Red Rock Lakes NWR or Bust?

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2018-09-30 17.23.05My plans had been to go to the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. I had been diligently watching the weather forecast. The forecasts weren’t promising. Would I make it to Red Rock? A cold front was coming at the time I wanted to go. Would the road turn to gumbo with rain? Could the place get an early snow and make driving there risky? The Bannack State Park ranger didn’t know about the road and suggested I ask at Lima. I left Bannack driving in snow and hail. Thirty-two degrees was the outside temperature my truck indicated. I believed the snow would stop soon. The weather forecast was for a high of 54 degrees.

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Bannack

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It was time to move on. I had been at Maiden Rock for four days. I arrived at Bannack early in the afternoon and found no one in either campground. I had my pick of all the campsites. I found the camp host site and made it mine.  There were a total of three of us in the two campgrounds that night.  I visited the town and wandered around looking at the building, the wood textures and the outhouses.  All the doors are kept unlocked which encouraged me to pause and feel the past.

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Oh My!

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I had stopped at the Wise River Ranger Station to ask about the condition of the Melrose to Dewey road via the charcoal kilns. The road condition was good the ranger reported. But… how did I feel about being on a single lane road with a shear drop off and potentially lots of backing up if I met someone else driving the road? She described everything I feared. This was a short section of road from the valley floor by the kilns to the high plateau called Vipond Park. She thought there wouldn’t be much traffic on the road, but it was bow season now so?

Off I drove the next morning from my camp site at Maiden Rock (west) fish access site to the charcoal kilns.

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Glendale.  On the way to the charcoal kilns.

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Coolidge

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On another day I moseyed over to the town of Coolidge and Elkhorn mine. I made the one mile walk into Coolidge keeping my eyes searching the woods to discover evidence of the past. At times I saw evidence of the old railroad line to Dewey.

At Coolidge I lingered. Looking at what remained of the past. How did the people live? How did they keep from freezing? I noticed rusty cans everywhere. Did they heat their food from the can and then just open the door and throw the can out?

I noticed the outhouses too. I decided to photograph the outhouses. Family humor. My father worked in the wastewater industry and it is also my profession.

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Coolidge outhouse

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Butte

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From the camp site I wandered to Butte. I hadn’t planned to visit Butte but it had rained and I wanted time for the back roads to dry. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the city. The city embraces its past and has left a number of head-frames standing. And Oh My! – I knew mining tunnels were under the city but I was shocked when I saw a map of the tunnels. Tunnels are everywhere under the city.

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Wandering

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I left on this trip with no clear itinerary. I had identified more things to do and see than I had time for. I would watch the weather and make decisions as I went. My only rule was that I would stay south of I-90. That rule would keep me somewhat focused and stop me from chasing shiny objects when the world’s wonders were close; they just might take a bit of effort to uncover. I left Georgetown Lake and moseyed on to the Maiden Rock (west side) fishing access spot and set up camp.

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Leaving whimsy at Georgetown Lake

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Bygones

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I have a hard time accepting that towns die and are abandoned. People pour their hopes and dreams into their homes with families and friends. They marry, have children, and live their lives. Then the town slowly dies and they walk way leaving everything. On this trip I’m visiting some of these remnants of the past in mining towns. I can’t explain to myself what intrigues me about the abandoned towns. But I go and walk the old streets and see what remains. Many times it is only stone foundations that remain and a hollow in the ground, a little reminder of the people who lived their lives at the place.

I went to Georgetown Lake to camp and explore the area.  Northeast of the lake is the abandoned town of Southern Cross.

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Southern Cross. Corrugated metal siding.

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Remembering When

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This trip is to Montana. I had planned to take this trip a year ago, but with significant forest fires last year in Montana I went to the Owyhees instead. This year I visit Montana!

The first day was spent driving. Not really vacation time – it was driving time. I stopped for the night at Rose Lake Sportsman Access in Idaho. A simple quiet place to spend the night.

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Rose Lake

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Lonely Road

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Today I started driving home.  I decided to take the backroads – the blue route.  The road was scenic and remote; in places slow and twisty.  The road north of Burns had a rhythm; twisty-turny up hill, pine forest, a summit sign, twisty-turny down hill, then valley grasslands; repeat.  It took me 7 hours to drive it.  I’m guessing I saw a total of forty cars the entire day, except for the short stretch on highway 26 and at Burns.  An enjoyable road.

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Silver City

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I had been wanting to go to Silver City for years, ever since I had seen the TV show Northwest Backroads on it. I think that show was about eight years ago. When the snows came on Saturday, I was wondering if I might not make it in this trip. But I decided to hang around and let the roads dry out for a couple of days. Today: Silver City or Bust.

I took the road from Jordan Valley. It is a gravel road freeway all the way to the DeLamar mine that is now closed. After that the road is a single lane windy, twisty, road that I drove at 5 to 20 mph.  I was glad I had waited two days for the roads to dry.  There was still a bit of compacted snow on the road in a few locations.  Following are photos from the drive.

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I always pause to wonder about the life of the people that lived in abandoned houses.  To let a home crumble to ruins strikes me as sad.

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