|Start odometer: 40,350 End odometer: 40,593
We traveled 243 miles today.
There were 3 or 4 rigs at the KOA from VA. We talked to one couple from Roanoke. We learned that NAFTA really helped him – he worked for Tultex and the company went out of business in 2000. Tultex used to be an IIMC client. We also found out that Maid Best uniforms also went out of business. That was one of A’s clients when he worked for IIMC. NAFTA seems to have put an end to the US textile industry.
This was a leisurely travel day. T was impressed at how well Montana labels it’s fishing access points and how many of them we passed. Even she wanted to fish in the Yellowstone River. We found out that the Yellowstone is the only undammed river left in the United States and wildlife abounds around and in it. We hope Washington, DC, in it’s infinite wisdom, doesn’t try to remedy the situation....
We stopped at Missouri Headwaters State Park near Three Forks, MT. It’s here that Captain Merriweather Lewis named the three rivers that formed the Missouri. HE named the tributaries Madison, Gallatin and Jefferson. We stood and took pictures of the confluence on the very spot where The Corp of Discovery ate breakfast just over 202 years ago. By the way, there is an easily accessible campground there for $15/night for out of staters. It’s dry camping.
We took a walk along the rivers’ edge. It was so nice to walk along a single lane well trodded path that didn’t have signs that admonish one to stay on the marked trails.
We saw lots of wildlife. A flock of American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos, for anyone who’s interested) who were scooping up fish in one of the rivers. We scared up a flock of Kildeer (Charadrius vociferus) residing in a large clump of bushes. We saw a Yellow-bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris) a member of the squirrel family. Their common name is “rockchuck”. We learned the difference between Prairie Rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridus viridis) and Bull Snakes which are not venemous. The non-venemous bull snake has a pointed rather than a jointed tale with a rattle. We saw neither snake in our travels.
We learned an interesting fact about Montana State Park Day use fees. They are good in ANY MT state park for that entire day.
We decided to check out the Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park. En route we passed the Parker Homestead State Historic Site. It’s a sod-roofed log cabin built in the early 1900's that’s representative of the thousands pioneer frontier homes of the era.
We finally got to what we thought was the visitor center for Lewis & Clark Caverns. A sign suggested dropping the trailer in the lower parking lot because the road up was steep and 3 miles long. A talked to the ranger and she said pulling the trailer up the hill shouldn’t be a problem.
WHAT A ROAD - IT CLIMBED 1000 FEET IN THAT 3 MILES. The van did marvelously well at towing up that steep incline. Much of the road had no guard rails on the open side... It was high up...
We parked in the RV lot and climbed the 25 steps to the main level lot. Went to pay the $20 for the mine tour when T noticed a sign that said 2 plus miles strenuous trail. We asked at the ticket booth only to learn that the cave was .3 of a mile uphill and that there were over 600 steps going down into the caverns... Okay, my knees handled the 25 steps down okay but I didn’t think I’d be able to walk for the next few days if I tried to take over 600 steps down.
So we left the caverns after a thrilling ride up and down the mountain side...
HURRAY! We crossed the Continental Divide around 2 P.M. That’s a 6% grade for 3 miles.
We spent the night at Beavertail Hill State Park east of Missoula. It’s only 1/4 mile off I-90. It was dry camping but the campsites were large and the area was pleasant. The cost was $15 since we had already paid for a day use pass. On the down side, this is the first campsite that we’ve stayed in where the mosquitos drove us indoors. They just seemed to SWARM in search of fresh blood. Also, the campground was located near an at-grade railroad crossing. The trains sounded their horns everytime they went past. One drawback of Beavertail Hill State Park is that it has no dump station. That was okay for one night, though.