Friday, June 20, 2014

North to Montana

I've taken a little break from writing while we settled into Montana for the middle of our trip. We've passed a couple of markers - Tuesday was half-way through the trip both in terms of time and miles traveled, and as of tonight we have one week left on the road. Tuesday we moved from my brother, Patrick's, home at the Flaming Arrow outside Bozeman to my aunt's home in Arlee, MT, just under four hours away.  It has been nice to stay in the same place for three nights in a row at both places.

We've attained our goal of being in cooler weather! It was 44 degrees Tuesday morning and there has been plenty of rain with the precipitation being in the form of snow just above us on the mountains.

Going back to where I left off, last Friday, June 13th I was in Idaho for the first time (that I know of). That leaves six states I haven't been to yet - Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Kentucky. It was cool and quite breezy - we needed our jackets for the first time. We stayed in the Hilton Garden Inn (courtesy of my friend, Karen Clarke, who gave us the room with some of her points) which is on the Snake River, just a couple of blocks from the falls which give Idaho Falls its name. We walked along the river to Copper Rill, the restaurant recommended
A chia moose! Or a mossy moose?
by Emily at the front desk. The park that fronts the river bank is charming with this wonderful 'chia moose' and benches they call 'art to sit on.' The pony is my favorite. The rattlesnake bench seemed less inviting to me, but it is certainly photogenic, especially with what I'm guessing is a LDS temple across the river.

There are also gardens, and I was so happy to see (and smell!) the peonies! It reminded me that we had driven by a hedge of lilacs in bloom in Park City and I told Tom I wanted to go back so I could smell them. We didn't get to smell those lilacs, but when I arrived at my brother's on Saturday afternoon, there was a
vase of lilacs in our room,
and lilac bushes in the yard, so I enjoyed lilacs to my heart's content.

The iris are in bloom at my Aunt Mary's house - it is springtime in Montana. In fact, we had what felt like April showers for most of our visit to Montana. It started spitting rain occasionally as we drove out of Idaho Falls on our way to Bozeman on Saturday. It was clearly snowing above us on the peaks as we drove up the western side of the Tetons. The snow line was just above my brother's place, probably at about 6200 feet altitude. Yesterday was a steady rain in Missoula and Arlee (which is unusual) and it produced more than an inch of rain over the couple of days we have been here, which is quite a bit of rain for Montana (Missoula averages 17" a year, in comparison to Catalina, AZ with 12" and Morristown, NJ with almost 50" and a national average of 38-41"). The Jocko River, which we can see from the balcony at my aunt's home, is running high and brown today. Glacier Park had something like 5" of rain and 8" of snow, which is likely to cause dangerous flooding. However, things are green! Bozeman is greener than Missoula, which is farther to the west and lower in altitude (about 3200', just a bit higher than our home outside Tucson, AZ, versus 4820' in Bozeman, and 6000' at my brother's house).

Mountain meadow, just before the Divide
Back to Saturday - as we drove through Rexburg, Idaho, home of the Legacy Flight Museum, we spotted a pair of biplanes flying toward us. Since Tom was driving, I got to watch them do three loops in tandem, then rolls - obviously part of an airshow. As we got close to Montana, we crossed a gigantic high mountain meadow with snowy peaks that poke above the tree line (the altitude at which trees no longer grow - between 9000 and 11,600' in much of the Rockies). At Targhee Pass we crossed the Continental Divide for the first time on this trip. The Continental Divide is marked on maps and roadways and
indicates the ridge line from which if you look west, water flows to the Pacific Ocean, and if you look east, water flows to the Atlantic. The Snake River, on the western side of the Divide runs into the Columbia River which emerges into the Pacific between Oregon and Washington, while the Gallatin River meets the Madison and Jefferson Rivers at Three Forks, Montana to create the Missouri River, which later  joins the Mississippi just outside St. Louis, and ultimately runs into the Gulf of Mexico (part of the Atlantic ocean). We crossed the Divide again on Tuesday between Patrick's house and Mary's, near Butte.

