Quiet Like Watercolour

My son and I have been hanging out quite a bit.  Honestly, while there’s not a lot of talking, I am getting so that I just enjoy being still with him.  We sit across from one another at the feast table for our first coffee each day.  Not much gets said but “Good morning.”

Recently, a friend from my teaching world and my church family, lost her eight year old son, very suddenly.  He will be laid to rest this week.  Caleb gave the gift of his organs so that others might have life.  Everything about the situation seems impossible.  I hold Caleb’s family…his two brothers, sister and Mom and Dad very close to my heart. But, as a mother, I most deeply imagine (because one can not truly know) Caleb’s Mommy’s pain.  It is such a feeling of helplessness, no matter what way you look at it.  I am so sorry. In thinking about it, I’ve decided that the best I can do in my life is to honour the lives of those I love, most especially, my family.

I haven’t been much for hanging out in crowds the last long while.  I like the quiet that my son and I share.  I like walking with my daughters and my grandson at the river.  I like hanging with Max on the red couch.  I enjoy my daily conversation with my father via Skype.

Today, I nudged my son to drive out to the Leighton Center with me to see, on its final day, an exhibit by beautiful lady and watercolourist, Brittney Tough.  I met Brittney, gratefully, through my experiences painting down at the Rumble House.  She is one amazing artist!  This exhibit demonstrates her patience and her skill.

The drive to the Leighton Center is so calming; the countryside, so beautiful.  Presently, canola fields are ripened.  Hawks call out from above the landscape.  Mountains to the west are veiled in smoke.

The exhibits Threaded Through Paint and Bison, Bison, Bison were both stunning.  I really felt at ease and peaceful sharing this time with my boy.  Congratulations, Brittney! (Say ‘hi’ to Harley and Alistair) Your notebooks and explorations in colour are spectacular…your compositions, pure genius!

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Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage

My friend, Pat, has an astonishing way of discovering new and wonderful places to visit around Calgary.  My tendency is to always say “YES” when an invitation comes my way from Pat because, in the end, I learn something new and see something fascinating.  So, when I received an e mail to travel south to Nanton and to see the Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage, I was keen.  Included in the experience would be a lovely and reasonably-priced brunch served up by Brown’s Catering and live music under a tent (although we all agreed the musician of the day might have turned down the mic…just a little).  As well, we then strolled about and admired the gardens and the buildings.  Delightful!

We could not have had a nicer day…a huge open sky and golden canola fields in full bloom created a backdrop of magic. The drive was filled with our usual enthusiastic banter and that always makes the miles fly by.  Gail, Mary, Pat and I embraced the visit and the views.  It was an exceptional time.  I’ve been digging myself out of a period of sadness, despondency and disconnect.  I am grateful for dear friends who have stuck with me through the malady, and anticipate, as I do, better days.  What can be more healing than amazing sky, flowers and forever-friendship. Thank you, Pat.

Click on individual photographs, in order to have a better look.

 

Thanks to Gail who hosted a further debrief at her home in High River.  I appreciate the hospitality and it was so wonderful to see you again.

Boulder Hot Springs and Farewell, Dear Friend!

I felt a degree of anxiety about the drive into Boulder.  It was raining on and off and I was lagging behind Ramona.  I didn’t sleep well on this trip.  I was processing a lot and it had been a big day…cattle drives, Lost Creek, the Mineral Museum and the Copper King Mansion.  The skies were dramatic and thunder was rumbling.  I was really happy when we pulled into the Boulder Hot Springs, shortly after pulling off of the I-15.

The building facade was magical.  The receptionist was calm and welcoming.  I liked the place from first site.  Some time in the early 1990s, this space was purchased by writer Anne Wilson Schaef and is presently owned by a Limited Partnership.  I’ve read some of her work and it was a surprise to see some of her titles sitting on the counter.  From that point forward, the entire evening became one of continued healing and peace.  I am so grateful that Ramona sought out this venue.

I wouldn’t go into the hot pools while the thunder was booming…but, as time passed, the weather cleared, we popped into the outdoor pool…and then popped out, with the coming of the next series of sky flashes.  It was wonderful for even that short time to recline back, pool noodle on my neck and float with Ramona…speechless…ears submerged…until I shouted out to Ramona that we needed to get out.

