choteau, st. ignatius and home

I am really enjoying this book.

Just a note: WordPress has changed its format and I have no idea what I’m doing or how to resize the photos or write text, etc. Very confusing, even after one large mug of coffee. So I am going to try again tomorrow, as I have lots of pictures of our time in St. Ignatius and our beautiful drive through the Front Range of Montana. See you tomorrow, when I hope to be a lot smarter!

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choteau, day four


Let’s talk about dinosaurs.  Two Medicine Dinosaur Center is on the “Dinosaur  Trail”, a statewide trail of dinosaur museums and parks in eastern and central Montana.

This particular museum was in Bynum, about fifteen miles north of Choteau.   It offers people–especially families–a chance to go out on a “dig” for a day or even five days.  It houses a model of the largest dinosaur ever found, the seismosaurus.  You can see the world’ first baby dinosaurs, found in the area.  There’s a tyrannosaur skull.  And these…


Gizzard stones, also known as “gastroliths”.

How do you know a stone is actually a gizzard stone?  You find it in the stomach area of a dinosaur skeleton!  Otherwise?  Probably just a stone.

I touched a dinosaur bone.  Kids would love that!

We went shopping next door.


This was a highlight for the guys.  My inability to shop and make decisions while wearing a mask continued.  I saved a lot of money on this trip.

Then it was back to Choteau, to their “Old Trail Museum”.  The outer buildings were closed due to Covid, but the museum itself was fabulous.  Will was excited to see the Roman coin, inexplicably found in an ancient tipi ring near the town.  And then there was the skeleton of a French fur trader, complete with embedded arrowheads.

I enjoyed reading about a local woman who, in the 30’s, started a guest ranch with her new husband.  After she died a friend found boxes of journals and stories in her closet, which have now been published.  Of course I bought the book!

This will have to be continued tomorrow as I’ve been interrupted about 17 times and it’s really hot and I turned on the AC, which rarely happens, and I had to go to the library and to the Pantry to buy parsley and now I need a nap and/or a swim….




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more fort benton, day three

After putting 6000 steps on my Fitbit, I sat on a bench along the Missouri and had a nourishing snack.


Fort Benton’s scenic downtown:


Inside the sheriff’s office at the Homestead Village.  The two jail cells were very, very creepy.


The Missouri, which meanders across the street from the town’s main street.


We hated to leave, we really did.  But there were no available rooms at the Grand Union and we had reservations in Choteau.  Miles to go before we sleep, in other words.

Two long hours later we arrived in Choteau around 8 PM and checked into the Stage Stop Inn (it was wonderful).  The lady behind the desk recommended the Log Cabin Cafe for dinner.


He loved the Southwestern salad.

Will had an open-faced chili burger.  I was too tired to eat anything but a small piece of chicken and a mound of mashed potatoes.  I wish I lived next door to the Log Cabin Cafe and could eat there every day.  There was pie, but we were too full.  Banjo Man could not stop talking about Fort Benton and everything he’d seen.  Will was equally amazed

The waitress did not wear a mask–no one did–and it was so lovely to see someone smile!  We talked about it for a couple of days.  What a wonderful change from masks!

And then it was back to the Stage Stop Inn and to bed.  We needed to be up and out early to head north to learn about dinosaurs…



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north to fort benton, day three

Another glorious Montana morning and we were heading to Fort Benton, a historic town on the Missouri River.

We had no idea how much history was in store.


The backside of the Arvon Hotel.  Love the stone!

As we packed our stuff into the car and prepared to leave the hotel, Banjo Man began to make noises about wanting to see the Great Falls–the water, not the city.  He’d been reading a brochure about all of the falls along the river.  Somehow there must be a road, he said.

I couldn’t find one on the map.  There was a walking trail, though.  Not that we were going to use it.

Him:  There must be a road.

Me:  Nope.  Can’t find anything.

Him:  There must be a road.

Me:  Here.  *You* look at the map.

Him, studying the map and then folding it in disgust:  I can’t believe there isn’t a road.

We headed out of town, toward Fort Benton and a handful of museums featuring history of the Old West and steamboats and gold miners.

And then, several miles later…a “Historic Point”appeared on the side of the highway.  A Historic Point about the Great Falls.

Oh, was Banjo Man happy he had pulled over to read it!  The Falls, it said, were “five miles east of here”.   There was an arrow pointing to a large, empty expanse of ranch land.  A LARGE EMPTY EXPANSE OF RANCH LAND.

