Trip Report: Silver Gate, Montana
“Although the scenery is so rugged and grand, yet an air of desolation reigns over the whole. Perpetual snow is seen everywhere, and the somber nakedness of the volcanic peaks adds to the gloom, but toward evening the setting sun envelopes them with such a delicate golden haze that one seems wafted into the land of enchantment.” -Ferdinand Hayden on the view of the Northern Absaroka from Daisy Pass, 1872.
Seeking some desolation of our own, we made a Saturday-night reservation for Pine Edge Cabin #4 in Silver Gate, Montana. Three hours of driving, much of it through nearly-deserted Yellowstone Park, and we arrived in the heart of Northern Absaroka country. Pronounced “ab-zor-uh-kuh,” the word is a Euro-American version of the name the Crow Indians use to describe themselves, “Apsa’alooke,” translating to “children of the large-beaked bird.” These mountains had their beginnings as ancient volcanic lava, mudflows, and ash, a characteristic that drew countless mineral explorers in the late 1800s, some finding gold. Such prospectors likely climbed many of the local mountains here, sporting names like Pollux, Notch, Cutoff, Pilot, Abiathar, and Silvertip. The most notable early geographer was Frank Tweedy, who was charged with mapping the region when it was made part of the Yellowstone Park Timberland Reserve by President Harrison in 1891. These days, with mining in the past, Silver Gate and the nearby town of Cooke City owe their continued existence to travelers on the Beartooth Scenic Highway (open only in Summer), as well as winter recreationists. Such was the reason for our visit. Peace and quiet, cross-country skiing, and some spectacular star-gazing.
History from “Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone,” by Thomas Turiano.