Monday, July 26, 2010


GREATNORTHERNRR I love trains – always have. I spent some time in my misspent youth, riding the rails from Utah into Nevada. Actually I only did it three times but it was such a great adventure the memories are huge. (Remember this was 40 years ago and the world was a whole different place then it is today.)

I cried when Great Northern merged with three other railroads in 1970 and became Burlington Northern. I loved those blue engines with the Mountain Goat on the side.

Then in the 1980’s they stopped using cabooses when technology advanced and they came up with FREDs (flashing rear-end device).IMG_6227 Life changes whether we like it or not. I just had to take this picture of a caboose being pulled by a truck.

My mind wandered back to those early years and made me wonder where this caboose was headed for. I’m hoping it’s going someplace where it will be loved and appreciated.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


jimfish Toddfish jim

For all you fisher people out there. This is at the Tongue River Reservoir near the Montana/Wyoming border. There are also RV sites but we didn’t take the RV down this time. The guys had a father/son day and it was a huge success.

Todd said that really helped with his fishing withdrawal symptoms. The top two pictures are of a smallmouth bass. The one with Jim sitting down is a walleye.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


IMG_6220 If you round a corner on a winding gravel road near Pipestone, MT and come upon people tapping on rocks with hammers, do not be scared. These are not crack-brained prospectors, they’re just enjoying the bell-like tones of the Ringing Rocks.

This large pile of boulders is an extremely rare geological formation that can be found in only two other places on Earth. (Pennsylvania and Australia) The rocks chime when tapped lightly with a hammer and each rock has a different tone. If a boulder is removed from the pile, however, it doesn’t ring.

Even though I was born and raised in Montana, I had never heard about these rocks until I read about them about three weeks ago. I definitely had to go find them. And that meant Jim had to find them too.

We left the motor home at Wheat Montana (remember those fabulous caramel rolls?) and headed out on our quest. I knew the exit we were supposed to take off I-90 (Exit 241 – Pipestone). But I missed the sign for the Ringing Rocks and we drove about 15 miles out of our way (on a gravel road that wasn’t maintained very well) and were about ready to give up. As we got back to the entrance to IMG_6226the interstate I spotted the small sign pointing the way.

I convinced Jim we really did want to go so we headed up this narrow, gravel road. It is about four miles up to the rocks.

The first part of the road is pretty easy but the higher you climb the narrower the road. There are many places where two vehicles would not be able to pass each other and someone is going to have to back up a long, long ways. And the closer you get to the rocks the more treacherous the road becomes. The last 1/8 mile is loaded with large, jagged rocks and without a high clearance vehicle, you’d be in trouble. IMG_6221

You can park at the bottom of this last 1/8 mile and walk up. But listen carefully for vehicles coming down the road because there are curves that you cannot see around.

We were lucky. We only met one vehicle on our way up and we were at a spot where they could pull over. The only other vehicle we saw, arrived at the rocks just as we were getting ready to leave. When you go – and it really is worth it – don’t forget your hammer!


IMG_6190We had these two bucks as close neighbors the entire time we were in Helena. They seemed to be such good friends – but I can guarantee when it comes time for them to find a mate – friendship goes out the window.

But they are so beautiful and weren’t afraid of us at all. They even knew that the girls were on a leash and not a threat.


The people who own the house across the street have a really high fence around their garden. Wonder why? IMG_6189

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


IMG_6108 The fishing this year has not been all that great. What with all the rain and cold weather. But the minute the weather warmed up, so did the fish.

IMG_6186 We now have a freezer full of walleye and the next goal is to get IMG_6109 some fish into my sister and her hubby’s freezer.

After that – catch and release. Just ask me if my hubby is happy!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010


IMG_6114 In 1872 silver was discovered in the Elkhorn Mountains of Montana. By February of 1888 the mine was producing $30,000 worth of ore monthly.

The town of Elkhorn grew up around the mine and as many as 2500 people lived there in the 1880’s.IMG_6118

By 1900 the Elkhorn mine had produced 8,902,000 ounces of silver, 8500 ounces of gold and more than 4 million pounds of lead – all of which was worth about $14,000,000.

IMG_6121 When the price of silver fell in 1892, the population of Elkhorn fell also to only a few hardy souls.

Today Elkhorn has been rediscovered and several “summer” cabins have been built in the town with more to come.

IMG_6123We had dinner at the Elkhorn Supper Club which is actually located in the town of Boulder, MT. I understand the clam chowder is wonderful. The food was good and I would go back again.


Four more items of interest about Helena, MT.

gary cooper Gary Cooper was born and raised in Helena.

myrna-loy-80 Myrna Loy was also born and raised near Helena in Radarsburg, MT.

mt helenaNot every city can claim an entire mountain as a city park, but Helena can. Mount Helena City Park is 5,468 feet above sea level and is 620 acres, making it the second largest city park in the United States. It has six different hiking trails to the top.

charliepride15-280x336Charlie Pride spent a lot of his youth here and played baseball for the Helena Brewers, a semi-pro team. He also worked at the smelter and performed at a night club two nights a week.

And so ends our tour of Helena (at least for this visit). I hope you have enjoyed it half as much as I have.

Friday, July 9, 2010


sleeping The Sleeping Giant can be seen from many places in Helena.

