Bannock, a real life ghost town!
We first found out about this random abandoned town on Instagram of all places around 8 years ago and were captivated that you could walk around and explore the place at will.
It was one of the main reasons that we started our around the world travels in the Americas …this is one of a handful of places in the world that we actually had a real desire to visit. Sounds crazy I know; travelling around the world with no set route of places to go, but to us this travelling lark is about discovering places as we go.
There is also a real danger when you have built something up in your head that it wont live up to your expectations and you will be left “wanting” …much better to go in and be wowed that disappointed.
Very VERY happy to report that Bannack did not disappoint; it did in fact blow us away!
Bannock was a town that sprang up in the gold rush and the population swelled to almost 10,000. It was a very successful little town until the inevitable; the gold ran out and the price fell! A few stayed on but by 1950 the school had closed. In 1954 it was declared a historic landmark and became a Montana national park, after which locals worked with the government to restore the historic town to what it is today, a unique and isolated town that you can explore at will and imagine what life would have been like a hundred or so years ago.
We arrived there early in the day and it was bitterly cold, in fact at one point the clouds rolled in and we were convinced it was going to snow. It added an eeriness to the whole experience of exploring the town, especially when we walked to the top of the hill, and to the cemetery and the gallows!
It gave a real insight into how desolate this place must have been at times when it was cold and they were cut off from the outside world.
It was just perfect and how we expected it to be after watching all those cowboy films as children …the only thing missing was the tumbleweeds. Don’t get us wrong the tumbleweeds are here and we have had a few cross the roads in front of us …one in the centre of a big town!
When we left our little western themed hotel in the morning in Jackson, we had been talking to another guest there, a road worker from Montana who also rode adventure bikes. We asked him for some route suggestions and he showed us a good route for the day that would get us seeing some worthwhile places after visiting Bannack.
We took gravel road through the Tweedy mountains to Wise River where we saw cowboys moving cattle though the town. We then crossed to a back gravel road that took us across to two bridges an Nevada and Viriginia city and then to Ennis.
It was a wonderful ride and we really did see some real back country farms and people.
We managed to find a cabin just outside of Ennis (most places are booked at the moment due to hunting and fishing).
The next day was another big one for us; visiting Yellowstone Park.
Unfortunately, whereas Bannack had exceeded our expectations, Yellowstone was a bitter disappointment.
Yes, it was beautiful, but there were so many people there even at this “shoulder” of the visiting season. I think we were expecting to see bears walking down the road holding up the traffic and maybe a higher than we had been used to amount of people. What we didn’t expect to see were boardwalks to the geothermal areas PACKED with people, car after car after car that over took us when we were sticking to the speed limit to help prevent injury to the animal that were there (were they???). We would stop to get off the bikes and admire how beautiful a place was and the people speeding by would wind down their windows and lean out taking a photo before speeding off again. It was a behaviour that we didn’t understand. It made us question the fact that we were there as tourists …we were after there in the same context; as tourists adding to this whole over populated scenario.
Its very difficult to explain but we honestly felt like this place was very similar to the Westworld series, as though everything about it was staged and artificial. We even questioned the fact that the only animals we saw (Bison) were at every entrance and exit to the park. Coincidence or staged? Where these Bison actually robots?
Yellowstone leads onto the Great Teton National Park, a stunningly beautiful set of mountains.
The following day we took the road from Yellowstone to Cody
Remember what we were saying earlier about expectations and implying it being best to not have any? Well, we had none of the ride to Cody so were completely blown away by the ‘wild west” scenery of cliffs and gorges.
Its was still only 2pm when we reached Cody so we decided to continue riding and do the Beartooth Pass. It would mean we wouldn’t get into our accommodation until around 6 BUT we had spoken to some other bikers who had said that the pass had been closed that morning due to icy conditions so going mid to late afternoon seemed like a good idea.
From Cody we took the Chief Joseph Scenic byway …in itself a beautiful and twisty road. Surely it couldn’t get any better?
And then the “beartooth” shaped mountain came into view…
The Beathtooth Pass is a 3357 metre high pass though Montana/Wyoming. It is only open for a few months of the year due to the amount of snow that falls and hangs about all year there.
Riding it in the afternoon was perfect as the icy on the roads had melted after a sunny day that had warmed up the tar seal even though the ambient air tempreture was coooooold!
Nick even made and threw a few snow balls!
On the shaded side on the way back down there was still quite a bit of snow on the road. It just feels plain wrong to ride your motorcycle through snow!
And then we came across the 3 fighting bulls in the middle of the road.
We ended up in a little town called Red Lodge for the evening. It was a little gem! There were deer grazing outside of the doctors, a dinosaur with a western saddle on, quirky little shops, friendly little bars and restaurants …and unfortunately still a lot of carnage from the June 2022 floods that ripped through Yellowstone and the town.
It had been the most AMAZING day!