Tag Archive | Chipmunk

Circus Trip 2018: Bannack State Park

Day 8, Monday, July 23, 2018

After a night spent in Dillon, Montana, I departed for my day’s destination.  I was going to Bannack State Park, which preserves the ghost town of Bannack.  Bannack was founded in 1862 after gold was discovered there.  It was remote then – it was connected by the Montana Trail wagon road to Salt Lake City, but was also rough and dangerous, due to the risks posed by Native Americans and weather extremes.  Bannack is still remote now!

The Bannack Sign

Bannack is named after the local Native American tribe that inhabited the area; the Bannock Indians.  When they sent the paperwork to Washington, D.C. the agent misspelled the proposed name and nobody ever corrected it.  Bannack it remains.

The town has quite a colorful history; it was the capitol of the Montana Territory for a brief period in 1864, until it moved to Virginia City.  And here’s a story for you!  The Sheriff of Bannack, Henry Plummer, was a criminal who had served time for manslaughter at San Quentin prison.  Apparently no one found out about his history when they elected him as Sheriff.  In Bannack, he was suspected to have been leading a band of road agents who were allegedly robbing and murdering travelers.  Some claimed that Plummer’s band had committed over one hundred murders!  That’s where the story gets stranger though; modern historians believe this number is very inflated, since only eight deaths were documented during the period in the area.  People believed what they wanted to though, and Plummer and two of his deputies were hanged without trial, and over twenty more received an informal trial and then were lynched by vigilantes.

The Bannack Jail

One man named Joe Pizanthia was killed when the vigilantes turned to mob violence.  They tried to question Joe, but he refused to leave his cabin.  A large crowd gathered, and two men volunteered to bring Joe out.  Joe ended up shooting them when they attempted to enter.  That got the crowd all worked up, so they borrowed a cannon, shelled the cabin, and injured Joe.  Then they dragged him out, and shot him over one hundred times, set the cabin on fire and then threw his body onto the flames.  Wow – they didn’t mess around!

Stranger still is that many suspected the vigilantes of framing Plummer and his deputies in order to hide the fact that they were the real bandits…  Yikes…

Today in Bannack, sixty log, brick and wooden homes and business remain.  Many of the buildings are open to visitors during the day and you can wander freely through them.  It was so cool to be able to explore these buildings!

With so many deaths among the suspected road agents, and the people murdered on the road, there are bound to be ghosts there. One story in particular that stuck with me wasn’t about the men murdered here.  The Bessette House was owned by Mitty Bessette, who arrived in Bannack in 1864 and died of old age in 1919.  The house was used as a quarantine house in the early 20th century, housing people during outbreaks of influenza, scarlet fever, diphtheria and whooping cough.  The house is believed to be haunted by the ghosts of children who died during these epidemics.  Some visitors hear the sound of crying babies coming from the house.

Bannack Home Interior

It was hot while I was there, but I enjoyed wandering and checking out the various places.  In a ghost town that is covered in snow each year and winter winds, it was great to see how well preserved it is. They even have some original outhouses!

I found one of the toilets!

 

The birds are plentiful there, with many birds nesting in the rafters and beams of the various old buildings.  Good from a birding perspective, but not so good from a historic preservation angle.  Birds are pretty hard on buildings.

Bannack has two cemeteries.  There is one at the top of the hill above town; it was the original cemetery.  Almost all of the stones are gone now and there isn’t much to see.  Down the road a little ways from the town site is the second cemetery.  This one has graves in various states of decay, it is always interesting to see cemeteries that are mostly rocks and sagebrush.  They are so different from the ones at home.  I spent a bit of time checking out the headstones there.

It only costs $6 to visit Bannack and it is free for Montana residents.  They also sell an informative guidebook for $2 more. I loved visiting Bannack!  Writing this makes me want to go back and see it again!

A Chipmunk!

