Doors Open YYC!

I’m feeling a little reflective tonight.  And once reflective, I write.  It’s what happens.  I’m close enough to enjoying the deposit of my pension into my bank account, as well, that I stopped off and bought myself a bottle of wine, so I’m sipping a glass, gratefully…and that also causes me to write.  I anticipate that very soon my go-to medium will be paint…but for tonight, this is awesome.

As for the reflection…

When someone gets physically ill, friends swoop in to help.  Sometimes meals are prepared or sometimes a person drops in for a visit.  There is evidence of injury or illness and it is apparent that that someone might need support.  The last while, I’ve suffered a different sort of illness…I’ve had a lot of struggle and as yet, I don’t even know how to describe it.  But, I’ve not been well.  I don’t think that the people I encounter in my day can even see it.  It rides beneath the surface, though, of pretty much everything.

But, enough of that…

What I want to do through this writing is to acknowledge one person who sat with me through this time….there were others and I am so grateful to them…but tonight, I want to write about Pat.  For one, I know she will read this post.  Not many will.  That’s okay.  In 2005, I began to write on a whim…never guessing that 13 years later, I would still be doing this.  I didn’t set up a blog with the intention of being read, but rather for a place to write.

About Patricia…Pat has this remarkable way of loving others…of genuinely caring for them.  Her love is not of the sentimental variety, but rather that of a reliable friend. Her friendship is not easy to describe, but as a single woman in a sometimes-tough world, I’ve been able to now track back through years where Pat has been a support to me.  She has never abandoned me.  It’s as though, at times, I’m sitting on a chair in the center of a room, with my nose cut off….everyone else is thinking it’s weird or ugly or distasteful and so they pull away…but, not Pat.  She’s there.  She’s staring right at my face, where my nose once was, and she is caring and kind and present…present, when many others face outward and away from me.  I wanted to begin this writing, about Doors Open YYC…by announcing my gratitude for Pat.

Her kindness has appeared in a package of home made cookies, wrapped up…just enough for my son and me.  It has been in the form of invitations, even when I could not muster up the means to respond or accept or sometimes, to get out.  It has been in the chatty drives…chats about everything but the big grey cloud that seems to hover over me. Like the cut off nose, Pat chooses to look through the grey cloud…I know she can see it, but it is such a relief to have the darkness pushed away with the gentle stories of a friend.  There are countless acts of kindness that I could mention, but suffice it to say that I aspire to be more like Pat in the world.  I will always be appreciative of Pat’s generous heart.

Recently I received one of Pat’s invitations via e-mail,  to do a day of Doors Open YYC.  I would have Pat all to myself and I thought, “What could be more wonderful?”  And so we went…

…and I enjoyed every moment!

On our list of destinations…Aleppo Soap  , the Calgary Buddhist Temple and Fiasco Gelato.  As I reflect upon the magic of the day, I have to say that the three locations we visited this year, were all about healing, kindness and strength of character.

First stop, Aleppo Soap is a business established and grown successfully by Syrian newcomers.

“Before Sabouni fled Syria, his soap factory was destroyed. His family spent time in Jordan before coming to Canada, where he tried to start the business again, but it wasn’t a success.

Now, he’s grateful he, his wife, and four children — his youngest son was born in Canada last year — have a chance for a fresh start.

“The Canadians come to support us, make me so happy … I want to say thank you Canada because I am grateful because it gives me and my family a new chance,” he said.”

We enjoyed a lovely tour of the soap factory and Pat and I both purchased some products afterwards.  The soap is so exceptionally beautiful.  There was, in the context of Aleppo, pride, generosity and hospitality.  I was so happy to see this venue well-attended by Calgarians.  I am in awe of the courage and hard work of the folk who have manifested their vision here in Canada.

 

Next, we headed for the Bridgeland area and enjoyed the hospitality of a Buddhist Priest at the Calgary Buddhist Temple.  Again, we were given a brief history and a simple explanation of the rituals, bell ringing and chants.  I found the temple to be very beautiful in its simplicity.  Those responsible for the tour were very generous with their time and reflections.

