On one of our Monday Tribe Trips, we decided to take a little road trip to Great Falls, which is about 90 miles north of Helena, where we are spending our summer. Great Falls is the location of the (great) water falls that Lewis and Clark had to portage around on their expedition west.
Today, there are several destinations in Great Falls that are in some way linked to the L&C Expedition. We chose to visit 2 of them on this trip; our first stop was the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. The LCIC is located just downriver from one of the sets of falls, and is a pleasant museum that is run by the USFS. Even though it is run by the forest service, the museum honors the National Park passes, and also has the Jr. Ranger program! The last time we visited the museum, we had yet to discover the Jr. Ranger program, so my kids hadn’t earned the badges, or in this case, patches, yet.
We arrived later than I had wanted (the usual for us), so we were anxious to get started. I ended up buying another National Parks Pass – our family usually has 2 – and while both Vaughn and I could both be signers on the same card, we just get 2 anyway so that we can get both vehicles (truck with 5th wheel, and our 15 pass. van) in to National Parks. So, we bought an $80 NP pass, instead of $ just for entrance fees. We picked up Jr. Ranger folders at the front desk; their J.R. program doesn’t have booklets, but instead is a L&C folder with worksheet copies in it. The kids had to do 3 sheets to earn their patches, but I had the kids do all of them (they were easy). We visited the gift shop to see if they had Jr. Ranger vests, but they didn’t have much J.R. stuff, nor did they have bumper stickers. *We bought the little boys their J.R. vests 3 years ago, and bought them just a little too big – the boys have since grown, and the vests are a tight fit, so I just went online and bought them mens size small vests so that I will never have to transfer patches again once it’s done this time – anxious for the vests to show up (and since I’ve started this post and am now finishing, they have arrived! LOL!); to get their patches and badges sewn on the new ones, hopefully this week - one more step to getting ready to head out this fall!!! Plus, the boys needed larger vests – their old ones were covered solid - since the new ones are bigger, there’s a bit more space to fill up – which we are working on!
We toured them museum, looking for the answers to their J.R. worksheets. The littles loved all the animal displays, and the boys always like to see how far they could have traveled in a day if they had been pulling those pirogues upstream like the L&C expedition did…
We ended up watching 2 of the films that they offer in the theatre, only because we accidently went to the wrong one first, but really just wanted to see the Ken Burns one, so we ended up sitting through both. We sat through a ranger talk on Indian games; not sure if we ended up going into the theatre at the wrong time, or if they substituted talks and the one given was different from the Prairie Dog talk that was supposed to be given.
We probably drove a lot of people in the museum crazy; we like to really explore, and learn, and try out every display, but find that most people just wander through museums without really even reading many of the displays or checking out the hands-on stuff. We don’t go the same pace, so they just have to make their way past our tribe! LOL!We have to check out every nook and cranny, and it’s all about the experience for us! LOL!
We toured the museum, had a great time with the rangers, turned in the kids J.R. booklets – the kids received some very nice patches for their work, and then it was time to head down the road. Only it’s rather hard to head down the road when you can’t find your van keys. After searching for nearly an hour, (and having a very good idea where I lost them), one of the nice rangers offered to help me look in the theatre with his flashlight. It took about 30 seconds to find them since they were in a shadowy area and I must have looked past them several times. We thanked the staff for a lovely visit, and it was on the road again to the next destination…