I then stepped into the hot springs steam where I shared space with a naked woman doing yoga.  Briefly, I remembered my younger body.  I remembered the University of Lethbridge and the wonderful cleansing feeling of the sauna in the Physical Education department.

This would be magic…I knew it.

Our room…

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and the art…

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I claimed the time as mine…shared with a friend…so, no photos of the pools.  And because of the rain, we didn’t head up to the sculpture, Seven Generations.

The space…the food…

Click on individual photos to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

Ramona’s camera…

 

 

 

 

After a scrumptious breakfast, I went for a walk on the property.  Everything about the air was delicious.  I watched the swallows, followed closely by the cat and listened to the cock crow.  I felt mixed feelings as I headed for the parking area and embraced Ramona for the last time.  Tears wouldn’t come…not until Ramona headed east, at the end of the driveway and I headed west.  I had tears until I reached the town of Boulder, stopped at the gas station, filled my water bottle and resolutely headed north on the highway.

It was a wonderful time, dear friend.

 

 

Pekin Noodle Parlour

As we left the Copper King Mansion and headed for supper, it began to rain.  What could be more wonderful than a hot bowl of soup and traditional foods served in a very historical restaurant, the Pekin Noodle Parlour.

I enjoyed reading the article written about the restaurant and will include a bit of of the content, here.  Ed Best of the Last Best News is the writer. This article first appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of the Montana Quarterly.

“Entering the building from South Main, you walk up a long flight of stairs to a door on your left. It opens on a long, narrow hallway flanked by little rooms, each with its own table and chairs, separated by bead board partitions painted a bright orange, with an orange curtain hanging over each entrance. The chairs and tables, with their legs of braided steel, date to 1916, according to Danny Wong, and the cozy little booths have never changed. There are rumors—as persistent as those concerning the tunnels—that the booths are a holdover of the days when the Pekin was a brothel, or an opium den. Nonsense, the historians say; it was simply customary to give diners a bit of privacy.

Chinese lanterns hang from the ceiling over the narrow hall between the booths, and the waitresses deliver your food on metal carts that trundle noisily down the aisle.

Even the bathrooms are an experience: little side-by-side rooms that you enter through swinging doors, and then a regular door that opens inward, barely missing the toilet. You have to stand alongside the toilet just to close the door, unless you happen to be meth-addict skinny.

And presiding over it all is Danny Wong. He is 82 and has worked at the Pekin since coming to the United States in 1947 at the age of 13. He took over the business in the early 1950s from his Great-Uncle Hum Yow, who had run the Pekin Noodle Parlor since it opened in 1911. But Wong is not just the owner of a business that has been in the same family for 105 years.

He is also the owner of a virtual museum, an accidental museum of a type more likely to be found in Butte than anywhere else in Montana. Butte has lost so much population since its heyday that countless artifacts have been preserved simply because the space they occupy is not needed for anything else.

On the ground floor of the Pekin, where Wong’s ancestors ran a gambling hall and an herb dispensary, one wall is covered by a collection of large wooden drawers with Chinese lettering on them.  Inside are heaps of desiccated medicinal herbs.

There is also a sizable collection of tin containers, likewise covered in Chinese characters and still full of various kinds of tea. Crammed into a rabbit’s warren of rooms in the vicinity of the tea and herbs, there are other relics of old Chinatown: an ancient brass cash register, hand-woven reed baskets, antique Chinese gambling devices, stacks and stacks of old dishes, lottery sheets with Chinese lettering and kitchen implements that look like they were forged in the Iron Age.

Such scenes presented themselves in every room we entered, with Danny Wong in the lead. One door led out back, into what used to be known as China Alley, when the Pekin was at the heart of a lively Chinese community that might have reached a population of 2,500 people.

Dick Gibson is the treasurer of the Mai Wah Society, which works to collect and preserve Asian history in the Rocky Mountain West and which runs the Mai Wah Museum, just down China Alley from the Pekin. It was Gibson who vehemently dismissed rumors of mysterious tunnels or an underground city. There were simply vaulted sidewalks, he said, empty spaces under the sidewalk that gave property owners a bit more room in their basements. There is no evidence that any subterranean chamber was attached to any others, Gibson said.

