Our Journey Continues - Montana

Choatau, MT

Friday, August 11th 2000

We've just returned from an evening walk. The hill outside our camper looked so inviting to climb. Fairly steep, brownish dried grass with some green areas and small purple flowers. The top of the hill was what intrigued us, luscious and green. The grass crackled under our feet as we climbed. The ground was pocked with holes from some little critter digging. We reached the top to discover a beautiful green GOLF COURSE perched there. What a wonderful view.

We camped last night in Billings Montana and after listening to the news of the fires, decided to alter our route. Rather than drive I-90 into Missoula where people were being warned to stay inside because of the fires in southwest Montana, we choose instead to drive north and west to this little town south of Glacier. The day was wonderfully cool - 10 or 15 degrees cooler than yesterday. The wind blew and the air was fresh and smelled of a recent rain. The thunderstorms stayed just ahead of us. There were no motorcycles, no trucks, and very few cars. We had the road to ourselves. Jim's description of the countryside is better than mine so I'll include it. "We came through a variety of vistas today, though great distances of treeless landscape predominated. Some of the land was rolling and bumpy, some virtually flat. North of Billings there was an escarpment of shale or ancient hard mud with Ponderosa Pine trees on the north side of the highway and flat country to the south; and a few other places had Ponderosa pines on the hills and thick cottonwoods and willows along creeks. But mostly one could see forever vast fields of hay with hundreds of rolled bales, all gold and bright; inundating stretches of dull tan, or brown, or sand colored countryside stretching to distant blue mountains, pale no doubt from the smoke from fires further west in Montana and Idaho. The land looks dry and poor, semi desert, but in river bottoms there are green fields."

Yesterday was beastly hot and windy so today was a very pleasant change. We found as we left Custer State Park that we were extremely resentful of the "bikers" and there constant roaring through the park. We tried to take the road up to Mt Rushmore which is narrow and winding with three single lane tunnels and many turnouts for enjoying the views but you had to just keep going as not a single turnout was available for stopping. Each was filled with motorcycles and not a single inch of space remained. You really had to see the spectacle to even begin to understand how frustrated we felt. Our reward came the next day as we left early in the morning to take the Needles Scenic Highway. We had it to ourselves and stopped and looked whenever we pleased. As we started up the highway, we stopped to admire and take pictures of the Rocky Mountain Big Horn sheep (rams). You don't see these big guys often but they were eating the salt from the side of the highway. We stopped at Sylvan Lake for a walk around the lake and a picnic lunch. Part way around we stopped as a group of young climbers with their teacher climbed to the top of a sheer rock face. The lake was a beautiful dark yellow green with rocky cliffs around one end. The last time we had tried to take this walk we were stopped by a thunderstorm.

As we drove through Great Falls today, we were a little bit leery. Each visit before to this city has been to correct a problem with the car or trailer. Today was no exception! We were worried about the tires on our car with all of the info in the news on Firestone - ours are the Wilderness tires. We stopped at a Firestone dealer and he checked them out for us. Two were made in Canada and the other two at another plant NOT Decatur IL. We had started having trouble with the trailer brakes and stopped at Electric City Brakes where a nice young man checked them and made several adjustments to them. We were on our way with brakes working again and glad to be out of Great Falls.

We leave tomorrow morning for Whitefish Montana and the Elderhostel.