 

Winthrop, Washington

On our way home from our weekend trip to Chelan, we stopped awhile in Winthrop, Washington.  Winthrop is a historic town in the Cascade mountains, that was first settled by white settlers in 1891 after placer gold was discovered in the area in 1868.  Owen Wister, author of The Virginian, wrote the novel after honeymooning in Winthrop in 1898.  All I have to say is, his wife must have been a really adventurous woman, because it would have been quite the experience getting to someplace so remote!

Unfortunately for the town, most of the mines had closed by 1915, and the town experienced a decline.  In the 1970s, the town decided to capitalize on the old western theme, and they restored the town to an old west style.  The restoration included wooden sidewalks and all of the shops on the main street of town have old west style facades on the buildings.  There are also a few historic plaques, explaining the original structures and the history of the town.  The population of Winthrop is less than 400, but a visit there shows a vibrant tourist area with people enjoying what the town has to offer.

Jon and I arrived in time for a late lunch, and we had gotten a recommendation from a coworker on the Old Schoolhouse Brewery.  Jon and I decided to check it out, and we had an awesome meal!  We started out with the chips and black bean salsa – the chips were homemade – and amazing!  For the meal, I had the guacamole, pepperjack and bacon burger and the Epiphany Ale, a medium body pale ale.  Jon had the bacon and artichoke salad and a coffee.  My burger was excellent – the hamburger is certified Angus beef!  And Jon’s salad was equally good.  The beer was one of the best beers I have had in a long time – this brewery is fairly new, but sure to have great success!

Schoolhouse Brewery in Winthrop, Washington

Jon Enjoying his Lunch at the Schoolhouse Brewery

After lunch, we wandered around town and checked out the shops.  There are lots of wonderful art galleries, and a bookstore with lots of local books.  There are several neat gift shops with unique items.  But if you get bored of poking into the shops, you can also check out the Shafer Mining Museum (I would have liked to go, but Jon was getting antsy…), or you can check out the pedestrian bridge over the Methow River.  The river is really shallow here, so you could easily see the bottom, and looking into the river was really peaceful.  If you plan to stay awhile, there are also lots of outdoor activities – camping, hiking, fishing, 4 wheeling…  Plus skiing in the winter of course.

Methow River – Winthrop, Washington

After we left Winthrop, we headed over the pass towards home.  State Route 20, also known as the North Cascades Highway, is beautifully scenic, with areas to pull out and take photos in several locations.  It is also much less congested than the more traveled Highway 2 to the south.  Of course, Highway 20 is only open part of the year, opening typically in April or May and usually shutting down in November.  Heavy annual snowfall and avalanches leave the snow at Washington Pass between 15 and 20 feet deep in the winter!  Interestingly, State Route 20 is the longest highway in Washington State, at 463.13 miles, beginning in Discovery Bay, on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, and finally ending within 1000 feet of the Idaho state line.

On this trip, Jon let me stop a time or two to check out the beautiful mountains, and again to drive over Diablo Dam.  Diablo Dam is one of 3 dams built on the Upper Skagit River, and it generates electricity for Seattle City Light.  Construction was started in 1917, but due to extreme weather and political delays, it wasn’t completed until 1930.  At the time of its completion, Diablo Dam’s 389 feet made it the tallest dam in the world.  The dam created a lake called Diablo Lake that is home to rainbow, cutthroat, brook, and endangered bull trout.  The water is a brilliant turquoise blue-green color, caused by pulverized rock that is deposited into the lake by glacier-fed streams, where it hangs suspended in the water.

Diablo Dam with Diablo Lake

And the coolest part is that if you drive down this little road off to the side of the highway, you can drive across the dam!  We drove across (you aren’t allowed to stop on the dam) and parked on the other side to take some closeup photos.  I know some of you will find it strange that I found a dam so interesting, but it was a really neat (and really big) piece of architecture!  Plus, there was this cute little chipmunk posing on the road!  And since it was really close to closing time (they close the little road at 5 pm and there is a gate that will not let you in, but will let you out), we were the only ones there.

A Cute Chipmunk at Diablo Dam

After we said goodbye to the chipmunk (ok, I’m the only one who said goodbye to him – Jon refused), we continued on toward home…