Monday, July 28, 2014

Garnet Ghost Town

 We'd been to Garnet Ghost Town in Montana before, when the granddaughters were with us 4 years ago, but we decided it was worth another visit. We were hoping to see some wildlife up there, and as we turned off the highway onto the winding uphill road we did spot one species, perhaps not so wild.

 "There's gold in them thar hills." From the overlook we could see the main street and all that's left of the once prospering gold rush town, established in the very late 1800s. The cabin in the front was a home, while the other buildings include 2 saloons, a merchantile, and the hotel. Prospectors' cabins are seen marching up the hillside.

Two of our potential miners, Natalie and Keith. We are always surprised at the height of the cabin doorways. Folks in those days must have been shorter than we "modern" people. All the buildings are kept up just so they won't fall down, but otherwise they remain as they were left.

We tried to imagine what it would have been like to live in one of these tiny abodes. The miners must have only used them for sleeping and for a place for their possessions. The hillside was covered with wildflowers. I'd have taken more photos, but right here was where my camera battery died. That will teach me to carry the spare with me and not leave it in the car.

We did finally get to see some wildlife, but, surprisingly, it was back in Missoula. We drove around the University, and there she was, a beautiful doe not the least nervous as we snapped pictures.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Parsons Ponies

One of our most fun jobs at the Missoula KOA has been to help out every Friday evening with the pony rides provided by Parsons Ponies and the KOA. We've had a crowd of kids and their proud parents lined up each time, eagerly awaiting their turn to ride. Suzi brings 3 ponies and the kids are allowed to choose which one to ride. This is Dave, leading a thrilled little boy on Frosty. Mr. Keith is the photographer.

Suzi is very careful to make sure each child is properly seated on the pony. She instructs them about the saddle, how to hold on, where to put feet, and then walks beside them calmly explaining about the pony and about riding horseback.

A hot day for riding, but no less exciting for the young ones! The pony rides take place in one of the KOA's fenced dog enclosures and are provided free of charge for the registered campers.

Our granddaughter Natalie, age 13, is spending 2 weeks with us. I believe the most happy times for her have been helping out with the pony rides. She's had some experience with riding at her other grandma's ranch, and she possesses a calm and careful way with children. Suzi has encouraged her and taught her the process of giving children these memorable times during their camping experience at the KOA.

We were thrilled to be invited out to Suzi and Dave's ranch south of Missoula to see all the ponies and some of the bigger horses. Suzi brought out the biggest horse, Henry, for Natalie to ride. Once again, she carefully instructed her rider in every aspect of saddling up and preparing Henry to be ridden. She even showed Nat how to clean out Henry's hooves prior to fitting him with special shoes for the ride.

A happy cowgirl out in the beautiful Montana pine forest at the ranch!

This photo is a priceless one of Natalie, back at the KOA getting ready to lead out one of the ponies for the waiting young campers. We have made plans to go back to Parsons Ponies, the ranch, for one last ride on Natalie's final day with us before returning home. I know she will long remember the awesome experience given to her by this wonderful couple and their equine friends in gorgeous Montana!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Packer Meadows

Our day off this week turned out to be beautiful, sunny and clear, a perfect day for a trip. We had been encouraged to travel up to Lolo Pass, the border between Montana and Idaho on Hwy 12, to see the summer crop of camas flowers. On the way we got a great shot of Lolo Peak, elevation 9,143. From Wikapedia: The name "Lolo" probably evolved from "Lou-Lou", a pronunciation of "Lawrence," a French-Canadian fur trapper killed by a grizzly bear and buried at Grave Creek. The first written evidence of the name "Lolo" appears in 1831 when Hudson's Bay Company fur trader John Work refers in his journal to Lolo Creek as "Lou Lou." In an 1853 railroad survey and map, Lieutenant John Mullan spelled the creek and trail "Lou Lou." However, by 1865 the name was shortened to Lolo and is currently the name of a national forest, town, creek, mountain peak, mountain pass and historic trail in west central Montana.

After a quick stop at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center for directions, we found our way, on a dirt road, to Packer Meadows, a gorgeous field bursting with the lovely camas flowers as well as many other kinds of wildflowers. We gazed at a sea of blue in every direction!

Learning that the Nez Perce Indians depended on the camas flower, I looked up the use of the plant. It was sought out by many native peoples in the western U.S. and Canada. The bulb looks and tastes somewhat like a baked sweet potato, but sweeter. When dried, the bulbs can be pounded into a flour. Camas bulbs contributed to the survival of members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1805 and 1806. It would fun to have a taste, but I realize digging wildflowers is not allowed in an historical place!

Another view of these gorgeous flowers.

An additional treat for us, as we traveled slowly along a 7 mile, very primitive road to the south of the Pass, was seeing what seemed like millions of spectacular bear grass blooms. They were covering the hillsides along the way. We had an amazing day, filled with not only these two delightful species, the camas and the bear grass, but also many other lovely wildflowers amidst high country forests. We live in a magnificent country!