Archive | March 2019

Circus Trip 2018: Philipsburg, MT

Day 6, Saturday, July 21, 2018

I slept in a little that morning – maybe because it was Saturday, maybe because the early morning sunshine finally warmed me up enough to sleep well.  I had oatmeal and coffee for breakfast.  Camping tip – I brought an electric kettle on this trip and it was one of the best items to have!  Even if I didn’t have electric at my campsite (which I usually didn’t), I could still tote that little kettle into the bathroom, plug it in and have hot water in 90 seconds!  No need to heat up water on the camp stove – it was a great morning time saver!

I read a bit during breakfast and enjoyed the morning sun.

My destination for the day was Philipsburg, Montana.  Philipsburg was a mining town founded in the late 1890s; after the mines and the lumber mills went dead in the 1980s, the town rebranded itself as a tourist destination.  It capitalizes on its historic downtown main street, as well as the sapphire mines nearby.  There are a couple of shops where you can “mine” for sapphires, sorting through bags of gravel and finding the valuable stones.

First I checked out the Montana Law Enforcement Museum.  It was a small museum; just one small room in a storefront.  They had artifacts and exhibits on the various Montana police, including information on officers killed in the line of duty, old uniforms and equipment used by departments, and even an old jail cell.  The museum is free to visit, although they do request donations.

A Police Call Box and Uniform

 

Police Patches, including Tacoma, Washington

I was getting hungry for lunch at that point, so I found the Philipsburg Brewing Company.  They are located in downtown Philipsburg, in an old bank building that was built in 1888.  They have maintained the historic flavor of the building too!  They don’t serve food, so I got takeout from the UpNSmoking BBQ House down the street and brought it back to the brewery to enjoy.  I ordered a Gonk Ale – it was delicious!

After lunch, I went to Gem Mountain.  I bought a $30 bucket of gravel to sort through.  They set you up at a table and show you how to go through your gravel to find the sapphires hidden inside.  It was fun digging through the dirty gravel!  It was certainly a good way to spend a couple of hours, even if I didn’t find “the big one”.

Sapphire Mining!

 

My Sapphire Haul

On the way back to camp, I drove the Pintler Veteran’s Memorial Highway; it passes through the town of Anaconda at the base of the Anaconda mountain range.  Anaconda was once the home of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, and this mine produced from the 1880s all the way until 1980.

Anaconda is an interesting story in itself, also holding mines in Chile which were seized by the Chilean government after socialist President Salvador was elected in 1970.  I was interested in that connection since I lived in Chile for a time during college.  It’s a small world, and things have a tendency to all be tied together.  But back to the Montana story – after the Atlantic Richfield Company purchased the mine in 1977, it turned out that ARCO just didn’t have the experience in hard rock mining, and the price of copper had dropped enough to make the mine unprofitable.  ARCO closed down the mine in 1980.  The site is currently listed as a Superfund site, due to the incredible amount of toxic waste that resulted from the years of mining.  ARCO and British Petroleum (BP), which later bought out ARCO, have spent millions decontaminating the site, but the work is far from done.

You can still see the 585 foot tall Anaconda smokestack, which was once the tallest masonry structure in the world.  When I was there, there was a herd of deer grazing; I saw 10 or 12 in the few minutes of my visit.

I headed back to the campground to have some leftovers for dinner.  Then I blogged and chatted with a few people at camp before bed.  A relaxing day on the road…

Me in Deer Lodge, Montana

 

 

 

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Book Review: The Perfect Horse

Back at Christmas time, I finished The Perfect Horse, by Elizabeth Letts.

During World War II, Europe was being decimated by both the Allies and the Axis powers.  Civilians were caught in the middle.  Even if you have read or watched a lot on World War II, one of the things you might not necessarily consider is the absolute upheaval that war brings.

The Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria had been breeding the prized Lipizzaner stallions for hundreds of years and training them in the highly elaborate art of classical riding.  The bloodlines were exquisite, and the training was exacting and took years to achieve.  During the war, the horses were prized by the Germans, not for their talent, but as breeding stock. The Germans wanted to create the perfect war horse and were willing to breed for the characteristics that they were looking for.  Given how many generations it takes to breed consistent traits into a horse, it becomes clear that the Germans believe the Third Reich would be around for a while…

As the Austrian managers ran from the destruction of the war with hundreds of prized horses, it became clear that desperate times were going to require desperate measures.  They reached out to the Americans, hoping to ensure the horses’ safety.  They knew that without the assistance of the soon-to-be victors, these beautiful animals would either be shelled to death somewhere, starve to death somewhere or be confiscated by the Germans who were by now desperate for livestock to pull equipment, and for food…

In a hugely lucky twist of fate, the man the Austrian contacted was an American officer who was deeply devoted to horses, having served in the Army Cavalry.  Hank Reed was able to secure permission for the mission from none other than George Patton himself.  It became a race against time to smuggle these gorgeous animals into Allied controlled territory, across Europe, eventually to the United States, and finally safety.

The book is impeccably researched and very well written, keeping me interested from cover to cover.  Admittedly, I do love horses, and the obscure topic of the book might be considered dry by many readers.  I thought it was fascinating though, and well worth the read.

5 stars.

 

Jumping In…

It has been a busy week. I started my new job today – it was full of all the first day uncertainly.  Getting lost in the office maze, only remembering 2% of the names that my new coworkers told me, orientation meetings and trying to figure out the key card to my office door.  But people there are warm and friendly, and I’m excited about this new beginning!

Happy Wednesday to all of you!  I hope to be back to posting soon!

Circus Trip 2018: Last Day in Glacier

Day 5, Friday, July 20, 2018

On my last day in Glacier I got up early and left the campground about 7:30 am.  I was going to be driving up the Going to the Sun Road one more time and exiting out the east entrance of the park.

Since I had already seen some of the sights along the west side of the park, I just drove until I got over to the east side.  I stopped at some of the viewpoints and did a short hike from there.  On that hike, the trail ended up narrowing sharply and going through quite a bit of tall shrubbery and I was completely alone; I got a bit nervous that this might be prime bear habitat so I ended up turning around.  I did find a beautiful creek coming through a gorge near there though and took some photos.

 

 

 

I passed by St. Mary Lake and stopped to take in the view and take some photos.  St. Mary Lake is the second largest lake in the park, at 9.9 miles long and 300 feet deep.  It has a small island, Wild Goose Island in the lake.  There are boat tours of this lake too, and it would be fun to go on one someday!  Interesting, the opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was shot at St. Mary Lake.  In case you want to refresh your memory, here it is.  The views are stunning.

 

On the east side of the park I stopped at the Visitor’s Center for my stamp and to check out the exhibits on the Blackfeet tribe’s use of the park’s land as part of their traditional homeland; they call the area the Backbone of the World.  The park and the Blackfeet have a partnership now that allows the tribe to continue to use the land.

Also on the east side of the park is a 1913 Ranger Station; it was used as a ranger station until the 1930s, when it became ranger housing.  They restored it in 1976.  The site also contains a barn that was originally built in 1926, and was later moved to this location.  There are a few hikes that depart from the Ranger Station through the grasslands on the east side of the park.

The Ranger Station – 1913

The 1926 Barn

 

Upon leaving the park, I stopped to visit the Blackfeet Memorial, a memorial consisting of metal tipis constructed by the tribe.  There are signs at the viewpoint explaining where the Blackfeet traditional lands once extended to, as well as information about their culture, way of life, origin stories, and Blackfeet names of the mountains visible from the viewpoint.  This area was burned by fire in 2006; the Red Eagle fire consumed over 34,000 acres within the boundaries of the Blackfeet Reservation and Glacier National Park.  It was an interesting stop!

 

The rest of the day was spent on a long, meandering drive through rural Montana towards Philipsburg.  I had about a half a tank of gas, and told myself that I would get gas when I next saw a gas station.  I had enough for about 30 more miles by the time I finally saw a gas station!  This is big country, my friends, and a lot of it is very sparsely populated.  Get gas when you have a chance!