“The Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism was founded by Shinran, a monk who lived in Japan in the 13th century. Jodo Shinshu means “true essence of Pure Land Buddhism” (or, literally: Jodo, meaning Pure Land or realm; Shin, meaning True; and Shu, meaning religion).”

Finally, we headed for Fiasco Gelato!  This was a very popular tour!  Fiasco Gelato is a story all on its own!  I was amazed by this place and really suggest that if you haven’t made a stop at the store, that you do!  What a positive approach to business.  Things haven’t come easy for the visionaries behind this place, but they have persisted and have created an amazing place…a great product…and a community-engaged enterprise. They have built something that matters!

“Fiasco is built on empowerment, innovation, forward thinking, strong relationships, passion, and the best customer experience. We are people focused and so little of what we do here day to day has to do with our product and more about doing great work and making people happy. We are here to do things differently, think differently and challenge the norm. We want people to be the best versions of themselves and think in terms of work and life blending together rather than segregating from each other.”

All three venues explored by Pat and I were places that nourish the spirit and sooth the soul.  The day could not have been better!  As I dipped into my container of Passionfruit Lemonade Gelato last evening, I was thinking back on how blessed we are in our city…how blessed I am.  I hope that every person who feels weary or sad or overcome with difficulties, grief or illness will find, in their lives, some one who is kind.  I have that in my life.

 

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…

IMG_0959IMG_0961IMG_0963IMG_0966

and the art…

DSC_0104DSC_0105DSC_0106

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.

DSC_0103

DSC_0102DSC_0101DSC_0100DSC_0099DSC_0098DSC_0097DSC_0096DSC_0095DSC_0094DSC_0093

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.

DSC_0017DSC_0018DSC_0019DSC_0020DSC_0021

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.

DSC_0022DSC_0024

Hand-painted ceiling murals are original to the home.

dsc_0025.jpgDSC_0026DSC_0027DSC_0028DSC_0029DSC_0030DSC_0032DSC_0033DSC_0034

This is the shower.  Really?

DSC_0035

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.

DSC_0036dsc_0037.jpgDSC_0038DSC_0039

Spectacles served for eye exams…below.  Cool.

DSC_0040DSC_0042

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

DSC_0043DSC_0044DSC_0046

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.”

DSC_0047DSC_0049DSC_0050DSC_0051DSC_0052DSC_0053DSC_0054dsc_0055.jpgDSC_0056DSC_0057DSC_0058DSC_0059

A penguin collection…of all things.

DSC_0060DSC_0061

A doll collection.

DSC_0063DSC_0065DSC_0066DSC_0067DSC_0068DSC_0069DSC_0070DSC_0071DSC_0072DSC_0073DSC_0074DSC_0075dsc_0077.jpgdsc_0076.jpgDSC_0077dsc_0078.jpgDSC_0079DSC_0080DSC_0081DSC_0082DSC_0083DSC_0084DSC_0085DSC_0086

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

dsc_0087.jpgDSC_0089

dsc_0088.jpgdsc_0090.jpgDSC_0091

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.”

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!

 

 

Crystal Park and Elkhorn Hot Springs

IMG_0819

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.

IMG_0820IMG_0821

IMG_0822

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

IMG_0823

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.

IMG_0826IMG_0827IMG_0828IMG_0830IMG_0836IMG_0824IMG_0837IMG_0838

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!

Bannack Ghost Town

From Big Hole, we traveled the scenic byway through Wisdom…then south on the 278 and onward.  Little did we know that as we came down off the pass, we should hit a bit of construction and resurfacing along the Grasshopper Creek.  I got to speak to someone who had biked over 1300 miles and he was excited for the next UP.  We were on our way to Bannack, Montana…once Gold Town…now, Ghost Town.

