Campground: Site C-10; Wifi; CATV; Full hook up;
Jim and Mary's is cute and homey with plenty of shade trees. Rated 8.6 on CampgroundReviews.com, which is extremely high. Nice flower beds add a special touch and sense of care. It has a small but good laundry room. It is generally a quiet campground, being far enough north of I-90, and an exit west of the urban area of Missoula, to avoid road noise. However, there is a train that runs very close to the northeast corner of the park. While they advertise 50A our pull thru site was only 30A. The weather was cool enough, and our site shaded enough, that we didn't need the extra AC so it was not a problem.
One of the little gardens within the RV park
National Bison Range. Visitor Center is at 58355 Bison Range Rd, Charlo, MT
This wonderful park is less than an hour north of Jim and Mary's RV park up MT 93. Like visiting Devil's Tower, the pleasant surprise is that the ride to it is so beautiful. In fact the scenery from the 19 mile one-way loop road (Red Sheep Mountain Drive), was more special for us than seeing the bison.
Established in 1908 by President T. Roosevelt, the conserve to protect the American bison contains over 18,000 acres of rolling hills. It includes a large area of intermountain grasslands, one of the rarest habitats in North America.
Looking back to our way up Red Sheep Mountain Drive into the hills.
The Mission Mountains rise up to the east like a wall looming over the valley that once was the great glacial Lake Missoula.
The lake was the result of ice dams from glaciers during the last ice age (15,000 to 13,000 years ago) that formed on the Clark Fork River. Periodically, the ice dams would break away causing massively destructive and earth carving floods flushing through eastern Washington and the Columbia River Gorge. Many features we saw in the Gorge were caused by this flooding which happened 40 times in 2,000 years (Wikipedia). It also flooded and enabled the great wine growing properties of the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
To see a really well done video on the story of Lake Missoula, check out this Youtube video:
There is a sign not too far from this spot that points out that Lake Missoula reached this height.
Lake Missoula filled this entire valley.
In this hills we saw a few pronghorns and a couple bison. But, we were constantly on the lookout. We took one short hike that had a grizzly bear warning sign at the trailhead.
Still no bears.
The road down the southern side of the hills brought us where we saw most of the bison.
Approaching the bison.
A bison Satisfying an itch
Using my 600mm lens, I could make out two bison bucking heads. The pushing drove the two of them over the hill, beyond my sight.
The males were bleating like deep throated sheep. They would stick their tongues out as they did this.
The rest took it easy.
Garnet Ghost Town.
Gold and silver had been mined in the area since the 1860s. In the 1890's gold became the focus and 40 lode claims were filed resulting in development of the town of Garnet around 1895. Soon after a rich vein of ore was discovered and the boom was on. Four stores, four hotels, three livery stables, two barber shops, 13 saloons and a school were constructed.
By the 1900's the boom was over and by 1905 most mines were abandoned. In 1934 when gold rose in price from $16 to $35 an ounce, Garnet saw a revival. By 1936 there were 250 residents. But, again this was short lived, as the war in Europe in 1939 drew people away and restrictions on dynamite made mining almost impossible. The post office closed in 1942 and the owner of general store Frank Davey died in 1947. Souvenir hunters soon stripped the town of doors, stained glass, and hand crafted woodwork, like the oak banister from the Wells Hotel. That's when the Bureau of Land Management stepped in to protect the area. Garnet is now recognized as one of the Montana's most intact ghost towns.
We visited Garnet with our fellow Airstream friends Tom and Linda. We met them at the intersection of I-90 and MT 200 in Bonner. This is also the confluence of the Blackfoot River into The Clark Fork River (the route of Lewis and Clark).
Stopping along the Blackfoot River. Popular for fishing and tubing.
Route 200 is a nice ride along the Blackfoot. A GPS is needed to find the right turn to Garnet. This is a long, winding, climbing road with a nice viewpoint as you near Garnet.
At the visitor center – formerly the Dahl Saloon, called “The Joint” by residents, we picked up an informative brochure with map describing the history of each of the remaining buildings – most of which you can enter.
Tom, Sandy, Linda and Jack
A Wooden bathtub!
Upstairs hotel guest rooms.
This is a private residence.
Part of the private residence.
A beautiful, but hot day to visit. Note how green the grass is - due to an unusually wet summer.
There is also a self guided interpretive Sierra Mine Loop Trail, which goes past the remains of several prospecting pits' placer mines, and hand stacked walls built from the excavated rock. Tom and I took this short and slightly highly trail through the woods retaking the landscape. The only difficulty was dealing with the high heat of the day walking on the gravel road on our return to the parking lot.
This is a manual hoisting contraption whose name I don't recall.
Highlander Brewery, Missoula MT.
This small brewery was a great find. A really nice outdoor area, complete with uncrowded patio seating, an Airstream taco truck, and a pavilion where a local band played some really nice contemporary country music. The young woman singing sang one song that really stood out. If it were an original, which I think it was, I think it could really be a hit song. Just another example of someone just needing a break – a chance to get heard.
The beer was better than most and we enjoyed our pizza while listening to the music.
On the road again.....