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Posts Tagged ‘Montana’

We got a late start this morning.  Since we needed to stock up on supplies, we went to the local IGA market.  It was raining off and on all morning.  I sat in the Coach House while Jackie went inside to do the shopping.  At this point in our trip we were both exhausted from the pace and monotony of traveling.  The sameness of driving four or five hours then stopping for the night at a campground and then starting over the next day and the day after that had finally taken its toll on whatever “joy” that came from the act of traveling.  At this stage in our trip, we just wanted to get home as soon as possible.  I realized that if we wanted to do any exploring of the areas where we stopped, we would have to stay more than just one day.  It occurs to me that the whole point of this trip, apart from the act of traveling and camping in the Coach House, was to get to Blackduck and Blaine, Minnesota.  That accomplished, when we finally left Minnesota, the goal was simply get back home.  We could have spent more time exploring the places we traveled through, but with the cost of campgrounds and especially the cost of gas to keep the RV on the road (which averaged out to be about $90.00 dollars a day), the trip was already on the expensive side.  Traveling in the Coach House is comfortable enough; it has everything you need to make the experience pleasant. But at this point, Coach House is not for us.  When we stayed in Kino for a lengthy period of time, it was much more pleasant, though we had no freedom of movement to explore the area if we wanted.  Now, I think we will try to sell the camper when we get back home.

To make headway, we decided to try to drive all the way to Spokane, Washington before we stopped for the night.  The weather was improving, and driving through Montana again, gave us a different perspective of the state.  As the clouds begin to clear, the blue sky was vivid and the panorama dramatic:

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The elevation once you’re in the state can be anywhere from 4 to 6 thousand feet, often with roads that slowly curve, then rise and fall.  Little towns can suddenly appear as if out of nowhere, their church steeples often the first clue that a town is approaching.  Here are a few more examples of Montana church steeples that seem to be everywhere:

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I kept my camera close by as I was driving.  The steeple shots are taken through the windshield of the rig then cropped and leveled later using Photoshop.

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Often what you see first is the steeple itself, pointing upward toward the sky:

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A final shot:

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Drove six hours including gas and rest stops.  Very tired by the time we arrived at the Small Towne Campground in Terry, Montana.  We took a chance on this one; Jackie called ahead, but no one answered the phone.  When we pulled in, except for a few full-timers, the campground appeared virtually empty.  Not even the owners were around. We noticed a sign outside the backdoor of their house that  told us to pick any site, which we did.  The sites themselves were nicely graveled with plush, grassy sections right next to them, perfect for Roscoe and Louie to stretch out and cool themselves after a very long and rough ride.

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Terry, Montana

It’s no secrete that when the body is overtired, the brain seems to shut down most of its reasoning capacity.  For example, when I tried to extend the leveling jacks and slide out, nothing worked.  Naturally, I overlooked the obvious, but I just couldn’t think through what I was doing wrong.  After six hours of driving,  my brain was dead.  While Jackie took the dogs for a little walk, I sat down, pulled out the monster ring binder, and skimmed the manual for a solution.  At least I still could read.  And then I found it:  “Apply parking brake fully” was clearly printed in bold font. If you get the body to relax, the mind will soon follow.  And so, with jacks and slide out fully extended, our camp was fully in place.

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Small Towne Campground site

When the owners finally returned, I sought them out to square the fee for the evening.  Very nice people, but they were a cash only enterprise, and I had no cash.  Not a problem.  The Stockman’s Bank has an ATM in the lobby and only a mile away.  The owner told me to be sure and check out the sculpture of two Montana cowboys standing around a campfire.  The thing was welded out of sheet metal by a couple of local prison inmates and displayed in a neighbor’s backyard.  I rode my bike to the ATM, got the cash, and looked for the sculpture. I couldn’t find it where she said it was; I even asked a few local Terry folks, but they didn’t know and looked at me as if I was crazy.

An inteevelyn with cameraresting side-note about Terry, Montana, is the fascinating story of Evelyn Cameron (1868-1928), a British-born photographer, adventuress of some considerable reputation, who moved to Terry in 1893 with her Scottish husband, Ewen.  After hearing stories about hunting expeditions in the Badlands of Montana, homesteading on the prairie, and living the life of a “pioneer,” Evelyn and her husband moved to Montana to see it all for themselves.  Evelyn inherited enough money after the death of her father to purchase a ranch.  After an initial failed effort to raise polo ponies to sell to wealthy Europeans, Evelyn raised vegetables to sell and took up photography after buying a nine-pound camera and tripod which she lugged around by horse, taking photographs of every aspect of frontier life in Montana.

Evelyn with horse:

evelyn with horse

Kneading dough:

evelyn kneeds dough

 

 

 

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On the road this morning by 10:00 am, gassed up, with only one stop at Target in Missoula to find a 12 volt charger for the Garmin.  With that accomplished, and under dark and ominous cloud cover, we steered Coach House for highway 94 east, leaving the “Hub of Five Valleys” (the convergence of five spectacular mountain ranges: the Bitterroot Mountains, Sapphire Range, Garnet Range, and Rattlesnake Mountains).  It’s easy to see that in this part of the country winter is only just releasing its formidable grip; dark clouds, chilly temperatures, and snow-covered mountains seem impervious to all of the early signs of spring.  Driving 94 is a matter of weaving our way through these mountains which rise above us from all directions.  We ascend gradually from the 3,200 foot elevation of Missoula to the 5,500 foot elevation of Butte.

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Sapphire Mts. on the road to Butte, MT

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Ominous clouds above the snow-covered Sapphires remind us that winter is still around.

We have noticed that many towns in Montana share a penchant for  displaying a distinctly visible initial on the side of a convenient hill.

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Missoula hillside “M” with University of Montana in the foreground. Source: wikipedia

The origin of these “hillside monograms” are steeped in small-town history, local culture, with a touch of self-aggrandizement. It seems like every small town I’ve every lived in has a “hillside monogram” somewhere outside of town.  Certainly, graduating seniors of small-town high schools (like Condon High School in Condon, Oregon, for example) have created their own town monograms using spray paint on the side of rock formations, after which the town fathers, under the threat of no diploma, are requested to remove said monogram.  If you are interested in the origins of these monograms, here is an essay I found on the Mountain Monogram website written by Berkeley professor James J. Parsons: “Hillside Letters in the Western Landscape” (1988).

Passing through these small Montana towns, tall spires on church steeples guide the faithful to these houses of worship.  We can see these iconic churches from the highway.  Montana church below is typical of the kinds of churches that dot the Montana landscape and whose steeples can be seen for miles away.

montana church steeple

Source: Revisiting Montana’s Historic Landscape

From Butte, we begin to descend into the beautiful Gallatin Valley and Bozeman.  Bozeman’s elevation is at 4,800 feet and the city is situated at the foot of several mountain ranges that surround it.  Five miles to the east we found Bear Canyon Campground. We didn’t arrive until around 6:00 pm, much later than we usually like stop.  Strong storm-generated head winds slowed us down almost the entire way here.  The campground sits above the din of perpetual highway 90 traffic. Very few campers here, as has been the case for most of the overnight campsites we have stayed at.  It’s the perfect time of year to camp.

Nice campground.  Many empty sites this time of year:

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Out pull-through site:

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Paper Birches just starting to leaf:

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Mountains surround the campground:

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Heavy rain during the night; bright sunshine expected to greet us for tomorrow’s early start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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