RED LODGE – Memorial Day weekend typically marks the start of the busy summer camping season in Montana, but campgrounds near Red Lodge looked more like a winter wonderland on the holiday.
“We woke up, and we were immediately wanting to go. We were wondering what in the world just happened? It was crazy,” explained Elise Habel, a Billings woman who was camping near the M-K campground.
Habel was one of the dozens of campers who quickly realized their camping trailers were stuck.
“It was at least two feet where we were. It was super unexpected, really wet, and thick. It was kind of a crazy, little adventure for sure,” she said. “I don’t think a single person got theirs out.”
One camping trailer after another was swallowed by the snow. Everyone in the campground piled into their vehicles and abandoned their camping trailers.
“There were at least 40 that are just left because we couldn’t get them out,” Habel said.
Habel and others piled into pick-ups and braved the snow-covered dirt roads back to Red Lodge.
Meanwhile, just to the south, there were more travel troubles on the Chief Joseph Highway in Wyoming.
The storm dumped three feet of snow on Highway 296, stranding dozens of drivers who spun out and got stuck near Dead Indian Pass. Many also left their campers behind, trying to high-tail it out of the mountains.
“My little car kept catching the slush and going all over. They said the roads were closed and that was because of a downed power line,” said Carla Straig, a local cabin owner.
From southern Montana to northern Wyoming, dozens of camping trips took an unexpected turn. With those camping trailers still stuck in the mountains, the adventure isn’t over yet.
It’s an adventure that will likely be talked about around campfires for years to come.
“It’s definitely a story we’ll remember for a really long time,” said Habel.