“Let’s do it,” my husband crowed, heading down a gravel road into nothingness.

“Let’s not,” I whimpered.  I am not so fond of unpaved rides into the unknown.

“Oh, come on,” he said.  “When am I ever going to see the Great Falls again?”

“I don’t care.  We’re going to end up in someone’s ranch and get lost.”

He ignored me.  Will wisely kept quiet.  We drove through miles and miles and miles of back country and then finally there was a sign to the Falls and the road narrowed, twisted, went down a hill.  There was a turn that had a mirror so you could see if you were going to smash into an oncoming car.


What is this?  Grain storage?

But we arrived at the dam eventually and I was more than happy to get out of the car and stop holding my breath.


The Great Falls dam.

There was a footbridge–the kind that sways in the wind–leading to an island in the river, so off we went in search of a Great Falls Photo Op.  The signs prohibited more than six people on the bridge at a time and advised waiting your turn if others were coming the other way and please, do not–under any circumstances– make the bridge sway.


We did not sway.

The island was a beautiful picnic area, but there was this:


As my friend Kathy said when she saw this photo, “I wouldn’t wait to hear eight blasts.  I’d be gone at one!”

Ah, so true.

But there would be a stampede on the footbridge as the dam burst.

There are always signs to read.  But thank God nothing about snakes this time.


Much too windy to wear hats.


Another view of the Missouri.


After all that excitement we once again headed north to Fort Benton, known as “The Birthplace of Montana” on the Upper Missouri.  We expected to view the Missouri, gaze at the first bridge over that river, visit a few small museums and be on our way to Choteau sometime after lunch.

We were wrong.

First of all, there was the Grand Union Hotel–Montana’s oldest running hotel–to see.  Although they didn’t serve lunch, the staff let us roam around the dining room, which was exactly the same as it was when the hotel was built.


Check it out at:

When I was planning this trip I thought about staying there one night, but I didn’t think there would be enough to do in Fort Benton to justify staying overnight.  Later on in the day I tried to get rooms for that night, but they were sold out.  The three of us wished we could stay in town longer and eat in the hotel’s dining room while pretending it was 1882.


From the website:

Montana’s Heritage Complex 
World Class Museums and Research Facilities

Located in Fort Benton “The Birthplace of Montana”™  the Heritage Complex is the home of Old Fort Benton, The Museum of the Upper Missouri, The State of Montana’s Museum of the Northern Great Plains, Homestead Village, The Hornaday Smithsonian Buffalo Gallery, The Upper Missouri River Breaks Interpretive Center, The Overholser Research Center, The Schwinden Library, and The Montana Agricultural Center.

Let me just say that Banjo Man would still be in the Montana Agricultural Center if we hadn’t hauled him out of there.  It was massive, with exhibit after exhibit of farming and life on the range.  The “Homestead Village” was so much fun, with many, many buildings that showed what life was like back then.

The Hornaday Buffalo Gallery had originally been in the Smithsonian for 40 years.


Always a sad sight, a reminder of senseless and evil destruction.

IMG_4805 (1)

Masks were definitely required in all of the museums, but the Fort Benton people were a more cheerful and friendlier group than those we met in Great Falls.  They were genuinely pleased that we were interested in their history, as they are very proud of it.

A sign from one of the museums at Old Fort Benton:

IMG_4831 (1)

Not on Pinterest?


Fort Benton To Be Continued (because I have so many pictures)…


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great falls, day 2


Look who greeted us at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center!

Alas, the Center–overlooking the Missouri River– was basically closed.  The lobby was open and decorated with several exhibits.  There was no charge to enter.

Covid strikes again.



The guys read every sign.

The gift shop opened and I bought a greeting card.

And then it was back in the car, back to the city and to the Charles Russell Museum and Art Gallery.  Will said he was afraid the museum would be partially closed.  Because this was to be the highlight of the trip for him, this would not be good.

But to his relief it was open.  A few galleries were closed due to preparations for a fundraising auction, but the Russell gallery was available.

We paid the reduced fees, donned our masks before entering the building, used the hand sanitizer in the lobby, signed our names and where we were from in the log book.  Montana’s health department was requiring contact information, which varied from zip codes to phone numbers to town of origin to no-one-cares.

