Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day 8 Sunday, July 3, 2011

Great Falls, Montana to Dillon, Montana
Miles Traveled Today: 257.2
Total Miles: 2808.5

Another beautiful day for riding. Crystal clear and cool as we left Great Falls and headed for our first excursion on the Missouri River at Gates of the Mountains, just 20 miles north of the capital, Helena.
They have a 2 hour boat tour that took us through an area of the Missouri River that is relatively unchanged since the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

We boarded the boat appropriately named the Sacajawea. Captain Don told us many stories that related to the expedition, but also included the local history which contained one of the worst forest fire disasters in history. On this trip we saw where the famous Mann Gulch Fire occurred. 13 out of 16 smokejumpers lost their lives when the fire rushed up the side of the ravine they had just reached. There was nowhere for them to go to outrun the fire. For more info on this, just Google "Mann Gulch Fire."

The irony of this fire is that it occurred one gulch over from where Lewis and Clark spent their only night in the canyon, at a place which is now called Colter's Campground, named for John Colter from the expedition.

If you are wondering why it is called Gates of the Mountains, this picture should help. If you are on a boat, which is really the only way to make it through the canyon, and you took the boat to the left, it would appear that the rocks would come together as if a gate was closing. If you move back to the right, the gate opens and you can see through deep into the canyon. Captain Don went back and forth rather quickly, so we didn't get a video of it, so use your imagination. It was very obvious when he "opened the gates," why Lewis called it Gates of the Mountains. Click on the images to enlarge them.

It has some similarities to the Wisconsin Dells, in that some of the rock formations had names. Our favorite was the Canyon Monster. Scary, right?

There are also native pictographs that have been dated over 1200 years old, so they are even older than the Blackfeet, who were in that area during the time of the expedition. These are some of the best kept pictographs because it is almost impossible to get near them to vandalize them.

Yesterday we had passed by the Bear Paw Mountains and the Highwood Mountains. Today we were among the Big Belt Mountains and the Tobacco Root Mountains on the east and the Pioneer Mountains to the west. One of the peaks had an unusual look to it because the peak was flat.

We reached the Beaverhead River and stopped at the place called Beaverhead Rock, which is the location where Sacagawea started to recognize landmarks and told the Corps that they were close to her people. Just a little farther upstream was where the Corps ran into three Shoshone, who eventually took Lewis to meet Cameahwait, who turned out to be Sacagawea's brother.

Finally we reached Dillon, and as we unloaded, we received some bad news. Jeff likes to check over the bikes. We had looked at the tires yesterday and noted that DeAnn's rear tire was getting worn, but didn't seem too bad. Today when we checked, the tire was all the way down to the wear bar. We will have to put on a new tire within the next couple of days. There is no way that it will make it back. Kind of odd because the first rear went 15,000 miles. This one has only about 8-9,000 on it. Did not expect that. Hopefully when we reach Missoula the dealership will be as kind to us as Big Sky Harley was. Time will tell. Otherwise all are in good spirits.

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