Lewis & Clark Caverns…

While we really like being campground hosts, this campground is also very busy.  If we are here, we are generally doing something for the campground.  We are supposed to have Sundays and Mondays off, but if it is busy, we end up helping out after church on Sunday directing traffic or stocking t.p. because the bathrooms didn’t get cleaned…  But, we have decided that from now on, on Mondays, we are taking off – as in leaving.  If we don’t leave, we will end up working.  Plus, there are some really great things to do in this area, many of which we haven’t done in years!  So, this past Monday was our first of many Monday field trips to come.

We didn’t get going as early as we would have liked (we never do!) – we were up until after midnight the night before.  The campground excitement for that night was a stranded boater who’s wife heard him yelling at 10pm, in the dark, from across the lake.  She called the LEOs, who came out, frantically searched for a rescue boat since they couldn’t tell what he’d been yelling and he wasn’t yelling anymore, and finally found him trying to row with a life jacket back to the campground.  There is a reason that it’s the law that all watercraft, even fancy new ski boats, have a set of paddles on board! LOL!

The next morning, for our first Monday excursion we traveled about 2 hours from the campground, to a Montana State Park called Lewis and Clark Caverns; both Vaughn and I had been there, but YEARS ago.  In fact, Vaughn remembers riding the little train that shuttled to the entrance, and that train was taken out in 1975! LOL!

I’m not sure how we had gotten away with never taking the kids, but we hadn’t, so we decided it was high time they visited.  Located in a beautiful ranching valley,  the park has 2 visitor’s centers.  The small visitor’s building, down by the river, is more of a information center, and a place to drop your rv trailer if it’s very long.   I must admit, seeing all those trailers dropped in the lot made me a little jealous…wishing we were on the road and pulling in with ours! :(   We stopped by the lower building since we had never been there, and the kids picked up Montana State Jr. Ranger books, which they will do later as  the program is not site specific; they can pick up the books in one park, and turn them in at another.    At this entrance, non-residents pay a $5 entrance fee, but residents get in free (we pay a $4 fee that goes to the state park system, on each vehicle registration…).   Encompassing nearly 3000 acres, this MT state park, is a great place to explore, and includes both bottom river land and rugged mountain passes.

3 miles up the winding, sometimes steep 2 lane paved road behind the first visitor’s center, there is another small visitors center along with a cafe and gift shop.  We bought our tickets ($10 ages 12 and up, $5 for 6-12, 6 and under free); $75 for our fam. here, and sat in the parking lot and ate lunch while we waited for the next tour.

 The upper v.c. is located a mile above sea level, and it is a 3/4 mile walk from the parking lot, uphill, to the cave entrance.

  Our tour was at 1:20, and it was a HOT day (def worth it to get up for a morning tour next time!;). 

view from the cavern entrance

 We all sat in the shade of the cave entrance while our guide gave us the low-down on the tour.  And then we all went inside to lovely natural air conditioning (compliments of God).  The tour was peppered ‘3.5 millions of years ago’ theories, but even my littles could see the discrepancy when the guide was saying how the dating is based on parts of the cave being wetter and growing faster than others, yet this was a dry year so the formations weren’t growing as fast as they could be.  So, their time estimation is based on ‘the normal’ for the 80 or so years that the park has been being maintained, yet they even see variations in ‘the norm’ from year to year in just that short of time – wouldn’t it be obvious that growth would not be consistant for just hundreds or thousands of years let alone millions. lol!.  Despite the theory-as-fact talk, we still enjoyed the tour.

We saw and recognized many of the cave formations that we had learned the names to while we were at our first cave tour – at Carlsbad Caverns our first winter traveling.  One room in the caverns had these lovely chocolate falls (there are actually 3 sets)…

The walk through the caverns themselves, is approx 1/2 mile, and takes about an hour (2 hours and 2 miles total including walks to and from cavern).  There is quite a bit of bending and stooping, and my stomach muscles got a workout hauling Caleb, in the ergo, through low areas stooped over; if you take a baby in, they have to be in a FRONT pack as there are plenty of areas where you will scrape them off or bump their heads if they are on your back.

Inside, on the walk, you drop 360 verticle feet while in the caverns.  There are some uphill areas, but for the most part, it is a lot of descending steps.  And in one area called the ‘beaver slide’, you have to slide down a smooth half tunnel, or waddle down like a duck.  :)  The kids all enjoyed the caverns, but Molly got tired towards the end, and fell asleep on her Daddy on the way out the exit tunnel. (tho Eli took her for part of the walk back to the van)…

The walk from the caverns was not nearly as bad as going in; the walk from the cavern exit back to the parking lot is level, and we came out to clouds and light rain sprinkles.  It started raining heavily just as we reached the parking lot, and we were mighty glad that we were getting back intstead of part of the group that was just heading out.

We ran through the rain to the gift shop, where we found a Lewis and Clark Caverns bumper sticker! yeah!  And they had a penny squisher…

After our fun tour of the Lewis and Clark Caverns,  we came back down the hill – across the road from the lower visitor’s center is a state park campground.  Some of the sites have electric, most have a tree nearby for shade, and they had a fabulous playground system.  We refilled water bottles from the potable water at the rv fillup spigot, and let the littles play for half an hour on the playsystem.  Then, we took a different way on the drive home (love scenic drives!).

LOVED getting out of Dodge, so we are going to make our Monday field trips a regular, whether daddy can go or not (and kind of bummed that Greg will never be able to go with us – he works!).  Already have planned where we are going next week!     😀

Lilla Rose

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