Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Great Falls, Montana, Part III

After breakfast in Great Falls, we met up with Patsy's sister, Sharon, and her husband Jim. We were all going to see a buffalo jump today! What is a "buffalo jump" you ask? Well...Let me tell you! A buffalo jump is a plateau that has a large cliff off one side of it. The Indians would drive the buffalo up the back side of the plateau and force them to run over the edge of the cliff, killing or wounding many of them from the fall. We were told that if the lead buffalo jumped off the bluff, the others would unquestionably follow. Buffalo were used by the Indians for many things including, food, hides for warmth, utensils from their bones and the list goes on.

We visited the First People's Buffalo Jump just outside the city of Great Falls. This jump was
used between the years of 900 to 1500. We checked out the visitors center first which was at the base of the cliff. It was full of artifacts and told the story of the jump. It was a very windy day and outside the center Gary and I walked out to the Teepee's that were erected to see if the wind would get into the Indian tent. It was actually still in the teepee, almost no wind.

The ranger at the visitor's center told us we could drive up to the edge of the
plateau to get a real perspective on the height of the cliff. He said it is deceiving looking up from there. There was a path to the top, but with the wind being so strong, we elected to take the car up. The height from the top of the plateau to the visitor center was, indeed, very deceiving from the bottom! I can see how effective this method of the buffalo jump was to kill a large amount of buffalo at one time.

After visiting the jump, we headed back to Clinton, via the back roads, and to Gary and Patsy's home. We traveled by Wolf Creek Pass where the lowest recorded temperature in the US was recorded. A chilly -70 degrees on January 20, 1954! A bit too cold for us!

We enjoyed seeing Holter lake which
was a little side trip off the beaten path. This area had grown into a vacation spot with great fishing and camping. We finally headed to Livingston and to the ranger's station there. We heard rumors that they had a full size grizzly bear on display that had been hit by a truck nearby. We were told that the bear was getting into homes and stealing food and becoming a nuisance. I believe they were happy the problem was taken care of!! This bear was 12 years old, weighed 830 pounds and stood 8' tall. Not what I'd like to see coming at me, day or night!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Great Falls, Montana, Part II

Today was the day we visited the Charles M. Russell Museum. He is renown for his paintings of the west. As a cowboy, C.M. Russell painted some of the most vivid portraits of life in the west. There were a astounding number of his paintings, drawings and even his letters to family and friends here. His trademark was a drawing on each of his letters. Here they also had the home and painting gallery Russell lived in and worked from. There was a large gun collection in the museum including these two beautiful gold plated rifles. C.M. also did some sculptures that were displayed here. It was a very modern facility, a great tribute to a man who showed us what life in the 1800's was like.

We had lunch at Gibson park named after Great Falls Mayor Paul Gibson. Next we headed to Black Eagle Falls & Dam. We took a short walk to the small island to get a better view of the falls. There was a power plant humming away next to us on the island producing power for Great Falls as we snapped a few pictures.

Late in the afternoon, Gary, Patsy, Peggy and I drove to Ryan Dam where Patsy's niece, Bryna, was getting married today. We arrived a bit early so we walked to the observation point to look at the falls. After that, Peg, Patsy and Patsy's sister Maxine (who made the cake for the wedding) were getting the cake put together in the reception hall. After a few trials and tribulations, they got it together and proudly posed for this picture with the cake.

The wedding was held on another small island you
had to get to by walking on a suspended, swinging bridge which was across a small gorge. Not one of my favorite things to do, but I walked across without a problem. The wedding went well with the rush of water in the background and music in the air. The reception followed and, of course, the cake was a hit!!

REMEMBER: You can always click on a picture to enlarge it!!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Great Falls, Montana, Part I

Today, Peg and I and Patsy and Gary decided to play tourist. We first went to the Lewis & Clark Museum. The Museum is located along the Missouri River in a modern building designed so you can view the river from several places while inside. The journey that Lewis and Clark took was not for the faint of heart! When they got to this point in their sojourn, they were faced with a series of "great falls" they had to portage around (hence the name of the city). There was a depiction of how the men had to haul their boats and gear up the sides of the river to get around the falls. There was a longboat pulling rope in one area to show you how much strength it took to pull one of these boats all day long. It took a lot of strength to get up to a 2 hour "pull" on the meter! Peg and I would not have been the most helpful explorers!!!

