We drove through northern Idaho, and all the little mining towns there...Then we climbed Lookout Pass where the hillsides were dotted with yellow larches amongst the evergreens. The larch is, in fact, a deciduous evergreen. Its needles turn yellow and drop every year -- and it makes the hillsides gorgeous.
Our next destination was the city of Butte, a former mining metropolis. There is still mining going on today, but not on the large scale it was in the past. Butte is home to the Berkeley Pit, a very deep pit mine that was abandoned from copper mining, and left to fill up with water. The water in it now is not really water -- and is, in fact, toxic because of the residual chemicals from the mining process. They run some of the "water" through a process to regain some of the copper that is dissolved in it, and are working to clean up this hazardous superfund site. We wanted to have a look at it, but the viewing center was closed for the season, so there wasn't much we could see. Pictures of it show how massive it is...Guess you'll have to google to see it.
Butte is also a city full of historic buildings, most of which are not restored, and in a sorry state. I kept exclaiming over the architecture, and how some of these amazing old brick buildings were going to ruin...They are treasures! Why would they let them go? As we went through town, we could see that overall, Butte is no longer the prosperous area it was back in mining's heyday. A few buildings are beautifully restored, and at the Visitor Center we learned that they have a Historical Society that is trying to preserve as much history as possible. Good for them! But there is a plethora of old homes that could be restored, and that is not something the average citizen can afford. So many are just residences, and not well cared for, because, doubtless they do not have the modern day conveniences to the extent that new homes do. The historical district looks to be a low-rent area -- so different than so many cities where you find the finest homes, and wealthiest people in restored old mansions.
I think Butte is a dying mining town, and not many there have the money to do the maintenance or restorations -- and any one with money has little or no incentive to come to restore Butte. Too bad! It is FULL of history, and many picturesque structures.
I believe this mine is still working.
Lots of "headframes" around town -- the head of an underground mine.
The Clarke Mansion
The Copper King Mansion
Another head frame right in the middle of town.
I didn't take any pictures of them, but I was amazed at the large cemeteries around the city...and there were many of them. I wondered what this might mean! As I read the history book I acquired at the visitor center, I learned that mining is a dangerous occupation, and many men have died during the operation of the mines. Adds to mystery and the curiousity of this place...
We left Butte via Homestake Pass and headed into the scenic valleys of western Montana.
Classic Big Sky Country...love to look at this...
Our destination was Manhattan, where my aunts, uncles and cousins live. We made it there in time to watch Jacquelyn, daugther of my cousin Ann and her husband, Jay, play high school volleyball.
It was such fun to watch the girls play! Last year, we heard about their amazing season which ended with a State Championship. It was a treat to see a game in person. They lost a lot of seniors from last year's team, and were expecting just a rebuilding year, but were surprising everyone with their great play this season too...And with only 2 seniors! Ann & Jay's other daughter, Cassidy, plays JV, and their older daughter Lesha is the team trainer. Aunt Bonnie runs the clock, and you can see her at the table in the middle of this shot. We came into the game and sat down by Uncle Pete, and he was quite surprised to see us! So was Aunt Bonnie when the game was over. Good times!
We stayed at Uncle Stan and Aunt Sal's house, and spent the next morning talking and laughing and drinking coffee. Uncle Stan took Randy out for a farm tour, and a stop at the coffee shop. I spent the afternoon, talking and laughing with Aunt Bon and her granddaughters while Uncle Pete and Randy went to tour Ann & Jay's large greenhouse operation.
We had a great time...it was just too short...Next time, we're going to stay longer, and see the rest of the cousins, visit more -- and I'm going to try to get Aunt Sal to take me to her favorite antique store, because her house looks like this:
...and I wish mine looked more like it. Aunt Sal is a gifted decorator, and they have done a wonderful job with the lovely old farmhouse -- the house where my grandma grew up. Pretty cool, huh?!
But -- we had a bunch of road we intended to cover, so Wednesday morning, we headed south, off the interstate (287 S), and enjoyed the farming and ranching scenery, and the small towns along the way.
We stopped at this beautiful overlook...The view was vast! I don't know the name of this spot, but I shall always remember it as the place I spilled coffee all over the pick up.
Brilliant yellows split the landscape.
We passed through Virginia and Nevada Cities (287W), "ghost towns" of the gold rush days. I hadn't been there since I was a kid, and it didn't seem quite so expansive or as mysterious as I remembered. It had the old-timey buildings...but I didn't see the old horse drawn hearse that my Uncle John had convinced me still carried a dead body. I do believe that is where the memories of mystery came from. Thanks, John!
At Dillon -- the city in Montana which is not the inspiration for our son's name as we have never been there before-- we caught 15S and soon we were in Idaho...wide open country at an elevation of 5400 ft. So amazing! High desert, sagebrush, ranch land, not farm land...
I'll cover southern Idaho, and our little drift into Utah in my next installment...