We drove into Montana and through West
Near the beginning of the Gallatin River
Yellowstone. We crossed the upper waters of the Madison River (for which my niece was named) and then the meandering headwaters of the Gallatin River, which we followed down to Bozeman.

A tenacious tree on the banks of the
Gallatin River. See how the river has grown?
Rafters on the Gallatin where we waited for
road construction for about 15 minutes
As we drove down the valley, I saw rock cliffs more like those I remember from growing up in Colorado. I recalled how as a child I was more curious about how the trees grew on them (like these in the Gallatin River valley) than in how the rocks themselves were formed, whereas the cliffs in southern Utah and northern Arizona made me curious about the geological history of the rock formations.

We drove through Bozeman and up Bridger Canyon Road to my brother's Flaming Arrow Lodge where we stayed with my brother and nineteen-year-old niece, Madison. The Flaming Arrow is an eighty-year-old log cabin (a BIG log cabin) that has a long history from being a Boy Scout camp to a party hall for rent so there is a bar and a cash register and a commercial kitchen. Patrick has lived in it for more than twenty years during which time there have been some pretty elegant remodels. Patrick is a collector of many things from books, to old animal skins to family silver. Many of the bigger pieces of furniture from our 
The back porch of the Flaming Arrow
New Jersey house, along with many of the family heirlooms, including an oil portrait from 1795 that belonged to our great-grandmother, have ended up in Patrick's house side-by-side with skiis, fishing rods and guns. I always enjoy seeing things that used to be mine in their new homes with people I love.
The view from Patrick's back porch

One of Patrick's arrangements
in a Stranahan's whiskey
bottle cap
Patrick made a delicious dinner of local fillet mignon, and Sunday night my cousin-in-law, Stephanie, made a wonderful Father's Day dinner and we all had a lovely evening with her, my cousin Duane, and their twenty-year-old daughter Nell. 
The kitchen looking through to the living room
on the left

Tom and Chaco
On Monday Tom, Patrick and Madison joined me in a visit to a friend of mine from the Art of Change with Robert Gass training program I did about seven years ago. Pamela Chiang lives on a ranch in Belgrade, the next town west, with her husband, Teddy, who raises cattle, and their two sons.

After that, since it was raining on and off, it was a good day to go to the Museum of the Rockies where there was a great exhibit of geckos along with many historic items from Native Americans and white settlers. We dashed through the dinosaur collection so we could go to a planetarium show about the balance of carbon dioxide in earth's atmosphere.
Did you know that more dinosaurs have been
found in Montana than any other state?
We had a nice dinner at the Emerson Grill, housed in an old school which besides being home to the restaurant, is filled with art galleries.

Tuesday we departed to meet my aunt Mary for dinner at The Pearl in Missoula on our way to her house in Arlee. En route we crossed the Continental Divide again just before reaching Butte, Montana where copper was king. The Berkeley Pit mine was originally an underground mine, but in the 1950s it became an open pit mine (cheaper to run) and when it was shut down in the 1980s, the water build-up became so toxic that there is virtually no life in the 1 1/2 mile wide, 1/3 of a mile deep water pit. It is one of the biggest Superfund sites, and "one of the deadliest places on earth" according to The water is as acidic as lemon juice, and if you drank a large quantity, it would corrode you from the inside out. Yuck!

We also saw a number of long trains carrying either coal or oil. The oil carriers are carrying bitumen from Canadian tar sands. Today Mary pointed out the patchwork on the side of a mountain caused by clear-cutting sections of timber at different times. The tribe now leaves 'mother trees' standing, rather than clear-cutting and planting seedlings. This trip, and Montana in particular, brings the price of human exploitation of natural resources to awareness.

I'll share more about our time in the Missoula area in my next post, but for now, on the eve of the summer solstice, I'll close with a photo of the sky from almost 10 PM tonight.

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