DAY 5: Gold Mine Ghosts, Old Faithful, and Road Day Carnage
We awoke on Day 5 to another chilly early fall Montana morning and wasted no daylight packing up camp. Our site for the night had been down toward the end of the unpaved North Meadow Creek Road, but it would be hours still before we’d see pavement. We backtracked just a bit, finding the turnoff onto South Meadow Creek Road and following it as it shrunk from a two-lane through the valley into a single-track shelf road that followed the rising grade up alongside South Meadow Creek. With very few turnoffs and 26 wide off-road vehicles we’re fortunate the only people we ran into were a pair of bear hunters on foot.
We eventually came to the ruins of the Missouri Mill site in the mountains outside of McAllister, Montana. First operational in the late 1800s and in use off and on until the 1980s, pretty much all of the wooden buildings that supported the milling operations of the Missouri Mine, farther up the mountain, had succumb to the heavy winter snows. Now a mass of nailstrewn timber juxtaposed with evil-looking early 20th century stamping, power generating, and water pumping equipment, the Missouri Mill site held plenty of artifacts, as well as potential for injury, with Verne Simons discovering his sandals were not as nail-resistant as he thought. We browsed around for a while before loading up and heading back down the same shelf road we had driven up. After a quick pit stop to air up tires and knock the dust out of air filters, we hit the pavement on Highway 287 into Ennis for fuel and then pushed on toward Wyoming.
Not too far outside of West Yellowstone, Ian Johnson called over the radio that his transmission had overheated. He came into town on a VooDoo rope behind Skinny Kenny. While the rest of us topped our tanks and scooted through the entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Ian and Kenny stayed behind to effect repairs. You don’t bring UA to Yellowstone without seeing its biggest attraction, so we bisected the park, passing elk, buffalo, and moose on a direct route to Old Faithful. We arrived at the geyser 35 minutes before its next eruption, which just happened to coincide with Ian and Kenny’s return to the group.
With photos and video of Old Faithful in the digital banks, we hit the road again past Lake Yellowstone, out the East Gate, and into Shoshone National Forest with a bunch more wildlife sightings, including a black bear munching on some berries. The road through Shoshone climbs steeply and just less than an hour outside of Cody, Wyoming, the Quigley van called out over the radio that it had lost all drive. Once again, Skinny Kenny hung back and helped Quigley’s Tiger LeBrun while the rest of the group headed into town. To save Tiger a tow bill, Skyjacker sent its trailer and driver, who had been flanking our progress, back to get them. Instances such as this are the only real times a trailer is allowed on UA, and by the time the Skyjacker trailer got to them, Tiger had the T-case removed and disassembled for inspection, indentifying a worn factory shift fork in the NV261 as the culprit.
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