GRMA Day 29: Crossing Lewis & Clark’s Path Again
Four weeks ago today I left Maggie Valley on the start of the Great Rocky Mountain Adventure. During those four weeks I’ve covered 8,000 solitude-filled miles in 13 wonderful states, two amazing Canadian provinces and one isolated Canadian territory. And I still want more. I believe I’ve found my calling.
When I left East Glacier Village this morning the smoky haze responsible for my sneezing and sniffling still lingered and I saw it and smelled it most of the day. I think the Glacier National Park fire is responsible for most of the smoke, but there may be smaller fires burning and contributing to the air pollution. Montana, like all of the northwestern U.S., is very dry, and fires seem to be popping up everywhere there are drought conditions. For the first 150 miles or so I was out of the mountains and in Montana ranching country, with vast fields of baled hay and odiferous feed lots providing much of my scenery. I took time to shoot a doe and a fawn (note the notch in the doe’s ear) and a hawk, which I believe is a Swainson’s Hawk. Not much other wildlife, but lots of cows and horses. I think I may try to shoot more hawks in the next couple days, but I’m going to try to use a tripod to get a clearer image.
When I plotted today’s route I knew I wanted to stop at the U.S. Forest Service’s Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls and thought that two hours would be enough to see everything. As usual, I underestimated the time I needed to spend there to do it justice. The facility is relatively new and very well done. In a series of professional exhibits, the explorers’ route is traced from near St. Louis, up the Missouri, through the Rockies and down the Columbia to the Pacific. And back again. Having a little familiarity with the expedition made it easier to learn even more. The Great Falls site marked the first time Lewis and Clark realized they would not get to the Pacific and back in one year. They expected to make a one-day portage over one set of falls but discovered there were five different falls over the space of about seven miles on the Missouri River; their portage covered 18 miles and took 11 days. The feat is even more impressive when the amount of material that had to be moved and the size of their boats is taken into account. The exhibit does a great job of driving that home.
If I ever decide to ride the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, I’ll definitely plan for a full day stop in Great Falls.
After spending a couple of hours at the Interpretive Center, my route took me through the Little Belt and Big Belt mountain ranges of the Central Montana Range, which is an outlier of (but still part of) the Rocky Mountain Range. They were higher than I expected, with the tallest peak measuring more than 9,400 feet and the pass I went over topped out at 7,300 feet. The Little Belt range includes the Lewis and Clark National Forest, so I was surrounded by the sweet smell of pine trees for much of the afternoon. The final run toward Bozeman sent me careening through Bridger Canyon on mostly dry roads. Other than a 30-minute wind-filled thunder storm late in the afternoon, it was a nice post meridian ride.
Concern has been expressed regarding my dearth of pie reports lately, so I’ll give a brief pastry update. When in Canada, I had pie when the opportunity arose (including a new species called the Saskatoon Berry), but when only one or two restaurants service a town and towns are few and far between, finding pie would have cut into my big game hunting which turned out to be a lot of fun and seemed to spark interest among readers. Today, knowing I was trading a lunch stop for a museum stop, I had a mid-morning pie break on the plains of Montana where I found a home-made cherry pie at the Cozy Corner Cafe in Fairview. Trust me, I continue to consume more than my fair share of pie on the road.
The weather is predicted to be good tomorrow, which pleases me because I’m going to ride two roads I’ve heard much about but have not been on myself: The Beartooth Highway in Montana and Wyoming and the Chief Joseph Highway in Wyoming. I’m looking forward to some butt-cheek-clenching twisties.
Once again, thanks for being out there and coming along for the ride.