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Ben on the road: Mountains, rivers and lakes “Oh My!”

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By BEN OLSON/for The Herald  —  On this tour of our great and amazing nation, we have seen mountains from a distance, traveled over them in my vehicle and hiked to the top of some of the more interesting ones. 

We’ve driven through and over the Cascades, stared up at the Wallowas from the highway below and admired the rugged grandeur of the Bitterroots. We stood in awe of the Flatheads, gazed across Canyon Ferry Lake at the Big Belt Mountains and looked south at the Absoraka Range, thinking about Yellowstone Park just on the other side. We barrelled through the Big Horns, dug the Devil’s Tower and became one with the Black Hills. 

After days of flatlands, we ascended the Adirondaks, looked for red, orange and yellow leaves in the Green Mountains and then the White Mountains. We played in the Poconos and cavorted in the Catskills. Soon we’ll be in the Alleghenies, Appalachians and Great Smokies. On the last leg of the trip will be Rockies, Uintas and the Wasatch Mountains looming over Salt Lake City.

Crossing the great rivers of America was made easy by the bridges. We haven’t had to use a ferry up to this point, and have only been clipped for $6 in tolls to date. Although we’ve crossed dozens, perhaps hundreds of rivers with names, I’ll list the prominent ones, in order of their appearance on this journey. The Snake, Spokane, Kootenai, Powder, Yellowstone, Big Horn and the Belle Fourche. 

Upon crossing the mighty Missouri at Mobridge, South Dakota, we encountered the Minnesota, Red River of the North before seeing the Mississippi River near its origin. It will be a much larger river when we cross it on the return trip in Lacrosse or Dubuque. 

A quintet of Wisconsin rivers worthy of mention are the Eau Claire, the Chippewa, the Fox, the Peshtigo and, of course, the Wisconsin, the hardest working river in the world, with 27 power dams. Menomonie, Mannestique, Kalamazoo, Maumee, Sandusky, Hudson, Connecticut, Delaware, Kennebec and Penobscot. 

Just today we crossed the Susquehanna, Monongahela, Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. We look forward to seeing the Ohio, Platte, Green and Colorado Rivers, among others, on the return. Jimmy Cliff was right on the mark when he sang, “Many Rivers to Cross”.

Lake Coeur d Alene was breathtaking. The Finger Lakes of New York were a playground for the rich, much like Lake Champlain. We saw a lot of scenic lakes, picturesque lakes- good lakes by anyone’s standards, but also managed to see five Great Lakes. Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario contain 20% of all the surface fresh water in the world. 

A freighter in Duluth, Minnesota can travel 2300 miles through the Great Lakes all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Most ships use the Welland Canal to make the journey from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, as the 167 foot drop at Niagara Falls could tend to cause load shifts.

I am certain that I’ve done enough name dropping for one column. Perhaps before I return, I’ll make a compendium of the unusual and just plain weird names of towns that I have passed through while on this road trip.

Ben Olson, musician and Oakridge Resident, with his standup bass Ben Olson photo

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