Following our Day 6 Bison adventure, we departed the Lake Yellowstone Hotel and drove further east into the park, stopping along the way to see the Upper and Lower Falls.
While driving the side road from one waterfall to another, we happened across a small group of Bison, but this time from a relatively safe distance as we were sitting inside the Jeep.
We also stopped to see a variety of other sights (like the mud volcano and Dragons Mouth), which meant a lot of getting in and out of the Jeep. But overall, Day 7 was a driving day. To help break up the drive, we stopped to have a roadside picnic and let the kids run around and climb on boulders.
Driving further into the east half of Yellowstone, we happened upon large herds of buffalo grazing out in the open meadows, but that only seemed to moderately entertain the kids. I guess once you have been up close and personal with a Bison, seeing them in the distance is no big deal. Besides, we were in search of Moose and Bear at this point.
With patches of snow still on the mountain tops and streams of water pouring into larger rivers, we couldn't help but to talk about finding a spot to dip our feet into the water. So, sure enough, we happened upon a dirt side road that meandered down to Rock Creek. We were all able to put our feet into the icy cold river and take in the sights and relaxation of the water tumbling over the river rocks. The kids played and had a competition to see who could toss a rock the furthest distance into the river.
Continuing on our drive toward Montana, we climbed Bear Tooth Highway, which has the most incredible views...possibly the best scenic drive in the world. Bear Tooth Highway ascends up to 10,947 feet elevation where the temperature drops and there are still very large sections of winter snow remaining (during years of heavy winter storms, the mountain top would be still deep in snow at summer time). Along the road there are a variety of streams running down into large pools of water, which tend to be crystal clear and spectacular to see in person...sorry that photos don't capture this type of beauty.
As we descended down from the top of Bear Tooth Highway and officially entered Montana (our 7th state on this trip), we encountered rain and hail, which of course is exactly when the girls needed to go potty. Luckily, and randomly, there was a roadside rest stop with bathrooms, so they ran between the rain drops and hail so that they did not get soaking wet.
Leveling out at the bottom of the mountain, we entered the small town of Red Lodge, Montana. We instantly liked this little town and could feel that this was a true cowboy kind of town (with in town rodeos and pickup trucks with gun racks). We drove thru town and stopped to walk around and visit a shop. It was at this time we decided we wanted to stay the night in Red Lodge, but with it being 4th of July weekend and a rodeo happening, we knew it was going to be next to impossible to get a hotel room for the night, let alone for multiple nights.
So, following a suggestion from the local shop owner for a dinner restaurant recommendation, we drove to the north end of town to the local pub (Sam's Place). As we enjoyed dinner, both Kathy and I called every possible hotel, motel, and bed & breakfast in town...but everything was sold out. Which is when I told Kathy that there is a place available in town, but we needed some magic to make it happen.
As the kids wandered outside to the enclosed grassy area to run around and play, I followed to watch them. And it was shortly after this time that a guy walked up and asked if his little girl could play with our kids. After the guy walked back to his table and the kids started playing together it dawned on me that this guy was the magic we needed...so I walked over to him and we started talking. It turned out that he was somewhat of a local being from Billings. I explained our situation of calling every hotel in town and everything was already sold out, which is when Kathy walked out with two six packs of the pubs Montana brewed Hefeweizen; she confirmed to our new friend (Nate) all of the hotels that we had called. Which is when Nate called the Rock Creek Resort and they magically had a room available.
We spent the remainder of the evening at the Pub with Nate and his wife enjoying the local brews and watching the kids play in the grass with the confidence of having a local hotel to rest ourselves that night.