So we went for a drive and ended up in a ghost town.

Exploring Montana, August 22, 2014

Pintler Veterans’ Memorial Scenic Highway, Montana, August 22, 2014

It starred out pretty cloudy, with rain threatening.  We lucked out, though and had a pretty good day exploring without getting wet.

We came across a small cemetery in the Garnet Range.  There were only five buried in the Sand Park Cemetery, all hard-rock miners, between 1898 and 1914.  According to interpretive displays at the entrance to the cemetery, little is known of them other than their names and when they died.

Sand Park Cemetery near Garnet, Montana, August 22, 2014

A little further down the road was an old 1940s fire warden cabin and, off to the side, the remains of an 1890s stage stop cabin.

1940s fire warden cabin near Garnet, Montana, August 22, 2014

1890s stage stop cabin near Garnet, Montana, August 22, 2014

We were surprised to see a wood stove, firewood and some meager supplies in the fire warden cabin.  It looks like it’s set up as a short time emergency shelter.

1940s fire warden cabin near Garnet, Montana, August 22, 2014

1940s fire warden cabin near Garnet, Montana, August 22, 2014 1940s fire warden cabin near Garnet, Montana, August 22, 2014

A few more miles and we arrived at our destination, Garnet, Montana.

Mining started in the Garnet Range – named for a a semi-precious mineral found there –  in the early 1860s, but it wasn’t until the 1890s that significant mining came to the First Chance Creek area.  Between 1890 and 1895, 40 lode claims were filed in the First Chance Mining District.  In 1895, a ten-stamp mill was built in First Chance Gulch and the town of Mitchell was founded, later renamed Garnet.

Ghost town of Garnet, Montana, August 22, 2014

Road construction started that year eventually connected Garnet with Bearmouth and the Northern Pacific Railroad.

Ghost town of Garnet, Montana, August 22, 2014

Shortly after the stamp mill was finished, a small “boom” began when a rich vein of gold ore was discovered in the Nancy Hanks mine.  Miners poured into the small mountain town.  Four stores, four hotels, three livery stables, two barber shops, a union hall, a butcher shop, a candy shop, a doctor’s office, an assay office, many miners’ cabins, thirteen saloons and a school with 41 students soon graced the town.

Ghost town of Garnet, Montana, August 22, 2014

Eager miners and entrepreneurs built quickly, with no planning, resulting in a haphazard village where most buildings stood on existing or future mining claims.  With the haste of boom-town construction, cabins and many of the commercial buildings had no foundations.

Ghost town of Garnet, Montana, August 22, 2014

The boom was short.  By 1900, most of the veins had played out.  Five years later, many of the mines had been abandoned and the town’s population dropped to about 150.  A fire in 1912 devastated the small business district and the US entry into World War I drew most of the remaining residents away to war-related jobs.  Cabins were abandoned with furnishings still intact, as though residents were gone on vacation.

Ghost town of Garnet, Montana, August 22, 2014

In 1934, gold prices were raised from $16 to $35 an ounce.  With the higher price of gold, and new extraction and refining technology, a new wave of miners moved into cabins and began reworking the mines and dumps.  The population, by 1936, had grown to 250 residents.  During this period, a number of new cabins were built.

Ghost town of Garnet, Montana, August 22, 2014

The onset of war in Europe drew the population away again.  Wartime restrictions on dynamite made mining almost impossible.  The post office closed for the last time in 1942.

Ghost town of Garnet, Montana, August 22, 2014

Souvenir hunters soon began stripping the town after the last hardy residents died or moved away.  More was taken than readily removed loose items.  Doors, stained glass, woodwork, and even an oak bannister and spindles from the Wells Hotel disappeared.

To protect what remained, the Bureau of Land Management and the Garnet Preservation Society secured title to properties with the goal of protecting, stabilizing, and eventually interpreting the historic site.  (Some property remains in private ownership.)

Leaving Garnet, we continued along the route we had been traveling.  One of the volunteers had asked us which way were leaving.  When I told him, he asked what we were driving.  I told him, “a Honda CR-V,” and he said we shouldn’t have any problems.  Apparently, some folks had driven over that part of the road in vehicles that weren’t appropriate.  He mentioned that one guy in a Cadillac had “not been happy” with the road.

Unpaved road  between interstate highway and ghost town of Garnet, Montana, August 22, 2014

The route turned out to be another very curvy mountain road.

Unpaved road  between interstate highway and ghost town of Garnet, Montana, August 22, 2014

Except that it got very narrow, to the point that it would be difficult for two vehicles to pass.

And then we meet another vehicle – something like this one, maybe a few feet shorter, but just as wide:

Rental RV, Class C

They were coming uphill and we were going down.  I don’t know what the narrow mountain dirt road etiquette is for this, but I figured it would be easier for me to back up that it would be for them.  It wasn’t fun.

