Tuesday, June 18, 2013

In and Around Dillon, MT

Even though we had a short drive and a lot of time to do it in, we still had to get up and out early due to the early check-out time in Missoula. So we were on the highway by ten am.

We stopped at a few rest areas. Those are always fun. At one, we set up a picnic lunch at the tables, but at most of them, we just run around and play in the grass.I was shooting some video of River enjoying the scenery and I felt something on my toes. Then I looked down and noticed that I was standing in a colony of ants. There were very big ants, and they looked menacing with the combination of red and black. I expected to be bitten, but I wasn't. Right after shooting the video, I felt something on my head, reached up and rubbed it and an ant fell off my head. I imagined them falling out of the trees, crawling out of the dirt and coming from behind the picnic tables. I decided I wanted to be back in the car right away, so we left. I've been trying all night to get the video posted on YouTube but the internet connection here at the motel is free, and worth every penny.  I'll try to post it later.

 At one of the rest areas, we stopped our regular playing to practice some of our new training system. I was delightfully impressed at River's reaction to seeing a dog walk through our playing area.


It was twenty minutes out of the way, but I just had to stop and see Butte, Montana since I was so close. It’s cute. I drove through the old, historic district and all of the brick buildings were quite stunning. 

Butte is one of those towns with a church on every street corner, but I think it’s probably Montana Tech that keeps in on the map. Butte seems to be a mining town and Montana Tech the place to go to study geology and minerals and mining.

The thing about Montana is the mountains, no doubt. Hence the name, Montana, which is basically ‘mountain’ in Spanish. The uniqueness of the landscape was hard for me to put my finger on at first, but now I think it has to do with how the region appears to be very flat, and yet there is a mountain in the background no matter where you look. And even beyond those mountains, are more mountains. The clouds hanging low and the different distances of the mountaintops, really give the sense that the land goes on forever.

We got into Dillon, somehow. The Motel 6 wasn’t showing up on my navigation system, even if I tried to enter the street address manually. So I navigated to a park that I saw was nearby, and eventually found it. Dillon is a trip. It’s like it’s getting ready to become a ghost town. It feels like it’s falling apart and it’s very quiet. 

I’ve never seen such an empty Motel 6 parking lot. But I suppose it’s not so good for business if the address doesn’t show up on navigation systems.

In Butte, I happened to notice the local Motel 6 was the prison-style. That’s what I call the ones that have indoor hallways. I’ll make a point not to stay at that one if I ever return to Butte. And unless I want to get into mining, I don’t see why I would return.

River and I are going to take a drive into ‘town’ and see what else Dillon has to offer.

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Well, there was a train stopped on the tracks in Dillon that prevented me from driving into town. I didn’t know how long it was going to be sitting there, so I just turned around and got on the highway instead.

I found this long stretch of highway that felt like I was driving on the only road on the moon. Except for the one, winding road I was driving on, there was nothing but unspoiled, unimproved land stretching off as far as I could see in all directions. I wanted to stop and take a picture of it, but I couldn’t find a place that was appropriate to stop. This was a 70 MPH road, so I didn’t want to pull off unless it was safe and legal. But even if I were able to snap a shot of it, I don’t think I could have captured the feeling on camera. It was expansive and vast and desolate and beautiful.

I was driving on this road for a good twenty minutes. It didn’t seem like I could get any further into nowhere, but then I saw a sign for a state park called Bannack. It said it was a ghost town, four miles down this road.

So I turned off of this isolated lunar highway, onto an even more remote and rural road. Four miles later, I saw the sign, “Bannack State Park” pointing to (of course) a gravelly dirt road. There were two campground near a creek, and one campsite had a teepee and an outhouse. I kept driving and there was a visitor center near a parking lot. I saw on the sign that dogs on leash were welcome in the ghost town, so we went for a tour.

The town had its heyday during the gold rush, and it looked like these same buildings hadn’t been refurbished since then. They were delightfully dilapidated and dripping with history. We walked around for about two hours.
The old Assay Office

Inside the Turner house

Inside the Turner house

Turner's table has seen better days


Outside the city drug store

Inside the saloon, River was afraid of this barber chair

Inspecting the saloon

Skinner, the owner of the saloon, was hanged as a spy.

Rusted mining artifacts

River inside a mining car

Bachelor's Row, now crumbling

River inside the church

School days

On the steps outside Hotel Meade

And here is a video of the inside of the Hotel Meade:

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