After a couple of hours at the Lewis & Clark Museum, we had lunch and then headed for Giant Springs State Park. This was a really pretty place on the banks of the river where a spring pool bubbled up from the earth and flowed over a rock wall into the Missouri River. The water was 50 years old and at 54 degrees. The colors in the spring were a vivid green and could easily be seen through the clear water. 388.8 million gallons of water bubble up from this spring every 24 hours!

Next it was off to Rainbow Falls & Dam. The dam was part of the great falls in the early days of Lewis and Clark. It must have been a magnificent sight back then to see the natural falls created by this river.

In the evening we had dinner at a small restaurant
called Bob's in the Little Bitt Mountains. We enjoyed the company of Denise and Scott, relatives of Gary and Patsy and Patsy's sister Maxine. This area is a popular ski center in the winter.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Road Trip To Helena

Saturday morning and it was time for yet another road trip. Gary & Patsy and Peg and I headed to the capital of Montana, Helena. We first went downtown to the old part of Helena. We walked around and saw some interesting sights and ate in this part of town. We visited Reeders Alley and saw some of the old structures still there which were being used as shops. There were also pioneer cabins from the 1800's we visited.

We walked to a nearby park where the brass propeller of the U.S.S. Helena stood. To give you a prospective on how big the prop was, I posed in front of it. Pretty impressive!

Next we went to the capital building. We got a chance to look at several floors and at the impressive stained glass in the building. We were going to take the tour of the capital, but by the time the next tour was about to begin, we had wandered around enough to see most of the building, so we decided to head for the Historical Society Museum which was just down the street.

We saw many artifacts of the settlers push to the west at this museum.
They had many displays of pioneer clothes, cabins, tools and showed us what life style was like in the early days.

From Helena, we headed to our final destination of Great Falls, Montana. This is one of the places that Lewis and Clark visited. We were going there for one wedding reception and another wedding! That is next....

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Visit To Phillipsburg

Gary and Patsy, Peg and I and Rachel, Erin, Jennifer and her kids headed to the old mining town of Phillipsburg. We had an interesting time looking for sapphires at one of the shops called the Sapphire Gallery. They let you pick your bag of dirt and then they put it into a screening unit and immerse it into water. It is then dumped onto a table and you sift through the dirt to pull out any sapphires. Peg and I found quite a few gems and put them into a provided vile. After we picked through the dirt (several times), we were taken to the jewelry section of the store and the woman there looked at what we had in the vile and determined which were actually sapphires and which was not. We ended up with 4.6 ounces of sapphires that were usable for jewelry. Pretty cool.

We also stopped into the Sweet Palace, a huge candy store. I like to call it a diabetics NIGHTMARE!!! They did have some sugar free candy too. I had a good time selecting from their assortment of hundreds of jelly bean flavors.

We finished off our visit by heading
to the local malt shop for a few Huckleberry shakes. Huckleberries are very popular and abundant here. Man, were they good! This store looked like we had been transported back into the 60's. It was nostalgic, to say the least. We all enjoyed our treats and our visit to Phillipsburg.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Missoula, Montana

We left the Yellowstone Park area and headed up Rt. 287 towards Whitehall and Rt. 90. We discovered a beautiful river valley that Rt. 287 runs along. The larger part of the river is actually called Hebgen Lake. It was really striking with the clear blue water and the mountains rising above the lake on either side. There was road construction here for several miles so we had a chance to snap this picture through the windshield.

We finally made it to Rt. 90 and took that west towards Missoula. Our RVing friends, Gary and Patsy live just east of Missoula in a town called Clinton. This is where we planned to stay for a week or so at their home. We arrived as a family reunion of sorts was in progress. Fortunately, they knew we were coming and we parked alongside their garage. Gary had the electrician there putting in a 50 amp power receptacle so we can plug in and run our air conditioners. Wow! We didn't expect that. Those are the type of folks Gary and Patsy are. We enjoy their company a lot!

