The Big Driving Test

The Big Driving Test
7/2/2020

Shanna and I decided to go to Yellowstone not realizing that it was the 4th of July weekend. On our way through Island Park we got to see beautiful trees and flowers. (See post: https://blueravenbirders.com/2020/07/14/july-2020-island-park-id/). Better still we got to see a MOOSE!!! (See post: https://blueravenbirders.com/2020/07/07/moose-at-island-park/). He started out far away in the river and moved closer to us as he browsed on water plants and young willows. We had to keep retreating until we were back in the car to maintain a safe distance.

So we’re merrily driving along and come to West Yellowstone and a traffic jam. Um… why is there a traffic jam? Because it’s the 4th of July weekend of course. YIKES we did not want to deal with that type of traffic so we decided to find a way over to the other side of the mountain range to the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge https://www.fws.gov/refuge/red_rock_lakes/. How bad can it be?

I ignored my car’s advice, which was to turn around and go back to Island Park. This was a decision that I was going to ponder for many an hour. However, that pondering happens later. So onward we went to Hebgen Lake. (See post: https://blueravenbirders.com/2020/07/21/continuing-the-drive-hebgen-lake/). We pulled over and watched the water and the chickadees (who do not like holding still for photos) and had lunch. Then on to Quake Lake. (See post: https://blueravenbirders.com/2020/07/28/continuing-the-drive-quake-lake/).

driving test route 1As you can see from this map arrow A is pointing to my intended road to get to arrow B. This was not to be. Somehow, I missed that turnoff. Shanna and I were rocking out to a new collection of Road Trip music, talking, and having a great time. Instead, we chose NOT to turn around and go back through Island Park like my car was insisting on. NOOOOO I had to go forward and face the longest driving test of my life.

My family, particularly my father and his extended sibling crew have the unshakeable faith that they can get a car anywhere. Frankly, this usually works out. I do not have this faith, but I do have a lot of experience on rough roads. My formative driving years were spent at the end of a mile long road that went over a hill. Not a smoothly rounded hill, but a jagged butte of volcanic rock. There were turns and steep parts and then we add winter. I learned to back down a frozen hill because I had not gotten enough speed to get up it. I learned to go just fast enough not to slide off the road but still get up the hill. I learned to navigate washouts and yawning chasms (okay foot deep rifts) that ran down the road in the spring. It was definitely a learning experience.

The only thing I did not have to contend with on this detour was snow. (YAY)
We went up on the wet side of the mountain then leveled off through meadows, then up down on a dry side then back up another mountain with mud and hairpin turns, and … Good thing we had music and talking and it was STUNNING because I was NOT going back the way we came. In the end, it took us HOURS. 99 miles at 10-15 miles an hour and sometimes even 5 takes a long time. (See post: https://blueravenbirders.com/2020/08/04/continuing-the-drive-over-the-mountains/).

driving test route 2This is a map of our route. Arrow C is pointing to the worst most folded piece of crazy road ever. Arrow D is pointing to a mountain road that I would be willing to traverse again to get to Black Butte, but there were still difficult stretches. We did not go to Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge but instead headed for I15 at Monida Pass.

This was not the end of the adventure. I still wanted more photos so after our picnic dinner we did a quick detour through the Camas Refuge. (See post: https://blueravenbirders.com/2020/08/11/continuing-the-drive-camas-refuge/).

I passed this driving test. The car and its occupants made it home uninjured though tired and dusty. I LOVED IT (now that it’s over) but don’t intend to do this again, ever. – Jenny


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