Our Lady of the Blue Highways

Our Lady of the Blue Highways
Portrait in oils by Jackie Poutasse

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I'm in Helena this week with no easy access to the internet - So, I probably won't post again until I return to Great Falls next week.

I have several posts to put up - so stay tuned

Until next time
Bear Hugs


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

PRCC (Pre-reunion Cousin Confab)

I arrived at Judy’s home in Kalispell, to find 4 cousins and 3 spouses settled in for some serious catching up. We exchanged several recipes – Sandy brought me her Dad’s fudge recipe. We talked about everything from what’s for breakfast to world affairs. (the morning before I arrived, Tom made pancakes with homemade chokecherry syrup, Darn, I’m sorry I missed that!)

We had fun remembering our childhood. I was 5 years old when we moved to Montana, and I grew up there. They lived in Montana before I did, but grew up in California.

Judy & Tom at one time owned a supper club – after which, Judy went into the candy business. That should give you an idea of the quality of food we consumed. And, Tom kept saying we couldn’t leave til all the food was gone!

Well, naturally, I can’t remember all the meals we had – but I can remember the desserts!!! Huckleberry crisp, Peach cobbler, Strawberry Rhubarb crisp, well, maybe I can’t remember all of them!!

Huckleberries and chokecherries are wild. They cannot be cultivated. You have to go out in the woods to find them, and huckleberries are found on low growing shrubs, and not many berries are on each shrub. No wonder huckleberries cost $40 a gallon!!! Chokecherry bushes are taller, and the berries are more prolific and easier to find and pick. (And you don’t need to invade bear country to get them)

On the way back from Glacier Park, we stopped for Huckleberry milkshakes - oh, so good!!!!

It was non stop chatter and teasing. Cousin Ron was given the task of educating me about Fifth Wheels - He started telling me all the things that went wrong with his, and how much it cost. OMG ! I didn’t want to hear this - Tom broke in and told him to stop scaring me. He was actually causing my stomach to flip-flop.

He then proceeded to give me some good sound advice, and tips to remember when I get my rig.

Judy and Tom’s home is at the base of the mountains. This is the view from their living room!

Cousins in the Kitchen

Linda, Sandy and Gregg

The boys setting the tables

Separate Tables – boy talk at one, girl talk at the other

Ron and Tom – looks serious!

I’m sorry, I had so many notes about things I wanted to tell you – but, in a later blog you’ll read how I decided to go wading in a creek, nearly fell – and my recorder fell out of my shirt pocket, and so…… I have minimum words to share, my memory being what it is.

Judy showed me a quilt she is making, and a huge stack of other projects in progress. A gal after my own heart!

We drove into Kalispell, and visited a huge, fantastic quilt shop! It was amazing. I called Myra from the shop, and told her she had to camp host in Montana next year so we could quilt together - Huh!!! Duh!!! – she does all traditional quilts, and there “aint nuttin” traditional about any of my quilts – but we have fun anyway.

One morning I stumbled upstairs – late as usual – didn’t even notice an extra person in the kitchen. – it was Rick, Judy’s son – making cinnamon rolls for us.

Rolling up the dough


Finished Product And - they were as good as they look!

I had told Judy I’d make bread that day - After seeing Rick at work, I told her I wouldn’t make any while he was there. I did make bread one day before I left, though, and it was wonderful. (Not because I made it, but because of the wonderful, easy recipe)

We went into the Costco one day and I picked up a French language course on CD. That should help me pass time on the long trip east from Montana to Wisconsin. What can I say – Travel is educational!

I left on Tuesday morning, headed to Helena to spend a couple nights with my friend Barb, before going on to Great Falls for the reunion.

I drove down the Swan Lake highway. It’s really a beautiful drive.

The Rocky Mountains

Seeley Lake Quilt Shop

Major Intersection – in Montana

In Montana, the daytime speed limit is 75 unless otherwise posted. It was really weird to see a “curve” sign with 60 mph on it.

Out of the mountains and into the hills

Valley Farm

Helena from the pass

– driving through torrential rain down the pass - my windows fogged up, and I was temporarily driving “blind” - Not fun on that road – top of pass – about 6400’ – bottom about 3400 – in just a few minutes!!!!

