Day 2 on the Lewis & Clark Trail started really slow. I almost didn’t publish Day 1. It was a Saturday morning in my hotel which was full of wedding guests. Lots of young people usually means the wifi is brought to its knees.
I stayed up late but couldn’t outlast the night owls. Then the next morning they were up and at it early as evidenced by the full pool at 9 am. These are family folks, and they are glad to see each other.
When the wifi is under this much pressure, downloaded pictures disappear and reappear at will. I was ready to pull my hair out.
Finally, I’m on the road. I-15 follows the Missouri River fairly well; but I chose to drive Old US 91. I am glad I did, because there was very little traffic and the scenery was awesome.
This highway follows the banks of the river and crosses it numerous times, as well as I-15. It was interesting to see the landscape go from the prairies to the foothills of the mountains.
I stopped in Cascades, Montana at a little local town diner called The Angus. I am only two pounds away from my goal weight and determined to reach it. I’ve been on Jenny Craig for six weeks now. I gained more than usual when I stayed in the hospital during Pam’s illness.
So I ordered a chef salad because the menu is basically bar food. I was hoping for good old fashioned meat and vegetables. It was a great Chef’s salad, though.
Back on Old US 91 going south, the river is following along on my left. At one point I stopped to take a picture of a couple of mule deer wading. The scenery and views are awesome here.
Quickly, though, I began to notice a change in the topography. Ahead were black volcanic rocks jutting toward the sky. I am on my way to Tower Rock which Lewis described in his journal. I can already see what I think is Tower Rock ahead.
Tower Rock is over 400 feet high, and it is made of volcanic ash. It marks the beginning during their time of unknown territory. It is 1805 and there have been no mountain men to blaze the trail before them. There are no maps, just the vocal directions of the native peoples. Captain Clark’s mapmaking abilities are about to be put to the test.
I feel fairly comfortable, though, because I have a cell phone with GPS and a good signal because these roads are so near the interstate.
The land around Tower Rock is a small state park, though I had a difficult time finding its entrance. The entrance is down behind a county dump site. You literally must drive down and around the dump site, and there are no signs. I cannot imagine why this is like it is.
Behind the dumps are kiosks and a rest room. There is a quarter-mile long path with a sign that warns of rattlesnakes. Me thinks they don’t want anyone to stop here. The signs explain the significance of Tower Rock.
Lewis climbed high here and could see a well worn Indian trail following the eastern side of the mountains as it went out of sight from the north to the south. This, it turns out, is an ancient path that runs from up in Canada all the way down into Mexico following the east side of the Rockies. It is called the Old North Trail.
The Missouri here begins to wind through black rock canyons. Old US 91 here is called Recreation Road, and the name fits. There are floaters and boaters everywhere, and some of them are fly fishing. This is a beautiful drive.
It was a little hard to follow Old US 91, because its name kept changing. Sometimes, it was called a frontage road and sometimes it was given a county road number. Still, it was easy to follow when I realized that it mostly follows the Missouri River through this part of the state.
Finally, I reached the headwaters of the Missouri which Lewis & Clark reached by the end of July in 1805. They are already worried about winter. They now know that they will not reach the Pacific and return in one season. The expedition is taking much longer than anyone expected.
While I was reading the historical signs in a little park near the entrance, I noticed three very old wooden buildings in the distance. One of the signs said that this is all that is left of Gallatin City. I took a picture of the old hotel.
There was also a sign about John Colter, who was one of the members of the expedition and who returned years later to this area to trap. I will let you read the historical sign yourself, but I also read that the Indians said that he was stripped of his clothing by the women of their camp in sport and that he ran off without his clothes. Either way his friend was killed.
When the explorers got to this area in late July of 1805, they first passed a large tributary and then just about a mile upstream they came to two more tributaries. They felt they had found the headwaters of the Missouri.
It occurred to me that here I am on the last days of July, but 211 years later. I stand on the banks of the Missouri just down river from where the two streams converge.
They first called the three tributaries the three forks of the Missouri. They could have easily named them the East Fork, the West Fork and the Middle Fork. A discussion ensued between Lewis and Clark.
The Lewis & Clark expedition which was also called the Corps of Discovery camped near the confluence of the Jefferson and Madison Rivers for three days. The terrain here is flat again as we are in a large valley.
They quickly explored the area. All were uncharted. Because they were certain these three tributaries merged to form the Missouri, they named them after their president and two of his cabinet officers, Secretary of State James Madison and Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin. All three of these men helped plan the expedition. These rivers became the Jefferson, the Madison and the Gallatin, names which remain the same today.
One big question haunted them while they were here, though. Which river do they follow? If they chose wrongly, they would have to backtrack and face the possibility of a winter in the Rockies.
A small search party was sent out to assess the situation; but because the north fork had the most water flow, they chose it. They ascended the Jefferson.
So that is where I will stop for today. I drove on into Three Forks which is known for its historic Sacajawea Inn, and I had a nice dinner there at Pompei’s Grill.
The Inn was mostly full except for a single room, a suite that was $200. Since I wasn’t interested in buying a piece of furniture for their hotel, I went on down the street and stayed in the Lewis and Clark Hotel. I ended up buying a smaller piece of furniture for them. It was over priced too.
They said the Lewis and Clark Hotel was historic, too; but I beg to differ. It was established in 1964, and since that was within my lifetime, I would rather not think that it or myself is old enough to be considered historic. Just gag me with a stick.