IMG_0678

Ghost Towns Montana

Ramona and I began our wander on the lower part of this map, at location #26.  The map was collected from a brochure I purchased at entrance for $2.00.  Click on any photos to enlarge.

Bannock State Park has a very detailed website that will give my readers an extensive history, as well as current events and ongoing projects.  We shared a beautiful time, exploring.

Bannack state park

IMG_0750

At the Bannack campsite, Ramona and I shared a huge treat!  Preston had brought us some strawberry shortcake in the morning and so, along with a swig of campground water, we snacked on that generous dessert and listened to the birds.  It was nice to sit and do some more relaxing before moving on and out.

Stern Border Service Officers

All I could think about was getting over that border and getting to my treasured friend, Ramona.  The morning light was heavenly.  I left the little town of Raymond, drove east and then at the intersection, turned south for the Sweetgrass Hills.

To the right, I passed wetlands and identified American Advocets and a large group of Black-necked Stilts.  On road trips, one can not possibly stop often enough to capture all of the wonder as it slips past.  I was happy to see many winged friends and to see the vast beauty that is southern Alberta.  The past ten years or so I’ve made my life all about the fleeting moments and the tremendous beauty that reveals itself in familiar places.  I’m not big into world travel…but, I’m big into deepening my relationship with what is close up, if that makes any sense at all.  We all do life in our own particular way.

IMG_0554

At the border, I was met by a very stern border service officer.  Oh my goodness…a 63 year old lady approaches and ‘you have the need to be miserable’.  Mayhaps I was bringing some sort of bias to the experience. “Pull around and park in the back.  An officer will meet you there.”  Sure…okay.

The officer who joined me a short while later was much more pleasant.  She covered an agricultural survey with me and shuffled through my belongings in the vehicle…most concerned with plant matter, foods…yes, I get it.  And then I was on my way after sharing with her some pleasantries about high school years in Great Falls.

Continuing on to Shelby, I thought about the lack of gun controls…the shift in thinking.  I remembered how grateful I was to be a Canadian.  I looked forward to making Great Falls.  Once there, I contemplated taking time to visit special places and special people that remain.  I sat in the parking lot of the Flying J and felt so close to the memories of home that my family built in this place…thought of my friends and the house on Fox Farm Road.  I decided that this wouldn’t be the trip for packing in too much.  I needed to sip on my lemonade and enjoy the landscape.  I would have to make another opportunity to do all of the rest of it.

I love the landscape just south of Great Falls…Holter…and Prickly Pear.  There is only one place to stop and so it’s a chore to be overcome with the extreme beauty and at the same time, in a photo-crazy world like ours, not to be able to archive it.  I pulled over at the only stop on my side of the I-15.

DSC_0009DSC_0012DSC_0015

I thought about my Dad and wondered why the heck he wasn’t on this road trip with me.  I love to drive with my father.  These are places he knows and loves far better than I!

Onward!

In Helena, I had my first learning about roaming data charges.  Sigh.  Enough said.  Bob and Dan, I tried to track you down.  I thought I had an hour to play with in Helena.  Sorry.  I left your deets at home in my address book. (roaming, YOU SUCK!)

I had no recollection of the places I saw south of Helena, although I’ve traveled that road…a couple of times with a long-haul trucker, a few times traveling to see my parents in Colorado Springs, Colorado and likely before that, travels to various speech team competitions.  What I haven’t done is turned off into la la land at the Divide exit, west…Wise River…Wisdom…and all of that.  There were zero opportunities to take photographs of the wondrous landscape that unfolded after that turn off from the I-15 and my mind set to wondering as I saw such beauty reveal itself.  I thought about my new-found cousin, Charlene, who lives in Idaho Falls and a bit of a remote feeling took over me, that likely I wouldn’t be able to meet her on this trip.  All of a sudden, I heard the words escape my mouth…

“This is all for you, Kath.”  And yes…there were some tears.  The crystal blue waters weaving through verdant miles were beyond description.  The rugged rock reached vertical to either side of me.  I was overcome with beauty.