I arrived at Barb's, and just about the first thing she said to me was, "Make me some bread, and fudge!!!" Which I did the next day. More about Barb and Helena later, I'm going back for a week after the Reunion!

Until next time,
Bear Hugs


PS - I went to Glacier Park one day with some of the cousins. I took about 150 photos - I'll post later - cause I've got to go through and reduce the number of photos to post!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Across Idaho to Kalispell, MT

I left Sherrie and Tom’s about 10 a.m., stopped to get ice, and started out on the shortcut Tom told me about to get to Hwy 2. He said I’d go through trees, come out at a big meadow, turn right on Adfghjklijn ( well, that’s what it sounded like to me!) Road where the old Fire station was, then drive til I came to Hwy 2, where I could only turn right or left – and turn left to go north. Well, there were the trees, and the meadow – but I either missed the fire station or didn’t go far enough – cause I hit gravel roads, and he didn’t say anything about gravel roads. So, I asked Jack to get me on the right path, and he set me straight in no time. 275miles to Kalispell.

When I called my cousin, Judy, and told her I was leaving Wednesday, at the end of the conversation, she said she’d expect me on Friday. (She says I said I’d be there on Friday) Anyway, with only 275 miles to go – I had a wonderful time.

It was hazy out because of smoke from Canadian fires. At one point on this drive, I will be only 30 miles from Canada. It would be so easy to go up there and across to the other side of Glacier and back down – but my auto ins agent would only give me a Canadian Insurance card for very specific dates – and I’m way past them.

Before getting to the state line, I passed a bunch of old cars. I drove on for over 5 miles before I decided to turn around and go back for photos. I think it was worth it. They were really neat.

Actually, while I was in Kirkland, they drove past me headed north, and later on, drove past headed back south.

Corliss Steam Engine

Pioneer Church

Hunter’s Cabin

Root Cellar


Moonshine Still


Cabin Interior

School House

School House Interior

I stopped in Kirkland, WA – right on the border. They had a wonderful Pioneer museum there – filled with lots of interesting items from the residents - And some of the old buildings from around the area.

I crossed into Idaho and stopped at the Albeini (pronounced Albany) Dam visitor center. I didn’t tour the dam cause they had cancelled the afternoon tour. But they had picnic tables, so I had my lunch of Orowheat sandwich thins, ham and pepperjack cheese – iced tea, and 1 sugar free York Peppermint Patty (Legal!!! – I’m allowed 3, but I had only one, and savored it.)

When I get to Sand Point, I plan to go to the shopping bridge and treat myself to something decadent.

I drove toward Sand Point along the shores of beautiful Lake Pend Oreille (Pronounced Pon Du Ray) It’s a beautiful shade of blue. Of course, the skies are beautiful clear blue – that helps.

I drove into Sand Point – to see the city Market which is a two story bridge out over the river - - a log structure. I walked through it, but didn’t see the “fancy” decadent cafĂ© I wanted to stop at it – could it be that little kiosk with the chocolates and ice cream? If so – not decadent enough!! I’ll wait til another time.

Tile work in sidewalk

Cold Water Creek’s flagship store is in Sand Point, so I walked through it, and through a Scandinavian store, and a kitchen store. I didn’t buy a thing. I do have to gas up, though.

I drove along, enjoying the scenery very much. I drove through and among the mountains, rather than up and over and down the other side.

I was looking for a Welcome sign for Montana – forgetting that I would come to Bonner’s Ferry first. As soon as I drove out of Bonner’s Ferry, and across the bridge – I was in Montana!!!
Home of the Uni-bomber, and the cannibal, and my childhood home. Charles Russell, western artist – in my hometown, actually. Lewis and Clark traversed the state.

I continued on until about 4:30, - I was about ½ way to Kalispell, and decided to find a campsite - First campground I spotted was the Yaak River campground – US Forest Service, so I could stay for ½ price $5.00 a night. It was a great campsite – once again, you couldn’t see the other sites around you. It was set up in a great circle, and the inner circle was all wooded. I didn’t realize til the next morning that the campground stretched along both sides of the river. If I every come back here – I want campsite #43 – it’s huge – and right on the river bank - Now, this is not a deep river – a shallow one, filled with trout!!!

