We seem to be getting more efficient with our setting up and our packing up. This morning we were underway by 8:11am. With the sound of Bachman Turner Overdrive blaring Roll On Down the Highway on the CD player, we headed west again. It was extremely foggy as we pulled onto US20 and we feared we’d have low visibility for some time. But a few miles down the road it cleared up and we were able to witness morning coming to the mountain valleys.
What a beautiful sight! The temperature had gone below freezing again last night so everything in the shade was still all frosty and everything in the light was a nice, warm tone. There was very little traffic. After a bit, we saw a road work sign and then a flag man holding a stop sign. So we stopped. We sat for probably a minute and then he came over to chat with us, remarking that we were a long way from home. He told us that they were patching the cracks in the road today and it would only be a few minutes wait. Even though we felt like the only car on the road, he said this US287 was a favorite big truck route. I’ve never had a flag man come over and chat with me in Maine! The pilot car (they love their pilot cars out west it seems) guided down the 5 miles being patched without any problems. It was fun when he slowed down near some workers and passed a cooler to them. Maybe it was coffee break time. And you have to love a place where the road workers wear cowboy hats.
We crossed from Montana into Idaho and then back into Montana so I’m not quite sure where we saw what. But there definitely were a lot of beautiful log homes along this stretch. Also, each ranch has these gorgeous gates at the beginning of their road. They are tree trunk size and some are very impressively decorated.
This is still fishing country. The Madison River runs deeper and faster here than it did in the national park. The fishermen weren’t standing in the river; they were standing in boats that looked a lot like dories.
I love it when we get a chance to drive on roads that aren’t interstate. It gives us a chance to see the small towns, businesses and homes along the way. Ennis MT sported a welcome sign that announced a population of 840 people and 11,000,000 trout. I’m not kidding! They had a lively little downtown so must support a lot of sportsmen. Perhaps their motto is “Take my trout. Please.”.
The country side was beautiful. It was much greener in the valley than we had seen recently. We spotted quite a few more antelope. I also saw my first two cowboys on horseback working the cows.
This was all I could seem to find for a downtown in Cardwell MT. There were cows hanging out in similar pens on the other side of the road. Unlike the interstate rest areas which are paved and level, this rest stop involved pulling onto the gravel shoulder over a 3 inch drop from the pavement. Still and interesting place to stop and fill up our coffee cups again.
Back on the interstate, we at times were following the Bozeman Trail which was an overland route from the gold rush territories of Montana to the Oregon Trail. It must not have been a comfortable ride in a wagon as much of the road involved a 7% downhill grade (west bound). My math guy told me that this means the elevation is going down 7 feet for every 100 feet of road. These sections also boasted a pullout on either end for a “chain up” and “chain removal” area. They are serious about tire chains here.
We passed by Butte MT (not the prettiest of places). There was a huge mining operation to the north which seems to have stripped the land bare. Anaconda is the principal mining company in the area and this is probably for copper.
I also saw the shortest train possible.
We are staying tonight in Missoula MT at the Jellystone Park.
. This is all open area so it would be too much to expect tree shaded sites. But at least they have tried to make it look a bit wooded. I’d describe it as a grassy parking lot dotted with a few young trees and leave it at that.
There is a large wildfire 50 miles to the south that is filling the air with a brown smoke. I hope the thing stays well away from our route. Tomorrow we continue west.