This year spring break meant a spring escape. There’s always a few chores to do but I got those finished up quickly and then headed out of town. It was time to catch up on some Montana history so off I went.
I headed east to Helena. Of course, I have to get off at a fishing access of the Blackfoot, for the dogs to wet their feet and for me to take pics – it’s a Montana icon.
Then I took a little side trip to Lincoln. I’ve been there to watch the start of a sled dog race in the late winter but this time I went to an outside sculpture park. The weather was perfect and the park charming. Here’s the site if any of you are nearby. http://www.sculptureinthewild.com/ It’s free and dog friendly. This was my favorite one:
Then on to Helena. Montana geology, even blasting by on the highways, is amazing, even when you don’t know anything about it. Colored striations, tumbling layers of stone, stacks of blocks, piles of boulders. Thus, apparently, prime for mining with lots of old and new operations going. The downtown area of Helena is well restored for an old mining town. Placer mining was the main source of riches so there’s no pit or caves to look at but lots of amazing architecture. There’s still examples of mining era housing and stores. No sign of the red light district 😊 There’s a fire tower standing watch over town and it made for nice vistas and exercising the kids.
I visited one of the museums, which has a room dedicated to Charlie Russell. I’ve seen displays of his before and it’s always fun to see brush strokes actually placed by him. A treat!
The idea that prompted the trip was wanting to see ghost towns. Elkhorn was right on the way home, swinging around to the south of Butte, so that was my next adventure. Another incredible drive, out in the hills by myself enjoying new scenery, more geology and wildlife, including a shy moose who wouldn’t allow a picture. It was still winter up in those mountains with icicles and icy side roads.
The town seems so isolated but it’s still the residence of a number of hardy souls living in vintage mining buildings, so it was easy to picture it as it was 120 years ago, smoking rising from a stone chimney, all quiet like on a holiday from the hard occupation of silver mining. Worth the trip.
Butte was a nice surprise. I’d only been through there briefly a long time ago but this time the impression was better. There are blocks and blocks of vintage buildings from 100 years ago and original headframes drawing your eyes up into the surrounding hills. The open-pit mining operation is ongoing and huge. Much less restoration has been done here compared to Helena, and it was easier to get the historic feel of the early mining district. I’ll be visiting again.
I stopped in the town of Deer Lodge as I blasted home. There’s an historic ranch there that’s been on my list for years of places I’d like to visit. Though just a big old ranch, it’s a historic place (dating back to cattle drive days) that’s been well preserved with much to see and poke through. And the scenery was breathtaking. Having no entry fee, I’d stop by there in a second when down that way again just to see what kind of show the mountains were putting on with the foreground of w fences, wagons, vintage buildings, and beaver slide hay stackers.
Staying in a hotel with two dogs is challenging – I was glad to get home. But we had a fun escape, saw new places, learned a few things, and feel blessed, once again, to live in Montana!