An abandoned home

 

A very strange rest area sign – do they really want trucks to the right, where there is no road?

I rolled into Deer Lodge, Montana that evening for two nights at the Indian Creek RV Park.  They welcomed tents, but they weren’t really well set up for them – $45 for 2 nights.  They parked me in the middle of a grassy lawn, and I felt a little bit like I was living in a fishbowl, surrounded by all the RVs! I was the only tent camper there.  They didn’t have any picnic tables set out, just a small gazebo on the lawn, which I ended up setting up my cook stove in – you do what you have to do.  For dinner, I had rice, polenta and turkey sausage – yummy!  That night was the first night I set up my tent; it would have been awkward to sleep in my car because it was just parked on the road alongside the grassy area.  I learned that even though it was hot during the day, it got really cold at night!

A bunny at my campsite

 

Sunset at my campsite

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Glacier and my Marriage

One of the reasons for this trip was to shake off the painful end of my marriage and start fresh.  I don’t talk about it much, but perhaps I should.

Glacier National Park was one of the places that I had long talked about visiting with my ex-husband when we were married.  We never made it there.  At the end of our marriage, and during our divorce, I came to know another man in my husband, one so completely foreign to me that I wondered who I had actually been married to.  His behavior and his treatment of me was such a complete 180 from the early years, that I began to believe that it had all been a game to him.  I still don’t know who he really was, and I probably never will.

I would never have been able to afford this trip if I had remained married.  Getting divorced meant a level of financial (and emotional) freedom that I had not known in years.  My ex was an incredible drain on my finances, because he didn’t pull his weight financially and he was a huge spendthrift.  That was the one fight that we had over and over and over in our marriage, because his spending was bleeding us dry.  It was at the point that I was considering not allowing him to have his own credit card, and just giving him a cash allowance.  What is the point of being married to someone if you feel like you are treating them like a child?  I know he wasn’t happy with the situation either, but for whatever reason, he was just never willing to rein in the spending.

Long story short, getting divorced meant I was able to save a lot more money.  The drain on my life was gone.  Additionally, if I had still been married, he probably wouldn’t have been too keen on the idea of me taking several months away.  Let’s be honest, he probably would have wanted me to get a new job right away (or not leave the old one), so he could continue wasting all our money.

So, even though getting divorced was not what I had wanted for myself, and even though that year and a half was the most miserable time in my life so far, it was a blessing.  I am happier now that I don’t have his negativity and contempt weighing on my soul.  Someone else can have him be a drain on their finances and clean up his messes.  Someone else can listen to his lies.  I’m way better off.  I had a friend who told me that he looked at photos of my ex and me, and saw a woman trying to make it work, trying to be happy, and a man standing next to her who didn’t care about her at all.  He was right.  I don’t think my ex cared about me.  At least not at the end; I’ll never know if he ever did.

Before I went on this trip, I had never hiked alone.  Realistically though, I probably had.  My ex never actually hiked with me; instead he consistently walked between 20 and 50 feet in front of me when we went hiking.  There was rarely any interaction.  I have more pictures of his back, hiking in front of me, than I do of the two of us together.  So when I took this trip, I thought about that.  I had been hiking alone for most of my marriage.  This wouldn’t be any different – I got this.

 

I have told the story of the hat that he gave me. That hat that he had purchased for the girlfriend he was with at the end of our marriage, then decided to give to me instead.  The Avalanche Lake hike in Glacier National Park was the first hike I wore that hat for.  I thought I would hate it, but that hat grew on me.  It was a way to turn around the past and empower myself – to find my joy.  This was just the beginning of that new life, of feeling like I could travel by myself, hike by myself, and make my own way.

Me at Avalanche Lake

Glacier was just the start…

Circus Trip 2018: Avalanche Lake Hike

Day 4, July 19, 2018

Today was day 2 in Glacier National Park!  I got up at 7, and got ready quickly and skedaddled at 7:30 am after accidentally setting off my car alarm…  Oops!  Sorry campers!  You know you wanted to be up early to hike!