As I pulled to the right into the Big Hole National Battlefield, I felt exhausted, but so grateful.  Swallows seemed to beckon me.  I knew that Ramona would be working her shift in the visitor’s center, but decided to spend a few quiet moments looking over the valley.  Again, time just for me.  I knew that this place held huge spiritual energy and that the history for the Nez Perce peoples on this land held such provision and at the same time, horror, that I wanted to be present to the moment.  And then…Ramona.

IMG_0562IMG_0565IMG_0567IMG_0568IMG_0570IMG_0571IMG_0573IMG_0576

 

 

Walk With Our Sisters: Calgary

I sit here eating a hot bowl of hamburger soup for breakfast, nursing a cold that after days, seems to hang in.  The soup is comforting and healing.

There are no photographs on this particular post, but a link, here, for everything you might want to find out.  Calgary’s Walk With Our Sisters memorial installation has been two years in the works (maybe more) and has traveled Canada.  It has just a few more visits and will be retired to Batoche. This stop in Calgary is an amazing opportunity for us to connect with the journey…to think about our sisters who are missing and murdered and to think of their families and friends.  It is important for us to honour their lives and their life force because these sisters remain with us, as long as we remember.

As you will see, there are opportunities for volunteers throughout the coming weeks.  All are welcome.  Orientations are offered, but it was made clear yesterday, at my own orientation,  no volunteer will be turned away.

As most of you know, at the onset of Canada’s 150, I decided that I wanted to embark on a journey of gathering knowledge and understanding about Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.  I didn’t know how to begin.  Sable Sweetgrass hosted an online book club and this peeked my interest, so I began to read along and reflect on the authors and books that we were reading.  It was Sable who told me about the book club at Forest Lawn Public Library, hosted by Indigenous Pride with 12CSI and 12CSI Community Safety Initiative.

I attended my first monthly gathering at the library some time after that, intending to read a book a month, for a year, with a focus on Indigenous authors.  After bonding with this group and having my mind and awareness open up, I decided that I wanted to continue with the group and to enter into my own personal journey with Truth and Reconciliation and the 94 calls to action.  Michelle Robinson has been key in my life as an agent of change and her embrace is assisting me in becoming fearless in this journey.  I can not judge what other Canadians do with the knowledge of Residential Schools or with the initial shock of colonial movement across our nation.  I am responsible, first, to grow in knowledge and then to go forward to be a strong advocate on behalf of our brothers and sisters.

I was invited to volunteer with Walk With Our Sisters and this has also expanded my knowledge.  As a result, I am inviting all of my readers to participate at some level during the weeks ahead.

Last week, a lovely group of women gathered to tie tobacco and I grew new friendships and new knowledge.  I really love the fact that working with our hands created such a warm community feeling.  My mother would have loved it.

Yesterday, I attended an orientation and was blessed by Autumn EagleSpeaker’s clear and welcoming approach. Autumn is a strong woman who is a source of inspiration for these coming days.  It was evident how she has inspired so many others on this journey.  I am grateful for our meeting.  I was further blessed to  meet Christi Belcourt, artist and visionary where this memorial is concerned.  We were given an extended opportunity to preview the work that has been done to this point and to be given more information about the ceremony and protocol involved.

I loved being given the story of the shape of the Calgary installation, with consideration for the two rivers, the elbow, the native plants and medicines and the dress.  The configuration of the vamps has been very specific to each city’s Indigenous peoples along the way, while the vamps themselves represent and include a wide variety of peoples, even expanding beyond international borders.

I am really looking forward to my shift later on today, the final installation shift prior to the Opening Ceremonies tomorrow afternoon, at 2.  I hope my readers will attend.  I hope that you will even extend this to volunteering a few hours, if it is possible.

Just ending this post with a lovely video of Christi describing the world of plants represented in a large painting in acrylic.  Amazing stuff!