Billings, Redlodge, Pryor Mtn Wild Horse Reserve, Montana
Pie, Wild Horses, Lupine and More
June 30--July 8, 2005
[Don't you dare skip all this and go right to the pictures....]
We head N on I-25 and stop for the first night in Casper--
Casper Mtn has several campgrounds (county) that are much
cooler than anything along the highway. (only $7, too!)
The road up Casper Mtn is steep--6-7 miles in 2nd gear.
Day 2, we truck on N and stop at the Little Bighorn Battle
Field Nat'l Monument inside the Crow reservation and
conveniently located adjacent to I-90....
On to Billings to meet two Boulder friends attending their
40th high school reunion in Billings. They are bikers
and along with Susie and others, they bike to Molt,
Montana, for pie at the famous Prairie Winds Cafe.
Pie rates OK. Breakfast was great and the live music
was too. Google: "praire winds cafe molt"
Then to Red Lodge, where we camp up W Rock Creek. Susie
and her friends attend the Red Lodge Parade and Rodeo.
Pie at the famous Red Lodge Cafe. Pie rates "not acceptable."
Red Lodge Cafe rates "barely acceptable"--there must be
better places to eat in Red Lodge....
Then we drop Terry and David at a trailhead for a
backpack in the Beartooth Wilderness and we head S to
Wyoming and drive the Chief Joseph Highway to Cook
City, MT, and back. Pie at the Soda Butte Lodge in Cook
City. Pie rates "Fabulous, to die-for!" [The Beartooth
Highway from Redlodge to Cook City is closed because of a
bad rock/mud slide in May.]
Then to Lovell, Wyoming, via Cody, to the Bighorn
Nat'l Recreation Area visitor center and info on the
Pryor Mtn Wild Horse Reserve, just N of Lovell.
Temperature about 92 at Lovell and the bottom
of Pryor Mtn.
About 2 o'clock we start up the Burnt Timber 4x4 trail,
on the west side of the Reserve. It climbs from 3900'
to 8600' in 13 very rough miles. El Jefe runs hot--
stage III fan kicks on/off several times, but the needle
stays in the acceptable range. Granny low and 1st
the whole way. About 3/4 of the way up, we stop because
some gear bounces loose. Checking around the Syncro,
everythings seems OK, but HOT, but then we smell and see
gas dripping at the front of the left rear wheel well.
Must be coming from the top of the fuel tank, but where
I pull the gas cap to a large (LARGE) pressure blast,
and I can hear the gas boiling in the tank! We park
to think it over and let things cool down. In the end
we wait over an hour and then cautiously drive the
2-3 miles on to the top and a place to camp. It takes
overnight for the tank to cool and not pressurize the
The next morning we drive over the top of Pryor Mtn,
and down the W side to Ice Cave and the Crooked Creek
Road--rough two-wheel roads. Long dusty drive down
Crooked Creek Road, back to Lovell for lunch at the
Switchback Grill (W end of Main Street)--great burgers!
(And a perfect park to enjoy them one block N.)
Then S to Greybull, Thermopolis, and back to Casper Mtn
park for a cool camp. Finally, on to Boulder, 92+
degrees on I-25. Air conditioning keeps us cool running
on speeds 2 or 3. Best $380 I ever spent, Koko our
Later inspection: Fuel tank pressure (or lack thereof)
is fine. Back in Boulder, I check further underneath
and find that tranny oil has leaked at the front of
the tranny. I guess I boiled a little out via the breather.
It was HOT!
Maybe I should have known to stop and cool down. Have
you ever boiled your gas in the tank?
Bottom line: The horses are amazing to see and the
wildflowers were unbelievable. No wonder that both
other campers we talked to at Pryor Mtn come back
again and again. Maybe the heat is the cost of seeing
the flowers at their peak.
[If you go: Get the Pryor Mountain National Wild Horse
Range map/brouchure (June 1997) at the Bighorn Nat'l Rec
Area visitor center in Lovell, or write the BLM at
810 East Main, Billings, MT 59105. USGS topo quads
Mystery Cave, MT-WY, East Pryor Mtn, MT and maybe Big
Ice Cave, MT, and Red Pryor Mtn, MT, for the W side.]
[I learned about Pryor Mtn from Larry Chase, Mr Roadhaus.
Thanks! Check his photos out at http://roadhaus.com.]
And now, the pictures....