We’re staying put today in that we don’t have to load up the car with the increasing luggage (Anzhela’s shopping is to blame). By 9am we headed out to Deer Lodge (a small town about ½ hour away) This small town is home to the county’s old prison which dates back to the late 1800s and was actively used until about 1960s and closed down after a riot. At one time it would hold up to 700 prisoners and there was also a small women’s prison adjacent. The earliest female prisioner to arrive at its doors was in 18****. It also houses a huge collection of vintage cars! Suprise! There are approximately 120 cars dating back to the horseless carriage and the early Model As and other brands. Interestingly, I saw poster that said in the 80 year car industry in the USA there have been over 18,000 different styles of cars manufactured.
The other small museum – which is a pioneer/mining museum was closed, so we ended up lunching in the supermarket carpark – not very classy I know. But Safeways the supermarket chain was having a $5.00 sale for 6 pieces of cooked chic ken. Only after we had eaten did we find out that there was a picnic area about 20 metres away! Actually that is one thing we haven’t seen a lot of. Just areas to pull off and eat on the roadside.
Next we drove back passed our motel and headed into the township of Butte. It is a mining town, originally gold, then silver and finally copper. Dotted all around the township are the gallus*** which designate where a mine was once active. There is a huge mining pit at the south end of the town which is no longer active and nor are the vast – almost a whole mountainside – of dig outs** where the ground has been excavated for minerals.
The township was surprising. It’s on a hillside. Surprising because I didn’t expect it because most of the towns we’ve been into so far have been flat. In its heyday the town boasted a population of 115,000, now it’s about 43,000. It looks a bit neglected, but is full of grand brick buildings and once grand houses which denotes is historical past. In its day it was the biggest town between Philadelphia and Seattle.
We then found the Mineral Museum which was a great find – and free- It is set within the Butte Tech buildings and is the place where they monitor earthquakes – the area has in the past had several quakes. The room was full of display cases of minerals, mostly from the area, or the USA, but some from as far away as Namibia. Also was a mini video on the history of mining in the area. Very insightful.
The temperature today is hitting the high 60s and it is very noticeable. We’ve had such vast differences – lowest of 38deg F to today’s of about 68deg F. All in the space of a couple of days. Actually we were talking to a couple this a.m. who were trying last night to get into their holiday home but had to turn back about 50 yards from it as there was too much snow!
The sky is pure blue and cloudless. I don’t think I have ever seen such big skies...but I think i’ve heard them call the state Big Sky Montana or something like this.
Right now, Neil and Anzhela are doing the underground tour of the mine, while Yana and I chicken out and stay atop.
Neil and Anzhela’s report on going into the mine
Cold, dark and damp. Underground Butte is riddled with tunnels, though they only went through 3. Saw lots of drilling equipment that was used for mining for copper. They had to wear helmets with little lights on. A railway line is used for the buckets which remove the rubble. They saw one of the only 15 ever made snowmobiles that were made by Ford Motor Company. The mines shafts went down about two thousand feet though they went down only about 30 feet below ground.
So it’s been a great day, very interesting and the Mineral Museum where Anzhela had at first declared she didn’t want to go in because it would be boring, finally admitted she was wrong!!!!
Onto Yellowstone next
Jane and family