Monday, July 21, 2008

Summertime in the Bitterroots

It's hard to believe that we're already deep into the summer; it seems like just yesterday there was snow in the mountains....whoops, there STILL is snow in the mountains, although not nearly as much as in May. The rivers have finally fallen to normal levels, and we've settled into the summer weather pattern of days in the high 80s, nights in the the low 50s, and no rain in the forecast until late September. We've been taking it slow this year, but have still been out exploring. We recently visited the town of Deer Lodge and the Montana State Prison Museum. We'd been meaning to stop here on our previous trips through the area, and were glad we finally made the time; it's an interesting place to explore. The prison museum is one of seven museums clustered together on main street. Inside a wing of the old prison is an auto museum, and across the street are a doll museum, frontier museum, and others. What made the museum especially interesting is that it was abandoned in 1978 when the inmates were moved to a new prison nearby. Most of the furniture, equipment, and paperwork on bulletin boards was left untouched, so visitors get a real sense of what life there was like. A self-guided tour took us inside the walls, to the cell blocks, dining halls, administrative areas, and hospital. The history of the museum is detailed in many photos and exhibits throughout the buildings. The story of the 1959 riot, broken up by the National Guard using "bazookas" was interesting, and if you look close at the upper windows on the orange brick tower pictured, you can still see the damage from a bazooka round.
I've had a few opportunities to hone my new skills as a fly fisherman (it takes about 30 seconds to hone my limited skills), and on one trip my fellow volunteer Tom and I found this beautiful mountain stream in the Sapphire Mountains where had a great time catching wild cutthroat trout. Although most were small like the one pictured (note: I have VERY big hands....), I did manage to catch one that was 14" long - a monster in the small stream I was fishing. As a bonus, I only managed to lose 4 flies to trees that suddenly popped out of nowhere on my backcast. I've been returning all my fish to the streams since Brenda tells me that, while I'm gone fishing, she's practicing her fish-cleaning and cooking skills but needs a bit more time before she's ready. She first told me this in 1973.
If you've ever seen the Nature Valley Granola Bar commercials with the girl on top of the mountain, then you'll recognize the pictures as being from Lost Horse Overlook, just down the road from us and an easy 6-mile drive (mostly straight up) to a 7200' viewpoint. It's a magical place - one of our favorite places to visit and take friends to see. The beauty of places like this and Montana in general never fails to amaze us; as the state tourism motto says "Montana - The Last Best Place". We still have a lot of places to explore here; c'mon back and see where we've been!

No comments:

Post a Comment