Giant Springs Means Giant Views

As gorgeous as the falls and the island were, the most incredible winter wonderland I have ever seen in my life was at Giant Springs State Park.  Giant Springs is located in Great Falls, MT.  It is home to one of the largest fresh water springs in the country and the Roe River, once listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s shortest river.  I want to spread this out over a few days.  It’s just so beautiful and I just want it to last a little longer. 🙂

Welcome to Giant Springs!

Welcome to Giant Springs!

A Glimpse Of Where We're Headed Tomorrow

Tomorrow we will visit the Roe River just past the bench.  Check out all the posts from my Winter Wonderland series!

Island of Adventure

As promised in my post yesterday, let’s go check out that island below the falls Meriwether Lewis was talking about!  Although I didn’t see his eagle, it was an incredible sight with beautiful surprises around each corner! Be sure to … Continue reading

Black Eagle Falls

I arrived at another cataract of 26 feet. … below this fall at a little distance a beatifull little Island well timbered is situated about the middle of the river. In this Island on a Cottonwood tree an eagle has placed her nest; a more inaccessible spot I believe she could not have found; for neither man nor beast dare pass those gulphs which separate her little domain from the shores. The water is also broken in such manner as it descends over this pitch that the mist or sprey rises to a considerable hight. This fall is certainly much the greatest I ever behald except those two which I have mentioned below. It is incomparably a geater cataract and a more noble interesting object than the celibrated falls of Potomac or Soolkiln. – Meriwether Lewis, June 14, 1805

These falls were later named Black Eagle Falls for the eagle Lewis wrote about.  They are the first in a series of five water falls that make up the Great Falls of the Missouri River.  Tomorrow I will take you down onto the island Lewis writes about so we can get a closer look of the falls and those trees.  Be sure to check out all the posts in this Winter Wonderland series!

Black Eagle Falls/Dam

Black Eagle Falls/Dam

Winter Wonderland

Come experience a Montana winter through my eyes!  Over the next few days I will be sharing a series of photos I took on my recent trip to Montana.  While I’ve never been a huge fan of cold weather, I’ve always found winter so magical.  A fresh blanket of snow can cover something ugly and dormant, and turn it into something crisp and pure and shimmery.  Anything seems possible!

Enjoying A Winter Wonderland

Enjoying A Winter Wonderland

I’m An Official Polar Plunger!

What an incredible experience!!!!  Friday night I did my first ever polar bear plunge and I think I might be hooked!  The event raised over $41K for Special Olympics Montana.

I checked in about an hour before the event, so I could have plenty of time to warm up and get changed into my costume.  If you’re crazy enough to plunge, you should dress the part.  There were so many cute costumes…Duck Dynasty, Cindy Lou Who, pirates, Santa, the list goes on and on.  The winner of the costume contest, however, was a team of nursing students called Public Enema #1.

My team (The Copsickles) were up first.  I left the warm building to wait in a heated tent.  My plunging partner kicked off the event by giving a short speech (too cold for a long one) and some introductions.  I had planned to wait in the tent until the speech was over, but was rushed onto the platform in that -26°F air. They didn’t want any lag time between the speech and the jump.  If my costume was a little silly on its own, it looked outright ridiculous standing on a platform with a bunch of cops in uniform!

Waiting To Take The Plunge

Waiting To Take The Plunge (Photo by Jennifer Gooldy)

The first two sets of Copsickles made the plunge.  Then it was our turn.  We stepped onto the ledge of the pool.  Three, Two, One.  I flung my hands in the air and kicked my feet up as I plunged into that ice-cold water.  I will never forget that sound or the feel of that icy water completely swallowing me.  I quickly swam to the surface losing a shoe along the way and made my way to the other end to exit.  I grabbed the ladder and immediately let go.  A thick layer of ice had completely coated the ladder.  I lost my other shoe.  A man on the platform reached out his hand for me.  The next thing I remember I was standing next to a hot tub frantically looking for stairs that weren’t there.  I contemplated just diving in head first, my head was already wet after all.  I decided against that and just put aside all lady-likeness for a moment and kind of rolled into the hot tub.  You can see a video of a few of the jumps here.  I am in the second to last set of jumpers on the video.  Oh, and I’m totally creeping in the background at the beginning.

Jump!

Jump! (Photo by Jennifer Gooldy)

The only thing I can compare the rush of a polar bear plunge to is my first time sky diving, jumping from safety into the unknown with life threatening consequences if something went wrong.  It was exciting.  It was exhilarating.  It was something I definitely want to do again.

I made so many great friends at the event, but some of my favorites have to be athlete John and his adorable girlfriend Katie.  John earned the Golden Plunger award for raising the most money.  He raised over $7K all by himself!  Katie just gushed over him.  She leaned in close as if to share a secret with me and told me she was the luckiest girl in the whole world.  How can you not love people like her, so full of joy!

