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"Your present circumstances don't determine where you can go;   
they merely determine where you can start."
~ Nido Quebin

That quote seems appropriate because one of the things we've been doing the past week in Great Falls is trying to figure out where to go the next few weeks, before landing in Arizona for the winter.

Sometimes we think it's harder to make travel plans since we began RVing full time than it was when we had a house -- we had more time structure/constraints then. Now we have so many options that trip planning gets overwhelming at times.

Our home for the past week at Malmstrom AFB

We have several possible scenarios of how to spend the next five or six weeks. We'll all have to wait to see where we end up. You can be sure there will be scenic pictures . . .


I think we surely must have brought the last week of rain with us!

Like much of the northwestern U.S., Great Falls has had a hot, dry summer, with temperatures in the 90s F. right before we got here and a major drought. Everything is rather brown, like this large field next to the campground where I walk the dogs:


Fortunately, the heavy smoke from wildfires lessened some before our arrival.

Since then, five days of rain have also helped to get rid of the smoke haze. Two inches of rain fell in a two-day period, which is unusual for Montana. The other three un-summery days had some rain, hail, overcast skies, high temps only in the 40s-50s F., and/or 40-45 MPH winds. Only the first and last full days that we have been here have been at least partly sunny and warm.

We're leaving tomorrow, and the next week is predicted to be sunny, dry, and in the 80s. What's with that??

After all the rain and cold temps we had in Alaska and Canada, it's ironic that our timing was off so badly for this visit to Great Falls. We can use some dry heat about now.

Picnic area near the campground at Malmstrom AFB;
this was nice and green in May when we were here.

We can't complain, though. We know this area desperately needs the rain. We got a lot done on both the sunny days and the more miserable ones while we've been here. And we have full hookups and good TV and WiFi signals at our spacious campsite. It's all good.


Rather than getting out for a long bike ride or hike on our first full day -- when it was still sunny and in the mid-80s -- we did major cleaning inside and outside the Cameo, including shampooing the carpeting (that entails moving furniture), cleaning every surface, washing all the bedding and throw rugs, even caulking the roof of the camper. Jim washed the dogs, too, and I did five loads of laundry that day.

Jim continued doing routine cleaning and vehicle maintenance on the camper, truck, and car the rest of the week between rain showers. While it was sunny this afternoon he washed off several weeks' worth of bugs from the front cap of the Cameo and waxed it :

In addition to major cleaning and laundry, on rainy or windy days we did some reorganizing (even in small places it's too easy to collect more than we need and/or get disorganized), shopped at our favorite big box stores, did some trip planning, visited the museum on base, and walked/rode the dogs several times a day.

Cody is almost back to normal now, with no wobbliness from the Old Dog Vestibular Disease. The only symptom remaining is a slight head tilt, which should also go away. Otherwise he seems fine and he's able to walk longer distances like he did before.

Most of the photos in this entry are from activities we did today, only our second sunny day in the past week. And you can see from the photos that gray clouds threatened rain today, too -- but we didn't get any.


Great Falls is so named because of the five major waterfalls on an eighteen-mile stretch of the Missouri River, which  runs right through town. The city highlights much of the riverfront with beautiful parks and a long bike path on both sides of the river.

The five falls were a major obstacle to Lewis & Clark on their famous expedition to the west coast. When they got to this area in 1805 it took them three weeks to portage all their boats and supplies around the falls.

Large commemorative plaque at Ryan Falls

At least three of the falls now have dams to control the flow of water and produce electricity. We've seen all the falls and dams previously from the bike path except Ryan Dam, which is the farthest to the northeast of town.

This morning we drove out Hwy. 87 and Ryan Dam Road and walked over to a park-like island in the middle of the river so we could get good views of the falls and dam:

Suspension bridge across half the divided river

Above and below:  Try as he might, Jim couldn't get that sturdy bridge to budge.


"Warning! Evacuate the island if you hear 8 short blasts."  You betcha!

We walked behind the shelter below to a path that took us to an overlook where we could see the dam, waterfall, and operations facility:



The island is just two or three acres but very attractively landscaped. The dogs would have loved all that grass but pets aren't allowed over there:


Shady picnic area at the confluence of the two parts of the river

Close-up of fluffy stuff on the fence

On the way back to town we checked out a trailhead for the lengthy North Shore bike-hike path along the river, part of the 60-mile network of paved and dirt/crushed rock trails on either side of the Missouri.

Because we had only two good weather days to ride our bikes or hike we didn't get out this far on the trail:

I also took these dramatic, expansive photos of the "Big Sky Country" on the road back to town:



Great Falls is very proud of its connection to the famous Lewis & Clark Expedition, one of my favorite historical adventures.

And one of my favorite places to visit in Great Falls is the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center, managed by the U.S. Forest Service. I've been through it several times in three previous visits to Great Falls and had to come back again today.


It's a beautiful visitor center full of interesting historical displays and information. There is a fee to enter but it's free with any of the National Park Service passes. I think it's well worth whatever small fee is charged for folks without NPS passes.

Here are a few photos from inside the handsome building, which sits high above the Missouri River:



Large bronze statues depicting the main characters on the expedition, including Seaman,
the Newfoundland dog; there is another statue of him outside the visitor center.

The next picture shows a Mandan buffalo robe painted with detailed people and horses in a 1797 battle. Painted robes are a form of recorded history.

Meriwether Lewis collected the original robe during his winter at Fort Mandan and sent it to President Jefferson in 1805. It is displayed permanently at Harvard University. This replica was created with permission of the Peabody Museum to be displayed in Great Falls:

And then there's some kitsch in the gift shop, like this Lewis & Clark chess set. I've shown just part of it so you can see the detailed characters -- even Seaman the dog!

The road and bike path past the visitor center continue to Giant Springs State Park. So do dirt trails on the bluff and along the river.

After I toured the visitor center this afternoon I took Cody on a two-mile hike on the trails to Giant Springs and back. I'll show photos from that on the next page so they are easier to load.

Continued on the next page.

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil