Monday, June 14, 2010

Big Sky Country

Greetings from Montana!

The book, Undaunted Courage, the story of Meriwether Lewis and the Lewis & Clark trek, by Stephen Ambrose made me want to retrace the steps of these explorers. You can read about the Corps of Discovery online and know more about the sights I'll be telling you about. Along the way are other sites of interest that are also great, i.e., yesterday, Sunday, June 13, I visited the Marcus Daly mansion in Hamilton, the Big Hole National Battleground and Bannack, a ghost town and MT state park.

Marcus Daly, a rags to riches story, was the "Copper King", making his fortune in the metal that was increasingly in demand for electricity. He bought thousands of acres in the Bitterroot valley south of Missoula and established the town of Hamilton there. Mrs. Daly loved her mansion outside of Hamilton which sat boarded up for 40 years after her death. A group of citizens stepped in to bring it back to life. The grounds with the grand trees, tennis courts, swimming pool out in the Montana 'wilderness' is amazing. A local docent took a small group of us through the house. I especially loved the wide porch on the front and side and the handpainted wallpapers in the house.

I knew very little about the massacre of the Nez Pearce families at Big Hole National battlefield. The site is surrounded by snow-capped mountains on a high plain. The visitor center overlooks the battlefield where lodgepoles are set up to simulate the community of tipis where the Indians were living when Colonel Gibbons and his brigade attacked. The video explaining the conflict is very well done and leaves the audience feeling heavy-hearted; just read the comments by visitors in the guestbook. The government policies toward Indians 60 years after Lewis & Clark were befriended by them is a sad chapter in our history. There are several National sites about the Nez Pearce that people can visit in and around Montana.

Bannack is a ghost town and also the first capital of territorial Montana. The State is preserving Bannack in a ghostly state. It is eerie to walk through the town with the wind whistling through old buildings and nearby wild trees and brush imagining a busy hotel, saloon and other businesses. It made me wonder if a lively town of 2010 could fade away into oblivion 150 years from now because of economic recession and become a future ghost town visited by tourists.

My campsite last night was 15 feet from a branch of the Bitterroot River flowing outside Bannock. The scenery is spectacular, but by early morning I was pretty chilly. I am enjoying my minimalist lifestyle. Imagine sitting at the table, reaching into the refrigerator, or, without moving, reaching into a cupboard for a book. There are advantages to 'small'. More to come . . .


  1. This blog is great! Aaron and I will use it as a history lesson. Why did Montana move the capital from Bannack to Helena?

  2. Congratulations on posting to your new blog, Mom! So excited to read as you go along! I am looking forward to hearing about where you visit as well as what you think and feel about it.

  3. I love learning from your travels! Look forward to lots more.

  4. "It made me wonder if a lively town of 2010 could fade away into oblivion 150 years from now because of economic recession and become a future ghost town visited by tourists."

    Hmmm ... maybe Los Angeles ...

    OK, admittedly I am a cynic as per WIKIPEDIA -- Cynicism (Greek: κυνισμός), in its original form, refers to the beliefs of an ancient school of Greek philosophers known as the Cynics (Greek: Κυνικοί, Latin: Cynici). Their philosophy was that the purpose of life was to live a life of Virtue in agreement with Nature.