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Monday, September 9, 2013

Montana: Whitefish, Polson, Flathead Lake, the National Bison Range; Idaho: Route of the Hiawatha

We had a fun evening at the Blue Moon Bar and its adjacent Blue Moon Rodeo Arena. The Rodeo contestants were all local cowboys and cowgirls from northwestern Montana. The audience, local as well, mostly were from Whitefish. Being from a distant home, we were celebrities - the announcer pointed out that tonight we had folks from Massachusetts and Australia in the audience.

Off he goes, give 'em a hand for trying...

Will he make it-8 seconds in the saddle?

Local Rodeo at Whitefish, Montana (near Glacier National park)
Why the 8 second ride?
"The 8 second length of a qualified ride was devised purely for the safety and well-being of the animals involved. After 8 seconds the horse or bulls bucking ability decreases because of fatigue, adrenaline loss, etc.
In order to prevent the animal from becoming overly stressed, the buzzer or horn will sound to signal the rider to end the ride and prepare to dismount. This keeps the animals spirit high and healthy and keeps them from 'breaking' or taming down. The 8 second ride allows rodeo stock to continue competing at the best of their ability at the next rodeo and throughout their career in the arena." from the website: 

Before the rodeo we visited the Hockaday Museum in Kalispell (near Whitefish) where we met the  artist Peter Moore whose paintings were on display. See,

In the morning we attended the Polson Annual Fly-In; owners of vintage and experimental aircraft have a chance to show off their restorations and creations.

Nearby, we roamed for a few hours among the bison and Pronghorn Antelope that are cared for at the National Bison Range at Moiese, Montana:

"Fleet-footed pronghorns are among the speediest animals in North America. They can run at more than 53 miles (86 kilometers) an hour, leaving pursuing coyotes and bobcats in the dust."  from the website:

... after which we relaxed at Flathead Lake, near Polson:

Janet does "Downward Facing Dog" yoga position. The water was surprisingly warm, liked a heated swimming pool. 
Flathead Lake is the largest body of fresh water west of the Mississippi River.

A couple hours' drive from this area took us to a remote mountain area where we biked the spectacular "Route of the Hiawatha," a rail-to-trail project. The trail begins with a tunnel of 1.67 miles that traverses Taft Mountain. There are a a number of smaller tunnels and several high trestles by which we crossed over deep valleys in the Bitterroot Mountains.

 a trestle of the Route of the Hiawatha in the Bitterroot Mountains near the Montana-Idaho border - and view from the trestle:

 "What is today the Route of the Hiawatha was also known as one of the most scenic stretches of railroad in the country. When the Milwaukee Railroad was operating, the trains traversed through eleven tunnels and over nine high trestles, covering a 46-mile route that crossed the rugged Bitterroot Mountains between Idaho and Montana. The Route of the Hiawatha's most well-known feature is the long St. Paul Pass, or Taft Tunnel, which burrows 8,771 feet (1.6 miles) under the Bitterroot Mountains at the state line between Idaho and Montana." from the website:

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