After spending several days in Jackson, we left for Winnipeg on the morning of July 5th, retracing our journey through Grand Teton National Park and heading north through Yellowstone, leaving by the northeast gate rather than the eastern gate that we had passed through on our way in. Not far from the park exit we were delayed by a herd of bison who gleefully blocked the road for twenty minutes before ambling off towards greener pastures and strange clouds.
The northeastern route took us out of Yellowstone and along the Beartooth Highway, which twists and turns, doubling back on itself over and over along the border of Wyoming and Montana as it slaloms its way through the Absaroka and Beartooth ranges.
Official sources cite an altitude of 10, 947' above sea level at the highest point on Beartooth Pass, confirmed by our handheld GPS, which Scooby enabled as we began our ascent. It was a little freaky to watch the numbers climbing ever higher as Chico trundled up the unsettlingly narrow and worn asphalt road. Much to the chagrin of my quease-factor, I began to picture Chico as a roller coaster car reaching for the apex of its journey.
Once we got above the tree line, the landscape was beautiful and starkly non-Minnesotan: lovely meadows with tiny wildflowers curving away unsettlingly at the edges as if viewed in a convex mirror.
The highway itself is just under 70 miles long, but took us somewhere around three hours to complete, thanks to the cautious speeds engendered by narrow roads and sheer drop-offs only feet from the roadway. Once east of Red Lodge, MT, the road flattened considerably, mountains diminishing to buttes and plateaus, then badlands, and then fields as we counted the miles eastward and into the night. We were able to make it to Bismark, ND by the end of our driving day, watching the terrain subside into the placid monotony of the midwest.
Thursday morning we drove north along the Red River Valley, through Grand Forks, ND and to the Canadian border, where we crossed without incident into Manitoba, land of slow speed limits and startlingly chartreuse Canola fields.
After a slightly confusing detour through Winnipeg, we arrived at Birds Hill Park late in the afternoon, giving us just enough time to pitch our tent in the quiet campground before heading to the festival site to catch the first main stage concert of the long weekend which is the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Minutes after we passed through the festival gates we ran into one of my Mom's best friends in the world, Mog, and her husband, Miles, which was a wonderful surprise.
Having not been to the Folk Fest since 1983 (Mog and Miles were there that time, too!), it was interesting to compare the size, commotion, and music to the eyes-of-a-nine-year-old memories I had stored away. Things seemed pretty similar, though I was much MORE interested in listening to the music this time, and somewhat less interested in going on the horseback trips at the in-park stables... I certainly didn't remember so many cars, though some of the vans looked familiar. (In 1983 we were the proud owners of a 60's era VW bus named Boeing.) You can just see the boats on top of Chico at the top left hand side of the picture.
We had a great time at the festival, hanging with old and new friends, listening to great music, dancing, even managing to run into my workmate Amy (third from the left) on the eve of her six week long paddling trip from the north shore of Lake Winnipeg to Hudson Bay. (Think safe-traveling thoughts for Amy and the three women with her—that's one hell of a trip! )
Many of the musicians were amazing, notably English folk hero Richard Thompson (pictured), and the gorgeously distinct voices of Neko Case, Ruthie Foster, and Oh Suzanna. Scooby especially appreciated the lewd and amusing crankiness of Atlanta, GA born Vic Chesnutt.
Monday found us ready to head home. Other than a few minutes getting our car searched by the border patrol, (even with ABSOLUTELY nothing to worry about, it's still freaky to have uniformed strangers poking through your stuff. Dirty undies, anyone?) the trip was quick and uneventful. The dogs and kitty were glad to have us home, and all was well, with the exception of a couple of plants in my flower beds that had expired from lack of water during the extremely hot and dry spell that hovered over Minneapolis while we were gone. Sigh. I guess I'll have to make a trip to the nursery:-)