The Missouri River Headwaters

Sunday, May 25, 2008 -- Bozeman, MT

A little catching up is called for.

This past Friday, Dar and I drove about 25 miles over to the Missouri Headwaters State Park. This is a significant Lewis & Clark site. The gang had spent the winter of 04/05 with the Indians in Fort Mandan, ND. In late March of 1805, they left these winter quarters and continued the journey up the Missouri River. Paddling, portaging, pulling, walking, and climbing their way westward, they finally reached the beginning or source of the Missouri here, where the park is today, in late July. It is here where three mountain streams combine to form the Missouri -- the longest river in the USA.

The three streams are the Gallatin, the Madison, and the Jefferson -- all of them named by L&C for prominent leaders of the day. They camped in this area for a few days to heal-up and explore. The determination was made to continue up the Jefferson, the largest of the three, which flowed in a southwesterly direction. They didn't realize it at the time, but it would take the group about 6 weeks to cross the Continental Divide and find their way to Travelers Rest near Lolo. They were looking for Indians with horses they could barter for, as without horses to make the severe mountain crossings the expedition would be in peril.

We met up with Bill after our visit to the park. He and I have an interest in Robert Pirsig, the author of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". It was a book I struggled through when I was a philosophy student back in the 70's. Pirsig was an English Instructor here at Montana State back in the early 60's. After a little digging, Bill was able to find the location of Pirsig's office. Today, this little out-of-the-way hole in the wall room is a store room, but we were able to spend a few minutes in it, soaking in the views he wrote about in Zen. It was a quirky thing to do, but I enjoyed it.

While the weather Friday was tolerable -- cloudy but mostly dry -- Saturday it just poured all day. Buckets of water coming out of the sky -- standing water all over the place. As much as 6 inches of rain fell north of here around Great Falls.

Sunday, we're driving over the Pomey's Pillar, east of Billings. It's going to be a long day, a long drive. But if you're on the L&C trail, it's an absolute necessity to see. More about it tomorrow.



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