I am shocked to scan my folded map of Montana, to find that we are only 80 miles from the Glacier National Park...a place in my estimation to be in the back yard - Eastern - of returning "home".
I have also realized that my walking pace has slowed. Instead of making four miles an hour, I am only achieving 3.5 miles each hour; i.e., I must walk MORE hours to cover the same distance as previously.
I am beginning to wonder if I am becoming less efficient...or perhaps, reluctant to return to Bellingham...fearful of what I might find there.
80 miles from Glacier National Park brings us to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Walking in the valley of Shelby, Montana, I suddenly realize that Shelby sits surrounded by high hills - cannot yet call them mountains - no mater which way I walk, I must climb up a rising US 2 highway.
This will be my third crossing on foot of the great Rocky Mountains...one Southern (New Mexico)...one Central (Wyoming)...and now Northern (Montana/Idaho). If I choose to cross the Rockies once again, I must go farther North, crossing the vastness of the Rocky Mountains as they spread out East-West-North through British Columbia, Canada...
...the ALCAN Highway to Alaska, perhaps.
Massive grain storage elevators dot the countryside as US 2 heads West...the North western vastness of Montana is WHEAT country. Hundreds upon hundreds of wheat bearing rail cars pass me by on the - previously Great Northern Railway - BNSF tracks which parallel US 2.
...hiding under all that wheat lies endless square miles of black gold...OIL.
BNSF (Burlington Northern Sante Fe) railroad tracks also climb up the hills out of the valley holding Shelby, Montana.
Looking back (West) from US 2, as I climb out, lies Shelby, Montana...the many grain silos, and the railroad tracks servicing them.
The distant mountain is the Blackfeet Indian revered SWEET GRASS MOUNTAINS. There are Blackfeet Indians no more to look upon their sacred mountains...the Blackfeet have been moved onto a reservation a hundred miles to the West, bumped solid up against the Glacier National Park Mountains.
...another of the Sweet Grass Mountains...there are three large formations about 30 miles distant to the North, - lying approximately on the Canadian border - from US 2.
Out in the middle of the now-hilly Montana Plains, farmers have planted rows of trees forming wind / snow barriers protecting their fields and homes.
150 years ago, a string of Military Forts lined the Montana Plains...to protect the new Westerly migration of the White Men...and to destroy the Plains Indian Nations in the process.
This is one of three majestic Antelope watching me walk past on US 2. The other two bounded into the distance before I could bring my camera to bear.
The antelope seemed to be unafraid...only interested in what I might be doing.
...another view of Shelby from US 2 as I walked back from the 6 hour early morning walk, picking up the 20 miles driven yesterday.
The weather has turned bitter cold, especially with the Northwest wind blowing steadily across the hilly plains.
US 2 as it courses through the Business District of Shelby, Montana.
There is a Truck Route, bypassing downtown.
AMTRAK Passenger Train, which makes Shelby, Montana, one of it's stops on the run from Seattle to Chicago.
Here is one of six Angus which RAN about 1/4 mile to meet me...no kidding...I met up with the small herd higher on the hills. As I walked down US 2, neared the road into their farm, they were RUNNING down the pasture until they halted not five feet from me...I do have a thing with these critters. I drove SPIA past this spot nearly three hours later...they were still waiting in the same spot...four lying down; the other two looking looking.
Many ranch homes are snuggled into small valleys surrounded by hills, affording protection from the wind and snow.
After returning from my early morning walk to the East, left SPIA in Shelby while I walked West on US 2 for another four hours = 14 miles, toward the town of Cut Bank, Montana.
Returned to SPIA, then drove to Cut Bank, where SPIA has found protected parking in the lot of the Albertson's Grocery Chain Store. In the morning, will walk BACK East on US 2, picking up the remaining 9 miles driven today...then head West toward the town of Browning, Montana, some 31 miles distant.