Sunday, March 24, 2013

A weekend potpourri

Some of the 10,000 migrating snow geese and tundra swans on a Freezout Lake stopover on the Front.

 The weather was a tad chilly this first weekend of Spring, but the skies were sunny and we made the most of it.
On Friday we saw a local theater group production of Euripides' "Medea," that sadly performed before an audience of only six people.  They did a great job with this Greek tragedy about a jilted woman who kills her children to get back at her unfaithful husband Jason (of the Argonauts).
New snow covers the Mizpah bowls cabin in the Little Belts 
On Saturday I went to the final session of the Health Occupations Students of America state meet to see how our local schools fared.  They did quite well, with CMR winning the prestigious "HOSA Bowl," a sort of "Jeopardy" in all matters health.  I was very proud of the medals GFHS won as well.  Little Augusta High School surprised everyone with their performance and participation.
Afterward I couldn't resist the call of  the mountains on a crystal clear, but frigid afternoon, and skied to the top of Porphyry Peak at Showdown and south along the ridge beyond the Mizpah bowls and then turned around and skied back.  I really enjoyed the 6 or so inches of new, fluffy snow atop a deep, icy base.
Snow geese flying above Freezout Lake
Then, I attended the Great Falls Symphony and Chorale concert where the combined did a magnificent job on Mozart's "Requiem."  I loved the music set to a Latin Catholic Mass.  I grew up with Latin in church and took six years of the language.
On Sunday after Palm Sunday services we headed to Freezout Lake Wildlife Refuge near Fairfield hoping to catch the tail end of the annual snow geese/tundra swan migration.  Once again, the skies were crystal clear and we were treated to a show of about 10,000 geese and a smattering of swans against the backdrop of a snow covered Rocky Mountain Front.  The geese numbers are about an eighth of the total that gather there to take a break on their way back to Canada.
This is one of the great sights in Montana and something I hate to miss.
Many others felt that way, too.  The parking lots at the refuge were loaded with cars.
A sampling of the views on the scenic Choteau to Augusta route along U.S. 87
It was such a gorgeous day that we decided to take the U.S. 287 25-mile stretch between Choteau and Augusta for a closer look at the Front.  We were not disappointed by this extraordinary drive where the mountains rise from the Great Plains and stretch as far as the eye can see.  We stopped several times to take in the beauty.
After a quick stop at Latigo and Lace in Augusta where I bought a book on the Front, we headed back to Great Falls down the Sun River valley.
As we were driving through Fort Shaw it occurred to me that I had driven through the town for 40 years and never stopped to hunt for what remains of the Fort, an Indian outpost built in the 1860s and manned by black soldiers.
There is a wooden officer residence from the 1860s still standing as well as several small stone buildings like the hospital.  They sit just off the Fort Shaw school.
There is also a monument to the 1904 Fort Shaw Indian Girls Basketball Team that were considered national champions.
It turned out to be a great stop at the end of a great weekend.
A sampling of Fort Shaw.  Above, the monument to the 1902 Indian Girls National Championship team.  Below, top, the monument closeup.  Bottom, the officers barracks built in 1867.

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