Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Three Forks

Three Forks is a very spiritual spot for me and Susun.  It's where the soul of  three rivers come together and give up their names and identity to create a marriage of a much larger Spirit—The Spirit of The Missouri.

Anyone who knows us know that confluences are a huge part of our lives  and hearts.  A confluence of two rivers is a special and sacred spot.  Being here at the confluence of THREE rivers is deeply spiritual.  Staring at those mingling water watching The Missouri be born is deeply emotional for each of us.  For two lovers who have spent the past 30 years together holding hands and kissing at too many confluences to remember, being here at the birthplace of The Mighty Missouri is truly a special personal experience.  Oh, my.

What makes it even more special and spiritual for us is that we are Lewis & Clark junkies.  And Lewis and Clark camped right here in 1804, almost at the same time that we are here.  L&C were here July 25-29 and we're here July 31.  Pretty danged close.  Very few of our Dear Friends have a clue how deeply tied we are to Lewis & Clark's epic expedition.  It's a huge long story too long to tell here.
But to be camped right smack in the same footprint as L&C and to be at one of THE most special spots of the L&C Journey is...well...AMAZING!

We left our Idahome at High Noon and enjoyed a very pleasant drive up through Island Park, across Raynolds Pass and then downriver on The Madison until we crossed into The Jefferson drainage.  It was so delightful watching those forever free flowing rivers dancing in the light, making merry music amid the miles and miles of glacial boulders strewn in their waterways.

The Madison's vast valley is a classic glacial gig.  Even someone with absolutely no knowledge of how glaciers work could look at that valley and instantly see the fingerprints of gigantic glaciers gone by.  What a sight to see!

The Madison is Fish Country.  Fish People are every where.  Legendary Ennis has become quite big for its britches and now reeks of all the trappings  of a classic tourist trap town.  Except all the tourist traps are set for fishermen.  The entry sign to Ennis says “840 people and 11,000,000 trout.”  The stereotype old west Main Street is chock-a-block with Fish People Shops.  Alluring larger than life fish statues are perched seductively here and there. Fly fishing rods adorn many of the vehicles.  Yes, old men walk down Main Street wearing hats adorned with too many fly fishing flies.

The last time we saw Ennis was 2003.  That was before the now infamous housing boom-bust.  Sure enough, once little Ennis is now a full grown adult tourist town, complete with its own ghost housing subdivision sitting serenely in the high sage flats above Old Town.  McMansions are dotted here and there and several upscale housing developments fill the once empty hills.

The air quality was quite nice until about 20 miles south of Ennis.  Then smoke from not-too-distant Montana wild fires brought on the normal, scenery-numbing dog daze haze.  As veterans of fire smoke thick enough to cut with a butter knife, the haze was nothing.  In fact, it gave a pleasant blue hue to the surrounding medium tall mountain ranges.

Up here in Three Forks, we couldn't care less about the haze.  It's the stuff in front of our faces that's exciting us today.  Seeing the creation of The Missouri River here from the collective chalices of three fully grown rivers is at once humbling and thoroughly exhilarating.

We're camped at the Montana Missouri River Headwaters State Park.  Montana really knows how to stiff “non-residents”.  If you're a Montana resident over 62, you can camp here for $9.  If you're a  foreigner like us, the cost is $28.  YEA, Montana!

But we're delighted to pay the $28 to be here.  We found the ONLY campsite with a modicum of shade—Site #16 and, thankfully, we're not inside a microwave oven as we write this missive.  The huge heat wave has really knocked back the Mongolian mosquitoes that own this place.  We've been told only “small swarms” of mosquitoes will come out at dusk this evening.  That's a comforting thought.

We wouldn't normally pay $28 a night for a campsite.  But this is special and spiritual to be here and $28 is a bargain.  Don't tell that to Montana, they might raise the price on us pilgrims.  I can see the entry sign now, “Normal Price $28.  Lewis & Clark Junkies pay double.”

And you know what?  We WOULD pay double.  It wouldn't matter to us.  That's the way it is with L&C Junkies.

Three Forks is a dinky little dusty Montana town.  It has just enough critical mass of stuff to make it more attractive than all its other dinky little dusty neighbors.  The 1910 Sacajawea Inn is a signature icon of Three Forks.  Without doubt, it puts Three Forks on a pedestal none of its jealous neighbors can ever enjoy.  The Sacajawea Inn transcends all else around it, sending a glow into distant counties and countries.

Meanwhile, there are two intriguing cafes down on Main Street—The 3-4KS and the Iron Horse.  Look them up on Yelp and prepare to be entertained.  We will be visiting them, as well as Wheat Montana and maybe that sausage supply place, too.

Tomorrow will be a full day here at The Confluence and in Three Forks as well.  At least our $28 bought us a Day Pass good for all day Tuesday.  Helena is only 65 miles away by MT 287.  We've already been checked-in by phone with Chateau Wal-Mart in Helena and received permission to camp in their parking lot tomorrow night.   Heck, who knows?  Since we will be in Helena Tuesday night, we might as well play pickleball there Wednesday morning.  The Helena Pickleball People only play on a strict Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule: 8-11 AM at Barney Park.  We checked with them via phone and that's their gig.  Heck, if we're hanging out in the Chateau Wal-Mart parking lot on a Wednesday morning, what would be more fun?  Staring at early morning shoppers or playing pickleball in Helena?

Well, it's really fun to be here at the Birthplace of The Missouri River.

Happy Day & Many Cheers!  J&S

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