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Colorado-Wyoming-Montana - 07.08

R.R. leaves Boulder for good about 07/04/08 - Independence Day.
Boulder was on practically everyone's "best cities" list for years. Then, all the outlanders came and turned into nimby-ites, and every spare parcel was developed, and real-estate prices went to the sun. Boulder is pressed against the local foothills, and surrounded by open-space (ie, dog-pooping areas) as result of forward-thinking liberals in the 1960s and 70s, so new development space is at a very high premium.

Recently, Boulder County even bought a large parcel of land along Hwy 93 in Jefferson county, in order to "limit unsightly growth" along Boulder's southern access corridor (read as: curtailing Jeffco's tax base), even while development in east Boulder County mushrooms out of control like fallout from an atomic cloud (read as: expanding Boulder's tax base). Boulder has to make up for the fact that the city of Broomfield setup a large industrial park, and installed one of the largest shopping malls in America (read as: expanding local tax base), and then immediately seceded from Boulder County to form its own county (read as: Boulderites now spend their shopping dollars in Broomfield County)

Boulder's downtown pedestrian mall is notorious, but city history has mostly been bull-dozed under over the years. Compare to Helena Montana (below, and on another page).

Fort Collins is now on practically everyone's "best cities" list. It does have the great advantage of being further out in the plains than Boulder, and not so totally surrounded by open-space, so the suburbs can stretch literally forever. A developer's dream.

F.C. is filling in all the way to Loveland to the south, and Loveland filling in all the way to Berthoud to its south, as Longmont becomes one with Lyons, Erie, Niwot, Lafayette, and Boulder to its south, plus Louisville, Broomfield, Wheatridge, Arvada, Thornton, and Denver. Tiny Berthoud (in the middle), your days are numbered. Regional planning = expanding tax base.

Info on Colorado Front Range Urban Growth.


(right) Looking south across the North Platte River valley, over the city of Casper, to the rather unexciting ridge the Casperians call "Casper Mountain". Well, it is 3000' above Casper's 5100' elevation, and does have a ski resort with 600' vertical. Casper is a real city, and has gov't buildings named after Dick Cheney.

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Tate Museum at Casper College has the flippers (20' wide tip-to-tip) from a large Plesiosaur (pliosaur). The design is a marvelous adaptation for mobility - 1 large femur bone (apparently rotatable, looks like a large hip-joint ball), short 2-bone fibula-tibia, 3 bones at the "wrist", 4 bones at the "knuckles", 5 separate toes with multiple and strange spool-shaped bones. Also: [1] [2] [3] [compare to whale flipper] [see the big boy]

Sheridan is a cool old-west style town. [webcams]

Big Horn Mountains - north end
Black Mountain Lookout (tiny dot, top of the rock) at 9500', as seen from the trailhead, at the junction of forest dirt roads 16 and 222 (think dust). Trail to summit takes just over 1-hr walking at a snail's crawl, starting from road 16.

Trailhead is approx 4 to 5-miles south of Hwy 14 near Sibley Lake, or 5.5-miles north of Tie Flume campground, on forest road 16. Trailhead is marked by a sign.

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Cloud Peak (13,155') and Bomber Peak range, looking south from Black Mtn Lookout. A B17 bomber crashed on Bomber Peak in 1943. Main access is from the west at West Tensleep trailhead. Not a cloud in the sky today. [blow up]
Looking at the 1000' drop to the Big Horn River, and the badlands to the north, from Devil Canyon Overlook, Bighorn Canyon NRA, near Lovell, Wyoming. Almost impassable before the Yellowtail Dam (525' high) impoundment. Amazingly unvisited area - no one was camped in the "better" of the two campgrounds, and not much to do without a boat. Moab - Dead Horse Point - has it heavily beat. [blow up]

Red Lodge is a really cool old-west style town, with 100 year old buildings. Very similar to Sheridan, WY, but without the strip mall on the south end of town.

The Beartooth Highway, route 212 (not done on this trip) was chosen by Charles Kuralt as the most scenic highway in America.

Billings is a fairly typical small american city, with modern downtown surrounded by many suburbs and strip malls, except for also having 3 oil refineries, and being on the big, free-flowing Yellowstone River.
Montana is a land of huge valleys surrounded by mountains on all sides. Hence, the term "Big Sky Country".

The fabulous Stillwater River Valley runs southwest from Columbus, west of Billings, into the Beartooth-Absaroka Mountains and eventually (via trails) to Yellowstone Park.

Click here for more pictures.

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Livingston is yet another neat old western town. The saloons on Main St. are in buildings built in the 1880s. A number of hollywood celebrites supposedly have summer homes in the vicinity.
Bozeman sits in a huge valley surounded by mountains on every side. It is a cool college town [and looks it] with a large campus - Montana State University - modern, with a pretty good library. For a smallish city with only 27,000 people, the traffic in Bozeman is a nightmare - stop at every light, crawl down Main St.

The day of arrival started off clear, but a couple of severe weather cells moved through in the afternoon, dropping tons of hail, plus rain in impenetrable sheets. (in such situations, one must plan one's exit route off the roadways, and over to some reasonably safe place to wait - like butt up against the east side of some tall building). The next day was clear and gorgeous.

Helena, at 4090', is a neat old city full of buildings and houses built starting in the early 1870s. Somewhat similar to Boulder (Colorado), in having a walking mall downtown and a mountain (Mt Helena) with hiking trails right inside the city limits. Also, at 27,000 soles, only about 1/4 the population of Boulder, but spread out all over the place. Historic neighborhoods, with dozens of buildings and homes going back to the 1870s and 80s, are centered around Last Chance Gulch and the downtown mall.
(right) Looking approximately northeast from part way up Mt. Helena across the valley to the Big Belt Mtns. Helena's historic downtown district is directly below in Last Chance Gulch, with modern suburbs to the east and north. Helena's downtown pedestrian mall out-Boulder's Boulder's. Construction on the Cathedral of St. Helena started in 1908, and it was built roughly in the gothic style of european cathedrals. Also, more pictures, Helena-webcams. [blow up]
Click here for pictures from the Gates of the Rocky Mountains boat tour - from Upper Holter Lake marina, about 18-miles north of Helena off Interstate-15. 2-hour boat ride, well worth the $10. [blow up]

©, updated July 2008