I hadn’t been there since 1982 and I barely remembered it, having had three kids ages 2, 4 and 7 with me at the time.

Wearing a mask is miserable.  And hot.  I kept going outside to breathe fresh air.  The Russell home was open for touring and I almost fainted at the top of the stairs (there were others touring the second floor so I had to keep my mask on).  The two-room studio next door to the house was empty except for Will and me, so we lowered our masks and enjoyed prowling around.


That was my favorite part of the museum.  No masks, no people, and plenty of time to look at everything.

The enormous gift shop had many lovely things, but I couldn’t breathe so I bought a greeting card and fled outside once again.

Eventually it was time to find lunch.  As you know, finding a place to eat is no longer easy.  Our first stop, recommended by a member of the museum staff, was crowded and had no outside tables.  So we left there and got lost driving around Great Falls and eventually found Cafe Rio, a Mexican chain with plenty of seating and fresh tortillas.

And then?

The Buffalo Jump.


Wearing my hat and my mask.

We drove out of town to Ulm and the State Park protecting the cliff where the Indians tricked the buffalo into leaping off a cliff to their deaths.  This of course resulted in food for the winter and, because this was before the arrival of the horse, was pretty efficient.

We chose not to hike the mile and a half up to the cliffs.  One reason?


Will is having a great day.

So we drove to the top.  There were rattlesnake signs up there, too.


Let’s zoom closer.


Big Sky Country.

Then it was back to Great Falls and our hotel.  And guess what!  There was a quilt store one block away.  Banjo Man and I walked over to check it out.  I planned to support a local fabric store (they struggle, with or without Covid), but the staff was rude and the fabric less than interesting.  Before we went in,  Banjo Man realized he’d forgotten his mask and returned to the hotel.  He returned to walk me home (!!!) and was surprised I hadn’t bought anything.

I’ve never experienced a rude quilt store salesperson before.  It was very strange.  But Great Falls had a very stressed vibe.  Everywhere we went people looked unhappy and scared.

Will and I returned to a patio table at the hotel’s restaurant for dinner (Banjo Man was still full from lunch so he went to bed early).  The rain started to come down as our meals were served so the waitress offered to move us inside, but we said we were fine where we were.  Mask-free and in the fresh air, we enjoyed our meal under a large umbrella despite the rain and thunder.

The plan the next day?  Load the car by 9:30 and head north to Fort Benton.

To be continued…again…






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getting out of town

We miss our road trips.  So last Wednesday we hit the road east for a four-day mini-Western history adventure in Montana.  We hit the road around 10.  I’d collected info on local museums, the Charles Russell museum and gallery, and even a dinosaur center.  I informed the guys that the trip was designed to be relaxing, with plenty of free time built in for the occasional spontaneous activity.  I brought a deck of cards just in case we had time to kill in the evenings.  There were snacks in the cooler and a large map of Montana folded up between the car seats.


First stop:  St. Regis.  There’s a massive gift shop complex there and we’d heard good things about the huckleberry shakes.


Guess who was happy he ordered a shake.

Masks are required in most counties in Montana.

We left I-90 near Garrison, crossed the Continental Divide on Highway 12.  We stopped to detour to a “vista”, via an uphill dirt track filled with holes and rocks.  I was not impressed.  Here is Will after we finally arrived at the top.



After the “vista” it seemed to take a long time to get to Great Falls even though I was behind the wheel and refused to stop at any more scenic viewpoints no matter who begged.

Our hotel, a remodeled historic building, was downtown.  We loved it.  Next to the Hotel Arvon was their restaurant, The Celtic Cowboy, which had a small sidewalk patio and four tables.  So we had real food!  And we ate safely outdoors without having to venture inside the restaurant while wearing our masks.

I was too hungry to take pictures.

Our rooms were beautiful and there was even an elevator.  The works of local artists covered the hallways.  I found more touristy brochures in the lobby.  The showers were enormous, the beds comfy and we all went to bed early after deciding to fit in a visit to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at 9 AM the next day before heading to the Charles Russell museum, which was actually the focal point of our trip.

To be continued…





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saturday night at the beach with will


There must be an arrowhead in there somewhere.

Will took his shovel and dug a hole for me in which to search for arrowheads and the flakes and chips from arrowheads (I did not find any).

It had been a very hot day and there had been some humidity, too, so after a quick morning trip to town to pick up hamburger at Wood’s Meats, we came home to stay inside with the AC.  I took a nap and later on Banjo Man ventured out to hear some live music at the local market across the bay.

