stillhowlyn's travels 2010 travel blog

Lewis & Clark Caverns SP

Reading up on our surroundings!

Just really liked this photo taken along our hike. Sun was perfect!

Summit of Greer Gulch Trail!

Now we're here!

I hope you can read this sign!

The naming of a river...!

If you floated downstream in an innertube, you would each the Gulf...

Standing at the Headwaters!

Can you see the fork?

Three Forks!

Old Pony, MT mining town!

What's left of the Twenty Stamp Mill!

1903 Episcopal Church, Pony!

(* Denotes "Finally done editing)!

As towns go, Cardwell, MT is...well, not much! The population hovers around 50 +/-, depending on how many of us itinerants are staying in the Cardwell RV Park & Store, which other than a small post office, is the only business that we could see. The RV park charges $20 for full hookups and is certainly one of two redeeming factors for choosing to stay here; the other is the surrounding area is loaded with historical and sight-seeing opportunities!

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park is Montana's first and best-known state park featuring one of the largest known limestone caverns in the Northwest, and located a few miles away from the RV park on Highway 2, just off I-90. We spent a beautiful, warm, sunny day there checking out the Visitor's Center, very nice campground facilities, cavern particulars, and hiking trails. We opted out of the 2 hour guided caverns tour, mainly because we didn't want to "duck-walk" through narrow openings and descending 600 steps made my knees hurt just thinking about it. We did, however, decide to undertake the moderately strenuous Greer Gulch Loop Trail, which climbed 400 ft. rather steeply to the summit before returning, and was probably, in hindsight, a bit more challenging than the caverns, but being outside and enjoying the flora & fauna and taking photos at will was more to our liking.

There is also the Missouri River Headwaters SP just north of the town of Three Forks, off Highway 287. Standing at the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison & Gallatin Rivers, which form this longest river in the United States, is actually mind-boggling. The Lewis and Clark Expedition contemplated these important headwaters all the way up the Missouri River in 1804 and 1805. Last year we visited their path a couple hundred miles north of here in North Dakota at the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers. Which fork to take, how to portage these huge Rocky Mountains that loomed ahead, in their quest to find the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean?!

More than making up for any deficiencies in Cardwell were the nearby towns of Three Forks and Whitehall; both thriving small towns, rich in history, recreational opportunities and steeped in Old West charm. Off the beaten path drives to Pony, an historic gold mining town hidden in the Tobacco Root Range of the Montana Rockies, and Norris Hot Springs, a popular geothermal area, were both scenic and interesting. Our overnight stop quickly turned into 4 days of fun and exploration!

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