Where's the Natural Bridge? Wednesday, 07-10-13

Wednesday dawned clear and cloudless -- like it might get as hot as it really did.  Leaving around 10 am, Nannie and Bubba, Susan and Tom (in one truck) and me and Jimmy in Smartie took an off-the-beaten-path gravel road to Natural Bridge State Park.  Natural Bridge, via Hwy 298, is located about 25 miles south of Big Timber MT in a natural rock gorge.  Jimmy and I have been here before and prefer this alternate drive from Mission Creek Ranch thru some of the prettiest scenery this side of the Mississippi.  I'm unsure of the distance from Ft Parker to McLeod, but it's many miles.  We took scads of photos and, as always, it isn't easy to pick, but here we go:

 This handsome hawk was one of the first sights on the gravel road.

 There's still snow on the north-facing peaks of the higher mountains.

My sister, Nannie, and her hubby, Bubba, LOVE Montana, too!

 Bucolic is how Nannie described this part of the drive.  She's right.

 Hillsides dotted with wildflowers alternated with grassy meadows and forests.

 Thanks to this Meadowlark, one less grasshopper exists to eat crops!

On the last leg of the drive to McLeod, we encountered this huge bull by the side of the road.  We braked Smartie and Jimmy rolled down his window to say "howdy, dude."  The beast took one look at us, gave us the stink eye, and appeared to want a closer look.  Needless to say, Jimmy gunned Smartie!

After lunching at a picnic table in McLeod (population:so tiny no numbers are listed), we drove another 10 miles down Hwy 298 to Natural Bridge.  Boulder River is still ripping along, tho not like in early summer when it's full of snow melt.  You can believe that Natural Bridge and Falls is one of the most scenic and photographed spots in the beautiful Boulder Valley.

Back in the 1880's, McLeod became known far and wide as a home-seekers paradise.  An irrigation canal stimulated settlement in the valley and resulted in the establishment of the McLeod Post Office on June 11, 1886, which we visited today.  Zip:  59052.  Quite a history (as in most places, I guess) to the entire Boulder Valley.

The Natural Bridge which gave the park its name collapsed in 1988.  Now its major attraction is the disappearing Boulder River.

We walked across the wooden bridge seen at the top of this picture, with the Boulder River roaring below.  If you look closely, the river falls into a hole (toward the bottom of the pic) and flat-out disappears.  It emerges from the rocks into a much lower "bowl" several hundred yards downriver.  During high water, the river falls around 105' into this large basin.  When the river is high, (obviously not today) flood water gushes over the rocks in the bottom of the photo... where I'm standing to take the picture!

We hiked all round the area, till we got so hot we had to leave.  Both vehicles recorded 94 degrees.  We drove up to the (closed) Historic Boulder Ranger Station and peeked in the windows.  I got stung in the crook of my elbow by some kind of hit-and-run yellow jacket, which wasn't very nice at all.  Overheated to the max, we finally hit the trail in our air-conditioned vehicles for Livingston, this time via Big Timber and I-90.

* * * * *

Wednesday afternoons from 4:30 to 7:30 is the Livingston Farmer's Market and, since we were already hot and sweaty, we stopped to see what the vendors had to offer.  Kale, chard, and various greens were displayed, plus different crafty goodies for sale, as well as food trucks and food vendors.  Music was provided on the stage, a local group I believe.  Lots of people were out on a nice WARM afternoon for fun, food, and camaraderie.  We all ate at different food stalls, bought a couple of goodies, and FINALLY whizzed into Rock Canyon RV park around 6 pm.  Last one in the shower is a rotten egg!

Cute sign at the Farmer's Mkt!

Another very full and hugely enjoyable Montana day!

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