We did something a little different this trip - we spent a week in Glacier National Park, the last week before the Going to the Sun Road closed for the year. And it was different from Yellowstone, though we are still trying to articulate how the two national parks vary from each other. As Tim said during one hike, "Heck of a Park!"
    As the plane nears Great Falls, the mountains of the Rocky Mountain Front rise as dark, jagged shadows in the west. Great Falls appears flat when we land, but downtown it sinks into green terraces. The Missouri River of Lewis and Clark snakes through the city in a long, curving "S." Its banks are green and lush with trees; docks jut out from the shoreline. It seems to be a neat, orderly city with friendly, helpful people.
    Crossing Sun River we head northwest on 89 into farm and ranch land. Threshers move across the landscape in great clouds. Cattle and horses dot the golden landscape; rolling hills go on forever past Power and into Choteau.
    Choteau is the county seat of Teton County with a stately municipal building sitting square right in the middle of town. 89, also known as the Blackfoot Highway, passes the public library and the "Roxy" movie theater, a couple of downtown bars and "Three Old Bags' Antiques." Two does grazing on a lawn look up as we drive by.
    This is rural Montana. Grain elevators rise above farm houses and outbuildings. Railroad cars in Fairfield line up ready to take grain from giant silver silos planted on the railroad. A carwash and laundry, "Tubs and Suds," also sits next to the tracks. As I admire the old red railroad cars, a Mennonite woman vacuums a pickup.
    The hills and prairies go on forever, 89 winding and curving through miles and miles of ranchland, through the Blackfeet Reservation, past the painful history of Native Americans and triumphs of Lewis and Clark. The land stretches out before us, never ending. Smoke curls up toward the blue sky from the fields.
    At East Glacier the land turns from golden to deep green, mountains rising around us. Pine trees climb the mountains in a thick, dark green cover. The Middle Fork Flathead River parallels the road, broken by long narrow gravel beds, like islands in the middle of the river. It reminds me of the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska.
    Our cabin in West Glacier is small and funky, a 1950s version of a motel cabin with a microwave and small refrigerator. It's very comfortable and functional and has a terrific view of the mountains. The train runs past several times each evening, lights flashing in between the pine trees as it speeds past.
    Tim is taking pictures of stars by the tracks. The sky is clear, the stars a blanket of light. Hard to say what we will do tomorrow. This is such a new place for us.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2009