The Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge’s northern border meets the Gravelly Mountains. The Gravelly Range Road is a dirt road running through the mountains from approximately 7,000 feet near Ennis, Montana to 9,300 feet at the highest elevation. The area is known for deep snows and is closed to vehicles until July 2 and occasionally later. During the second week of July the Rangers from the Madison District of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest lead an all day wildflower tour of the Gravelly Range Road. We were lucky enough to attend this year. Much of the time we felt we were back in school taking Botany 101. There were 26 cars and about 60 people and several dogs on the tour. It is free and no registration is required. just show up at their office in Ennis before 9AM on the day of the tour. With all the folks milling about and not wanting to miss the Rangers information we decided to return a few days later for photographs. A high clearance vehicle is required for this road.
The tour made four stops and we were given a map of the area which proved very helpful when we returned on our own. The variety and extent of the wildflower fields was fantastic. At one point we saw the tiniest wildflower called a Pygmy Bitterroot, no larger than a Buttercup and only a half inch in height. While at the last stop we found out we had a flat tire. Fortunately the Forest Service had anticipated the problem as most years this happens. Extra personnel was available to help change the tire. We didn’t want to drive back to the refuge on our spare as flat tires seem to happen regularly coming in/out of the refuge. So we headed to Dillon hoping we could get to the tire store before they closed at 6pm. We took a road off the Gravelly Range Road called Warm Springs Road and this led to Sweetwater Road. We knew we didn’t have time to stop so put those spots on the GPS for “when we come back”. We did make it to the tire store where they were able to patch two punctures. When I asked what did I owe, the man shrugged and said nothing. I repeated nothing? To say the least if we ever need tires and are in the area we would certainly give them our business.
On our next day off that week we returned via our route to Dillon then retraced our steps to the tour stops. We stopped for a picnic lunch at Warm Springs while Opal went swimming. We found an old homestead and what looked like a root cellar built into the hillside with cactus growing on the roof. The views and groups of wildflowers are hard to describe so we’ll let the photos speak for themselves. I’m going to apologize for the last picture. It got into the blog in the wrong place and I’ve tried to delete it. It doesn’t show up on my last saved copy but keeps showing up in the preview so I’m guessing it will publish. I give up! The computer wins. If any of my computer guru friends can tell me how to get rid of it, let me know.