September 4, 2016 Big Sky Country
Our last posting was from Saskatchewan and since then we have been enjoying Montana. We crossed the international border into NW North Dakota then turned westward across northern Montana on the Hi-Line Road (U.S. 2). If you ever wonder where the flour we use comes from, come see the endless wheat fields of Montana. The terrain is mostly rolling hills and occasional river bottoms with small towns. As we left the town of Cut Bank, we could discern the Rocky Mountains again. Destination: Glacier National Park.
We used Rising Sun campground on the east side of the park for our base of operations for two days. We missed the official 100th anniversary celebration of the National Park Service by two days and entrance to the park was free when we arrived. We did some hiking and explored the Two Medicine Lake area that we had not seen on our two previous visits to the park (1980 and 1997). Small world experience: a seasonal employee in one of the gift shops recognized Brian from when we lived in Piper's Meadow more than 27 years ago! We saw a black bear cross the road in front of us – too quick for a photo.
We got an early start on the third day to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road to the west side of the park. We reached Logan Pass before 8:00 and snagged a parking spot before the parking lot filled up. We hiked across an alpine meadow below Clements Mountain on the Hidden Lake Trail. We saw a marmot and more than a dozen mountain goats – some walked right up to us (good for us, but probably means they are fed by people). Off in the distance we saw two bighorn sheep. We camped at Avalanche Creek that night.
Hidden Lake Trail, Clements Mtn.
Hidden Lake Trail over alpine meadow from Logan Pass
Hidden Lake (smoke from fires in the distant valley)
This little guy was staying out of the hot sun.
A sign that matched my shirt - The Mountains Are Calling and I Must Go (John Muir)
(Note: After the free weekend, we bought a new National Parks Pass since our old one expired in July. We buy one every year and are eagerly looking forward to next February when Brian turns 62 and can buy his lifetime senior pass for only $10. The park rangers see his white hair and ask him if he knows about this great deal!)
We drove around the southern end of Glacier NP across Marias Pass and made a stop at the Theodore Roosevelt monument. We made our way to Great Falls and beyond to Fort Benton on the Missouri River. We ate a picnic dinner next to the Montana State Lewis and Clark Monument, a sculpture overlooking the river where they passed in 1805.
We returned to Great Falls the next morning for groceries and much-needed haircuts. The camper hatch wouldn't shut properly and we couldn't fix it ourselves. Luckily, there is a dealer for our brand of camper in town and they were able to fix it for only $35.00 – we were “happy campers” about that!. The whole day was not lost so we were able to make a return visit to the Charles M. Russell Art Museum and a short visit at the Lewis and Clark Historic Trail Interpretive Center....excellent exhibits.
On display at Lewis and Clark Historic Trail Center, Great Falls, MT
Between Great Falls and Helena, we stopped for a boat tour on a section of the Missouri River named “Gates of the Mountains” by Meriwether Lewis when he passed through it in 1805. We saw bald eagles, osprey, rare plants, rock formations on the canyon walls, and the site of the tragic Mann Gulch forest fire of 1949.
Missouri River seen from an overlook along I-15
The "gates" on the Missouri River
We spent four days in Helena, capital city of Montana. We had never visited this city of 30.000 people before and it promotes geocaching in a big way. We completed the Helena GeoTour and saw many interesting places in town and in the surrounding communities. We rode the “Tour Train” (trolley) and learned local history of the gold found in Last Chance Gulch and saw the mansion district. Participation in the geotour earned us free admission to the Montana Historical Museum and a carousel ride. We visited the Capitol building and attended mass at the Cathedral of St. Helena.
Sunrise over the Missouri River and . . .
Downtown Helena, Last Chance Gulch
When was the last time we rode a carousel? Can't remember. This one was free.
Montana State Capitol in Helena
We gave up our campsite on the river for a motel in Helena when a weather forecast predicted snow in the mountain passes around Helena and cold, rainy weather for Labor Day.
Antelope, MT ( a geocache was inside)
Cut Bank, Montana