Saturday, August 13, 2011


It’s tough appreciating any scenery after Glacier National Park or maybe it’s just that we’ve seen several towns with “historic main streets” that are just euphemisms for “lots of boarded up defunct shops in old buildings”..…..and just maybe all these towns would have still been thriving had the US promoted railroad passenger travel and freight, rather than the highway system, who knows?

We saw many exceptions however; Boise, Spokane, Walla Walla, Helena and Bozeman are thriving due to their enduring industries such as mining, agriculture, wine, hi-tech, universities, tourism and state capitols. But these are all good-sized cities, whereas the small towns are not surviving as well in our present economy.
Nevertheless, we’ve seen some great mining and railroad history since we left Glacier. Our first stop was Great Falls which, at one time, had two elaborate rival RR stations, BNSFRR and the Great Northern RR, almost next to each other on the Missouri River……..Missouri River?

Ah yes, we know it’s Montana, but the Missouri River’s headwaters are just outside of Butte at the confluence of the Gallatin, Jefferson & Madison Rivers, each so named by Lewis and Clark during their expedition. Great Falls, however, has THE Great Fall, also named by Lewis and Clark that is GF’s best kept secret. One needs specific driving instructions because there is very little signage for such an important historical marker. In spite of the fact that the falls (there are actually 5 falls but one BIG one!) are now a series of major dams and source of area electricity, they are still pretty spectacular and one can imagine the splendor and portage concerns that the expedition experienced at their first encounter. Great Falls also has a very comprehensive Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center that chronicles the whole expedition. What a great piece of history, and all because of the Louisiana Purchase!

Next stop was Butte, “The Richest Hill on Earth”, a most interesting old mining town. It is historic in that the entire town is dotted with old mining “headframes” that look like small oil field derricks, and they are all lit up red at night. These were erected in the early part of the 20th century to lower and raise the miners and buckets of ore into and out of the sub-terranean mine shafts and tunnels, some of them over 1,000 feet deep. Later an open pit mine was developed and when it shut down in the 70’s the ground water pumps were stopped and a crater-like lake has formed. In it’s “heyday” the town supported many bars and brothels. Many of the buildings still exist. The mining industry was started there by two friends, William Clark & Marcus Daly who then became adversaries when they became rich. Mr. Daly, the more successful, moved to Helena and lobbied for Helena as the capitol city it is today……had he stayed friends with Clark, Butte would be the state capitol! Mr. Clark had a sumptuous home and chateau in Butte that are now B&B’s……….and Helena is the Montana state capitol……….so goes it with history!

We did a quick stay in Bozeman, the home of Montana State U. and many historical mini-mansions, built mostly by rich railroad dignitaries and miners – as is the case in many places we’ve seen in the Pacific Northwest.

 We’ve just arrived in Billings, MT after a stay in Miles City, just to see that side of Montana. Sybil will leave for Marin County on 8/1 from here and Peter will continue on to an Indian PowWow near Little Bighorn then on to an Escapee rally in Gillette, WY then to Teddy Roosevelt State Park in N. Dakota and then……..home. Hopefully, he will keep up the blog!

 Panorama of Butte

 William Clark's family chateau in Butte

 Mr. Clark's family home in Butte

 The Great Fall before the dam was built

 The Great Fall today

 BNSF Railroad Station, Great Falls

 Headframe in Butte

 Lots of headframes, Butte

Helena's State Capitol

 Pit mine crater lake, Butte

 Old miner cottage, still occupied, Butte

 Our Lady (she is 90 feet tall!)

 Peter at The Great Fall Park

Miner Peter

Other falls in Great Falls

Sybil at The Great Fall Park

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Glacier National Park is just hugely beautiful, it just takes your breath away…….which is why we spent eight whole days there and why we waited in a long line to get into the park! The new growth is extra bright neon green from the abundant snowfall melt over this past year and the rivers and lakes are full to the top and crystal clear. We hiked, drove, ate and shopped. We actually hiked 15 miles over four days to beautiful lakes, overlooks, etc. and what we couldn’t hike to, we drove to!  Honestly, the beauty just never ends, whether one is driving or hiking. We were lucky to share this with some old RV friends who joined us, and some new ones we met along the way….you know who you are!

We took a hike to Avalanche Lake, about 6 miles round trip. One part of the hike is thru acres of felled trees, but why did they fall uphill?  Well, two years ago the glacier above the lake had a huge avalanche and when it hit the bottom at the lake, it caused a 140 mph wind that instantly blew all the timber over……..ah, Mother Nature is not always kind! Another hike we took was a trail shared with horses; horses make big doodoo, mosquitoes love doodoo and Sybil.  Thank you, Lanacaine Ointment and Benadryl!

