Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bozeman and a trip to Lewis and Clark Caverns

At Bozeman's urban Burke Park, with fabulous views of Gallatin valley
In one of the large rooms of Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
We had a wonderful mini-vacation in Bozeman last weekend, a getaway that included the opera, a stay in a historic downtown guesthouse, some great restaurants, walks in well-planned urban parks, a salsa jazz band, and my first visit to Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park in 35 years.
The Bozeman Intermountain Opera Company always puts on a good show at the Willson Auditorium, and its production of Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” was no exception. We had seen this opera in Calgary nearly 10 years ago and this is one of our favorites.
My wife and I love to stay at old, historic bed and breakfasts when we travel. We pay equal to or less than the sterile, standard chain motels, and we have a much nicer experience that usually includes a charming house, interesting owners, and new acquaintances by meeting other guests.
The Olive Branch Inn is located two blocks from Bozeman’s lively downtown in an old residential area and is a Victorian brick, two-story house.
We were close enough to everything that we didn’t drive for two days, walking everywhere.
There are plenty of restaurants to choose from downtown, and we tried the upscale and modern spot, Plonk, where we sampled great appetizers.
The next morning we had breakfast at Nova, provided by the guesthouse, where the food is eclectic and service outstanding.
We took a long walk in Burke Park to the south and east of the downtown, a large park perched on what appears to be a moraine. The park offered amazing views of the surrounding mountains --- the Gallatins, Madisons, Tobacco Roots, Bridges and Absarokas --- and lovely Bozeman in springtime color below. We were treated to a myriad of wildflowers, too, from shooting stars to pasque flowers.
On the way out of town, after lunch at the Food Co-Op, we stopped by the street dance held on Main adjacent to the Baxter Hotel in the Eighteen Miles From the Border Restaurant, where Poco Loco, a jazz salsa band played. It was the best Latin music I’ve heard in my years in Montana. It was very festive.
Instead of heading back to Great Falls by way of Townsend, we opted to stop at the Lewis and Clark Caverns which had hours before we arrived dedicated a new visitor’s center.
We went for the two-hour hike through the caverns, something every Montanan should do.
I hadn’t realized that the caverns, once owned by Great Northern railroad and given to the feds, was declared a National Monument by President Teddy Roosevelt. However, the feds didn’t have the money to operate it, so it was turned over to the state, which made it Montana’s first state park.
When I visited last I took a tram to the cave, but it was removed long ago, and a trail system to the entrance and other spots throughout the park, has been developed.
I marveled at the wondrous formations and colors we saw in the cave, and the great story-telling by our guide Jim Stearns, a retired Helena elementary school teacher.
We capped our trip with a drive through the Boulder Valley and a meal at the Mediterranean Grille in Helena.
The weather was spectacular, in the mid-70s with no wind, although we got sprinkled on near the caverns.

1 comment:

Jim Woodward said...


The land surrounding the entrance to Lewis and Clark Caverns was never owned by the Great Northern Railroad. It was part of the Land Grant to the Northern Pacific Railroad, which financed construction of the NP.

Jim Woodward - former L&CCSP Guide and grandson of E C Woodward, who joined cave discoverer Tom Williams on the first exploration of the cave in 1898.