On the Way East – Day 2, September 20

On the Way East – Day 2, September 20

25 years ago tonight at Madison Square Garden was the best of all the Grateful Dead shows I ever attended. Check it out: 9-20-90.

I crossed much of Montana on I-90. Except Route 1 to Anaconda – a continuation of Route 200 in beauty. I chose historical moments for my trip today. First another beautiful drive to Anaconda. All that remains of the great copper works is the stack. At 585 feet tall, one of the tallest freestanding brick structures in the world. It is so large that you could put the Washington Monument inside it with room to spare.

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Sadly all the rest of the smelter works have been razed, and you can’t get near the stack to view it. The interpretive center is built in the size and shape of the footprint, but that doesn’t make up for not being able to stand at the bottom and look up. I learned that Anaconda almost became the capital of Montana after statehood. What the story didn’t say is why it lost out to Helena.

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From there I continued across I-90 to Missouri Headwaters State Park. This is where the Madison, Jefferson and Gallatin Rivers converge to make the Missouri. I had lunch along the “new” Missouri downstream of the confluence. It was very hot today and there is little shade in Montana, so I skipped the outdoor interpretive center and went to the point where the Madison and Jefferson come together. The interpretive materials said that Lewis and Clark no doubt stood at this point with Sacagawea and determined this to be the beginning of the Missouri River. Some 2800 miles in length is this river. It would take several months to float a tube down to the gulf. Neat joining of the two rivers – one is blue and the other red as they flow side by side for 100 feet and then merge.

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Then I continued east along I-90 with the snow-topped mountains around Yellowstone always on my right and other rugged, not quite so tall mountains on my left. At 75 mph speed limit the highway requires a lot of attention, but not so much that I couldn’t spend a fair amount of time marveling at the glory.

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As I travel east, I am moving out of the mountains and into the prairie of the great plains. Not so interesting. . .

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Camped tonite at Cooley Reservoir State Park. I checked out all the campgrounds, of which there are five, and chose the only site with any shade in the whole park. Lots of flat grassy EFW (“endless f***ing wilderness” to quote my spouse) behind me, but in front of me to the north is a 1000 acres man-made lake. In summer this place must be unbearable, but tonite there are about 5 parties in this 50 slot campsite.

The world is quiet, but for the occasional honking of the geese, the chuckled quacking of the ducks, the song of the locusts, and the tweets of plovers and some other kind of bird or frog. Not sure. The sun went down in beauty and I am grabbing time to write while waiting for the stars to come out. Because this space is flat and wide open and dark the star spectacle tonite should be wonderful. So I will stay up a while instead of going to bed with the dark so take in the glory of the night sky.

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No cell service or WiFi here. Adds to its beauty. Girl Scout songs are running constantly through my head countered by the fact that under current standards we could not bring kids here because there is no cell service, and they want to be connected at all times. So did we. Didn’t we want to call home every day? But we didn’t because it wasn’t possible. I still am concerned with what we are creating when we can’t bring girls out here to witness the glory of the sunset and the glowing lenticular clouds, followed by increasing darkness. The quiet babble of the animals going to sleep, and the slow brilliance of the night sky coming to life.

Sure I feel a little isolated. But what’s wrong with that? Take me out of my comfort zone! How can they learn the value of preserving this if they have never experienced it? Never experienced the utter quiet of a place like this? The experience that the quiet isn’t really quiet when you tune in to the night sounds instead of the internet on your cell phone? The experience of how bright the stars can be once you get away from the city lights?

I paid for a site with electricity so I can go and plug in and charge my stuff, but this lovely treed site doesn’t have it, so in a bit, I’ll walk across the street to the empty pull through with my power strip, laptop, phone and camera battery and charge up. While I sit in my chair and watch the night sky.

335 miles

660 miles towards Home.

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