Sunday, 22 July 2012

Day 2: Idaho & Day 3: Montana

We crossed the border into Idaho  around noon, after a slow start to the day. The price of gas dropped instantly, we stopped to take a picture by the “Welcome to Idaho” sign and stole a branch off a wild lilac bush to smell up the car. And then we drove! Our first stop was a Wal Mart (how properly American of us) where we bought a map- a map being one of the few things forgotten at home, along with a belt and raincoats, which we haven’t needed!) After that, we were undecided which route to take but it was decided for us when we took a semi wrong turn, and after that we were headed to Cabela’s at Post Falls.
Mr Moose at Cabelas!

                Cabela’s is an entrancing store for people like us, all outdoor and workable clothes and more camping, hiking and hunting gear then you can shake a stick at. Very American, though- there are also safe’s and all sorts of gun accessories, not to mention guns themselves; and the whole store is speckled with taxidermy. We spent at least an hour testing foamies, and mom came away with a delightful air mattress; and both of us got new jackets which are crying out to be hiked in. All in all a success. But, it was a 2 hour out of the way success, so we didn’t make our intended campground, which was Lewis and Clark Caverns, and instead pulled over in a tiny town called Drummond (their street signposts- first street, west street etc- were handmade wood. 0.o) and tented it. It was a tiny and mostly abandoned camp beside their equally small rodeo grounds, but there was potable water and outlets for the RV’s and it smelled like cottonwood, so it was a lovely night and morning. The morning especially, because the electricity worked, and we managed to boil water for a cup of tea to travel with. Perk! We laughed a lot and snacked on smoked gouda and pepperoni and salt and vinegar rice crackers. So, Idaho was pretty good to us, though we actually camped in Montana.  Montana didn’t start out quite as well- not very far into it, a ghost car pulled us (specifically mom!!) over for speeding in a work zone (though of course there were no workers or even working vehicles/machines to be seen). They said ‘citation’ and we breathed a sigh of relief. And that was our second day on the road!
Mr. Moose pulled over in Montana. Whoops...
Day Three: Montana

On day 3, we woke up in Drummond, Montana, beside a river, train tracks, and the town of Drummond. The town is small enough that the campsite was within city limits (it doubles as a fishing site). We were serenaded by the sweet birdsong of magpies (for those of you not in the know, there is nothing sweet about magpies. Not a darn thing) and actually a dove, which sounded to me much like an owl, albeit a confused owl, given that it was daytime. We packed up slowly, trying to give the tent time to dry out from the overnight condensation. And as the site also hosted RV’s, mom decided to experiment with the electric outlets, which ended up working, and we had with our breakfast of pioneer bread and huckleberry jam a lovely warm cup of tea! Posh camping!

We left before the city employees even arrived to check the campsite, so could have gotten away with a free campsite, but we paid the ten dollars because they also had a very nice restroom and one simply must support things like that.

On our way out, headed to the Lewis and Clark Caverns, we decided to skip off the interstate 90 and take highway one, which met up with the 90 after about 45 min. An excellent decision and one I recommend to all! Highway one was beautiful, winding and mountain climbing and reminding us of the lovely parts of home. And it was so nice to be off the mindless interstate. There was stunning campgrounds (oops, should have gone a little further last night!) and lovely lakes and we drove through the town of Anaconda, which charmed mother. It was in fact a lovely old town, lots of brick, and we stopped to take a picture of the big white A on the hill headed into town- and also of the 3 american flags in a row, put up on people’s houses. A very American picture, according to mom, who found it funny. Having since seen much more than three flags in one yard, we’re no longer as amused by the relative restraint of one per yard!

We drove on through Anaconda, past a few mining and refinery sites, staring at the mountains for a surprisingly long time- I stared especially intently since I know it might be a while before I see mountains again! And eventually found the Lewis and Clark caverns, where we had intended to camp the first night. The website advertised yurts, but after a thorough drive through, I assure there were not yurts, nor were there teepees, which had also been advertised. So no regrets there about missing it as a campsite! We drove up and up and up on the windy little road till we reached the base of the cavern hike, from which they launched tours every 15 minutes. There was a school there and on the way out we saw Mennonites, which is always a bit of a double take- no one should be wearing so much clothes in heat like that! But interesting to see the long hair and pioneer like dresses and clothes. The Lewis and Clark caverns and state park is also proudly home to the oldest (still standing) building in the state of Montana: a rock outhouse, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps while they were making the caverns safely accessible (an enterprise taking over a year which involved blasting entrances and pouring a concrete path in a cave).  There is something magnificently humorous in Montana’s oldest man made building being full of shit...