IMG_6163 Shhh – don’t wake him up.


st_helena_cathedral_and_school_1950s This picture was taken from a postcard made in the 1950’s of this beautiful cathedral.

The cathedral is patterned after the Votivkirche in Vienna. The twin spires are 230 feet high. The South Tower was almost destroyed in the 1935 earthquake that hit the Helena area.

This is definitely a must see if you ever get to this area. It is so beautiful on the inside.


lady liberty At the top of the dome on the Capitol building in Helena stands a version of Lady Liberty.lady libery


IMG_6167 This fire tower was built in 1876 after a huge fire destroyed the downtown area of Helena. It stands 25 feet tall and gave the watchmen, who were on duty 24 hours a day, a 360 degree view of Helena. The bell was used not only to warn of fire, but also to signal an 8:30 curfew for children. It is one of only 5 such towers left standing in the United States.

The Bluestone House, which sits right below the Guardian, was designed as a private residence for Lillie McGraw, one of Helena’s wealthy madams. However, she ran out of money and the house was never finished.


IMG_6157Reeder’s Alley is the oldest intact piece of early Helena. It was built in the 1870’s by a Pennsylvania brick and stone mason named Louis Reeder. He made his money, not by mining for gold, but by building and investing in land. He built small tenements and bunk houses that catered to single miners.

Today Reeder’s Alley is full of small shops and a couple of restaurants.


The Pioneer Cabin was built in 1864 and had the first glass windows in Helena. It sits as the gateway to Reeder’s Alley.


Helena has some really gorgeous buildings as well as mansions.

IMG_6151 This first one is the Power Block Building which was built in 1888. Take a good look at the picture and see if you can tell me what makes it architecturally interesting.

The second building is the Atlas Block Building. Built in 1889 the green salamanders represent their escape from the fires that destroyed the wooden buildings in downtown Helena. IMG_6156

This is the Helena Civic Center which was originally a Shrine Temple built in 1920.civic center masonicThis was the Masonic Lodge which has been converted into apartments. My sister lived on the second floor of this building for several years.


IMG_6132During Helena’s mining boom of the 1880’s, there were more millionaires per capita than anywhere in the world. These millionaires needed somewhere to congregate where they could light each other’s cigars with $100 bills. That place would be the Montana Club.

The requirements for membership were simple: millionaires only. At one time the club had 134 members. They met at the club and feasted on Blue Point oysters, Russian caviar, roasted bald eagle, and diamond-encrusted king crab served in ivory saucers with melted polar bear butter and drank thousand year-old-scotch after dinner.

The membership requirements have been somewhat relaxed in this current day: A $200 initiation fee gets you in, and the dues are about $70 a month.

These millionaires also built some really gorgeous homes in Helena. Here is just a sampling of what you can see.IMG_6174

This house had the first elevator in Helena. Notice the gargoyles on the front porch.IMG_6175

IMG_6168 IMG_6172

Many of these mansions still have the hitching posts out front where you can tie up your horse when you come to visit.IMG_6170 IMG_6171


The stream that yielded the gold is no longer running through the gulch. That gulch is now Helena’s main street downtown in the historic district. It is a one way street, very narrow and I would not recommend anyone try to drive their rig through there.

entry-gulchmall-640 Half of the gulch has been turned into a walking mall and several statues have been put in the mall to celebrate Helena’s history.


The Bullwhacker

Extra, Extranewsboy

The Prospector Fountainmining statue


IMG_6148 Isn’t she beautiful? She was sitting on the lawn of the Montana Historical Museum and she just laid there as we drove up and took her picture.


steel herd HERD BULL – work of Sioux artist Benji Daniels and sculptor James J. Hadcock. It is a 2 1/2 ton bison skull welded of recycled sheet metal and measuring 24 feet wide by 7 feet high.

SYMBOL OF THE PROS (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) – a bronze by Bob Scriver.


These two sculptures are located outside the Montana Historical Museum.


IMG_6141 Meagher was an Irish nationalist who, in 1848, was charged by the British with sedition and shipped off to prison in Tasmania. He escaped in 1852 and immigrated to the United States.

At the beginning of the Civil War he joined the Union Army and rose to the rank of brigadier general. In 1867 he was appointed acting governor of the Montana Territory.

In the summer of 1867 he traveled to Fort Benton to receive a shipment of guns and ammunition. On the way he fell ill and stopped for six days to recuperate. However, he was still sick when he arrived at Fort Benton. Sometime in the early evening of July 1, 1867, he fell overboard from the steamboat and his body was never recovered.


The next few posts are going to introduce you to the Capitol of Montana. Jim and I took the tour train which is a really great way to see the town and hear about some of the history of the place. tourtrain_snapshot

Helena was founded basically by mistake by four gold hunters from Georgia who was known as the Four Georgians. They were not having any luck finding gold around western Montana and on July 14, 1864 they decided that they were to take one last chance in panning a stream in the area that is now Helena.IMG_6161

That night they found gold and named the stream, Last Chance Gulch. (And that is the name of Helena’s main street today.) Work spread and in a few short years more than 3000 people called this area home.

At first the town was called Crabtown. Other names bounced around were Squashtown and Pumpkinville. However, many of the miners were from Minnesota and wanted to name the town after a town in their home state, Saint Helena. So Helena it became.

IMG_6140Montana because a territory in 864 and in 1875 the capitol was moved to Helena.