Once we were at a point where they could get past us, I rolled my window down and we told them that they should consider turning around when they got to a spot where it was possible, that the road didn’t get any better for several miles.   They said that they had seen a sign saying “No RVs” but thought it was for a a different branch of the road. I think their accent was German.

Next up – Rained out.

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Back to rustic camping–and a walk in a historic downtown.

Exploring and camping in Montana – August 21, 2014

From Bozeman, we headed to the mountains west of Butte, planning to camp 3 nights at Lodgepole Campground, near Georgetown Lake.  The name is appropriate as the forest the campground is in is mostly lodgepole pines.

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The were only a couple of other campers in the campground when we got set up.  A forest worker was attaching white flagging tape to selected trees in the campground.  The tape identifies trees that a contract company is supposed to treat to prevent infestation by pine bark beetles, which has been a big problem in many areas of the west for several years.

After supper, we decided to take a drive to  do a bit of exploring.  A trip down a side road took us into the historic mining town of Phillipsburg.

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There was a good probability for rain for the entire time we planned to stay in the area.

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The historic mining town of Philipsburg, Montana was founded in 1867. Prospectors and placer miners were in the area from the mid 1860’s. The first claims were staked in 1865. Early in the summer of 1866, one of the locators, Hector Horton, interested James Stuart and the St. Louis and Montana Mining Company who were operating mines at Argenta, in a prospecting trip to the area. A silver “rush” followed, with numerous prospectors staking claims on the Hope, Algonquin, Speckled Trout, and other lodes in the district. Philipp Deidesheimer, who had become famous in the Comstock, arrived in 1866. He also evaluated the district for the St. Louis and Montana Mining Company and, in the next year, supervised the construction of the Hope Mill. The town of Philipsburg is named for him.  (Mining History Association)

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Next up: A ghost town.

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Travel Day–On to Montana!

August 20, 2014 – Travel Day

For our first overnight stop in Montana, we headed for an RV park outside Bozeman, where we had reservations. Along the way, we stopped in West Yellowstone, just outside the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

Although Eagle’s Store focuses mainly on rugged outdoor clothing and gifts for West Yellowstone visitors, the soda fountain remains a popular, working attraction of the century-old store.  Visitors enjoy seeing the ornate mahogany back bar complete with the original Coca-Cola mirror, as well as the original compartments used to store ice blocks for chilling ice cream and soda syrups. (One Mill Street at Woolrich.com)

Eagle’s Store soda fountain, West Yellowstone, Montana, August 20, 2014

carved wood cowboy sculpture, West Yellowstone, Montana, August 20, 2014

West Yellowstone is a small town with a population of about 1300.  Adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, the town has a lot of lodging options, including RV parks, for those visiting the park as well as quite a few touristy shops.

carved wood cowboy sculpture, West Yellowstone, Montana, August 20, 2014

carved wood cowboy sculpture, West Yellowstone, Montana, August 20, 2014

If anyone touches the jeep or its occupants, the loud car horn starts sounding!

Four big teddy bears in a real jeep, West Yellowstone, Montana, August 20, 2014

Four big teddy bears in a real jeep with a stuffed moose on the hood, West Yellowstone, Montana, August 20, 2014

The day was dark and dreary.  It started to drizzle and, after we left West Yellowstone, turned to rain.

West Yellowstone, Montana, August 20, 2014

Once the camper was set up in the campground, we headed into Bozeman.  While Karen took care of laundry, I cleaned up the outside of the car.  Accumulated grime from unpaved roads like the ones we took a few days before and road spray from the camper coated the car in a thin layer.

(note: I didn’t think to get a “before” photo.)

Honda CR-V in carwash in Bozeman, Montana

Next – on to a rustic site and a historic town.

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Rapids, wolves, a bear, thermal features, and that road that “melted into a soupy mess.”

Exploring Yellowstone National Park, August 19, 2014.

Every day we were in the park this time, we drove past LeHardy Rapids, a cascade on the Yellowstone River, three miles north of Fishing Bridge.

LeHardy Rapis, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 19, 2014

We were thrilled to finally see wolves in Yellowstone.  In the same area we had seen the four grizzlies the day before, a single grizzly was defending possession  of a buffalo carcass from a pair of gray wolves.

We later learned that one or two buffalo had been hit on the road the night before and had wandered off into the sage.  If animals die on or near the road after being hit, park employees dispose of the carcass.  When an injured animal wanders away from the road and dies, the carcass is left for carrion-eaters.

It was hard to see what was going on, even with the camera zoom lens.  The image below is the result of  digital cropping and enhancement.  Another couple had a nice spotting scope set up and asked us if we wanted to look.  I wish I could get photos from that distance as clear as what we saw in that scope.