The caverns themselves were very cool and a very welcome temperature change. The small 2 mile hike up was HOT and we northerners, who had been snowed on twice in the week before we left! Were not and are not adjusted. The caverns were fairly close quarters, and you’re not able to stand up straight in a lot of places (bless our lack of height)  and some squeezes would make a lot of Americans regret their expansive food choices.  The highlight for me was a slide! A natural slide, butt shaped after years of use, which is very short but the only way to get from one room to another. Awesome!  Also, on the tunnel out, there are two cavernous doors used to keep out the wind. On the way out the guide shut the front door on us while we were in the echoing hall, and the deep, echoing boom sounded like it came straight out of the Mines of Moria. Excellent.
Mr. Moose in the Lewis & Clarke Cavens!

But after the 2 hour tour it was back to the heat, and I assure you Gabby (my car) was hot. We rolled down the windows and barreled down the hill panting like puppies and trying to find ways to make the air conditioning work better/faster/colder (a theme of the trip for the next few days!) Then it was back on the road.

We spent a lot of time on the interstate and ended up on a drive through the Crow Indian Reserve, home to the Cheyenne (or some of them). An interesting discovery: American reserves, in spite of being a different country, group of First Nations, and like TEN TIMES the size of any of our reserves (not an accurate fact. Merely an impression) look just exactly the same. 3 trucks in front of every house and no one keeps a yard, wild dogs running around... but at least one man galloping across the hills on horseback, so we pretended he was a brave and bareback and lived 200 years ago and decided to be charmed by it all anyway J And it was actually a lovely drive. However, it was also a loooong way between gas stations, so we also started coasting down hills (likely not saving any gas considering the effort it takes Gabby to get up to speed again, but fun!) until we finally found a tiny, ancient gas station ran by a tiny, ancient man (we marveled about how we didn’t have to prepay and he laughed at us and said where would you run to? Yes, that far into the middle of nowhere haha).  So we filled up there and prepared to move on. We planned to camp and had asked a gas station attendant if he knew of any camping a few hours away and his reply was basically “Well... you’re in Montana!!” which turned out to be pretty accurate. You could probably spit on a campground from any point in Montana.

We drove on for about another hour, into the sunset (alas, heading East, and therefore robbing the moment of much of its romance), and as we still had a lot of energy we figured we’d drive a few hours into the dark and maybe get a hotel. BUT, there are SO MANY DEER IN MONTANA. And not like British Columbian deer, which have a well deserved fear of the road. No, hordes of inordinately friendly deer, who like to chill either right beside or right on the road. We had been counting them, but promptly lost track, and after passing probably 30 or so in about as many minutes we decided our nerves couldn’t take this madness (as a girl who has previously experienced 4 intimate vehicle encounters with the Bambi species, I figure I’ve had more than my fair share and am eager to never repeat the experience, ever). So we pulled over at a truckstop which (this being Montana) also was a campground and pitched our tent in the dark with the help of headlights and head lamps, which mom had cleverly thought to bring. We then snuggled down for the night... and were slightly disturbed, by these soft but repetitive noises... not the highway, but an odd ripping noise and the occasional swish of something twitching in the air.

Well, having managed to scare us off the highway, the darn deer were apparently only too happy to see us, and they spent at least an hour chewing up our campground (the ripping noise was their teeth ripping off grass) and whuffling our tent. Cute, but not so much so when you’re trying to sleep!

Still, we finally managed to pass out and awoke to the cheerful humming of semi trucks. Ahhh, the delights of camping :p after buying and discarding to disgusting cups of tea (they cost 50 cents each, so we couldn’t resist; but then it turned out you get what you pay for!) we were on the road again.

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