Everything in GNP was named by the Indians in the area. The 52 mile main road thru GNP is translated – not to “Road to the Sun”, or “Road Going to the Sun” – but, “The Going-To-The-Sun Road”, and is shortened on road signs to Sun Road. The road is switchback and narrow and ascends/descends 6K feet between the valley floor and Logan Pass, elevation 8K+.

Sadly, the glaciers are disappearing. They are melting so fast that it is scientifically calculated based on today’s climate that the glaciers will be gone sometime between 2020 and 2030.  I hope I’m still around when they have the re-naming contest……..

Peter and I have traveled quite a lot of the world and 4 years ago decided to see the US. I’m here to tell you that our National Park System rivals any one of the Seven Wonders of the World and the stark beauty of the Pacific Northwest area has few peers.    America, the Beautiful!

 Picnic at Virginia Falls

 View looking down into valley from The Road Going To The Sun

 Virginia Falls from below

 Virginia Falls at the top base

Wild flowers  on a trail

Glaciers from the Sun Road

On the trail

10AM going into the park....and same long line behind us!

Logan Pass 8100ft+

Lake McDonald with no wind

Mountain goats on the road

McDonald Lake

Avalanche Lake

Virginia Falls

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Walla Walla, WA is a beautiful little town, partially because it is just loaded with wine tasting opportunities as there is a great number of wineries/vineyards in the surrounding area.  Besides wine it is well-known as being the home of Whitman College, an 800 student, $48K/year four year liberal arts school that is the alma mater of  Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. The school is unique in that over the years, it has bought up many of the grand old homes that surround it. These restored old beauties now serve as “interest houses” used for classrooms and seminars for all the various liberal arts, ie, languages, literature, culture, art. This makes the city even more attractive as the college is in the center of town.
We left WWW for Spokane where we spent a couple of days roaming around the city, with a special visit to the grand old Davenport Hotel where Sybil used to stay with her family when traveling to Idaho during her childhood. We enjoyed a $15 apiece 3 course dinner at the hotel…one of the best ever…then rode on the antique merry-go-round in the waterfront park, still with rings to grab! We also took a 40 minute kinda boring ride in a gondola over Spokane Falls….a definite “been there, done that”, but the falls are pretty and right downtown.
On the way to Kellogg/Wallace, ID we stopped at beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene for lunch and wished we had camped there with the RV.

For Sybil, the piece d’ resistance was spending 4 days in the Idaho Kellogg/Wallace area (Kellogg and Wallace are just 12 miles apart), which is actually just 100 miles+- from Spokane.  Sybil’s mother’s family immigrated there from Sweden (settling in Wallace,the Nordquists) and Germany (settling in Kellogg, the Sommers) around 1850 to work the still-to-this-day prolific silver, iron, copper and gold mines in the area.  We searched graveyards and found all the family tombstones, and we really lucked out using the phone book and found I have a distant cousin Harry Sommers still living in Kellogg! He too, had retired from mining, and we spent the day together putting the ancestors back together. We discovered lots of history from the late 1800’s-early 1900’s, both family and cultural. The most exciting discovery, other than cousin Harry, was my grandfather’s city engineer and mining consultant shingle still hanging on the building he owned in the early 1900’s!
This area of the US has not changed much in nearly 150 years because mining has always been the main industry. We were still able to find many family-related grant deeds in the old handwritten records at the Shosone County Office in Wallace and then track down the old homes and commercial buildings that are still standing, but now owned by others. Both towns still have “miner’s rows” with many tiny cottages from the early days that are inhabited by today’s mine workers. Wardner is a town up-canyon from Kellogg, and actually was the first established mining town in the area with a population of nearly 10K during the big gold/silver era…….there are now 120 living there. But there is a very cool old museum with a character of a “curator”.  He owns the very old building and, as a hobby, has collected all this mining, etc. memorabilia……what a treat!! Some wonderful stories came from the things he has on display (1,000,000’s!). After all this, I, Sybil am going to attempt a family tree!

Coming up……America’s beauty….Glacier National Park!

 Sybil & Cousin (2nd, 3rd, or maybe 4th!) Harry

 Greenwood Cemetery in Kellogg where the Sommers are buried

 Sybil at Grampa & Gramma Nordquist's grave in 7 Mile Cemetery, Wallace

 Peter grabbing rings in Spokane

100 year old miner's cottages

 John H. Nordquist, Mining Consultant and City Engineer, Sybil's grandfather

 Beautiful Lake Coeur d'Alene

Spokane, WA Riverfront Park

Rainy day in WallawallaWa

7 Mile Cemetery, Wallace where the Nordquists are buried