Post Plunge with Katie and John

Post Plunge with Katie and John

Freezin For A Reason

It’s official! I’m taking the plunge tonight, the polar bear plunge! I’m so thankful for all my friends & family who have supported me! We’ve raised almost $300 in 24hrs for Special Olympics Montana! I’m super excited to be making the jump, but equally excited to be supporting such a great cause. I’ve been involved with Special Olympics for most of my life & it’s always held a special place in my heart.

So let’s get to the logistics of the jump. They are expecting temperatures to drop down to -26 tonight! Don’t worry though! There will be rescue divers in the water and EMTs on site. Immediately after the jump we get into a hot tub to warm up.

I’m on the local law enforcement team, The Copsickles. Since they are one of the major sponsors of the event we will be some of the first to jump. I love that, because it just means more time in the hot tub for me!

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Should I Take The Plunge?

Just when I thought the adventure on this trip was winding down, tonight I was presented with the opportunity to do a polar bear plunge this weekend! Why on earth would this Florida girl jump into freezing cold water when it’s -20 out? The event is to raise money for the Special Olympics, but also why not! I’ll keep you posted if I raise enough money tomorrow to jump!  If you are interested in donating, you can do so here.

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Let It Snow

Wow!  I was super excited for the snow, but quickly realized I was more excited about the idea of it.  Yesterday afternoon it had just begun to snow when I got to my hotel.  I couldn’t stop smiling as I unloaded my car and the big, weighty snowflakes covered me.  It brought back so many memories and made me feel like a kid again!  I kept peeking out the window throughout the evening to check the status of the snow.

My Snow Gauge

My Snow Gauge

This morning I was forced to deal with the reality of interacting with the snow, not just my fantasy of it as I watch from a window.  As I walked to the parking lot, I immediately had an “OH” moment as I noticed all the other cars with their windshield wipers in the air.  How could I have forgotten one of the simplest tricks!  While scraping off the car, I maintained that goofy grin as the snow squeaked beneath my feet.  However, after 30 minutes of scraping in single digit temperatures, I think my face may have just frozen that way!

Parade of Lights

Oh how I love small town events!  I was recently in Chinook, MT for their parade of lights.  First thing in the morning I met some new friends at the old sugar beet factory to work on one of the floats.  Christmas music was playing, people were giggling, and power tools were buzzing.  The framework was completed earlier by the same guys who made the homestead float for the wild west parade.  Three hours and two warm up in the car sessions later (I may be a Montana girl at heart, but my body quickly reminded me I live in Florida now), we stood back to admire the twinkling lights of the float.

Now that the float was done, it was time to wonder Main Street and mingle with all the wonderful vendors.  They were selling everything from local food to handmade jewelry to Christmas wreaths.  Of course there were several guns being raffled as well.  It is Montana after all!

Chinook Christmas Stroll

Chinook Christmas Stroll

Waiting for the parade to start, I checked out the festival of trees.  My mom and aunt donated a decorated “chicken” tree including several dozen fresh eggs from their chickens.  All proceeds from the event went to the local volunteer fire department and PAWS.

The Chicken Tree

The Chicken Tree

The main event of the day was the parade.  The floats included everything from local business promotions to teasing a local for turning 50.  I patiently waited for the float I helped with to come by.  It was almost the very last in the parade.  The theme of the float was “join the church crowd” so it stopped at each corner where people would jump on the float or walk alongside it handing out glow bracelets to the kids.  I loved that this church used the parade as an outreach opportunity!

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Join The Church Crowd

Join The Church Crowd

On The Float

On The Float

Memory Lane Is Made Of Dirt

It took me a little longer to get back out to the homestead/ranch than I expected, but it was worth the wait.  We were welcomed by both the cows and a message from my phone company saying welcome to Canada!  The ranch is only 10-15 miles from the border so I can see why my phone got a little confused.

The Welcoming Committee

The Welcoming Committee

The original homestead shack built by my great-grandfather is gone, but there are many buildings left from my mother’s and even grandfather’s childhood.  At first glance it’s just a few rundown old buildings and a bunch of cow patties.  However, if you look closer and listen every shack holds a memory, every hill and valley has a story.  My mom showed me where she used to milk Mag the milk cow, where she and her horse Concho loved to ride, the spot on the creek where she learned to swim, the best spots for sledding, and even where the outhouse stood that she used as a child.  It was such a beautiful day and so special being out there with my mom!

Old shop where my mom and her brother and sister would play basketball growing up

Old shop where my mom and her brother and sister would play basketball growing up

Where old Mag the milk cow used to provide for the family

Where old Mag the milk cow used to provide for the family

Leading the way to the creek

Leading the way down memory lane