Chuck Mack: Our wonderful trip going to a family reunion and sightseeing, part 3

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On the third day, we made it to our destination in Montana.

We had first come up on the "Clarks Fork River" in Wyoming.

We more or less followed along and crossed that river several times all the rest of the way to our destination.

Our niece has a mailing address of Plains, Mont.; she actually lives 15 miles from town in a narrow canyon on the Clarks Fork River.

What a beautiful place, towering mountains on the north side were my niece lives, and pine timber so thick you can hardly see through it.

On that side of the canyon all there is room for is the mountain itself, a few hundred feet of the heavy timber and the river.

A lot of the timber has been cleared for home sites, but where the country isn't kept cleared the pine trees quickly take hold and grow again.

I noticed one field where the pine trees were coming in so thick you wouldn't be able to walk through it.

Well, it's just one darned beautiful place.

Kind of scary, though, because there's only one way in and out of the canyon - the road comes to a dead end.

With all the wildfires burning in Montana, I felt kind of trapped in a place like that.

There are so many wildfires burning in Montana that the beautiful Montana sky was nothing but smoke-filled.

We had the most wonderful time visiting family.

There were several family members present that we hadn't seen in a long time, and of course there were a few nieces, nephews and cousins who we've never had the pleasure of meeting before.

It's been much too long since we had a family get-together.

When we left the family reunion, we headed for Idaho.

We were taking the scenic route to visit the "Craters of the Moon National Monument."

What a beautiful trip we had. So much beautiful scenery it would take a week to describe.

But, the sky was filled with smoke most of the way.

We arrived at the monument in the evening and found a camping spot, right in a pile of black volcanic ash and cinders.

And, of course, every camping spot was the same.

There aren't any campsites with electrical hookups, so an air conditioner wouldn't do any good.

We were just lucky we arrived in the cooler time of the evening.

The next morning, we got up early and started touring the monument, and we got to see most of it before it got too hot, but believe me, with all that black volcanic material, that place can heat up in a hurry.

But we got to see all of the interesting things, and Nathaniel and Mike took a short walk in one of the caves.

The two most interesting caves were closed because the trail to them was being refurbished.

Nathaniel, Mike and I hiked to the top of one of the volcanic craters.

We weren't doing anything illegal.

That is about the only place in the whole monument where you are allowed to leave the marked trail.

It was a long way straight up at a 25 percent grade.

That was a hot trip, but the view from the top was fantastic, and it would've been breathtakingly fantastic if the sky were not filled with smoke.

Luckily, there was one lone pine tree at the very top, which furnished enough shade for us to catch our breath and rest.

While sitting there Nathaniel said, "Grampy, you couldn't have made this trip to the top without your two new knees!" And he was right as rain on that account; I wouldn't even have attempted it last year.

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