It was also Gibson who said the Chinese population of Butte has been estimated to have approached 2,500, though official census figures topped out at 400. The Chinese were subjected to much discrimination in the West, Gibson said, and were the target of occasional boycotts and discriminatory laws. But even the big boycotts of the late 1890s were more successful in Helena than in Butte.

“The non-Chinese population of Butte really did support the Chinese,” he said.

That has certainly been true of the Pekin, which has long been popular among regular folk, bigwigs and politicians. In 2011, when the Pekin celebrated its centennial, then-Sen. Max Baucus entered a lengthy, tribute-filled history of the restaurant into the Congressional Record. It was also much loved by Butte’s one bona fide celebrity, the late Evel Knievel. He used to bring his family to the Pekin on a regular basis, and he would often have Wong down to his place in Las Vegas. And when Knievel died in 2007, family and friends gathered at the Pekin—after one of the larger funerals in the city’s history—to mourn, reminisce and carouse.

Wong’s ancestors have been in Butte almost from the city’s beginnings. One, whose name has been forgotten, came to the United States in the 1860s and used to deliver supplies to Chinese in camps and communities throughout the West, including Butte. That man’s sons came to Butte in the late 1890s and ran a laundry that remained in business until the mid-1950s.

When Danny Wong came to Butte in 1947, he still used his given name, Ding K. Tam. He adopted the more familiar “Wong” from his aunt Bessie Wong, while “Danny” was bestowed on him by a school classmate.

Wong married Sharon Chu in 1963 and she was soon as much a fixture at the Pekin as her husband. Their son, Jerry Tam, said that through the years, his father brought over hundreds of relations to work at the Pekin and get a foothold in the United States. And in 1980, after years of delicate negotiations with Chinese authorities, Wong was finally able to bring over his parents, whom he cared for until their deaths.

You get the feeling that Wong couldn’t be much happier with how things have turned out. He seems perpetually serene and happy, even while working busily in the kitchen, rubbing spices into a pork loin or chopping up a slab of meat. In the Pekin bar—a later add-on, comfortable but lacking in history and quirkiness—just off the banquet room at the front of the restaurant, there is a plaque with a sketch of the Pekin on it. Underneath are the words: “Given as a token of our appreciation for being a wonderful friend and boss. Always working with us, side by side through good times and bad and much laughter. From all the old-time workers.”

I didn’t speak to him, but while back near the kitchen, I had the chance to see Danny Wong, hard at work.  When asked, the waitress denied any connection of the restaurant to past opium dens, just as the text of this article attests.  She did say, however, that there have been recent discoveries of things below neighbouring buildings, so that is interesting.  I enjoyed the hot food and relaxing with my friend.  We were on our feet lots that afternoon.  Outside, the weather was coming in.

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Ramona’s photos.  (thank you, buddy)  I haven’t included the one of ‘moi’ taking in the sight of my food because I look exhausted! lol  Click each image, to make larger.  I’m glad you got one of the neon sign!  After dinner, back out onto the I-15 and Boulder Hot Springs.

The Copper King Mansion

On our short list of things to do in Butte, Ramona and I took a tour of the home of William Andrew Clark, a spectacular building known as The Copper King Mansion.  We took a little sit in the back yard before touring and had a visit with one of the current residents of the house.

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The mansion is used as a bed & breakfast, as well as an opportunity to learn, through tours, about local mining history and architecture, but having read reviews on Trip Advisor, I get the idea that this duo-function sometimes makes the bed and breakfast operation a little awkward for guests.  I can’t imagine sleeping overnight in a place that houses so many ornate knick-knacks and has every surface covered with historical archives.  Apparently, the best time to use the space as a Bed & Breakfast is on the off-season because you would not have to abandon the space in order to accommodate tours.  I’m glad we were there for the tour.

I was most impressed by the wood and the architectural detail throughout the home, as well as the stories given about this family and their power and wealth, not just locally, but internationally.

The entryway.  With diffused lighting and no flash, some of these photos are sketchy, but my readers will get the idea.

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Hand-painted ceiling murals are original to the home.

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This is the shower.  Really?

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The top floor serves as a museum of a wide variety of contents.  One of these dresses was owned/worn by the original mistress of the house, but I’m forgetting which one.

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Spectacles served for eye exams…below.  Cool.

