Hardly a high plains drifter . . .

Definitely not! ‘Drifter’ implies someone wandering aimlessly about. That was not us. We knew where we were going. We just didn’t know what to expect while we were getting there.

So why is that? After our tour of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, we had planned to return westwards from Cody on the last day of our roadtrip and travel to Billings, MT for our last night before flying back to Minnesota. But since there were major roadworks via the north entrance to Yellowstone, we opted to turn east – and explore a part of Wyoming that we had not planned from the outset.

US14 was our route, taking us through Greybull, WY and up into the Bighorn Mountains. We’d been on the eastern side of those in Sheridan. And what a revelation the Bighorns were. We crossed the Bighorn Basin – which you can really only appreciate from high up on the mountains looking westwards, wound our way up through the canyon near Shell, over the Granite Pass (at 9033 ft), and on to a broad plateau, snow-covered in parts.

USA 823

USA 830

On the high plain east of Cody we came across a couple of interesting signs, one marking the Bridger Trail, a route to the goldfields of Montana during the 19th century – and surely a source of conflict with the Native Americans of the region – and the other explaining about the wild horses in the area.

What is so impressive about the Bighorn Mountains are the gradients to climb and which you have to descend. On our descent there was a 10% gradient for 10 miles! At the bottom we passed a cyclist – fully laden – who was just beginning the climb. I wonder if he ever made it?

So although we never originally intended to make this detour, it proved to be an excellent way of spending our last full day in Wyoming and Montana. The sky stretched from horizon to horizon – Big Skies! And, for the most part, we had the roads to ourselves, such is the joy of motoring in the USA (something I really quite detest here in the UK because of the congestion that we encounter).

If you ever find yourselves in the vicinity of Yellowstone National Park, and you’re not sure whether to head east or west, you can’t go far wrong by taking a tour of the Bighorn Mountains. You won’t be disappointed.

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