Big Sky Country

Next stop on our world tour took us to Big Sky County…Montana!

First stop was in Butte…

Camping in Butte
Camping in Butte

It was a pretty interesting town in that it was a mining town in the middle of this large wilderness.  That gives the town an edge compared to the rest of the state.  People in town definitely think they are rougher and tougher than the rest of Montana, and although we didn’t know it at the time, the rest of Montana shares that view.  The difference is that Butte thinks it’s a good thing, but the rest of the state looks down on them a bit.

With all that said, I enjoyed the people of Butte.  We went to a few really good local places (you must go to Matt’s Place…but they only take cash!) and even became addicted to Pizza Ranch (which we didn’t realize at the time was a chain).

We also stopped in to visit the famous Berkeley Pit.  Unfortunately the Pit is famous for not so positive reasons.  It’s a leftover pit mine that they just stopped pumping out when the mine became too expensive to operate, so now it is a big lake on the north side of town.  The problem is that it’s a big lake full of poisonous water….  A few years back 10000 geese landed in the water while stopping over during migration,  and more than 3000 of them died.  They now have loud noises that go off every so often to scare away any wildlife that might think about landing in the water.  Luckily they don’t have to worry much about land animals…the walls of the pit mine are super high and we had to enter through a tunnel.

The original intent of us staying in Butte was to use it as a hub to see some other things.  We took a day and went to Helena to tour the state capitol.  It was a pretty interesting tour…I’d certainly recommend it.

We also took a day to visit the Buffalo Jump State Park and the Headwaters of the Missouri River.  The Buffalo Jump was pretty cool.  It was extremely impressive how the natives planned an executed driving an entire heard of buffalo off the cliff.  It sounds horrible, but that is how they survived…and the site gives great detail about how that all occurred.

The headwaters was also pretty cool.  Of course anywhere there are 3 rivers coming together is going to be an important place for lots of reasons, but watching the Jefferson River and the Madison River literally run straight into each other and become the Missouri is pretty damned impressive.  The currents created by those quick moving rivers running head-long into each other is very impressive…

After Butte we moved East to Billings, MT.  Billings was a very different type of town.  It is the larger of the Montana cities and the cultural hub…as well as the Gateway to Yellowstone (even though it’s hours away).  It was nice to get back to a city that had some of our creature comforts (Best Buy, Chipotle, nice theatre) but it still had more of a small town feel.

We also got a visit from one of our favorite families…the Arnolds.  Bunny and Eric are great friends and Steph and Aaron really enjoy Josh and Gage’s company.  Of course Bunny and Josh enjoyed some shopping while in town…

Again we used this as the hub to hit a couple other attractions, starting with the Little Bighorn.  This is of course the site of Custer’s Last Stand, but before that it was a great gathering place for the native tribes.    It was a really beautiful park and I left really appreciating this as a turning point for both sides.  Strangely enough, the winners of this fight would not win another major battle and would end up being displaced to reservations…my heart really goes out to them.

Last, but not least…while in Billings we were able to celebrate Aaron’s 10th birthday.  We had a cake at the rig and took all the kids to the indoor waterpark called The Reef.  Although some of the. slides were closed they all had a blast.

All told, we enjoyed our time in Montana.  It certainly is beautiful and we barely scratched the surface on what the state has to offer,  We’ll be back to explore more next time!

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