Ilaria and J's Photo PageIlaria's Page    J's Page
Wild West road trip Days 6 and 7 Montana and Glacier National Park
(Click on the images for a larger version.)
IMG  0915
The sixth day or our road trip was more of a maintenance day. The only goals were to get an oil change on our Scion XD, which was nearing 5000 miles and to get as close as possible to Glacier National Park, so we'd have more time to see it the next day.

IMG  0919
Still Ilaria tried to squeeze in as many sites as possible even on a maintenance day.
IMG  0920
So we started the day visiting the Berkeley Pit in Butte, MT.
berkeley Pit Pan
The site is a former open pit copper mine. They basically dug a big hole in the ground, took all of the raw materials from the locals (providing them with temporary jobs),
IMG  0926
and left the big hole to fill up with water that is dangerously rich in heavy metals.
IMG  0927
To prevent contaminating the city's water supply they have a water treatment plant that continually processes the water to prevent the level from getting above 5410 ft above sea level at which it would enter the town's water supply.
IMG  0929
What a freakin mess this short term boost to the economy left to the long term health of the residents. The EPA claims it's not practical to clean up the hole.

What kind of backwards thing is that...
IMG  0930
Interesting note to the biology folk, Ilaria noticed a laughable error (if you are a biologist so you can notice the error). The caption on the sign at the site reads< "The image to the left shows [the microbes living in the pit water] magnified through the lens of a microscope.

What? That's just an agar plate. There's freakin handwriting in the picture. Who could write small enough for their handwriting to be legible in a microscopic image???
IMG  0934
We had lunch that day in downtown Helena, Montana.
IMG  0937
We ate leftovers from the nite before. Then we had the car fixed up
IMG  0944
and tried to see our first ghosttown.

There are a lot of ghosttowns around the old mines in Montana. Folks would swarm into a new area trying to get rich from the land and then leave when the mine ran out.
IMG  0946
If we'd have known how difficult it'd be to get to the town, we wouldn't have gone. They were fixing the road to the town and the wait for the pilot car could be up to an hour.
IMG  0947
After waiting much longer than we liked and driving past lots of giant construction/road building machines driving uncomfortably close to the edge of steep dropoffs, we arrived in Marysville.

The town during its peak gold mining days had over 4000 residents and two railroads running through it.
IMG  0948
There were some old
IMG  0950
IMG  0951
IMG  0952
old signs
IMG  0953
and this
IMG  0956
neat old
IMG  0957
IMG  0962
but on the whole the place was underwhelming.
IMG  0963
We were surprised to find quite a few folks living there (not very ghosty if the town still has residents).
IMG  0964
We couldn't imagine how people could live out there where you have to wait up to an hour just to drive through the construction that would lead you to a street that would lead you to something approaching a decent sized store or a gas station.
IMG  0967
Folks are all different I suppose.
IMG  0972
Being very careful not to miss the next chance to follow the pilot car out
IMG  0974
We headed back
IMG  0976
towards the interstate
IMG  0985
and enjoyed Big Sky Montana.
IMG  0987
The name
IMG  0990
IMG  0992
IMG  0996
IMG  1002
Biggest/nicest skies
IMG  1009
of the trip.
wild west map day 6  1
That nite was the only time of the trip we were a little worried we wouldn't be able to find a hotel room. We found one in Shelby at the last possible hotel with rooms.
IMG  0538
It wasn't the nicest, but it was big, it had a TV for watching Michael Phelps with more gold medals, and it even had a kitchen.
IMG  1013
The next morning we left Shelby, MT
IMG  1029
and headed towards Glacier National Park.
IMG  1033
On the way, we stopped by the Museum of the Plains Indian, which was definitely worth seeing.
IMG  1040
We began by trying to drive a little off the main road to go to Two Medicine Lakes. We'd learn that the main road had railings and a little shoulder to keep you from sliding off the mountain, but not so on the more adventurous routes.
IMG  1042
It was a nice drive though.
IMG  1046
IMG  1050
After pretending like
IMG  1051
I was falling. We decided to head back and not go all the way to Two Medicine Lake because the road was windy and really slow-going.
IMG  1052
Ilaria thought she'd spotted a Moose on the way in, so we stopped by the area on the way back to the main road to check it out. Turns out some cow was lost on the side of the mountain (how'd that happen?)
IMG  1053
IMG  1054
we got back to the main road
IMG  1057
passed a few teepees
IMG  1059
and arrived at the main entrance of the park.
glacier Pana 1  1062
The main way through the park is the Going-to-the-Sun road.
IMG  1080
At our first stop, I took some time to see how amazing the world can be.
IMG  1082
While Ilaria and the developing one
IMG  1087
went for a walk towards the water.
IMG  1089
On finding what appeared to be bear poop.
glacier Pana 2  1071
We reversed our course and took a panoramic photo of the spot.
IMG  1090
There's really not much to say about our drive through Glacier National Park.
glacier Pana 5c  1091
It was a place to see how little we all are
IMG  1097
compared with
glacier Pana 6  1093
our planet.
IMG  1099
We stopped a few times
IMG  1104
for a short hike,
IMG  1101
but the altitude combined with the developing one in Ilaria's stomach limited our stamina.
IMG  1107
But the short hikes were nice,
IMG  1109
and allow us the opportunity to see a little more of the parks details while taking a break from its panoramas.
IMG  1116
The tree patterns on many of the mountains in Glacier National Park are determined by the park's avalanches. When an avalanche occurs it rips away all of the trees along it's path -- opening a window of sunshine to the bare mountain that lets new types of plants thrive.
IMG  1121
Most of the glaciers viewable from the road are near the center of the park. Only 26 of the 150 glaciers present in 1850 are still remaining.
IMG  1122
Unfortunately due to global warming, they are all predicted to be gone by 2030, so if you want to see them you'd better hurry up!
IMG  1123
You can also get along the Going-to-the-Sun road in one of the snazzy old time red buses that the park operates.
IMG  1125
The Going-to-the-Sun road was in the middle of construction, but the delays were pretty minor.
IMG  1133
We met some mountain goats
IMG  1134
at one point in the road.
IMG  1135
How in the world did they get up there? How are they going to get down?
IMG  1138
At one point we found some
IMG  1139
kids playing in the water from the melting snow.
IMG  1140
Ilaria and I both found
IMG  1155
that Glacier National Park
IMG  1143
was the highlight of the trip. It wasn't as big as Yellowstone, and we didn't see as many animals as Yellowstone, but it was really something to see.
IMG  1171
The rest of our day was a pretty uneventful trip back towards the south of Montana. We stopped at St. Ignatius Mission.
IMG  1172
Built in 1854.
IMG  1173
Then we headed to a park
IMG  1177
that we'd heard was full of buffalo.
IMG  1178
We found more grasshoppers than buffalo.
wild west map day 7  1
We stopped for the night in Missoula, MT.