White ibis

White ibis
Ibis

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Haunted Weekend, Part II

Last weekend I started out on Friday by visiting Bannack State Park, the site of the first gold rush in Montana, as well as the first territorial capitol of Montana. The buildings are deteriorating but are being maintained, for the most part, so the roofs are watertight and thus don't fall.

I was camping at Grasshopper Campground, which is on the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway, just south of Elkhorn Hot Springs. I wanted to explore the byway further and get to Butte in the afternoon to put up last Sunday's blog.  I broke camp and started out without breakfast or coffee, planing to stop somewhere along the way for same.

Fog was pretty heavy, especially in the valleys. I listened to the radio as I drove, and found out I was heading into unhealthy particulate levels from the smoke of two wildfires. I started climbing as soon as I got to the road and soon came to some (probably) breathtaking views. But alas they were hidden under the smog.  But I could see that I would have been able to see alpine meadows, above the tree line.  I stopped at all the campgrounds along the way. (Grasshopper is the best one, followed by Price Creek.) Over two hours after I'd left my camp, I got to Mono Campground.  When I stopped to explore, I found both a trail and a sign that said Elkhorn Mine was only four miles further down the side road. So I  had to stop there also.

This mine and ghost town was an entirely different experience. I hike in and most through all the mine area as well as the town before I met any people. And this is not being maintained, except possibly for one house that is still standing.

The town of Coolidge, Montana was only in existence for 28 years, from 1914 - 1932. But what a change in just over a person's lifetime. Today it is mostly rubble.  The mine was never profitable and then a flood took out the train track and several bridges, it was the killing blow to the town. The town was established to support the silver mine, but there was never enough silver to get the mine to full production.  I felt a much greater sense of people's struggle to make a living here, than at Bannock.


Map of Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway with Coolidge Ghost Town marked

View of the Upper Mill 

Closer view of Upper Mill


This can has probably been here at least 80 years

Not sure what this was used for but it seemed to be a huge rotating tube

I could envision living in it but couldn't figure how to add a bathroom.  

The town and mill had electricity and phone service - this is a fuse box I found near the mill

The mine entrance

A cooking stove  - there were several sitting outside the homes

I saw this dragon caught in the wood and had to capture it with my camera

The town must have had a jail

The only house that is still intact

Wash basins in the intact house

Interior view of the intact house


There were a lot of golden-mantled ground squirrels around

And I was interested in seeing just how important a roof is to maintaining the rest of the house. I was reminded of way houses in hurricane areas now have to have the roof tied to the walls of the house, because walls can't stand without the roof.


This house will probably be walls and rubble by next year

A decorative part of what was maybe a ruined stove

Almost deconstructed by nature

Walls are giving way

There was a crooked little house


A view of part of the town

This roof had blown of its house intact and landed in Mono Creek, forming a waterfall inside itself

I got lost in the past and spent about three hours here before heading on up to Wise River and turning to go to Butte. I didn't get there until after two o'clock so didn't get my breakfast. Instead I drank a pot of tea with my Chinese food before going to the library and putting up the blog.

Then I went all the way back to the same camp  to get out of the worst of the smoke, and got the same camp site.  The two ghost towns and the hike to Sawtooth Lake (Wednesday's blog) made for a wonderful weekend.  Then I got to help with the lesser scaup roundup for three marvelous days - I'll tell you all about it Wednesday.