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Posts Tagged ‘Montana’

  There are grander and more sublime landscapes – to me. There are more compelling cultures. But what appeals to me about central Montana is that the combination of landscape and lifestyle is the most compelling I’ve seen on this earth. Small mountain ranges and open prairie, and different weather, different light, all within a 360-degree view. Sam Abell

Page 1 of my Alaska trip journal.

Page 1 of my Alaska trip journal.

Non-Wandering Wanderer Memories

Yesterday I came across the journal I kept during my 30-day journey from Ogden to Alaska, most of which was driven on the Alaskan Highway. I thought I would blog about the trip this November as my time is precious – I’ve signed up to do NANO – that is write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I’m writing a bird memoir, and when I did the Alaska trip, I was just beginning my late-blooming bird-watching passion.

A white-faced ibis was the first bird on my Alaska trip birding list.

A white-faced ibis was the first bird on my Alaska trip birding list.

On the first day of my 2001 Alaskan adventure, I drove from Ogden, Utah, to Dillon Montana. It was July 27.

Like Ogden, where my journey began, Dillon is a railroad town. It was founded in 1880 by Union Pacific Railroad President Sydney Dillon, hence its name. Its location was selected because of its close location to gold mines then in the area, the first of which was discovered in 1862. And because of its large sheep-ranching community, Dillon, which was incorporated in 1884 and has a current population of about 4,000, was once the largest exporter of sheep wool in Montana.

The odd fact I still recall, because of research I had done prior to my journey, is that a circus elephant named Old Pitt was struck by lightning in the town in 1943, and was buried at the fairgrounds.

While I don’t remember too much else about the town, where I slept that first day on the road, I still have memories of my excitement about the coming month. And of course the birds I was going to see along the way.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Pit’s Fritztown News http://tinyurl.com/z64x46l One of my favorite bloggers, who writes from Fredericksburg, Texas. Today he’s talking about Day Zero of a road trip that appealed to me, and seemed to go with my Day 1 of my trip to Alaska, which of course started with my own Day Zero.

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“There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.” — Carl Sandburg

Although I saw no bear or fish, this majestic sculpture I left behind in Salmon, Idaho, was a fair representation of the wild and mostly secluded landscape my journey took me on this day. -- Photo by Pat Bean

My drive the next day was awesome. Not only did it take me through spectacular scenery it treated me to the sight of two bald eagles soaring against a cliff backdrop that heightened the details of their flight. Two adults, white heads glistening in the sunlight, flew before me, their magnificent wings stretched out gathering in the wind.

I understand the reasoning of Ben Franklin, who wanted the turkey to be this country’s national emblem because the bald eagle is a scavenging thief. But had he, I wondered, ever seen their majesty as I had this day. Not even the day I counted 149 bald eagles sitting around on the ice and in trees at Farmington Bay in Utah a half dozen years ago could compare.

The sighting came outside of Missoula, Montana, on Highway 90 through the Lolo National Forest.

Earlier in the day, I had driven for a ways along the Salmon River, bringing to the forefront grand memories of a raft trip I had taken down it through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area. While I’m always reminding myself to live in the present and not the past, these memories, I decided, were part of this day and it was right to acknowledge them.

Leaving the Salmon River behind, I entered the Bitterroot National Forest and its poetic inspiring landscape.  Winding rivers, snow-capped mountains, roadside deer, purple, blue and yellow wildflowers. The entire 140-miles from Salmon to Missoula on Highway 93 were designated scenic byways.

Normally I would have stopped in Missoula, but storms were predicted for the next day and so I drove on, intending to reach my destination at Farragut State Park in the Idaho Panhandle, still almost 200 miles away by mid-afternoon. While it was indeed a long day’s drive for me, the sight of the eagles had vanished any weariness. It was as if I had a pair of bald eagles cheering me on the entire rest of the journey.

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