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Our tour guide…still relying on notes…ended up chilling about half way through the tour when she realized we were going to go easy on her. lol

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You can see that I took many photographs of things that we discovered in the top floor.  I really wondered about the collections of Catholic vestments and treasured items.  I wondered how they found themselves in this spot.  “After Clark and his second wife passed on, the mansion was inherited by Clark’s son, who liked to gamble. Uh Oh! The mansion was sold to an outside person, who sold all the existing furniture that was in the mansion. After becoming this owner’s private residence, the mansion was eventually sold to the Catholic church and it became a home for the town’s Catholic nuns, who turned part of the top floor into a chapel, in the rooms off the ballroom area. The nuns didn’t appreciate the fresco which was painted on the ceiling of the master bedroom, so they painted over it. The mansion was put back on the market when the nuns moved out some years later, and stood vacant for 3 years.”

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A penguin collection…of all things.

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A doll collection.

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This ‘fishing’ pattern of dishes was said to have been original to the Clark home.

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As we departed, our friend was busy picking out dandelions before the rain.

Apparently there is a renewed interest in the old mansion because of “a scandal over the fortune of reclusive mining heiress Huguette Clark.”

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Mineral Museum in Butte

I have yet to complete my archive of events celebrated with Ramona in Montana this summer.  We headed into Butte, on our way to Boulder Hot Springs.  Back in the day, Ramona attended what is now called Montana Tech Campus.  Ramona can not possibly step into nature without stooping to pick up a rock.  I’m pretty much the same way.  So, with geology being one of our common passions, we ended up in the Mineral Museum.

Honestly, I haven’t seen anything like it.  And because my photographs hardly capture the space, I hope that my readers will visit the link provided above.  I took photographs of some of my favourites.

I remained very ‘present’ on the short campus walk, enjoying the feeling that I was sharing a space that was once home to my High School bestie.  This space was like an old friend to Ramona and she knew these treasures so well.  I’m grateful that she had a chance to share all of it with me.

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Lost Creek

I haven’t been writing my daily post, because the story of Lost Creek just wouldn’t be the same without Ramona’s contribution and this morning, I received it in the form of an electronic mail.

Read this, will you?  Delightful!  Ramona is just one of those women who has created an amazing life.  I love her so much! (your stick is in the mail, Ramona!)

In 1975 a fellow named Tom G. came to The University of Montana, looking for candidates to apply for summer jobs with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. I was interested in working on a maintenance crew north of Missoula, near Kalispell. It looked promising…until he called me in to chat. He told me the 5-man crew had threatened to quit if a woman was hired to be part of the team. He said they wanted to be able to spit, fart and tell crude jokes and I wouldn’t fit in. Well…I said to Tom ” if that’s what is required I can do all those things too, and probably could share stories that would make them blush.”

He offered me another position, working mostly by myself. I would take care of Lost Creek State Park, near Anaconda and several fishing access sites on The Big Hole River-east of Wisdom.

I was issued a State pickup and found an old 1-room miner’s shack to rent near Lost Creek. A retired fellow named Sid C., from Anaconda, came with me to clean Fish Trap and Sportsman’s Bridge on the river twice a week. The summer went by quickly. Sid showed me where he picked puffball mushrooms near The Big Hole and I ate some-without getting ill.

One day, when I drove to Fish Trap alone, I saw a weird-looking 4-legged beastie in the road near a creek. It had a large head, some spots and long, long legs. Just then Mama came out of the Alder bushes. It was a new-born moose, probably with afterbirth sac pieces still on its back.

Another time I’d gone for a walk behind my shack-sweet-shack, checking out the old kilns and a mine opening. I continued up the crest of a rocky hill and about pooped my pants. A sentry male Mountain sheep and I locked eyes as he jumped up and quickly sprung away, alerting the other 3 with a huffing vocalization. I’d been downwind and coming around a rocky outcrop. After I caught my breath and slowed my racing heart I laughed.

There were both Mountain goats and sheep back then. The ewes stayed on the south canyon and bucks on the north; meeting of course during mating season. The Mountain goats were easier to find after a rain; when the rocks were shiny with water and they weren’t. I’m sorry to share that neither is found in Lost Creek Canyon now, as they all died of a lung disease. There are hopes some may be reintroduced from The Bitterroot Mountain herds.