That morning I went to do the Avalanche Lake hike – it was 4.8 miles round-trip.  This is a busy hike, for good reason, because it is beautiful, so go early and pack your patience to get a parking spot.

For me, the hike to Avalanche Lake is very much like the hikes at home, a dirt trail with roots and big rocks along the side of the trail.  It is a moderate hike, mostly in the shade – which was perfect on a hot day!  At many points along the trail you can see evidence of past avalanches and landslides that have taken down more than a few trees.  It is not unusual in these mountain areas.

The hike is fairly popular and I could see and/or hear other hikers at most points on the trail.  I was surprised by the number of people that didn’t have bear spray – given that Glacier National Park is heavily populated by grizzlies and given the fact that the bear I saw the day before didn’t seem scared of humans AT ALL, I felt more comfortable carrying it, even with the people around.  I also have a bear bell on my backpack, which jingles to warn animals I’m coming.  If you hike alone, they say you should talk or sing to yourself, but let’s be real, who wants to do that for several miles in the wilderness?  My bear bell seemed to do the trick – which was apparently to get the attention of every man within a half mile radius, many of whom commented on it or asked what it was.   So there you go – if you want to meet a man, consider getting a bear bell?  Don’t hike?  Maybe just wear it around the office!?  Or at the grocery store?  I digress.

The lake was gorgeous!  It was so clear and you could see the fallen trees at the bottom from past avalanches.  I walked at the edge of the lake for a bit and sat and had a snack and just enjoyed the scenery.  Even though I wasn’t alone, it was very peaceful just sitting alongside that lake.

After I got back to the car, I made a peanut butter and honey sandwich and walked over to the creek near the parking area and sat on the stone wall to eat.

After lunch, I drove down to the Lake McDonald Lodge and wandered down to the lake shore.  Lake McDonald, at 10 miles long and 500 feet deep, is the largest lake in the park.  It is beautiful with the colorful rocks on its bottom, and the mountains rising above.  The valley where Lake McDonald sits was carved by the glaciers that existed here, and the valleys between the mountains are also evidence of glacial activity.  The lodge itself was constructed between 1913 and 1914 in the Swiss Chalet style.  I love these old lodges!  I parked myself in the shade, and even dozed off on the shore until some bratty kids came along and were knocking down all the cute little rock cairns that people had built.  I watched the boat tours go by – one day I would like to take one, but I just wasn’t feeling in the mood that day.

On my way back to camp, I stopped by the Alberta Visitor Center and checked it out.  Glacier National Park is so close to Canada it makes sense for them to have a Visitor’s Center there!  I have said it before, but I really want to see the Canadian parks north of Glacier!  There is never enough time to do everything though.

I also visited the historic Belton Train Station.  Belton was one of the stations where trains came to deliver visitors to the park in its early days.  It was constructed in 1910 by the Great Northern Railroad and enlarged in 1935; the same railroad also built the Belton Chalet Hotel across the road.  It would have been so cool to have the experience back then!

Belton Train Station

 

Ground squirrels at the Belton Station

I went back to camp and relaxed that evening.  I deserved to take a break since I had logged over 20,000 steps!  I also spent some time talking to the young guys at the campsite next door to me.  They were from Savannah, GA and Kansas and had met there for a guys trip to Glacier.  It was nice to have some social interaction and I enjoyed my time sitting around their campfire.  And apparently both of them slept through my car alarm that morning – whew!  It was a nice end to another great day!

 

 

 

 

Road Trip Photo Faves: Pronghorn

I am working on posts for my road trip, but…  My mom and I got home today from a weekend getaway to Tucson, to enjoy a little time away.  We both felt like we needed a break from the not-so-fun chores lately.  We had a great time!  So anyway, I was working on a post, but I just kind of lost steam tonight.

Meanwhile, here is another of my favorite photos from my road trip.  A male Pronghorn that I saw at Fort Phil Kearny, near Sheridan, Wyoming.  He was gorgeous!

Phil-Kearny-Pronghorn

Pronghorn at Fort Phil Kearny, Sheridan, Wyoming