Will came up the hill later on to tell me that the humidity was gone and the temps were down and it was okay to step outside.


So I did.

The three of us spend our evenings hanging out on the beach.  We swim.  We dig.  We burn a little driftwood.  We admire the sunset and watch the boats go out and come in.  When the bats come out we head indoors to play cards and eat pie.

And so goes the Summer of 2020…



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pearl island

This morning, while having “Happy Birthday” coffee on the deck, Banjo Man explained that SIXTY YEARS AGO he’d spent his birthday on Pearl Island.

In case you’re wondering, he was 19 at the time.

Here’s a link to a Facebook page where you can see photos:

Here’s a link if you want to know more about the history of the island:

Pearl Island: From family homestead to island for the people

Banjo Man and I canoed over to “Pearl” in 1971.  And went by boat other summers for picnics.  It was a treasured vacation spot for the Kalispel Indians, as were the other islands in the lake.

Yesterday on his fishing trip with Bob, they cruised past Pearl.  It would have looked like the photo above.  Beautiful, isn’t it?

This morning I’m making the looked-forward-to pineapple cake, a Banjo Man birthday tradition.  And then a quick trip to the Pantry for freshly baked sourdough bread.

It is going to be 98 this afternoon.  Which means I will be in the lake, floating on my raft and staying cool, and Banjo Man will be ordered to leave his computer and join me in the water.  He’ll most likely tell me all about his Pearl Island birthday again.

What were you doing sixty years ago?

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an almost-birthday treat


Guess who went fishing this morning?  Banjo Man and Will climbed into Bob’s boat about twenty minutes ago.  I hope they come home with dinner!  They certainly were excited about the prospect of catching “the big one”.

Tomorrow is Banjo Man’s birthday and he has requested make-your-own flatbread pizzas (on the grill) for dinner.   And I will make his favorite, a pineapple cake, for dessert.  With homemade ice cream.  We will kayak at sunset, as per the birthday guy’s request.  Temps are supposed to reach 98, so we’ll wait and see.

Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon in the water.  Just me, the lake and a bright blue raft.  The water has warmed up and, despite the 93 temperature, it wasn’t too hot to be bobbing around in the water.  I alternated between sun and shade…and then there was even a little breeze.

I’ll be back again this afternoon, after a quick trip to Walmart and the Peach Man this morning.

Check out the new patio and the new umbrella:


My new hideaway.

Hurray for summer!


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summer 2020 continues


Last night I took the kayak out.  I didn’t go far.  It was sunset.  The water was calm.  There was a light breeze and a quiet lake to enjoy.

This photo pretty much describes my summer:  doing my own thing, enjoying the water, staring at the mountains.

Each summer is different.  There have been summers filled with family, when meals left the freezer with awesome speed to feed the masses of loved ones.  Summers of pies.  Summers of peaches, with case after case of the fruit waiting to be peeled.  I am an Olympics-qualifying peach peeler, you know.

There have been summers filled with music.  Many nights returning from band practice long after dark, unloading a dust-covered car of instruments, music stands, bags of sheet music.  Laughing with the band and having a good time no matter what.

Summers of music lessons.  Gigs.  New songs,  old songs.  Lunch at Trinity or the Pie Hut afterwards.

There have been summers of baby showers.  Parties.  Filling the house with friends.

Summers of company and showing visitors the joys of the area, from the Pantry to the Farmer’s Market to ice cream cones at the gas station.  Cinnamon rolls and sunsets with wine and morning coffee on the dock.

Summers with the grandson, with blueberry pancakes, going to the dump, ice cream, jumping off the dock, burgers, campfires and a “mail box” that held a morning surprise.

And now, the Summer of Covid, which we’ll remember as the quiet summer with Will.  Now that the Texans have returned home, the three of us have returned to spending the after-dinner hours on the beach to watch the sunset.  And then playing cards.  It is also the Summer of the Arrowheads, as we’ve found more arrowheads and flakes and chips than we ever have.  We’ve had many campfires, which we love.  Will knows I can’t resist a campfire, so when he wants company in the evening he knows what to do.

A social summer isn’t possible this year, but we are all grateful to be here, in the “Lake Bubble”, away from the virus and away from the news.  For now it is good to embrace the peace of the mountains.

And don’t we all need a little more peace!



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