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The distance from Big Sky to Great Falls is 500 km and would have taken us about three and a half hours if we’d gone direct. But we decided to have a bit of a wander.

Big Sky itself is surrounded by mountain meadows and the forest slopes of the Gallatin National Forest in the Spanish Peaks Wilderness. It’s an all year resort community. Skiing and snowmobiling are popular in the winter while the summer activities revolve around hiking, horseback riding, white water rafting and mountain biking. It was certainly a happening place.

The scenery along the way from Big Sky was spectacular as we set off for Bozeman towards Great Falls.

Filling up with petrol and cleaning the windscreen (which gets covered in dead insects, particularly when driving at twilight) requires frequent stops. On this occasion, Julie and Suzi discovered that the pump had a TV as well as all the other instructions which take a lot of interpreting, so that caused some hilarity.

Across the road from the filling station was an entrepreneurial woman who was selling “Fall berries’ for her brother-in-law who grew fruit. ‘Fall berries’ was actually just another term for raspberries grown in the autumn but somehow the name seemed to make them too good to pass up so we stocked up with plenty of those as well as some of his scrumptious peaches!

Our destination was Bozeman, named for John Bozeman who brought the first wagon train of pioneers to settle the Gallatin Valley. The trail he blazed became not only a highway for settlers and miners but also a flash point between the Native Americans and the settlers. Three years after bringing settlers to the valley, Bozeman was killed by Sioux. The valley that Bozeman helped to settle was once a neutral and sacred hunting ground known to the Native Americans as the Valley of Flowers. The area has blossomed into one of the state’s more agriculturally productive regions.

It was here that we visited the Museum of the Rockies which is home to the largest dinosaur fossil collection in the United States. Suzi was in her element!

Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University is recognised as one of the finest research and history museums in the world.

Suzi certainly thought so and had to be torn away after a few hours because she found the whole experience fascinating. Personally, I was rather horrified by the Deinonychus dinosaur that was depicted predating on a Tyrannosaurus rex. I’d always believed that the T rex was the most well-known dinosaur, due to its huge size and it was a surprise, therefore, to see that, despite the size comparison, the Deinonychus seemed to be getting the better of the T rex.

We learned that the first Deinonychus fossils were found in 1931 in southern Montana but it wasn’t until 1969 that studies were published and it was officially named. Studies of the Deinonychus helped lead to the widely accepted theory that birds descended from dinosaurs.

Leaving the complex, we saw our first real evidence of Fall colours. What a beautiful sight!

The scenery kept changing and was always beautiful. The skies were dotted with small clouds and there were plenty of lakes and rivers to enjoy.

And we couldn’t believe the length of the trains! We couldn’t take a meaningful photo because they didn’t seem to come to an end!

Big Sky and Bozeman MT, USA – 19 September, 2014

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