We pushed east along Interstate 90, enduring stretches of construction where the highway narrowed to one lane and the drivers behind us did not appreciate the pace I set. We took a cutoff toward Helena, Montana along U. S. Highway 12 and crossed the Continental Divide at McDonald Pass. There was no sign marking it, so I didn’t figure out until later that we’d crossed the divide there.
Beyond Helena, the landscape spread out into vast, wide valleys between distant mountains at the horizons, and to the east we could see that it leveled off more. It looked boring. Not the kind of scenery I wanted. We talked about it, and made a right turn to head south toward Red Lodge, Montana and more mountains.
Lauren had her own impression of Montana: “I find Montana confounding. It’s immense. More immense than anything we’ve seen so far. There are mountains everywhere on all sides, but you don’t feel you are in the mountains because the valleys and prairies too are immense. The entire state is a spring green. I’m Going to make up a pantone palette for every state we’ve been in.
“However, I don’t want to live here. And the reason is interesting to me because it highlights yet another thing I’ve felt I was missing and didn’t …know I needed. Like minded community. I do not feel I *belong* nearly anywhere I’ve lived. Philly and New York lack green spaces and access to clean air and water and wilderness. But there is creativity and there are entrepreneurs and there is a smattering of liberal ideology. The suburbs lack all of these things along the eastern seaboard. I die a little every day in suburbia.
“Montana does not smack of community to me. Though I’m sure there are some, I’m equally sure they’d have a foul mouthed opinionated creative free spirited educated woman like me tied to a fence post and left to the grizzly bears. So it’s off to Wyoming tomorrow, over the Beartooth pass. I am so sad to leave behind the coast and the forests. I think re entry to New Jersey will be painful.”
Our route took us into the Absaroka Range and south to Cody, Wyoming, where we turned east and crossed the Bighorn Mountains. I didn’t always enjoy steep climbs and descents along twisting mountain roads, but I liked straight highways across flat plains a lot less. The view from the top of Beartooth Pass, like the views in Rocky Mountain National Park, was beyond words to describe, and the arduous trek to get there made it worthwhile.