A to Z Challenge: The C Towns #atozchallenge

During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique towns, some known for their names, other for unique sites in town. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

C The C Towns

Cactus Flat, South Dakota

Sumoflam with the Giant Prairie Dog - Cactus Flats
Sumoflam with the Giant Prairie Dog – Cactus Flat, SD
Prairie Dog -- standing watch in Cactus Flats
Prairie Dog — standing watch in Cactus Flat
Badlands at Sunset
Badlands at Sunset

Visiting National Parks is always a fun adventure and especially this year as the National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016.  One of the great parks in this country is Badlands National Park in South Dakota.  Near the northeast entrance and right off of Interstate 90 at Exit 131 is a place called Cactus Flat. As with most National Park entrance areas, this is a touristy area with a couple of “tourist traps” such as the Badlands Ranch Store.  And just near the trading post is the ‘World’s Largest Prairie Dog,” a six ton pink giant that overshadows a REAL Prairie Dog community where you can feed them and take photos.  Read all about my 2013 visit to the Badlands HERE.

Centralia, Missouri

Larry Vennard - Scrap Metal Artist, Centralia, Missouri
Larry Vennard – Scrap Metal Artist, Centralia, Missouri
"Javelin Man" by Larry Vennard
“Javelin Man” one of many scrap metal sculptures created by Larry Vennard of Centralia, Missouri

I have had a passion for “collecting” scrap metal sculptures from the around the country.  My collections come in photographs of said objects as most are way too heavy and too large for a car.  Most of these artists make them as a hobby and then display them on their properties (see my special post about these HERE).  Back in October 2013, on a return trip from Omaha, we made a visit to the community of Centralia, Missouri to track down one of these artists.  Larry Vennard is a nice guy and a fun artist.  He has a number of scrap metal dinosaurs sitting in his front yard on Highway T.  Check out my full post about Larry HERE.

Cape Elizabeth, Maine

The famed Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine
The famed Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Portland Light
Portland Head Light

In the summer of 2015 my wife, one of my daughters and some of the grandchildren took a drive to Connecticut to visit our son.  While up in New England, we also made our way up to Maine to visit Old Orchard Beach, but also visited the famed Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Read about the entire visit HERE.

Climax, North Carolina and Climax, Kentucky

Climax and High Point, NC
Climax and High Point, NC
Climax Christian Church in Climax, KY
Climax Christian Church in Climax, KY

Most road trips have their highs and lows.  But occasionally the trip can reach a Climax.  In my case I made a trip to Climax, North Carolina and then on to High Point, North Carolina in March 2012.  I stopped halfway there to call my wife and tell her I was somewhere between Climax and High Point. HA!

On another March trip, in 2009, with my wife in tow, we took a back roads “staycation” in Kentucky along KY Hwy 1912 (Climax Brushcreek Road) and I nabbed the photo of the Climax Christian Church. I even joked at that time the for members of the church there, it was always the climax of their week!

Choteau, Montana

A wall mural in Choteau, Montana
A wall mural in Choteau, Montana
An outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
An outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana

From Canada to Mexico, US Highway 89 is probably one of the most scenic routes in the country. Up in Montana it runs along Glacier National Park.  One of the communities along that route is the town of Choteau. This town is one of the gateways to Glacier and offers a wonderful museum in the Old Trail Museum which offers large dinosaurs, a grizzly bear exhibit and a number of other fun things…even a great place to get an ice cream cone!  Check out my trip down US 89 in Montana from 2014 — RIGHT HERE!

Cave City, Kentucky

Cave Land Motel - Cave City, Kentucky
Cave Land Motel – Cave City, Kentucky
Sleep in a Wigwam neon sign in Cave City, KY
Sleep in a Wigwam neon sign in Cave City, KY
Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY
Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY
Giant T-Rex statue in Cave City, KY
Giant T-Rex statue at Dinosaur World in Cave City, KY

Not too far from my home in Lexington, KY is yet another National Park…Mammoth Cave National Park.  Like the other two listed above, this one is surrounded by tourist traps and a Gateway town known as Cave City.  Cave City is one of those touristy towns that has been around since the 1950s.  Along with the Route 66 type of feel with neon and old motels, it is also home to one of only 3 remaining Wigwam Motel Villages, a vestige of the early travel days of the late 1950s and 1960s.  The town is also home to Dinosaur World, which features a number of giant dinosaur statues. Cave City is accessed from Exit 53 on Interstate 65 south of Louisville.  You can learn more about the Wigwam Village HERE.

