Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Winter Montana Mountain Road Trip
Winter Montana Mountain Road Trip
This is what a winter Montana Mountain Road Trip can look like. The manager of the Super 8 at Big Timber kindly told us that we had an opportunity to get through the Bozeman Pass when the winds let up in the afternoon, other wise they were predicted to be high again the next day. We drove through the mountains in snow and blowing snow. On the other side was clear sky, cold and clear roads all the way to our destination, Missoula. The Missoula Super 8 had a place to park our until for the night and a warm room for us. Across the road was the Montana Club, a great place to eat. You'll like the lodge-style atmosphere. You can come as you are. The menu has everything from hamburgers to steak and seafood. Their salads were fresh and crisp. The taco salad was very generous and the hamburger grilled to perfection.
Rangitsch Bros RV is one of 2 large dealers in Missoula. They were easy to find, friendly and helpful! There is no sales tax in Montana making it economical to purchase a RV in that state. They do have property tax. We visited with the manager of the repair shop while we had our car checked out and learned that there has not been normal snow fall in the last few years. It has been dry causing a lot of fires. He works with the rescue teams going up in the mountains to help evacuate people in the path of the fires. Sometimes the homeowners do not want to evacuate even when they are in the path of 300 ft high flames. The smoke jumpers have a museum, but it was not open during the winter. We learned that besides working with fires, they are called on to jump in to mountain areas in a medical emergency to stabilize the victim until they can be transported.
Pinter Scenic Loop
The Pinter Scenic Loop is a 53 mile alternate to Interstate 90 that drives through the mountains and around the Georgetown Lake area starting at Drummond and ending at Anaconda. The big blue sunlight Montana sky contrasting with the snow covered mountains made a beautiful continuing scene as we drove. The road is well maintained. Cabins and resorts surround the Georgetown Lake area. Recreational sports and fishing are available.
You can see abandoned mine equipment on the sides of the mountains. At one time gold was mined in this area. There are areas of ranching and irrigated fields in the valleys. In the 1800's the town of Hall had a station on the Northern Pacific Railroad. It was a livestock and grain shipping point for the area until the bank failed after WWI.
Anaconda Smelter Stack
As you drive into Anaconda you will see a huge smoke stack on the horizon. There were copper mines in the area and other ores from the Butte area were transported here to be processed. This stack is one of the tallest freestanding brick structure in the world. It is 585 feet tall. The inside diameter is 60' at the base and 75' at the top. It is not used and the area has been in the process of being reclaimed.
There is a lot of mining and many areas with oil and natural gas wells in Montana and Wyoming.
It was reported on the news that in one area there was coal smoldering underground for 27 years. A fire in the area had started the coal vein smoldering and it worked it's way back to the top soil and the dry grass just caught fire.
Next Time Not Winter!
So much history in this area! So much to see when it is not winter! The headwaters of the Missouri River are located near Great Falls. Three Forts were built in the 1800's to protect immigrants and later the workers constructing the Trans Continental RR from the Indians. All are open to the public, except in the winter. Deer Lodge, MT has several museums of ranch history and the Old Montana Prison. Yellowstone National Park, Black Hills State Park, and the Badlands are on this route but most of roads are closed in winter.
There are thousands of acres of ranch land being sold in 20 acre tracts for development plus larger tracts for investment ranching. One area along the interstate has white fences along the front of each tract with brick posts at the entrance driveways, but no homes, yet!
We even stayed in Wall, South Dakota after a day of driving in cold, wind and snow and we did not even try to find the famous Drug Store!! Plan your trip anytime from April through October and enjoy the Big Sky Country of the West!