Big Horn Scenic ByWay

by kfrego

The work at Bear Swamp was winding down in the fall of 1973. My crew had more men pushing brooms than placing concrete. It was time to make a move. My wife Linda and I decided to head out west.  We moved our 60 foot by 12 foot mobile home to Merrill, NY for my mother. She put it on her lot and sold her old 10 foot wide mobile home. (The home is still on the same lot today, but no longer in our family.)  We filled a u-haul trailer, hooked it up behind our Chevy station wagon, and hit the road. Our son Jamie was three and our daughter Dori was close to one and a half years old. Linda had never been west of Minnesota. Our destination was Lewiston, Idaho where my Uncle Bob Shantie was living.

We hit Interstate 90 (Thruway) in Syracuse, NY.  We stayed on Interstate 90 to Sheridan, WY. Linda had never seen Yellowstone National Park. My plan was to go over the Big Horn Mountains to Cody, WY, enter Yellowstone at the east entrance, drive through the park, and exit the park through the north gate at Gardiner, MT. We headed west on the Big Horn Scenic Byway out of Sheridan. We hoped to spend the night in Cody, WY. It wasn’t long before the sagebrush and antelope herds were replaced by big timber and high mountains. The scenery was spectacular after crossing the central and midwest flat lands. We climbed from 3942 feet elevation to 9430 feet at the crest of Granite Pass while crossing the Big Horns. It was dusk as we started our descent down the west side.

When climbing the mountains the station wagon had plenty of power. Going downhill was a whole different ball game. We didn’t realize how steep and sharp the grades and corners would be as we dropped off Granite Pass. The station wagon stayed in low gear and still required frequent braking with the added weight of the trailer. Soon it was dark and we could see Lovell, WY lights glimmering in the distance. Often when negotiating the sharp switchback corners the headlights would reflect off road signs on the corners far below us. I used as little brake as possible as we worked our way down the pass. An hour later the lights of Lovell were still a long ways off. We never met or saw another vehicle as we see sawed back and forth going down. Just as the brakes reached a point where I was debating stopping we hit the bottom of the pass. We were still going downhill gently, but the switchbacks were behind us so it was safe to maintain speed without braking. It seemed like forever getting to Lovell and into a room for the night. We dropped 5598 feet coming off from Granite Pass.

We looked forward to Yellowstone……..and celebrated the Big Horns being behind us.