Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Dubois, Wyoming - 5:30am: We slipped quietly out of town, under cover of pre-dawn darkness, like a couple of ranch hands dodging their tab at Miss Kitty's Saloon and Boarding House of Delights.
Sanders and I had arrived a few hours earlier, just shy of midnight, after a day on the road and some Wyoming trout waters. We drifted into town expecting to find a room, shake the trail dust, and get a few winks before remounting for Centennial Valley. But, to our surprise, as we rode in we saw more than a few happy cowboys and cowgirls wandering Dubois' main drag and, at our first hotel stop, learned that the rodeo was in town. It seems that the rodeo is in Dubois all summer and, at least this particular Friday night, there was no room at the inn - the Stagecoach Inn. And none down the street at the Super 8. And none at the.... well, you get the idea.
We were eventually directed to perhaps the last unoccupied bed in the area - at a quaint little roadside motel from another time, siting on the outskirts of town - the Chinook Winds. All we needed was a cheap flop and The Winds fit the bill. Happily, it turned out to be a clean, comfortable place, despite its long years on the plain and did quite nicely. We left everything in the car, opened the door to number 5, and fell onto the beds. Unpacking, even undressing, was unnecessary. We wouldn't be staying long.
Five short hours later, rubbing sleep from our eyes, having done little more than rumple the western quilted covers at The Winds, we were sliding back out of town, trying hard to not wake the still-slumbering cowpokes, continuing our western trek. Our fishing buddy Russ' final parting advice was that if we wanted to get through Yellowstone with any expediency, if we wanted to get to Elk Lake on time, we had best gallup through the park early - before the tourist bison jams and gawker crawls began. The idea made a lot more sense the evening before. At 5:00am we questioned the sanity.
But, in the end, the plan had an unintended benefit that made the pre-dawn sleepy stumbles worthwhile. As we entered national forestland, the sun rose behind us and slowly, majestically, theatrically illuminated the Tetons in front of us.
No words could do it justice and photography falls miles short of capturing the spectacle. Simply accept that we were struck dumb by the dawning of our first day in Montana and start looking at your calendars for an open slot for a trip to this incredible part of the country. It's not to be missed.
Plan to get up early.