Monday, August 25, 2008

Who Forted?

August 24

We did...a LOT today! Two forts and a confluence, a few miles and a great free campground. Good day.

We started out SUPER early today. I woke up just before dawn due to too much water before bedtime, but it worked out well. I asked the girls if they wanted to get up early and beat the mosquitoes. V jumped at the opportunity. E was close behind. We drove about 15 miles before we stopped to use a rest stop, change into daytime clothes and eat breakfast. While I was pumping gas, a guy who looked like a high school teacher/coach was filling up right next to us. I said something like, "You sure do have some mosquitoes around here!" He asked where we'd camped. When I told him, he laughed like he hadn't laughed in a thousand years! No local would be caught up there this time of year. Those mosquitoes make for those big fish the areas known for. Glad we could make his day! :)

A good thing about a 5:30 a.m. start is the jump on the rest of the day. We were able to visit Fort Peck Dam (the largest earthen dam), saw lots of early morning wildlife (including our first HERD of deer, also there near the dam), and made it to Fort Union Trading Post well before lunchtime.

We toured the post (docents there particularly enjoyed E's choice of period clothing for the day), parlayed with the trader in the trade office,the girls earned their Junior Trader badges and we had lunch with the cottonwoods.

Then it was on to the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence.

It was sort of confusing because the Yellowstone comes in from the south and seems to run a bit westerly. It's difficult to remember just how far north we are (though the days are QUICKLY getting shorter - last week sunset was at 9:19 in western Montana. Last night: 8:15 in western North Dakota), and I just don't think of rivers running north, for whatever reason. While E and I stuck our feet in the river (no way was I getting in...unlike Western rivers, this was certainly muddy and there was no way to tell how deep it was, where the holes were or what the current was like), V caught lots of frogs on the bank.

We toured neighboring Fort Buford which has an impressive collection of original stoves (wood stoves and cook stoves) and other artifacts, then spent some time dipping our toes in the Missouri before settling in the free campground at Fort Buford. The water was fairly swift and murky due to the storms we experienced in the west. It seems that, with the dams, turns and other river obstacles, it took the water about the same amount of time to get here as it had taken us to drive. V and E caught several river toads, two of which V played with until shortly before sunset when we finally headed up to camp.

The camp was marvelous! Maybe it's because we've had rain or bugs or other challenges the past several nights, but the evening was warm and breezy (keeping away most of the flying insects), the camp is little used so was spotless and situated in shin-high green grass under cottonwood trees. I cooked our store-bought salmon on the BBQ and we enjoyed it with fresh vegies and applesauce before relaxing for an evening of journal writing, reading, map reading, planning and grasshopper catching. We took out our glow-in-the-dark star map and checked out the constellations in the HUGE, dark sky here. The only problem: there were SO many stars it was tough to pick out some of the constellations we don't know as well.

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