No matter what the weather had in store for us today, we were heading to Missoula. After all, there is a limit to how many days you can stay cooped up in a 32-foot motorhome! So, we headed south on Highway 93 for an all-weather day trip. Our first stop was the St. Ignatius Mission.
The mission was founded in 1854. Nearly 40 years later, in 1891, this church was built. It was named a national historic site in 1973 and today serves as the parish church for Catholics in and around St. Ignatius.
The walls and ceilings inside are adorned with a series of murals. These amazing works of art were painted by Brother Joseph Carignano, S.J., the mission cook.
Back outside, let’s see. What is going on here?
Ah! Not what you might think! Paul located the first of series of caches placed near missions in the Northwest.
After our visit to the mission, we continued south to Missoula. We refueled ourselves at the Cracker Barrel and found our way to Home Depot and purchased a portable air compressor. Then we headed into the heart of Missoula to explore the town and university.
We parked near the old Missoula train station and walked along the Clark Fork River. (See those dark clouds? Yes! It did rain while we were strolling.) Missoula is a very walkable town. Like the rest of Northwest Montana, we like it very much.
During our stroll we spotted this interesting sculpture of fish in Caras Park. They were definitely headed for the river.
A group of kayakers took turns maneuvering this challenging portion of the Clark Fork River.
The third most popular attraction in Missoula, according to tripadvisor.com, is A Carousel for Missoula. We’re always suckers for a carousel, and it was just steps away in Caras Park. So, we had to check it out.
As much as we enjoyed the majestic horses, the music and the motion, it’s the story of this carousel that makes it so special. It started as a dream of Missoula cabinet maker Chuck Kaparich who made this promise in 1991: “If you will give it a home and promise no one will take it apart, I will build A Carousel for Missoula.” Four years and more than 100,000 hours of volunteer time later, 38 painted ponies, two chariots, 14 gargoyles and the largest band organ in continuous use in the United Stated were housed in a jewel box building in Caras Park. And, kids of all ages had a new place to play in Missoula.
A plaque depicting the story of the carousel closes with these inspiring words: “If magic can happen anywhere, it can happen in Missoula, where dreams are followed and promises are kept, and where people believe in making a life as well as making a living.”
Back in the Jeep, we cruised through and around the campus of the University of Montana. The campus is very walkable and nice. It seems like a great place to hang out and learn. Things were pretty quiet around here today. But, we imagine things will get cooking in a few short weeks as fall classes get underway and the Grizzlies start a fresh football season.
We’ve met a few Grizzlies fans during our stay and have learned this is the cheer that will be heard around this stadium soon. Go Griz!
On the way out of town, we stopped to enjoy some of the more noteworthy, and long standing, elements of the Missoula skyline. The Missoula County Court House looks quite stately.
And, around the corner, St. Francis Xavier church, our second national historic church of the day.
Out of Missoula we headed back up Highway 93, through the dreaded road construction we had encountered earlier in the day. See this sign? It says “Pavement Ends”. And, you know what? The pavement on this US Highway does indeed end, several times, over a 14-mile stretch. We were so thankful to Gordon for suggesting a route to avoid this mess on our way to Polson. Unfortunately, we’ll have to bring the moose and squirrel this way on Friday. We’ll take it all very slowly.
They don’t call Montana “Big Sky Country” for nothing. Today’s mix of weather provided us with some breathtaking big sky on the way back to our rolling home.
Back home, we enjoyed a very special dinner of grilled Alaskan salmon gifted to us from Gordon, our dear godfadda. It was an incredibly tasty end to a very enjoyable day.