Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day #3 - Snow

Yes - Snow!

It started to rain in the night and the temperature dropped into the 40s. As we left Helena, we noticed a blanket of clouds shrouding the surrounding mountains and a snow line just a few hundred feet above the city. It wasn't long before the rain was mixed with snow and by the time we started up the first mountain pass, the edges of the road were icy and the ground dusted in white. The snow stayed with us off and on most of the day, but it is still not quite cold enough to stick on the roads. Who knows what tomorrow may bring.

We met an interesting couple from Scotland at breakfast this morning and traded stories about our travel plans. They had just come from Glacier and were headed for Yellowstone. I am always surprised by how easy it is to find something in common with fellow travelers along the way.

It was an pleasant drive through the Belt Mountains and onto the plain south of White Sulphur Springs where my mother was born on a homestead. We found a section line road that lead to the area where the homestead was located and then struggled to photograph the wide open landscape in the wind driven snow.

Shortly before arriving in White Sulphur Springs, we turned into the Mayn Cemetery where I suspected my great great grandparents might be buried. With so many graves and such a cold, wet day I didn't have much hope of finding the headstones. Deciding to give it a try anyway, I headed randomly in a diagonal line about 50 feet from the parked car stumbling almost immediately onto the family plot. Right there in front of me were four headstones - in addition to my great great grandparents I found a great great aunt and an infant cousin. It took my breath away.

The town of White Sulphur Springs was originally built around natural hot springs that were advertised as having medicinal value. The charming hotel and baths are not longer there although a small motel still uses water from the springs in their pool. The town's boom ended with the homestead era. Sad to say we found the library closed because there isn't enough money to remove mold from the tired looking building.

Our first project was to look for the spot where a 1913 birds eye photo of the town that appeared on one of my grandmother's post cards was taken. The stone castle on the hill helped us shoot our own 2009 version. We then lunched at Dori's Cafe where we ate grilled cheese with a menagerie of wild animals - moose, elk, deer, bobcat, and bison looking on from above. After lunch we found a large Victorian home (for sale by the way) where my mother may have spent Christmas of 1925 and heard a radio for the first time. A flea market stop ended our stay in WSS.

It started to snow again as soon as we left town on the narrow two-lane highway to Harlowton. In a fifty-mile stretch we only saw five other vehicles. Turning north toward Lewistown, we passed a huge wind farm built in 2001 (I was impressed). The most difficult 9 miles of the day was just outside of Lewistown where the low bid contractor has removed the highway and replaced it with an unfinished gravel surface worse than any I have ever seen - 20 miles per hour felt like speeding over this section of road. Our B & B host told us it has been this way all summer and they have no idea when it will be finished.

Our lodging for tonight and tomorrow is a beautifully restored Craftsman style home in the Silk Stocking Historic District. Tomorrow, depending on the weather, I hope to visit the ghost town where my grandmother lived as a child and look for old photos at the library in Lewistown.

1 comment:

  1. You two are so brave: Driving across the country in snow! I am filled with admiration and can't wait to log on every evening to check on progress. Got goosebumps about the family plots and headstones - invoked a very Wuthering Heights feeling. My imagination filled in the pictures (though I love the real ones too when technology allows)

    Wishing you safety on your further travels and ample snuggly feather comforter reststops to warm against the snow.