I remember climbing all over the canyon rocks and up the talus slopes, somewhat fearlessly. I even crossed the creek near the falls by scooting my heinie along a log. On the other side I found a trapper’s or miner’s little shack- about 8 x 6 feet, made of log and hand-hewn split window and door openings. There was an old table and bed-both mounted to the wall. The roof was disintegrating and the whole shebang is no-doubt melted back into the earth by now.

This summer, when I visited with Kath, I could see evidence of a wildfire. My favorite campsite was more open. But the large car-sized boulders still held their ground, birds still sang and wildflowers flourished-maybe more so with fewer tall trees.

An afterlog…I worked with Fish Wildlife and Parks for 2 school years with the work-study program for 15 hours a week and for one more summer-doing visitor surveys along The Blackfoot River and for Salmon and Placid Lakes proposed campground improvements. In 1978 I took a job with The USDA Forest Service on The Clearwater National Forest in Orofino, Idaho; and that began a 33 year career. In May of 1979 I joined The Peace Corps and went to Chile; another story all-together. Mona 7-2018.

Isn’t that remarkable?  And, to think I was able to revisit this amazing and beautiful place and picnic with my buddy at the Lost Creek site.  Again, photos hardly do it justice.  I am profoundly grateful for the chance to do this journey with my dear friend.

We saw these two lovelies as we pulled out of the area…time to head for Butte!  Another awesome adventure!

 

 

Scenic Driving Again and Again

Morning saw us eating a hearty breakfast, chatting it up with some of the folk at the Elkhorn Hot Springs and sitting for buddy photos on the porch swing before heading it out for Wise River and the return of our sifting screen (is that what they call it?), so that it could be sent on up to Wisdom and returned to Big Hole.

Scenic Drives Montana

Ramona and Kath Elkhorn

Sunshine’s Photo. Included here, a local resident’s beagle.

We drove separately, into Anaconda…stopping at the beautiful places along the way. The first stop was overlooking the Grasshopper Valley and enjoying the wild growth of purple Lupins.

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Yes! Of course we did this! Two ladies who get tremendously excited by natural beauty! We had to celebrate it! We snapped photographs of one another. For those of you who don’t know…Ramona and I shared life at CMRussell High School in Great Falls, Montana 1971-1973. THEN!

Ramona

NOW!!

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Stopped, hoping to get better colour shots of the Camas in morning light.

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Real evidence of glacial work on the landscape. Very cool. Mt. Haggin Scenic Drive.

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At least 300 head of cattle were being wrangled up the highway…Ramona is in the car ahead of me, snapping away. A bull tried, unsuccessfully, to mount a cow directly in front of my car…I rolled up the window, at her refusal and then he slid his horns along the drivers side window and my car, in some sort of snorting frustration. This was an experience! Wonderful to see the worn and muddied border collie in the rear, with the cowboys. They tipped their hats and I felt that I had enjoyed a truly western experience. lol

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Just as we started back on our way…these two entered the frame.

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Mount Haggin area.

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Anaconda…the stack…we pulled into a grocery store parking lot and jumped into one vehicle. Off we headed for Lost Creek.

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Crystal Park and Elkhorn Hot Springs

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The mosquitoes were horrendous (predictable, given the wet spring and so much snow through the winter), so we did some very quick digging and screening of a few shovels of earth at Crystal Park…just long enough for me to get THE BITE.  It’s really ugly what has been allowed by the National Forestry people, but the place is a big tourist draw. We didn’t see anyone else digging at this time of day…a little stop we made on our way to the Lodge, from Coolidge.

Watch the entrance to the park!  I practically took the bottom of my car off, getting over the cattle guard at the entrance.  Time for a bit of patching to happen there!

Crystal Park is a unique recreation area at an elevation of 7,800 feet in the Pioneer Mountains in southwest Montana. Crystal Park is open for day use only and has a fee per car. Facilities include 3 picnic sites with tables and grills, information signs, toilets, and a paved trail with benches and an overlook. The facilities are designed to be universally accessible.

