Route: Geraldine to Fort Benton, MT
Saya’s quote of the day (in a singing voice, slowing down at the end for effect): “My butt is sore. My butt, my butt, my bu-u-u-u-u-u-u-tt isssss sore!”
Sho’s quote of the day: “We only rode our bikes for 3 hours today. How easy.”
We cycled 27 miles from Geraldine to Fort Benton on a rolling route with a few challenging climbs. As we rode, the dramatic form of square butte slowly disappeared behind us. Known by geologists as a “laccolith,” the distinctive flat-domed butte was formed about 50 million years ago by magma pressed between layers of sandstone and became more prominent from erosion over the years. It’s now a favorite photo opp for locals and tourists alike. One woman I met showed me a stunning picture of the sun setting behind the butte. Another local told me what an incredible the view you get when standing on the top. Our ride through Montana so far has been like traveling from one impressive nature scene to the next. The state deserves its moniker “Big Sky Montana.”
Sho, Saya and I cycled down a long winding descent to Fort Benton, an historic town set on the Missouri River. Arriving at lunchtime, we spent the afternoon touring the town’s old fort and the Museum of Northern Great Plains, which included a recreation of the town as it appeared in the early 1900’s. Sho and Saya loved exploring each building and particularly enjoyed being locked away in the sheriff’s jail cell. Of course, there was no town or fort here when Lewis and Clark passed through in 1805. They weren’t even sure if they were still on the Missouri River. Not far away, they had reached the confluence of two rivers. Lewis and Clark split up, exploring the two rivers separately to determine which to follow. Lewis wrote, "The whole of my party to a man except myself were fully pesuaided [sic] that this river was the Missouri, but being fully of opinion that it was neither the main stream, nor that which it would be advisable for us to take , I determined to give it a name and in honour of Miss Maria Wd. called it Maria's River" (Lewis’s cousin Maria Wood). In the end, the expedition figured correctly which river was the Missouri, and were soon to encounter Great Falls, the end of their hopes for a convenient water route to the Pacific Ocean.
As we were touring Fort Benton, a stranger approached us to ask about our bike set-up. Her name was Terri Rogers, and she lives in Great Falls, the next stop on our itinerary. By the end of the conversation, she had invited us to stay in her home when we reach Great Falls tomorrow night. It’s heartening to experience so many acts of kindness from strangers on this trip.
Sho, Saya and I set up our tent in a campsite on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River. As I was read the Journals of Lewis and Clark to the kids, a Gibbous moon began to rise over the steep cliffs on the far side of the river, streaming moonbeams into our tent. We spent the next fifteen minutes taking photos and marveling at this beautiful phenomenon.
Here are some pics:
Square Butte in the distance
Saya and I at the statue in Fort Benton of Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea
Sho in Fort Benton
In front of our tent on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River
Moon rising from our campsite