They took us on a scenic ride to Garnet where we drove several miles into the mountainside, at first on a paved road, then the road changed to gravel. At one of the highest points, we stopped at the lookout to check out the scenery and to take advantage of a photo opportunity! We were not just randomly driving. We did have a destination in mind. We were headed to Garnet and the Garnet Ghost Town!!

There is a parking area near Garnet which is a picnic area. We ate a great packed lunch and then hiked into the ghost town. Here is an overview of this interesting little town that was once a bustling place to live in these hills. They mined gold here and in the total time the mine was open, about 950 thousand dollars of gold was extracted by 1917. That price was what the gold was worth then. At todays prices, it would be worth many times more.

We wandered around the town and looked at many of the buildings still standing today. Funny, no one was living there.....OH I forgot, it IS a ghost town!! The general store is still there and they had it stocked with many items that were found in the store in its heyday. It was cool to see all the old buildings, rooms and items housed in the town. We got a quick education on the Garnet Ghost Town as well as a pleasurable walk on a great day in the mountains!!!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Yellowstone National Park

We took Rt. 191 south from Rt. 90 to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park. We camped in a National Forest campground just outside of the park. The campground is Bakers Hole and it was a typical tight camping facility with electricity only. We tried to get into a pull-through site and could not make it. Yes, we have the scratches along the side of the coach to prove it. Hopefully I can just buff them out! We did find a back-in site we fit nicely in though. Unfortunately, we could not get any satellite signal because of the trees so we had no TV or Internet access. Talk about feeling naked!!

We decided to drive the western loop in Yellowstone which of course included seeing Old Faithful Geyser. Entering the western part of the park, we saw some beautiful vistas. This picture shows some of the prime
beauty we would see most of the places we traveled in the park. The Yellowstone River runs through the park and really creates a spectacular addition to the scenery.

We did visit Old Faithful, a must see. We actually got to the geyser just after it went off. So, we had a choice. Wait about 90 minutes until it goes off again or go on to another site and come back. We decided to stay and eat an early lunch, look in the shops and get a front row seat for the eruption. I also had to buy a new hat pin to signify I was here at Yellowstone. I have been collecting them along the way. The geyser went off about 5 minutes after they predicted and it was really cool to see. It went off for about 1-2 minutes. I even took a picture of Peg standing in front of it as it was about to quit for another 90 minutes.

One of the most beautiful sights we saw was the Lower
Falls. The traffic was terrible getting into the area and we did find a place to park. We walked down to the observation area and took some great pictures. They also call this area the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Well worth the time spent here as you can see by the photo!

Another beautiful sight was Yellowstone Lake and Yellowstone River. Yellowstone Lake is the largest lake at this altitude in the country. The water was a sparkling blue and very clear and pure. The same goes for the river. It almost beckons to you to scoop some water up and take a taste. I'm sure it is as clean and refreshing as it looks!

We crossed the continental divide twice on our loop around the park. There was a lot to see and we have MANY pictures but suffice it to say you really have to go there and see the wonders contained within for yourself. I think we will come back here at a later date to see more of the park...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Devil's Tower-Wyoming

I first must apologize. It has been a couple of months since I updated our blog. We were home in Ocean Isle Beach (May-July) and have been back on the road since. So....Here we go again. I will update things in reverse so I can keep up on our current travels so please, bear with me.

We drove the motorhome to Devil's Tower on our way down to Yellowstone National Park. I thought we could park at the visitors center, look at the tower, then head out. Not so!! We actually had to unhook the car in a trailer section before getting to Devil's Tower and take the car in
about a mile to see the area.

I have always wanted to see this rock formation. I must admit, the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind really piqued my interest in this place so many years ago. So here I am, standing in
front of the tower. Pretty wild!

Peg and I took a short walk on the path that surrounds the base of Devil's Tower. This shot of the rocks that have broken away from the tower over the years is pretty dramatic. Reading the sign posted here, almost no rocks have broken away from the tower in recent years. It is pretty amazing to see this structure from the base.

Wonder what it looks like from the top.
Well, these two guys saw it first hand. It took them 5.5 hours to climb the tower to the top. We were there mid-afternoon and they had just gotten to the summit. This photo shows the two guys as they were descending. They are about mid-way down. It takes about one hour to repel down to the bottom. Double click on the photo to get a better look at the two climbers...