Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wild West Towns and Ghost Towns

I felt like hitting the road so I decided to head to Virginia City and Nevada City, MT. Both are historical gold mining towns of the old west back when it was 'wild'.

The drive was beautiful getting there. I headed out of the park at the West Entrance following Hwy. 287 out of West Yellowstone.

Hebgen Lake:

Hayfield near Ennis, MT:

There were dark clouds behind Virginia City. I decided to wait in my car for the clouds to pass. I sat here snapping some pictures of the town.

Well, it started raining and quickly turned in to hail. The hail got bigger and bigger. It sounded awful sitting in my "new" car (new to me). When the storm passed, the ground was covered in white.

During the Civil War, gold was discovered here in 1863 bringing an influx of emigrants from all over the world. Majority were southerners. The mine was producing enough gold that could finance a victory in the war for whichever side could capture it. So, President Lincoln sent northern emigrants which lead to tensions in the town. Virginia City quickly became one of the most lawless places in the West.

A secret society of vigilantes was formed to stop the outlaws. Lynchings became routine in the streets of Virginia City.

The building below is known as the Hangman's Building. The vigilantes used the heavy center support beam of this building to hang 5 men.
Virginia City was home to Montana's first public school, newspaper and telegraph.

Just a couple miles down the road is Nevada City, MT. It was also formed around the gold mines. As the gold faded, so did the town.

Today, the properties are owned by the Montana Historical Society.

Notice the grass growing on the roof of the bakery:
Hwy. 287:
Earthquake Lake - In August 1959, a 7.5 earthquake struck this area in southwestern Montana. It caused a massive landslide which caused a landslide dam of the Madison River. This dam formed Earthquake Lake seen below.
On the night of the earthquake, 250 people were camped along the Madison River canyon. The river was quickly flooding due to the landslide dam caused by the earthquake. The highway had been destroyed at Hebgen Lake on one end and was blocked by the landslide on the other end. Realizing they were trapped, many gathered on the ridge just behind this sign. A National Forest Service Smokejumper rescue team parachuted to this point to give first aid and prepare the injured for evacuation. They were flown from the area by U.S. Air Force and Forest Service helicopters.
Here is a video I took of the hail storm in Virginia City.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Speciman Ridge

I went on an 7 mile hike with a naturalist from the Yellowstone Association, a non-profit organization that does research and education about Yellowstone. The trailhead was just before Slough Creek in this beautiful valley:

Wildflowers covered the ground. It's hard not to be happy when you're hiking in wildflowers...

The view from 1000 ft:

The view of a petrified tree stump at 1500 ft. :

This 'wood turned to stone' is the fossilized remains of redwood trees that were in the park when a massive volcano buried the trees in sediment. The tree is preserved due to lack of oxygen.

Heading back down...

Our fearless leader, Phil informing the group:

A petrified log:


Another petrified tree stump:
I accidently took this pic while pulling my camera out of my pocket, but the sky was pretty today:

Friday, June 25, 2010

OTO Ranch

OTO Ranch was the first Dude Ranch in Montana. Dick Randall worked as a cowboy on this ranch. In 1888, he headed to Yellowstone as a stagecoach driver for tourists and realized the business potential outfitting hunting adventures and genuine "old west" experiences for wealthy tourists and European aristocrats. Dick and his wife Dora purchased this ranch in 1898 and offered tourists "the feel of the mountains" until they retired in 1934.
There is a lot of old machinery sitting around. Here is a horse-drawn mowing machine:
Horse-drawn disc:
This ranch is now part of the Gallatin National Forest. It is easily accessible and the cabins, main lodge and buildings are all open to those who hike in.
Inside one of the guest cabins:

The 1921 Main Lodge:

In 2004, the site was listed on the National Register of Historical Places, and the building are currently undergoing renovations with labor provided by volunteer groups including Passport in Time, Elderhostel, and Amizade. I'm not sure, but I would guess someone from one of these groups found various items in the yard during a clean-up and made this unique lawn ornament:

As we walked around the main lodge, we noticed the door was unlocked at the left end of the house. We walked into the long hall way:
The hall is lined on both sides with old guest rooms. Some are empty and some hold pieces from the past. This one is full of old horse tack on old metal bed frames:
In the middle of the hallway, it opens into the main lodge room with this high ceiling:
On the walls in the main and dining room were old photographs of the dude ranch in it's prime:
I'm not sure what this is but maybe a form of room service???

The hallway continued on the other side of the main lodge room with guest rooms lining both sides:
At the end of the hallway, there is a game room and a side porch. The iron work is intricate and unusual. The spring house is just past the porch:

The view of the cabins from the main lodge:
The side porch:

There is also a property just before the main ranch that we think may have been the corral and caretakers property. There was this old barn:
Have I mentioned the sunsets in Montana?

Here is the corral/caretakers place from up on the road:

There is also an old house here that is in pretty bad shape. Looking in from the window at the end of the house, you can see some custom built cabinetry from the 1800's:

An old cream seperator:

John Deere Plow:

A spring house on the creek:

Heading back...

To get to the ranch from Garider, you follow Hwy 89 to mile marker 10 and turn right onto Cedar Creek Rd. The road ends at this trailhead and you have to walk 2 miles in to the ranch.