Number Three: Montana

Glendive, Lewistown, Great Falls, Bozeman

We spent more time in Montana than we expected because we are spending less time in the car per day. As a consequence, we have learned a lot about Lewis & Clark, Sacagawea (or Sakakawea or Sacajawea,) fossils, and dinosaurs. I also have time to write longer, more provocative posts. Glendive, Lewistown, and Bozeman were overnight rest stops; I’ll report on them in reverse chronological order for dialectic reasons; hopefully dialectic but perhaps didactic. The planned bike ride was the River’s Edge Trail heading northeast out of Great Falls along the Missouri again.

River’s Edge Trail

The reason the town is called “Great Falls” is there are five sets of falls within a few miles. Five falls within a few miles meant a long, difficult portage for the Lewis and Clark “Corps of Discover Expedition”, which required dragging their dugout canoes up the cliffs lining the river, then across several miles of prairie. A ‘dugout’ canoe is basically a large log, hollowed out enough to provide a place to put your stuff but heavy, clumsy, and prone to capsizing. Some in the Corps might have chosen the name “Great Pain in the Back.”

They did find a creek they used for some of the portage (“Portage Creek”). A couple days were so windy they put sails on the canoes and sailed across the land. (They also had wheels on them.)

We, in contrast, were disappointed in the bike trail because, in town, the asphalt was rough, the route poorly marked and difficult to follow, and overall not as long as advertised. It probably was as long as advertised but after nine or ten miles, the asphalt ended leaving us with a little used, single track path of rocks not compatible with our tires. Pretty wimpy on our part.

In between was a picturesque ride along the river with its falls and cliffs. Also a couple climbs of a half mile or so with 5% grades. That’s not railroad grade in Minnesota. But it was good to spend a day biking rather than driving.

We stopped in Bozeman on our way out of the state, just before getting to Yellowstone, so we would have a full day for Yellowstone. Our most lasting impression of Bozeman is the traffic was bad everywhere all the time for reasons we don’t understand.

They did have an excellent museum with the largest collection of dinosaur fossils in the state. I’ll talk about the second largest collection in a minute. North Dakota and Montana probably don’t have more dinosaur fossils than Minnesota; they’re just easier to find. Dinosaurs lived all over but for the bones to be fossilized and for us to find them requires a series of improbable events, including the right conditions where the body landed, the right conditions to avoid scavengers and rot, the right conditions to turn the bones to fossils, and then the right conditions to bring the fossils to the surface just in time for someone to stubble across them, usually while looking for something valuable.

The Museum of the Rockies also had halls dedicated to Native Americans in the area, the early European settlers, and the History and Future of the Guitar.


The Instrument That Rocks the World

We stopped in Lewistown because it is in the middle of the state, half way, more or less, between Great Falls and Glendive. What we found was a very nice little city with very decent bike trails (and building more) and an interesting small museum.


The Central Montana Museum had a couple impressive casts of fossils. Casts are frequently exhibited to complete the skeleton, to make them easier to understand, and to preserve the actual fossils for research. Fossils and casts of fossils are pretty much mandatory in Montana.

The museum was more about the locally grown, nationally known ‘cowboy’ artist Charles Russell, The world thought he was a cowboy artist; he thought he was an artist cowboy. Art was what he did when there were no doggies to brand, broncs to bust, or droves to drive. The museum was also big on patriotism, including the Minuteman rocket, which I think was built at Solar Aviation when Dad worked there.

We stopped in Glendive because it is an easy drive from Theodore Roosevelt National Park and because it is the home of the Charlie Montana B&B. (Although most search engines now show it as permanently closed, it can still be found on line through Airbnb.) Charlie Montana was actually Charles Krug, not Charles Russell, who got rich with cattle in late 19th Century, was wiped out in the winter of ’86-87, got rich again, and built the 25 room house in 1906. The B&B was formerly owned and operated by James and Kathryn Lee, erstwhile residents of Minneapolis.

On the edge of town, we came across a museum, called Dinosaur Museum, and billed as the second largest fossil collection in Montana. After chatting pleasantly with man at the desk for a few minutes, he mentioned in passing that the exhibits are presented “from a Biblical perspective.” Somewhat taken aback, I asked, “How does that work, when Homo sapiens missed the dinosaurs by 64,000,000 years?”

His response was something like, “If you can look at the evidence with an open mind, there are other, equally scientific explanations.”

Perhaps. But I have looked at the evidence and Creationism (dba, Intelligent Design) isn’t one of them. Bad science does not make good theology.

2 thoughts on “Number Three: Montana

  1. Great to catch up with you via your posts. Some of our best “tourist” experiences were visiting the small museums, never sure of what one might find.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s