Marvelous Montana and a Bit of Wonderful Wyoming: August 2016


Photo above: Reservoir at Hyalite Recreation Area, just south of Bozeman, Montana.

After a short stint home to attend a family wedding, we hightailed it back west to continue our exploration of the area. (Before coming home for the wedding, we had traveled across North Dakota and South Dakota.) The leg posted here shares what we saw in a bit of Wyoming and whole lot of Montana. We even made it all the way up to Glacier National Park but that deserves a post all its own – I’ll save it for the one after this!

We overnighted in a couple Walmarts until we got to Cheyenne, Wyoming where we stayed at A. B. Camping RV Park. This place should probably be called A.B. Barbecue Restaurant with RV Parking, because the main focus was their BBQ joint. The sites were adequate – gravel with weeds popping through – but you could tell the restaurant was their main concern. Roy and I gave it 3 1/2 stars out of 5.

Cheyenne is just about an hour away from Laramie, so we decided to see that first.


We drove on Interstate 80 which is also known as the Lincoln Highway. The original Lincoln Highway was the first road across the United States and in Wyoming, its close to what was once the Oregon Trail. A rest stop between Cheyenne and Laramie had this tribute to Lincoln along with some interesting history about the route.


The railroad yard in Laramie is just about as big as the historic downtown area.


Laramie is home to the University of Wyoming so the downtown area had that college town feeling only with a western vibe. One interesting place was The Cowboy Bar. It had a huge patio made of reclaimed wood and a book trading station. While we were looking at it, the very friendly owner came out and explained it was really a German restaurant, but he was required to keep the signage and name to comply with the town’s historic status.

We have found that usually, each historic western town seems to have preserved the home of one richest founding fathers.  In Laramie, the town house museum is the Ivinson Mansion, shown in the top right above.


We spent the next morning at the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne. It is very impressive! It has tons of artifacts and we learned a lot about how Wyoming was settled and the culture of its people (Native Americans, immigrants, settlers) from the early days through today.


In the afternoon we went to the Cheyenne Depot Museum.  It’s housed in what was the Union Pacific Railroad Depot and the city holds all kinds of events in the large courtyard space in front of it. We learned that Cheyenne came into existence when the Union Pacific Railroad was  constructed to run west of the area. It was called “The Magic City of the Plains” because it seemed to spring up overnight. What was fascinating was finding out that federal politics played a huge part in deciding the path the railroad would take. This turned some existing cities into ghost towns while the lucky ones located by the tracks flourished.  I do have to say that while I appreciated all this museum had to offer, I have never seem such a hodgepodge way that information was imparted on the various posters – especially at the very beginning of the museum. I almost gave up at trying to read them, but I really wanted to know the history, so I persisted. I don’t think kids would though, and that’s a shame because the story is so interesting.


On our way to Little Big Horn National Battle Site, we stopped by Fort Laramie.  It was situated on the western frontier where traders and settlers would pass through. There were several important treaties between the U.S. government and the Native Americans that were signed here – unfortunately they all ended up being broken.  It was decommissioned in 1890 and became part of the park system in 1938. A lot of the buildings are still standing. Some are in ruins, but others have been restored.


We stayed just a few miles away from the entrance to Little Big Horn at the 7th Ranch RV Camp in Garryowen, Montana.  It is clean with nice sized gravel sites, but the road from the highway leading up to it is bumpy and dusty, dusty, dusty. As with most RV parks, the WiFi was very weak.

In 1991 they changed the name from Custer Battlefield to Little Big Horn National Battlefield. Above left is the view Custer had from the top of his “Last Stand” hill. Around the same time it was renamed, a monument honoring the Native Americans who fought there was built and stone markers to commemorate where they fell were set up (which joined the ones that were already there for the U.S. soldiers).  They have a nice visitor’s center and great park ranger talks there. Everything to see could be done in a day, but we took our time and did it in two. Then we moved on to Billings.


In Billings we visited the Western Heritage Center that is located in the former public library. This museum had a great display of motorcycles including some of the very first Harley Davidson’s ever made. Apparently, the hills surrounding the city are great for doing trick riding and movies from the  ’40’s highlighted what competitions looked like. The basement level was set up as the lobby of a dude ranch and we learned how they came into existence as a vacation option for those who wanted to see what life out west was like.

moss-mansionThe “rich family’s house museum” in Billings is the Moss Mansion. It was built in 1903 and the family lived their continually until the youngest daughter passed away sometime in the 1980’s. All the drapes and furnishes are the very same ones as when the family resided there. The entry way was decorated with gold leaf in Moorish style and it was amazing to see.


I was tickled to see this washing machine in the basement of the Moss Mansion. It looks similar to the one my grandmother used on her farm in Crown Point, Indiana when I when I was little. I remember turning the handle so clothes would go through the rollers and get all the water smooched out of them.

From Billings we went onto Bozeman.


Palisade Falls and the Hyalite Recreation Area  are located just a short drive out of Bozeman. The area has hiking, camping, and absolutely breathtaking scenery! The falls had that same “spaghetti squash” look I saw at Devil’s Tower, Wyoming (when we veered into Wyoming on our South Dakota trip) – so I wonder if the geology is similar? It was 106 degrees when we hiked around Devil’s Tower but as we walked the easy trail to Palisade Falls we wished we had worn jackets. However, the beauty around me was striking and that’s when I first began to realize how wonderful Montana is.


The next day we explored the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman which is a must for dinosaur fans!


