Great Falls, Montana
4 Jun 2008
|Last stop in lower states before beginning the trip to Alaska!
Leaving Ashton, ID in the a.m. going north on I-15 into Montana. Rainy in Idaho & Montana with cool temps in high 50's & low 60's. Spring weather in the Northwest is damp & cool at least this year.
Wed a.m. we woke up to light rain & left with it raining. There is a flood watch for this area with the high water mark not until tomorrow. The water level is just below flood stage now. A good time to leave. We headed up I-15 into Montana headed thru Butte, Helena & finally to Great Falls. Hank let me drive for about an hour before we got to Butte which is up in the mountains. It was still raining, but then it turned to SNOW! Yes, I did say snow here on the 4th of June. When we stopped at the Flying J in Butte to get fuel & change drivers, I asked inside if it was unusual to get snow in June. The lady told me that it was not uncommon to have snow on the 4th of July!! We have found another beautiful place that we will not be buying property in when/if we ever settle down again. Oh yes, 59.76 gal of diesel was $270... actually a "great" price at only $4.51 a gallon! We stopped in Great Falls to top off our tanks & it was only $4.49 a gal for the 18.36 gal for a "bargain" at $82.63. Ouch!
We are at one of the Fam Camps at Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls. It is still rainy, but the temps are warmer here than down in Ashton, ID. This whole area is a big Lewis & Clark historical area. Hopefully we will get some sightseeing done. We will be here for the week doing final preparations to leave for the Alaska trip.
We made a few trips driving around town to find stores some of which were Walmart, K-mart, Target, etc. On one trip we stopped at the side of the main road to checkout Black Eagle Falls. It was named that because when Lewis (of Lewis & Clark Expedition) saw the island near the falls there was a black eagle in one of the trees.
One day we went to the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center located next to the Missouri River on the north side of Great Falls. We went to one in St. Charles, Mo (near St. Louis) several years ago. Lewis & Clark began the trip up the Missouri River from St. Charles. It was interesting to go to the one here. It focuses on the whole trip but has additional info on the Great Falls located here. Lewis & Clark learned about the falls from the Indians, but did not know there were 5 falls instead of just one. The falls required the group to portage all their supplies, equipment & canoes around all 5 falls. That meant an 18 mi route over land which they did not expect & weren't prepared for. It is reported as being one of the most taxing parts of their journey. It is all very interesting & renews the understanding of how difficult a task they had undertaken. It all ties in to our country's history in a very interesting way... much more than I realized when studied in school.
We then drove about 13 miles away (by road) to the Great Falls of the Missouri. They drop about 98' which is about what Lewis described. You now can cross a swinging bridge to an island to get to the observation point at about river level. There are now dams on the river above 3 of the 5 falls. These hydro-power generators have resulted in Great Falls being called the "Electric City". The power plants work in cooperation with the state in providing public access to the falls.
Another day excursion was to the Giant Springs State Park which has a fish hatchery for trout & is the location of the Giant Springs which Lewis wrote about in his journal. It is a natural spring It is actually the location of numerous springs close together which bubble up & out through rock. From the Springs is the Roe River which is recognized by Guiness Bookof World Records as being the shortest river in the world... all 201 feet. The Springs also run down into the Missouri River. The Springs are crystal clear & you can see plants & rocks & trout in it all the way to where it meets the muddy river water. Really a pretty neat & amazing thing to see. It was much nicer, larger & more surprising than we expected. It was a nice surprise. The fish hatchery is small but interesting. I didn't know trout get so big. Right now they have an albino trout in the big tank near the river.
Driving farther into the park, we came to the Rainbow Falls overlook & picnic area. These falls have dark red stone in the formation which is very dramatic. Not far down the river from here are the Crooked Falls which are aptly named & sometimes called Horseshoe Falls.
After eating our picnic lunch, we walked about 1/4 mile down to the Crooked Falls overlook. It was a pleasant walk along the river rim "through" the prairie grass. I got some photos of little flowers that you would never see unless you were moving pretty slowly & looking at the grasses. There were also yucca cactus & we did see some prickly pear cactus!
Lewis & Clark journals report the problems they had during the portage from all the men stepping on the cactus. This happened when they were hauling the canoes up & out from the river & across the prairie. They had to make carts for hauling the canoes. They cut down cottonwood trees to use to cut into round "wheels" for the carts. The men wore moccasins & frequently stepped on prickly pear cactus when making the portage. This not only hurt, but also caused infections, etc. Another of the dangers were the grizzly bears that were quite numerous in this area at that time. The men could not travel alone because of the danger to a man alone against an attacking grizzly.
The Charles M. Russell Museum of Western Art is an interesting place to spend an afternoon. Whether you are a lover of western art, or know little to nothing about western art, this place should enlighten you, inspire you, & help you see the west from the eyes of a true artist. Russell was born in St. Louis, MO to a wealthy family. He saw & experienced a lot thanks to that privileged beginning. When he was only 12 he won his first art award at the St. Louis Fair. He attended a Military School in New Jersey. By the time he was 16 he was out west working on a ranch. He had a natural love for the west, the life, the ranches, the animals & the Indians. This was to be a large part of his life. He received his first paid commission in 1885 for an oil painting in Montana.
Wed, June 11th we woke up to snow! It was about 4-6 inches which fell during the night & had begun melting by about 9. Great Falls hadn't had over an inch of snow this late in June since 1969. We heard it is also the first time in the U.S. that summer school had to be cancelled because of snow! From when we awoke, the day started out sunny, but again ended in rain in the afternoon. We have not had any day (I don't think) since we've been here that it didn't rain at sometime. The heavy rain washed all the snow away & is contributing more to the already high Missouri. We feel sorry for the folks in the Midwest, especially Wisconsin & Iowa. They have problems there & all the rain here is helping to raise the water levels downriver along the Missouri.
We spent several days finishing getting the rv ready for the trip, stocking up on what we needed to take, without overdoing it in the weight department. There are limits on the amount of meat, cheese, eggs, etc. you can take into Canada. There are restrictions on all fruit & vegetables. Canada has had a potato disease problem, so those are definitely on the don't bring list. I put away almost all my summer clothes. Don't think we will be wearing many shorts this summer! We bought some rain jackets. We are as ready as we are going to get.
Friday, the 13th, we moved from the AF FamCamp across town to Dicks RV Park right next to the Sun River. It is really nice to see a beautiful blue sky. The wind is blowing of course, but that seems to be natural here. We just hold on to the rv & car doors whenever we go in or out. Patti somestimes gets swept off her feet a little, but we haven't lost any doors yet Yes, from all the rain, there are threats of flooding, etc. So far there haven't been any problems, so hopefully the rain will stop for awhile. We feel bad for those areas "downstream" that are already experiencing flooding. The dams here on the Missouri River appear to be wide open as they are maxed out. There are no areas along the river that are below the high water mark. We are seeing some plants that are being overtaken by water. It is sad there is so much, but the ground is saturated.
Sat, 14th we made a trip back to the Giant Springs St Park so that I could retake some photos & take some video. I am so impressed with the place that I wanted to be better able to share & keep some photos that really show the place more realistically. I like the "gem-like" aspect to the original photos but they are a little bizarre. So I am adding a few more pics here to go with the others. Hopefully I will get a little video on here too.
I will start a new entry for the beginning of our SMART Caravan group & the beginning of that part of our Great Adventure Year 2!