Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Missoula 2009, Episode 1

Driving across Montana is always an adventure. And when you haven't completed the trek from the prairies to the mountains in over four years, you get pretty excited about this sort of trip.
You start out with making a left hand turn off of our gravel road and roaming across some of the most desolate land in the lower 48. Driving across Montana on a state highway becomes like a who's who of local lore and natural history. Smokey Butte, located just outside of Jordan, Montana, is comprised largely of a rocky material only known to exist on the lunar landscape. Surrounded by dinosaur fossils in the Hell Creek Formation for many miles all around, it makes one pause to consider the meteorite theory of death for the large lizards. It also acts as a great little butte for the local television antennas.Did your parents ever tell you the one about when they attended a one-room school house? Don't doubt them. They still exist.
Certainly you've heard the rumors about the missiles that are buried all across Montana just in case the Russians start to act up a little. Again, don't doubt them. They are true. The road that we traveled contains at least five of these little outposts, staffed by either the most trustworthy elite members of the armed services or perhaps the misfits in the armed services who were banished to a lonely stretch of prairie. I haven't yet decided which of those is the case.
The best part of the journey is when you approach the Rocky Mountain Front. It is a place of dreams, an ethereal sort of landscape where the mountains abruptly meet the prairie and the clouds and colors hang over it creating a mood unlike any other place I have seen. Except on this journey (and the return one), the clouds hung just a bit too heavily.And because this is Montana, you just never know what to expect.
Yes, it really does say 8 degrees. Rogers Pass on the Continental Divide is the coldest place on record in the lower 48.
Lincoln, Montana: A quaint little mountain town that comes alive in the winter and is also the Home of the Unabomber. Interesting side note: It is also the home of Hi-Country Beef Jerky. Danish Cowboy was very late for a date with me when I was attending graduate school in Missoula. He told me he had stopped to tour the beef jerky factory, when in fact, he had taken an alternate route around the state to purchase an engagement ring. I hope. I hope he didn't buy the ring at a beef jerky factory.
And all of a sudden you then find yourself in the famed Blackfoot River Valley, which is why I came to Montana in the first place. Although filmed on a river several valleys away, the Blackfoot was the integral part of the story in A River Runs Through It. The real Blackfoot was too sick, too mis-managed to play itself in the movie. But all that is starting to turn around. And I no longer live anywhere near the Blackfoot and I did not find Brad Pitt. But I did find Danish Cowboy and a beef jerky factory engagement ring. So my little adventure west turned out okay, after all.
When you finally travel the last five miles of the trip on an interstate through the Hellgate Canyon and cross the Clark Fork towards the University of Montana, you know you are home. Missoula's the best little town in the world and I can't wait to share it with you.

1 comment:

  1. How ironic that you spent your weekend in 8 degree weather and us in 95 degree weather in humid Florida with Bernie the lounge singer from Billings (Jeff apparently is a pro at Montana accents now as he asked the guy where he is from as he sounded just like Kevin when he spoke). Did you take the kids on the journey? Can't wait for part 2.