Wolf vs. Grizzly Bear encounter, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 19, 2014

Gray wolves are “predominantly a mottled gray in color, although nearly pure white, red, or brown to black also occur.” (Wikipedia)

Initially, we thought the wolves were a white and a black, but the black turned out to be a mix of dark colors.

Wolf vs. Grizzly Bear encounter, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 19, 2014

At one point, the white wolf got too close to the buffalo carcass – and the grizzly charged!

Wolf vs. Grizzly Bear encounter, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 19, 2014

Wolf vs. Grizzly Bear encounter, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 19, 2014

Wolf vs. Grizzly Bear encounter, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 19, 2014

Our first destination of the day was the Porcelain Basin trail at Norris Geyser Basin.

Porcelin Basin Trail, Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 19, 2014

It was still the summer tourist season, so after 10 AM or so, parking lots to the most popular spots are full with vehicles waiting for someone to pull out.  When we got to Norris, there was plenty of parking spots open.  By the time we finished the trail, the parking lot was packed.

Porcelin Basin Trail, Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 19, 2014

Porcelin Basin Trail, Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 19, 2014

Our next destination was Firehole Lake Road, whose closure had been in the news the previous month.

Yellowstone National Park road melts into ‘soupy mess’

Extreme heat from surrounding thermal areas has created a hot spot in Yellowstone National Park, melting a portion of a road and causing temporary closures in the park during the peak summer tourist season. (LA Times)

Firehole Lake Road melting, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 19, 2014

In a press release, the National Park Service said, “The road will remain closed for the next several days while maintenance crews make repairs. The date for reopening the road is uncertain at this time, and will be determined after crews assess the effectiveness of their efforts.”

Other than a newly paved stretch of road, we didn’t see any sign of the “melted road” problem.

Firehole Lake area, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 19, 2014

Dragonfly, Firehole Lake area, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 19, 2014

Firehole Lake area, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 19, 2014

Next up – we head out of the park into Montana.

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Around the Upper Loop

Exploring Yellowstone National Park, August 18, 2014

After we were back to the car, we decided to drive the northern part of the Grand Loop Road, driving north from Canyon to Mammoth Hot Springs on the east side, then to Norris on the west side and back across the middle of the park on Norris Canyon Road to Canyon.

Travel route, Yellowstone National Park, August 18, 2014

The route goes up over Dunraven Pass, on the southern flank of Mt. Washburn.  An unpaved spur, Chittenden Road, goes up on the north side, ending in a parking lot – at an elevation of about 8,800 feet – for a trail that goes to the top of Washburn.  We drove to the parking lot for the view, not the trail, as we had already done a strenuous, for us, trail earlier in the day.

Chittenden Road viewpoint, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 18, 2014

While we were up there, a lone bull buffalo came meandering into view and walked up to the door of the rest room that Karen had just been in a few minutes before.

Bull buffalo (American bison), next to rest room, Chittenden Road viewpoint, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 18, 2014

We have no idea how many buffalo we have seen this trip and most certainly not over the many years we have been visiting these western parks.  We still always find them fascinating.

Bull buffalo (American bison), Chittenden Road viewpoint, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 18, 2014

We did take one relatively short trail to a viewing area that overlooks Calcite Springs and the Yellowstone River canyon.

The heat source below Calcite Springs is hot enough to liquefy large quantities of sulfur found here.  Occasionally the molten sulfur oozes to the surface where it flows like molasses.

The heat of underground fractures releases deposits of oil from rocks deep below the surface.  The oil then slowly and sporadically seeps to the surface.

Contact with air causes the liquid sulfur to turn black.  As a result, it is impossible to tell from a distance if the dark areas around Calcite Springs are oil or sulfur.

Calcite Springs, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 18, 2014

The Calcite Springs hydrothermal area is closed to visitors.

Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 18, 2014

Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 18, 2014

At Mammoth Hot Springs, the sky was dark and threatening.

Mammoth Hot Spings, Storm clouds and rain, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 18, 2014

After a rest room break and browsing one of the park stores, we headed over to the Terrace Grill for some huckleberry ice cream as the storm breaks.  A lightning bolt strikes and in the distance we see people scurrying off the terrace trails and boardwalks.

Mammoth Hot Spings, Storm clouds and rain, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 18, 2014

After finishing the ice cream, we decided the rain wouldn’t be ending soon.  So we made a dash for the car to start the long drive back to the campground.

Along the way, we spotted a a couple of elk – and Karen got a picture (below).   We saw very few elk in Yellowstone this trip.  With the reintroduction of wolves, the number of elk has been reduced.  As well, the presence of predators has altered elk grazing and migration patterns.

Elk, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 18, 2014

Next – will we see a wolf?

critters, hiking, landscape, mountains, parks, photography, places, river, stream, thermal features, travel, weather, wildlife, Wyoming
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