopped in Meeteesee for lunch at Lucille's Cafe. Meeteesee is a small town with three restaurants on the main street. Lucille's has about ten tables. Dick had a BLT and Thomas ate popcorn shrimp.

As we left the restaurant, it began snowing - cottonwood seeds!

20030627-2211-Lucilles-Cafe (99K)

Just after Meeteesee, we past a rider heading north on a trail on the west side of the highway leading two pack horses. He carried a banner marked whereisbob.com. I looked up the web site that night and left a message with his GPS coordinates and time we saw him. Check out our entry on June 27. When we returned to Kansas City, I found from the log that Bob had had lunch at Lucille's Cafe, probably the day before Thomas and I did.

As we neared the Montana border, Dick took a 10 minute nap. Just after we got back on the road, we were stopped by a flagman; the road ahead was marked for one-way traffic due to repairs! After a ten minute wait, we followed this truck the entire five miles to the Montana state line.

20030627-2212-Pilot-Car-Follow-Me (48K)

The end of the construction zone. We entered Montana. See the line of cars waiting to pass on the left.

20030627-2213-Welcome-To-Montana (43K)

The Smith Mine Disaster was on MT-308 between Washoe and Red Lodge. Detail

SMITH MINE DISASTER // Smoke pouring from the mine entrance about 10 o'clock the morning of February 21, 1943, was the first indication of trouble. 'There's something wrong down here. I'm getting out,' the hoist operator called up. He and two nearby miners were the last men to leave the mine alive. // Rescue crews from as far away as Butte and Cascade County worked around the clock in six hour shifts to clear debris and search for possible survivors. There were none. The night of March 4 workers reached the first bodies. More followed until the toll mounted to 74. Some died as a result of a violent explosion in No. 3 vein, the remainder fell victim to the deadly methane gasses released by the blast. // The tragedy at Smith Mine became Montana's worst coal mine disaster, sparking investigations at the state and national level. Montana Governor Sam C Ford visited the scene, offered state assistance and pushed a thorough inquiry into the incident. // Today's marker of the Smith Mine Disaster follows a simpler one left by two of the miners trapped underground after the explosion, waiting for the poisonous gas they knew would come. // 'Walter & Johnny. Good-bye Wives and Daughters. We died an easy death Love from us both Be good.'

The Smith Mine

20030627-2215-Smith-Mine-detail (69K)

We stayed at this Comfort Inn Friday night in Bozeman, Montana.

20030628-2225-Bozeman-Comfort-Inn (56K)

We ate Chinese Buffet at the Chinatown Restaurant.

20030627-2224-Bozeman-Chinatown (66K)

Copyright (C) 2003 by Dick Hodgman.
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Last modified on 2003 July 19

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