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Three Forks

July 23, 2013

Montana – Friday, July 12

Tula and I started our day off with a 1.7 mile walk around some of the campground and state park area, and ran across the remnants of an old frontier hotel. Three Forks is the area where 3 rivers – the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin Rivers (named by Meriwether Lewis for President Jefferson, Secretary of State Madison and Treasury Secretary Gallatin) – combine to form the headwaters of the Missouri River, which is the longest single river in the US. Lewis and Clark and their party spent 3 days camping in this area, along with Sacajawea, who was the wife of one of their guides. It was fun for me to camp in a place near where they had camped! I packed up and the state park ranger told me about some more good walking places. We walked down by the area where I could see the 3 rivers combine into the Missouri, and it really makes one want to throw a big innertube in the water and begin a floating journey that would lead to the Mississippi River and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico! I am not the only one with that sort of thought – there was a sign that said it would take 2 1/2 months to float all the way down to the gulf in an innertube (never mind all the locks and dams along the way – which does make me wonder if the people who operate the locks have ever had anyone go through on a raft or an innertube or something besides a boat!)

I then took a 2 1/2 mile walk along the bluffs overlooking the rivers – I was never quite sure which river I was looking at because there were so many in that area! And then we took a short walk to see an old Indian pictograph (many have been damaged by graffiti or weather.) And there were a few old pioneer children gravesites in a fenced in area – a reminder of the tough conditions endured by all the settlers.

By then I had pretty well explored the whole state park and I had to get going anyway, since I had an appointment at the local vet clinic for Tula – it was time to re-check her blood levels. The vet clinic was the biggest one in the area, and it was farther outside of town than I thought. It turned out this was the first time the GPS in my iPad led me astray. It took me to an address about 20 miles north of down, when in reality they are south of town. At least my phone still worked, so I called and they said it was okay if I was late – even on a Friday afternoon. I got there, and Tula started to shake – after the experience of drawing blood in Ohio, and the exam table that elevated, and numerous needle pokes, she was a nervous wreck and tried to shrink behind me. But the vet was great – she got down on the floor with Tula and won her over (until the lab technician came in, then she got all nervous again!) But in the end, the vet said Tula looked younger than her 7 years, and physically she appears to be in great shape, and her heart and lungs sounded good – once she could listen normally when Tula calmed down! They drew the blood, but it will be a couple days before I hear the results. They don’t really deal much with Lyme disease here – instead, the vet has treated hundreds of dogs who are victims of snakebites. The first thing I saw when I walked into the vet office, here on the prairies of Montana, was a rattlesnake in a jar, and a bunch of information about a rattlesnake poison vaccine. I have of course, thought about all of this, and am doing my best to stay away from their terrain, and am happy they’re shy creatures. I did ask her about the vaccine – which has a 50/50 sort of benefit, but she didn’t want to give it to Tula since she’s recovering from Lyme disease. So I felt better after I left, that at least Tula is in good shape physically, and she simply said it can take a long time to completely recover as far as energy levels. The vet told me she’d call early next week with the results from her blood test.

So I finally left Three Forks. I didn’t do a donation today since I had done 2 yesterday – one of which was the Three Forks food pantry. I headed for Helena, but stopped in the city of Butte along the way. Butte was a great city to visit – a big city built on the side of a big hill, and oozing old west frontier charm. It was a wealthy town back in its mining days, and still seems to have a prosperous air, with most of the old buildings and shops still in business. One of the old brick hotels boasted that it was fireproof – no doubt reassuring when so many wooden buildings burned down. It was a lively place and there were lots of people out and about – there was an outdoor music festival going on near the top of the hill, and other stuff going on near the edge of town by the old copper mines. Tula and I walked 2 1/2 miles up and down a lot of the streets and hills. Gold and silver mining first drew people to the area, and then copper was discovered, and that’s where all the wealth came from in the late 1800s – Butte was known then as “the richest hill on Earth”, presided over by the “copper kings” and the copper mines eventually produced 20 billion pounds of copper. Amazing. Again, I wish I could be transported back in time for just a couple days to experience life in that era! They continued mining high grade copper until 1955, and then that mine closed, but another enormous open pit copper mine opened, and that was being mined up until around 5-6 years ago. There was a visitor center by the old open pit mine, which had a tunnel that led out to a balcony overlooking the pit. I got there right before it closed. The pit is now slowly filling with water, which had been pumped out during mining days – maybe it will turn into a large artificial lake once it’s full, but I doubt anything would survive in it with all the traces of metals. And there are old mining rigs and towers and stuff scattered throughout town and the neighborhoods as a reminder of the town’s history. I drove up and down some incredibly steep streets, and got to thinking some of those must not be navigable in the winter. Butte is also home to Montana Tech, part of the University of Montana, and needless to say their course studies focus on mining and geology and their mascot is the digger.

From Butte, I drove through pretty green mountains and valleys to Helena, where we got in kind of late, and called it a day.

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