I met the camp hosts and talked with them for awhile, they gave me a book on volunteer work.

I left the campground and proceeded along my way. I saw a sign for a Ranger Station – stopped and asked about camp hosting. They put me on the phone with the supervisor, and I asked her what chance did I have getting a job with no experience. She said “You camp, don’t you?” Well thats enough experience, and we are always short of people. She is sending me an application for next year. Yea!!!!!

I’ve seen “Brew-thrus” in North Carolina – these are small stores where you can drive up to the window and buy beer. Here, a brew thru is a coffee shop. There are literally hundreds of them.

New trees growing from fallen tree

Looks like someone just picked it up and set it down here

I picked up some tourist info at the Ranger Office – so I took off on Hwy 56 and drove down to see the Ross Creek Cedars – an ancient grove of trees up to 500 years old, and they grow to 175’. They have a nice level walking loop that is about a mile or so long. Unfortunately, about half way through, my camera batteries went dead.

Montana Rest Stop picnic area

Troy, Mt. elevation 1818 ft. Lowest point in the whole state – and it’s up in the mountains, it’s hard to believe.

Kootenai Falls. You may recognize some of these photos from the move “River Wild” with Meryl Streep and Keven Bacon. The Kootenai was one of the two rivers it was shot at. With Mother Nature being the way she is, sometimes she threw the director for a loop, messing up the shots, sometimes they were left in the film, and brought into part of the plot. For instance, in one sceen, the river grabbed an oar and knocked the stunt double off the raft – not in the script, but it looked so good, they re-wrote around it.

Fold in rocks

Geology lesson: Rocks in this area are called Belt Supergroups and consist of sandstone, quartzite, thin layers of mud, stone and shale. Ancient earth movements created folds in the rock, and the river now tumbles over the folds creating waterfalls. Here’s a close-up photo of a fold in the rock.

Down Stream

up stream

I walked through the picnic area, taking the path to the Kootenai Falls – breathtaking! Then I walked to the swinging bridge. Now, I have a question to ask you. How many of you believe that I, Boots Benson, confirmed bridge phobic walked across a swinging bridge above the Kootenai River? Ok. C’mon, put your hands up!!! I want to see a show of hands! Yeah, right.
I figured. Well, ye of little faith – I did it. Not only walked across it – but had to turn around and walk back, too. Unfortunately, there was no one there to take my photo for proof. You just have to trust in me. But, I’m telling you walking across that bridge, I thought I might need a change of clothes before I got back across it.

64 steps to top of trestle bridge

There was a trestle bridge across the railroad - 64 steps – open metal steps, so I had my first little go with vertigo there. But, I made it ok. It was an easy trail – had to watch out for rocks and roots, but it was mostly level – about 1 ½ - 2 miles total.

There was a lady in the picnic area selling painted items – we got to talking, and she told me about a farmers market in Libby held every Thursday. I’m headed there to see what I can make while I’m being a Camp host and possibly sell at the market.

Whoa! Someone out there needs to buy me a bumper sticker that says “I Brake for Quilt Shops” I was tooling along here – on a small 2 lane road at about 70 mph (legal daytime speed in Montana), and out of the corner of my eye, I caught the word “Quilt” I flipped on my turn signal, jammed the brakes, and pulled off the road – much to the chagrin of the two motorcycles following me. Well they were too close in the first place.

What a nice quilt shop - If I work in this area next summer, I won’t have to drive all the way to Kalispell to buy fabric. They have lessons, and sew-in days, so I told her I’d be back next year.

I stopped at the farmers market and got an application to be a vender next year – sounds like fun.

I think I’ve stretched this drive out as far as I can - I picked up the pace and headed for Kalispell. I started looking for gas stations about 39 miles out. I breezed into the first station I saw – in Kalispell!!! I have a 10 gallon gas tank. I never have to put in more than 9 or so gallons at the most. Well, I was really travelling on fumes - It took over 10 gallons to fill.

I then wandered around town searching for the items on my shopping list. No shoes, no cell phone charger. Durn!!! Should have gotten them when I saw them in Spokane.

I finally arrived at Judy and Tom’s about 6:30, and we spent the evening immersed in “cousin” talk.

Until next time,

Bear Hugs