Published: June 13th 2012June 13th 2012
ACROSS THE NORTHERN TIER
Yesterday we were in the valley town of Missoula, Montana. We shared a lovely meal at an exotic restaurant called "The Silk Road" with Jane Richards, the sister of my good friend Bill Johnson. She has lived in that college town for a long time and knows all the good places! The town is completely surrounded by white capped mountains, but has a milder climate due to the large valley that it nestles down into. We headed up, out of the valley and continued to climb as we drove east, eventually crossing over the continental divide and down into the wide open range lands of eastern Montana. Wow, no wonder they call it "Big Sky Country", you can see for miles and miles and we had a nice clear day at appreciate the beauty.
We followed along the Lewis and Clark trail and made a special stop at Pompey's Pillar, a national momument along the Yellowstone River made famous by William Clark in 1806. He signed his name in the rock when he made a stop there on his way to rendevous with Lewis at the confluence of the
Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers later on in the summer of 1806. They had separated to explore other areas on their return exploration after having made it to the Pacific Coast earlier that year. I wanted to go there because an ancestor of mine was one of the original homesteaders in that area over a hundred years ago and I wanted to see what the area was like. The town of Pompey's Pillar was a desolate ghost town with just a few inhabitants and not much indication of it's former glory. There were many vacant homes and buildings. Even the nice Catholic Church was little used as they only have services when a traveling priest comes through. It was a sad testimonial that not every frontier town goes on to become a thriving community.
As we continued east the economic climate changed completely. We began to see oil derricks amongst the cattle and the towns seemed to be bustling with activity. So much so, that we had a hard time finding a place to stay as the evening progressed. Eastern Montana gave way to western North Dakota and the boom continued. We stopped at numerous motels along the
way and the story was the same, "sorry we are completely filled up with business men and oil field workers". They said it was almost impossible to find any hotels rooms Monday thru Wednesday and of course this was a Tuesday night. Finally, at 2:00am we had some luck in Jamestown, North Dakota at the Holiday Inn Express. The night clerk had just released two rooms because the people who had them reserved did not show up. Exhausted, but relieved to have a room we did not even mind when we realized that we had crossed into central time and we were actually going to bed at 3:30am!