Monday, July 21, 2014

Geckos and Great Falls, Pelicans and Piano Pat!

When we got back from South Dakota we had a few days before we had some very special visitors!  Mas and Pas came to hang out and we kicked off the evening with grilling, games and stories.

 The next day it was off to the Museum of the Rockies for a visit!
 We learned about their sticky toepads:

 And watched how well they worked to keep this giant gecko on the glass.  Catherine was impressed!
Matthew was our gecko spotter and leader as always:
Some gecko stories:
 The next day we headed on our adventure to Great Falls!  When Mas and Pas indicated that was where they would be exploring we asked to tag along for a day or two!  First up was the Gates of the Mountains boat tour.  Oh, and since Mas had picked up some cool Batman shirts for the kids on Friday of course we had to wear those!

 Heading out on the boat:
 Such a monkey!
 The tour was a great mix of natural history, birding, geology, Lewis and Clark and some modern history as well.  We saw lots of bald eagles:
 And a cave monster!
 And an elephant!
 There were cave/cliff paintings:
 And of course, the aforementioned "gates" as noted by Lewis and Clark:
 These guys were my favorite part, we don't see river otters nearly enough!

 And some ice cream to top off a great morning!
 When we got to Great Falls our first stop was the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center.  In a nutshell, Great Falls was a significant "stop" in Lewis and Clark's journey as the 5+ "great" falls created a situation where they had to take over a month to portage 18 miles around the falls.  There is a great interpretive center along the river.  Here we are testing our pulling strength.  We would not have been great :-)

Here's a more accurate replica of the portage:
 This exhibit was a "puzzle" where you had to figure out the order in which translation had to happen.  Matthew did it about 10 times he was so proud of himself for memorizing the order to press the buttons.
There was also a place to make a "boat".  The kids loved this!

 With a whale vertebrae:
 And learning to tie a simple halter to lead the horse:
That night James and I snuck away to the Sip 'n Dip while Mas and Pas watched the kiddos.  A friend had recommended it as an absolute "must do" in Great Falls.  It's been a long time since we've gotten both carded and solo cups!

 And saw the mermaids!!  The bar was packed by the time we got there and then I couldn't have a fishbowl, so a return trip is a must!  Next time we'll go early for dinner and get some good seats.

The bar is located in a 1970s "motor inn" and hasn't changed much since then.  There's also a fantastic lady, Piano Pat who plays in the bar and we got to see her.  Here's a Bill Geist interview with her and some info about the bar:

The next day we explored along the river and the falls.  Catherine and Matthew tried to climb anything they could find:
Some of the falls:
There's a great trail along the river and Matthew did a bunch of running:
We headed down to Giant Springs, a very gorgeous spring along the banks of the river.  The spring travels 60 feet or so to meet the Missouri, making it the Guinness Book of World Record's shortest river.
There's a fish hatchery next door where we got to feed the fish:
And there was a park!
Matthew has a renewed interest in birding and luckily pelicans are big and easy to identify so he had a great birding day:
More dams and falls:
And the Great Falls:
More climbing:
A special thanks to Pas for sharing many of the above photos with me.  I had to make sure I snuck in a picture of he and Mas:
The kids did very well at all the stops but at the end of the day we let them pick a "kids" activity.  They chose a dip in the pool at Mas and Pas hotel.

We made a noble attempt to keep Catherine awake until dinner but failed miserably.  Even the Flintstones couldn't keep her awake!
It was a great weekend and fun to share one of Mas and Pas interests with the kiddos.  I think we all had a great time!

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