Monday we took a 174 mile loop ride on the motorcycle. It was a wonderful day to ride – the weather was mild and we had a blast! We rode north along the Madison River for awhile till the river stopped running alongside the road; then we traveled through some ranchlands with yellow pastures and also some irrigated hay fields that were nice and green. We decided to go see the headwaters of the Missouri since that wasn’t too far from the loop we’d planned around the Tobacco Root Mountains. We ended up following along the Jefferson River before getting to the Missouri Headwaters State Park outside the town of Three Forks in the Gallatin Valley. There are three rivers here that meet to form the Missouri River. The river is not as wide here as it is in central Missouri, where we will be later this summer with our friends Laura and Bernie, but it was very interesting to see the confluence of the rivers. This is one of the many places Lewis and Clark camped during their westward expedition. The explorers arrived at this location on July 25, 1805 and named all three of the rivers that form the Missouri, giving them the names of the President, the Secretary of State and the Treasury Secretary: Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin. Sacajawea, the expedition’s famous Shoshone guide, recognized the region as her native land where she had lived before being captured as a young girl by the Mandans.
After our visit to the park, we ate lunch at a place named Wheat Montana Deli and found out it was pretty famous in this area. The company website states that Wheat Montana farms encompass 12,000 acres of productive soil in Montana. Located near the headwaters of the Missouri River near the town of Three Forks and surrounded by the majestic Elkhorn Mountains at 5,000 feet above sea level, it is also the highest elevation at which grain is grown in North America. The low rainfall, high elevation and cool nights on the farm result in some of the highest quality grains in the world. Wheat Montana Farms has also made its way into the Guiness Book of World Records for cutting, milling, mixing and baking a loaf of bread in 8 minutes and 13 seconds! The grains grown on this farm “chemical/pesticide free” and their products go directly from the field to the table with no irradiation or pasteurization. The sandwiches we ordered were made after we ordered using fresh bread; there were 10 bread choices, 5 meat choices, 4 cheese choices, with 11 different “fixins” available. Using the Cartesian product method I taught my kids at school, that gave us 2200 choices for our sandwich order if we only chose one of each category! I had lots of the “fixins” on my sandwich!
Following lunch, we continued our loop ride around the mountains. There are no roads through the mountains so we rode mostly in the valleys of the Jefferson and Madison Rivers. At one part, the Jefferson had created a narrow canyon and both the road and the railroad travel through the canyon until it opened up into a wide valley. We saw lots of cattle country and some irrigated hay fields; it looked like a lot of the ranchers and farmers were in the middle of their haying. We stopped in Virginia City again to have a cold refreshment before going back over the hills to our RV park. Three Forks is at 4000 feet while our park is at 4950 feet in elevation. Virginia City is at about 5800 feet, and the highest point in between we measured, using our GPS, at 6950 feet. The road between our RV park and Virginia City has lots of great turns; we have ridden it several times already this week! Unfortunately for those of you who love nature shots, most of the best scenes today were in places where we could not safely stop the motorcycle and take pictures, so they are in my mind’s eye, but not available for you to see on the website! Sorry! Tomorrow we will take another Harley ride – probably south next.