Quartz crystals are scattered liberally through the decomposed granite of the unique 220-acre site that’s been reserved by the Forest Service for the popular hobby of rockhounding. Quartz crystals are hexagonal (six-sided) prisms, with a pointed “face” at each end. The crystals found at Crystal Park can be clear, cloudy, white, gray or purple. They can be smaller than your little finger or up to several inches in diameter. Gray, purple and other colors are caused by minerals within the quartz. Gray crystals are known as “smoky” and the highly prized purple ones are called amethyst. Single crystals are most common at Crystal Park. Most of the crystals have little value other than as collector’s items.

Rules established for Crystal Park include a ban on tunneling. The rules are listed on signs and in brochures available at the site. Other rules include use of hand tools only, and a five-day-per-person season limit on digging.

Even with the short dig that we made, Ramona and I unearthed some bits of crystal.  We brought our spoils back to the lodge, washed them up and divided up the treasures…a beautiful remembrance of our first day in the mountains.

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Big pits dug all along the incline and apparently, down the other side.

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Elkhorn Hot Springs is a beautiful little spot!  Getting there and journeying back over the winding roads, Ramona and I enjoyed the siting of a beautiful fox.  Ramona was able to snap a couple of quick photographs for our remembrance.  We were like two little kids, so excited to see the beautiful and shy creature disappear into the tall woods.

Foxy Sighting

This is Ramona’s photo, lifted off the internet with absolutely no permission. Love you, Sunshine!

The Elkhorn Hot Springs are a delicious place to stop and rest for the night. If you’ve been used to tent camping, this is a huge step up in terms of accommodation.  Some would describe it as rustic, but with running water and potential to clean up, I thought it was insanely wonderful!  We got to float in the soothing waters of natural hotsprings and to rest in a cozy and friendly lodge.  Breakfast was a cowboy’s breakfast, all included.  As a Canadian, this hit my pocketbook a little more than if I was a citizen, but with my cut $25.00 American currency….it was an unbelievable deal and a treasured experience.  If anyone wishes to travel the United States, connect with my buddy Ramona.  She has done the research.  She knows how to create memories on a very good budget.

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In the day, I would have roughed it more…now, places like these are the bomb!  So much fun!

Nestled in Beaverhead National Forest, the historic Elkhorn Hot Springs has been a favorite resting and soaking spot for a hundred years. Step into Montana’s past and stay in the main lodge which was built in 1921 or one of the many authentic and romantic cabins built during the 1920’s and 1930’s. There are two outdoor hot pools as well as an indoor Grecian style sauna. The mineral waters are 100% natural and because of the substantial rate of flow from the source, no chlorine or other chemicals are required to be added to the water – there is a constant flow of new mineral water entering the pool at all times.

Just an hour’s drive from Dillon, Elkhorn Hot Springs is the perfect spot to explore all that Southwest Montana has to offer. About 4 miles away you will find Maverick Mountain Ski Area. Close by are miles and miles of cross country ski trails and sled trails. During the summer, in less than 7 miles you can dig for buried gems at Crystal Park. Just a 25 mile drive from the Hot Springs is Historical Bannack State Park and it’s a great way to relive some of Montana’s colorful past. If that isn’t enough for you, and you are the adventurous type – you may want to take a trip to the real-life ghost town of Coolidge!

Coolidge Ghost Town

Our first day had only started, with the morning given to wandering the old ghost town at Bannack!  Heading up the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway located in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, Ramona and I watched for the turn off to Coolidge Ghost Town.  The drive itself was awe-inspiring and while my photographs do not pick up on the amazing colour of the meadows filled to the brim with wild Camas, I’m hoping that Ramona did better.  While technology has enhanced the art of photography, it is still impossible to capture the smell of the air, the feel of breeze on your skin and true essence of light, that not only surrounds, but melts into you.  I love to travel these back roads. Ramona and I are exchanging our photos via memory stick as we were both very motivated to capture these magical times together.  These are what I have.  I want my readers to imagine the most brilliant blue that, in truth, looked like wide open lakes in the open valleys of this range.  So incredibly beautiful!

Click on photographs to enlarge.

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I enjoyed the little hike, weaving in and out of remnants of buildings coming from a different time.  With this ghost town, I DID feel as though I was taking a serious step into the past.  I enjoyed observing what remained of building techniques and even the manner in which these buildings had weathered and fell apart.

Much history to be enjoyed on line. I guess this would be my favourite summary.

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