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Montana Veterans Home and Glacier

July 29, 2013

Montana – Wednesday, July 17

As I was getting loaded up, I got a phone call from the vet down in Three Forks. She told me Tula’s blood tests showed a lot of improvement (her Lyme disease numbers were down to 88 from 253) but that there was still room for progress to get the numbers below 40. She recommended another course of antibiotics for a month, at a little higher dose. She asked me to call around to the different pharmacies to find the best prices for her meds, and then she’d be happy to call in the prescription. The antibiotics are a bit pricey, and I was lucky enough to run into a special at CVS when I was in Ohio. This time I called numerous places, and finally found an OK price at Costco. So the vet called it in, and Tula and I took a short walk while I thought the prescription was being filled. Costco was miserably crowded, and I waited in a long line, only to find out that since Tula was a new “patient”, they had to get a bunch of info, and only then could her prescription get in the line to be filled. So, we lost a lot of time taking care of all of that, but, I’m happy that Tula’s numbers are improving, and now we’re set for a month of meds.

It was raining pretty hard by the time we left Kalispell. On my way to Glacier National Park I came to the town of Columbia Falls, where the Montana Veterans Home is located. I had talked with someone there yesterday, and they would be happy for a donation to their activities/special events fund, and I found the home tucked back into pretty grounds. I got to the right building and met Bonnie, the activities director. She told me more about the programs, and some of the things they like to do for the veterans. In fact, they had just been out on a day trip to one of the big parks in Kalispell that I had walked by last night. She said a special trip she would like to offer the veterans sometime would be a trip to Glacier with a ride in one of the red “jammers”. I told her I would love to support anything like that! Then Bonnie was kind enough to take me back to the offices, where they actually had some leftover sandwiches, chips and pop from the outing today, and she told me I would be more than welcome to have some. I didn’t want to take any of their food, but she assured me they were extra, so I ended up with some sandwiches and chips, little realizing how good they would taste much, much later for a very late dinner at a campground!

After I was done talking with Bonnie, Tula and I set off for a little walk around the grounds before heading to the west entrance of Glacier. I love driving the Going to the Sun road – this would be my third time. I last drove it back in 2008 from east to west; I was happy to be going west to east this time. It is different from each direction – I think one could drive this road 100 times and still see different views, different light and shadows, and different angles. It’s truly breathtaking. The road is about 54 miles long – it took me over 6 hours to drive. I kept stopping and getting out, and taking short walks and getting pictures. It’s so beautiful. I think the biggest benefit to starting the drive later in the day is that the traffic and crowds are clearing out. By the time I got to Logan Pass, where the Continental Divide is, the parking lots were mostly empty and there were only handfuls of people around instead of crowds. I walked a little bit on one of the high trails, and a couple people told me there was a mountain goat up ahead a ways. I eventually came around a bend, and there it was, laying down majestically like it owned the meadow! And then I went back to Logan Pass and started on another upward trail when I looked down to the parking lot and saw a couple of bighorn sheep! I went back down for a closer look and they were a bit feisty – butting heads and rearing up a bit. It was probably mostly play, but it was really interesting to hear the sound of the horns ramming together – almost a bit of a hollow ringing sound. They butted heads and kind of danced and pushed each other around for a while, then went back to licking up salt or something from the asphalt in the parking lot. I imagine a few car owners were a little nervous about the sheep shoving each other into a car! But nothing was damaged. Being up at the top of the park in the evening hours when the colors were so pretty was really special. I wanted to stay longer and walk some more, but one of the rangers was up there to remind those of us who were eastbound that we better get back on the road, or the 9pm road closures were going to force us to turn around. So I headed back down from the heights of the mountains, still enjoying the twilight pinks and purples reflecting off their rocky faces. As I exited the park on the east side at St. Mary’s I was happy to have had an afternoon and evening in the park – certainly not enough time to do the park justice, but I’ll drive the Going to the Sun Road any chance I get! I saw the red park “jammers” all lined up neatly as they waited for all their trips across the park tomorrow – maybe one day I’ll take a ride through the park in one of those! Tula and I finished our Montana walking in St. Mary’s which is pretty much a little resort community, and then it was kind of late, but I thought I’d put on a few more miles. I hadn’t gone very far when I saw a sign for the Glacier KOA campground, and I thought I better stop if they had a campsite open. They did, and I was able to set up camp right in the view of the very mountains that I had just driven through. And with a nearly full moon rising, it was a wonderful evening to sit outside a bit and eat my sandwiches from the veterans home, and reflect on my Montana week – all 56 miles walked, and all 7 donations given – the Community Cafe, The Headwaters Food Pantry, the class trip to Washington DC, the Smokejumpers Welfare Fund, ROOTS – Missoula Food Pantry, Safe Harbor Shelter and the Montana Veteran’s Home.

I turned in and got a good night’s sleep to be ready for the start of the long drive through Canada toward Alaska!

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