Published: August 2nd 2012August 2nd 2012
The drive from Casper to Cody took us through area that was quite bare. Not many cattle, virtually no crops, very dry, few dwellings. Cody was the first time on this trip that we crossed our path from our last big trip, two years ago. We even happened to stay in the same RV park. Since we already had spent a bunch of time in Yellowstone and had enjoyed the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, we did not repeat those experiences. We went for a nice long walk through the town in the morning, in the cooler air, but then packed up and headed north.
As we approached Montana, the terrain started getting greener, near rivers and thanks to more irrigating. We saw many herds of grazing cattle. And it became more mountainous. Prior to Red Lodge, MT, we stopped for a midmorning treat, "the best banana cream pie in the world." And it was really good! Red Lodge was a weird experience for me, because John insists that we spent a couple of nights there, and it did not look at all familiar to me. Except for one thing, a bookstore whose owner wrote the "Who Pooped in the (National Park)?" series about scat and footprints. I bought the Yosemite book on our last trip.
The trip on to Bozeman included more mountains and valleys and more green, but we arrived in the afternoon and parked in a campground east of the city. The next morning, we drove into Bozeman and strolled through the downtown area which to me ranks right up there with the very best of college downtowns. Wonderful stores and restaurants, and coffee shops within a stone's throw of just about any spot where you paused. I found an excellent book store, new and used, and added to my stash of treats. At the Chamber of Commerce, we were advised to go for a short hike to a waterfalls in the Gallatin National Forest and to the Museum of the Northern Rockies. Well, distances in Montana are viewed differently than they are back in New England, this being the fourth largest state and places being more widespread. John was not pleased that we ended up driving and driving, for more than half an hour, to get to the parking lot for our half mile hike to the Palisades Falls. But it was a pretty and cooler day, and there was water in the falls, so it was sort of worth the ride. Sort of.
The Rockies Museum was good, although we were a bit puzzled by the featured exhibit of items from Napoleon and his era. A reminder that world culture is alive and well throughout the West... There was also a dinosaur exhibit with loads of remains, and a section about life out here decades ago. We drove around the Montana State University area, and it is quite attractive. The buildings are mostly brick (brick is safer than wood in the West where fires are such a threat), and the streets are lined with tall older trees.
Next morning, Tuesday, we drove on to Butte. Not an extremely long drive, although we always take at least half again as long as expected. We stopped and had a nice lunch at Wheat Montana, a huge flour mill along the highway with a pleasant and very busy restaurant. Just before Butte, we crossed over a very tall mountain with a small sign at the top, "Continental Divide." Our KOA here is right next to the Visitor Information Center, a very convenient location, and we signed up for the 10:30 trolley tour of Butte for the following day. We haven't run into many trolley or city bus tours, and this one was a treat. The high school history teacher guide was full of corny jokes and anecdotes and opinions, e.g. environmentalists should remember that some of their causes put wage-earners out of work... There are indeed strong feelings about restrictions of all sorts, out in the West.
The Butte mining industry was huge, making Butte one of the biggest towns in the West, with waves and waves of immigrant miners settling here. Copper became the major metal mined here, but several others, including gold and molybdenum, were/are abundant. The pits are still visible. And enormous! A main one has filled in with ground water, so we could not see how deep it actually was at its peak production time. Now, there are several facilities to process the water, both to process waste and to extract some of the residual ore. There is a constant bird watch in operation because if the birds, e.g. snow geese, land on the water, they will die from exposure to the metals. So there are blasts to scare them away if they get nearby. Montana Technical College in town studies the whole process of safe modern mining, a far more complex matter than it was when men just dug ore out of the ground.
Our tour included the usual pauses at the "houses of ill repute," although the guide had to be delicate in his stories because a lot of kids were onboard.
For my birthday dinner, we went to Sparky's, a big old gas station converted to a restaurant with a lovely view out over the (mile high) valley where Butte is situated, mostly surrounded by mountains. We ate next to an old Chevrolet, where I posed for a photo - but discovered it lacked a steering wheel and then could not turn the door handle to get out of the car. Oh, well. We are finding that on the rare times when we do go out to eat, it is smarter to aim for middle-of-the-road than gourmet, and it has been fun to "go with the flow."
I'm going to go ahead and "publish" this account, because I find that when I lag behind on writing the blog, I find it more of a burden than a joy, and what use is that?! It is a lovely, relatively cool, morning (I am wearing a hoodie, unzipped), and I am sitting outside, glancing up at mountains and a huge pit mine and a very big sky. Since there is no cable hookup here, we get reports about the Olympics online only. But we are sleeping long, long hours, with the windows open at night. Enough! Take care, Linda