Since we've been in Bozeman almost 2 weeks, we were chomping at the bit to have a day trip. My first choice was Virginia City, an inhabited ghost town, fixed up for tourists, but still retaining the ghostly feel of times gone by. We were awed by the beauty of the countryside on the way to our destination. This is on Hwy 84. So green!
There were only a couple of small towns on the way, one was Ennis, a stopover for pioneers traveling the Bozeman Trail. It was a charming little place with a western theme. This sculpture was outside a bank. It is entirely of metal, but looks so lifelike!
Well, we did it again! 3 years ago, after a very scary time of being lost up high in the hills above Missoula, we shook hands in agreement that we would never again take a gravel or dirt road if we didn't know the condition of it. The sign said, "Old Virginia City Road". How bad could it be? It started out gravel, then quickly turned into a mostly rutted dirt road with several gates along the way, for cattle, I assume. All the gates were open except the very last one, next to the exit to the highway, which we managed to pull aside and then return to its closed position. I was imagining the old prospectors and settlers driving their wagons along this road, hoping for a hot meal, a bed, and maybe riches in gold when they reached the town. Once again, our "wagon", our faithful old Focus, got us through. Will we never learn?
When we arrived in the town we spotted the candy store right away! Of course we had to enter, and, after being very careful to pick out only "small" amounts of jelly beans and taffy we still spent $20.00! I have visited Virginia City 2 or 3 times in the past and always loved it. The area, Alder Gulch, boasts the highest output of gold in the history of our country. Seeing the town now, it is difficult to imagine the tens of thousands of folks who once flocked here. On the outskirts of the town for miles you can still see the tailings from the mining. The land was devastated. Trees and scrub vegetation are now growing up through the piles and piles of rocks left by the prospectors.
We had a delicious lunch at a cafe´ named "The Outlaw". I had my favorite, a buffalo burger, and Keith had a Reuben. We loved this old car parked outside.
We could have ridden this stagecoach for $15.00 each, but chose to hoof it on our own. The town was not crowded by tourists yet, one of the reasons we had planned to go when we did, so those horses had lots of idle time. They looked bored.
I love the weathered appearance of these old boards. The town was at its heyday in 1864 and thereabouts. Minimal care is taken to keep the buildings standing and safe enough to enter, while retaining the original looks.
Most of the old storefronts have either businesses inside or are furnished with old artifacts for the tourists to see through the windows.
I can imagine the Vigilantes of the times walking this boardwalk, looking for outlaws to capture and take up to the hanging place on Boot Hill. We did drive up to Boot Hill, where we found a few graves maintained from long ago. There was a more modern cemetery farther along the hill.
This is the view from Boot Hill of the main part of the town. There was a lovely creek, Alder Creek, running behind Virginia City, which had not been decimated by the mining operations.
Finally, on our way home, heading east out of Alder Gulch, we were treated to this magnificent view of the Madison Valley. Had we continued south from here we'd have entered West Yellowstone and the entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Going north and east took us back to our summer home, Bozeman. We plan to visit Virginia City once again before the season is over.