Friday, June 17, 2016

June12, 13 and 14

June 12, 2016

After a very chilly night, we started back to the Big Hole National Battlefield Site.  On the way we saw a few more bike riders.  There was even a group of four women.  One of the men we saw was obviously traveling because he had full saddle bags with another small bag across the top.  I have to admit that I just can’t see how cyclists enjoy the long distance ride.  It seems like their knees would give out or their legs cramp up.  After we arrived in Big Hole, Roger made some more radio contacts, then, at 1:30, we left. 

We are so enjoying the small creeks that meander through the prairie land.  They give one a sense of freshness and enthusiasm, with there clear swift moving water and colorful rock bottoms.  Yet the circling pathways of the streams lend a sense of peace and harmony. 

Now the creek has turned into the Big Hole River and there are several boaters on the water.  Some are fisherman, others are boating.  There were other boat ramps and boaters downstream.  Lots of people are enjoying this beautiful Sunday, with a chill in the air, but the sun shining and clear skies above.   We found a combination boat ramp and campground right on the river.  Pulling into a campsite, we enjoyed the view while we ate our lunch.  We hated to have to leave the river behind.  But other National Parks were calling Roger‘s name.

Before we reached Butte, Montana we passed a town where strip mining is in operation.  It is leaving a huge, long “scar” on the side of three different mountains.  Some may say it is more practical and less costly, but it sure seems almost sacrilegious to me.  I just don’t see how that land can ever recover from such degradation.  I feel sorry for the people who live with in the view of those stripped mountains.

The mountains in this area are mostly rock.  But the evergreen trees still manage to grow through the crevices.  This creates a landscape with a different type of beauty, with huge boulders that are smooth and rounded. 

We are dropping down into a big valley again, with its low rolling hills, farm land and prairie.  Exit 278 brought us into the town of Three Forks, where the Missouri River splits into three different tributaries:  the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin Rivers. 

  These are the source of the Missouri, called the “Headwaters”.  One of the marquis at the site explained that when Lewis and Clark reached this point, they saw that the rivers were the same size.  So rather than naming one of them the Missouri, they gave them each a different name representing the three current top executives of the government, president, vice president and secretary of  U.S. Treasury.

We took pictures of the confluence of the rivers and read some of the plaques which had drawings and audio explaining the history of the Three Forks area.  This will be the last Lewis and Clark site we tour on this trip.  Though the trail continues all the way to the Pacific Ocean, Roger and I have already visited the end and also been on the Columbia River when we took a trip to California in 2004.  That trip helped spark our interest in doing the Lewis and Clark Trail from the beginning.

June 13, 2016

Roger found a small lake in town where he transmitted for awhile.  Then we started our journey toward Idaho.  The remainder of our trip will be to National Park sites and whatever interesting places we find along the way. 

We had to backtrack about 20 miles, then were able to turn south.  The wind picked up and was so strong that Roger had to grip the steering wheel for about a half an hour, before it calmed down.  Almost all of the farms have their sprinkler systems on today.  I guess the crops are feeling the effects of the summer heat.  But it may also be that the climate is just much dryer in this region of the state. 

We have also started to see a few herds of sheep, which surprised me, for some unknown reason.  The rolling hills have turned almost brown and are treeless.  Where the cliffs are exposed, they are the color of red clay.  I suppose that is where the local Red Rock River got its name.  

 The largest herd of cattle we have seen so far just appeared to the right of the highway.  There must be at least 500 head spread over a large area of ranch land.  It is good to know that our economy is still able to support such a big operation.

We crossed the Idaho state line about 4:30 p.m. and were surprised we were at an elevation of 5,700 feet.  We had crossed the Continental Divide but did not see any sign with that designation.  I guess we have been on a slight incline for many miles, because we hardly noticed the change.  I kept expecting to be struggling to climb mountains, but the land surrounding interstate 15 has seemed relatively flat.  Then, all of a sudden, on our left is a long canyon with tall fir trees on both sides.  It still amazes me how the landscape can change so quickly.

As we turned off onto Highway 22, Idaho’s prairie is filled with golden grasses that soon become filled with short scrub brush plants.  Every so often there are small patches of short stemmed flowers with orange blossoms, giving a little bit of color to the region.  There are still large farms with big sprinkler systems, where crops are a pretty bright green, contrasting with the dry surrounding lands.  An interesting feature on theses planted fields is that they are round, rather than rectangular, to match the area the sprinkler system covers, as it circles around the fields.

Most of the farms have an area with stacked hay bales.  Unlike the ones we have seen all over Montana, these bales are rectangular instead of round.  I really don’t know if one is advantages over the others or why they are different.

For about a half an hour, we have been driving through a place that is very desolate and lonely.  There are no houses, people or animals.  For many miles, only electric poles and wires indicate there will be human life in the distance, beyond our line of sight.  I was so glad to leave that area behind.  As we came around a bend in the road, a small herd of antelope crossed the highway in front of us.  Roger had to stop to keep from hitting one of them.  There were at least four or five babies among them.  That sight certainly perked us up. 

About an hour later we reached today’s destination, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.  It was another drastic change in landscape.  We pulled into the campground, because the visitor’s center was already closed.  There was still someone in the shack at the campground who gave us a brochure on the site.  It noted that a geologist named Harold Stearns described this area in 1923 as looking like “the surface of the moon as seen through a telescope”( hence the name). 

The dark rock and craters are the result of volcanic activity beginning 15,000 years ago, with the most recent eruptions occurring 2000 years ago.  Geologists believe that there will be additional volcanic events in the future.  We look forward to hiking and driving through this very unique preserve tomorrow.   

June 14, 2016

After breakfast we took the bikes down and rode to the first pull off, which had a small paved trail around a section of the park that was a very easy hike.  The second stop has a trail that was listed as1.8 miles, which didn’t seem too hard.  So we left the bikes and began that hike.  It soon began to become a much steeper climb.  Then we started to go down, then up again. 

Too shorten this story, we went to the top of a place called North Crater.  It took us a couple of hours to get back down the opposite side of the crater.  Then we still had to walk on the road back to where our bikes where, another mile and a half away.  What made the hike even harder was the fact that the wind was very strong.  There were a couple of times when we thought it might knock us over.  Roger says the gusts must have been 40 miles per hour, with a steady 15 to 20 the rest of the time. At least it kept the temperature cool.

I admit that we sere really glad to get back to the RV.  But we are still glad we did the hike.  The unique volcanic formations were so interesting.  Some places are completely void of vegetation.  Others have only a small number of trees and short shrubs.   My favorite sections are the “cinder gardens”.  These are areas with very small dark volcanic rocks, the size of gravel, that are filled with three inch tall flower clusters.  They vary in shape and color:  yellow, pink, purple, orange and cream/off white.

As we were climbing a part of the crater, Roger spotted a cave opining.  Even as tired as he was, he was so intrigued that he climbed back down the trail to inspect it.  I stayed and waited for him.  He told me the cave was about 20 feet long and had a smooth floor created by a lava flow.  The ceiling had small holes, as well as drips of hardened lava.

We are staying one more day.  So we will see how we feel tomorrow, before we decide to hike again.

No comments:

Post a Comment