Practically the whole first floor is devoted to these old guys. They were huge!


Outside the museum building is their living history farm. A homestead house built in 1890 by the Tinsley family of Willow Creek, Montana  was moved there to become the centerpiece. There are also several outbuildings such as a blacksmith shop to see as well.

After leaving Bozeman we traveled to charming Ennis.


We stayed at Ennis RV Village which I just loved. The sites were spacious and the view was awesome!


Just about a half hour away Ennis are the historic towns of Virginia City and nearby Nevada City.  Virginia City was once a  Montana territorial capital and got its start as a mining town full of confederate sympathizers. It was initially called Verina to honor the wife of Jefferson Davis (who was actually named  Varina), but a when the name was being filed, the official handling the paperwork put a line through it and wrote “Virginia City” over it. After the mines went bust, the towns became ghost towns and the abandoned buildings were slowly being destroyed from time and looters. In the 1940’s philanthropist Charles Bovey and his wife Sue began buying the buildings and preserving them. Throughout the two towns, many of the buildings are set up to look just as they did before 1900.

Next, we headed north up to Missoula.


Missoula is a vibrant city that has something for everyone. There are plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities, participating in the arts, and attending sports events. It is home to the University of Montana and has busy downtown area.


During the summer months, each Thursday night there are food trucks, vendors, and usually a band in downtown Caras Park. When we were there, the University of Montana football team, the Grizzlies, were introduced and then went over to tables to sign autographs.


Also in the park is a merry go round known as the Carousel for Missoula. It is all hand carved by volunteers and was the dream of local resident Chuck Kaparich who convinced the town council the city needed the attraction.


We were so fortunate to be able to visit with our friends Jim and Carol. Jim has a great sense of humor but is also incredibly knowledgeable about the area and its history. Carol treated us to some homemade cooking which was absolutely delicious. Both of them made room in their busy schedules to show us some surrounding attractions. We loved the Saturday farmers’ market shown above. Notice the huckleberries in the middle photo above. They are smaller and tarter than blueberries and have a short season. They are delicious in everything a blueberry is in – and more! To see some other local food we sampled Click Here!


Jim and Carol took us up north for on a day trip to see the beautiful Flathead Valley. I got the above photo from the website Go Northwest; click on it for more information. We went all the way up to Kalispell, but made several stops along the way.


We saw a glimpse of the National Bison Range which was established by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. Cars can be driven through along a road by which these huge furry animals are free to roam.


At Arlee, we had to stop at Hummingbird Toys and Treats to buy licorice. The toys part of the store offered candles and small Buddhas. I didn’t understand why until I got to our next stop.


Outside of Arlee is the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas.  With the backdrop of the beautiful mountains, I could almost imagine that I was in Tibet.


Jim has a niece that lives very close to Flathead Lake and raises elk. We got to see her property. Jim had brought a bag of apples to feed the elk, but one of them had already established his dominance over the rest of the herd. He came up to the fence while the others just looked longingly on. The two little dogs who live there couldn’t resist taunting him, and if the fence hadn’t been there, I’m sure he would have showed them who was boss.

While we were at Missoula, we stayed in the Square Dance RV Park in Lolo, which is still considered part of the metropolitan area. We give this RV park a thumbs up for its large sites and great location.


Literally right down the road from the RV Park was Travelers’ Rest State Park where Lewis and Clark camped in 1805 and 1806. Besides diaries, maps and charts, there is scientific evidence that they were there. During those times it was common to take pills called “Thunder Clappers” for whatever ailment was bothering someone. This medicine not only had a substantial amount of mercury in it, but caused explosive diarrhea to boot. When historic diagrams were consulted and the latrines were found, chemical analysis revealed there was a ton of mercury in the soil.


Judy, the mom-in-law of a friend’s daughter from home invited us to join her for a hike in the Bass Creek Recreation Area. Judy lives south of Lolo and she and her two adorable dogs took us along a breathtaking trail that went up and up until we came to a beaver pond.


Also south of Lolo on Highway 93 is the town of Hamilton and the mansion of Marcus Daly, one of the legendary copper kings of the area. It was another historic house and due to being held in the family for years, it too had most of its originally furnishings. Roy bought a book in the gift shop about the high rollers in the mining business and was fascinated to learn about all the political maneuvering that went on.


One of the last things we did in Montana was pan for sapphires. We took another fun day trip with Jim and Carol to the Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine which is 22 miles west of Philipsburg. Unfortunately when we got there, signs told us it was closed for the season. However, it turns out that they have a storefront in Philipsburg where patrons can buy bags of dirt hauled into town from the mine.


So, we drove into town and bought bags of dirt for $25.00 a piece. The gals minding the store showed us how to pan for sapphire stones which look like shiny glass. When they are cut and heat treated, they are supposed to look blue – but that process takes away three-fourths of the size. Roy and I found a handful and just for fun, we arranged to get the three largest rocks processed. It will be interesting to see how they turn out when they get mailed back to us.


The town of Philipsburg had lots of cute shops including a huge candy store that sold even more kinds of licorice than the one in Arlee did.


I’ve got one last thing I have to say about something I find fascinating in marvelous Montana. Most restaurants and many other places of business just happened to have a couple or more mountings of animals. I imagine that the taxidermy industry is a pretty big deal there. I always enjoyed seeing these “trophies”; these were seen in the Lolo Creek Steakhouse.

Next stop: up north to the breathtaking Glacier National Park!

Just for fun, here are some links to some other Yates social media sites:

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