Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Caverns and Headwaters

We recently spent several days at Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park.  The campground was refreshingly quiet with lots of room between most sites. Water is centrally located rather than being in each site so fill your tank before camping. Sites with electric are limited and you will generally need reservations in order to nab one.

We were lucky enough to get a pop-out site with electricity: P5.

Evening view down the valley to the west. 

The caverns are located up on the mountain to the north. 

 The Jefferson River valley looking south from the campground.

Friday the 14th of August was the occasion of our 44th anniversary and we spent it doing what we love to do best: exploring.

The view from the viewpoint on the road to the caverns.

Sign near the Jefferson River just downstream a couple of miles from the campground. Many animals were killed and eaten here.

It was hot and dry. As we drove into the nearby town of Three Forks for supplies a new fire was just boiling up. The views during the rest of our visit were marred by smoke.

On Saturday we took the cavern tour. We were somewhat unprepared for how strenuous an experience it is. First there is a 3/4 mile trail up the side of the mountain from the visitor center to reach the mouth of the cave. Full sun, warm temperatures, smoke: we should have carried water. At least we were smart enough to wear hiking boots. 

The experience was quite different than what we found at Kartchner Caverns in Arizona a few months ago. After the climb up to the mouth once inside you are going down steps a large part of the time. Some of the stairs are not as well-lit as they could be especially where they are wet. There is a lot of bending and contorting to get through low openings and even one spot where you get to sit down and slide on your butt.

But it was well worth it.

Also unlike Kartchner once away from the bat nursery you are allowed to take flash pictures.

One thing that marred our particular tour was the presence of several very young children. Toddlers were passed from parent to parent and it slowed the progress through the cave considerably. Also the dark scared at least one small child who screamed inconsolably and interminably. At the ticket booth it lists the price for adults and for children and states that children under six are free. "Free" does not mean that the tour is suitable for children under six, quite the opposite. Kennels are provided at the visitor center for dogs and it would really be better for everyone if there was a babysitting service for the little ones as well. 

On Sunday we made a Costco run to Bozeman. On the way back we visited The Missouri Headwaters State Park just outside of Three Forks.

At this point three rivers come together to form the Missouri: the Jefferson, the Madison, and the Gallatin

Some other fun Lewis and Clark related facts. 

The remnants of the hotel at the now extinct Second Gallatin City.

The confluence of the rivers.

And the beginning of the great Missouri.

 And on she goes.