Charm, Ohio

Charm, Ohio
Charm, Ohio
A lonely Amish buggy on the road in Charm, OH
A lonely Amish buggy on the road in Charm, OH

I am fascinated by other cultures, especially those that live in the US and Canada.  From the Hopi and Navajo Indians to the Amish and Mennonites, some people choose alternative lifestyles without electricity, running water or otherwise.  In my years of travel I have visited a number of Amish communities and one of my favorites is Charm, Ohio.  As its name implies, it has a simple charm to it.  To get there you take Ohio 557 south from Berlin, Ohio.  But be careful, this is the heart of Ohio Amish country and there could be a slow moving buggy on the road.

Chelsea, Michigan

Welcome to Chelsea, MI
Welcome to Chelsea, MI
Chelsea Teddy Bear Company, Chelsea, MI
Chelsea Teddy Bear Company, Chelsea, MI
Chelsea, MI is home of the Jiffy Corn Muffin company
Chelsea, MI is home of the Jiffy Corn Muffin company

On one of my trips to Michigan, I made way into the town of Chelsea.  My daughter is named Chelsea, so I thought it would be fun to stop at the Chelsea Teddy Bear Factory and get her a namesake teddy bear.  Chelsea is located on MI Hwy 52 south of Pinckney and Hell and is basically off of Interstate 94 west of Ann Arbor.  It is quaint little town with beautiful architecture, the Teddy Bear Factory and is the home of the Jiffy Company, makers of that famous corn muffin mix.  You can read about my trip there in 2008 by going HERE.

Champaign, Illinois

Giant Macaroni Noodle at the Kraft plant in Champaign, IL
Giant Macaroni Noodle at the Kraft plant in Champaign, IL
Big Indian shooting an arrow located at Curtis Orchards in Champaign, also home of a nice Yellow Brick Road
Big Indian shooting an arrow located at Curtis Orchards in Champaign, also home of a nice Yellow Brick Road

Deep in the heart of Illinois and a little south of Normal (in both the literal and figurative senses!) is the cool little town of Champaign, Illinois. This town is off of Interstate 74 west of Indianapolis and has some fun, kid friendly places to visit.  The best place for a visit is Curtis Orchards.  An orchard and pumpkin patch, they offer a real yellow brick road and have a number of Wizard of Oz themed attractions, murals and even the cafe, which is called the Flying Monkey Cafe.  In the back part of the orchard there is a huge metal Indian statue shooting an arrow.  Check out more about the fun visit I made in 2012 HERE.

Cut Bank, Montana

Cut Bank, Montana
Cut Bank, Montana
Famed giant Cut Bank Penguin claiming the town of Cut Bank is the Coldest Spot in the Nation
Famed giant Cut Bank Penguin claiming the town of Cut Bank is the Coldest Spot in the Nation

For a number of years my daughter and her family lived in Shelby, Montana.  During my visits there I made a few treks down US Highway 2 into Cut Bank, Montana in order to get to Glacier National Park.  Cut Bank is one of the gateways to Glacier and has a number of interesting and even quirky sites.  There are a number of excellent wall murals dotting the town, a huge railroad trestle for railroad enthusiasts and then the “World’s Largest Penguin” statue that touts the town as the coldest spot in the nation.  Check out a write up about my road trip across the Hi Line of Montana back in July 2014 – you can see it HERE.

Caledonia, Ontario, Canada

Caledonia and Grand Trunk Railway
Caledonia and Grand Trunk Railway

While working in Ontario, Canada in 2008, I had the opportunity to drive all over the province.  One of the interesting stops I found was Caledonia. Caledonia is a small riverside community located on the Grand River in Haldimand County, Ontario and has a population of just under 10,000.  In the late 1880s it became a stop along the Grand Trunk Railway which ran through Canada and into Michigan.  In fact, the 1970s Rock Band, Grand Funk Railroad took their name as a play on this railway.  You can read more about my visit to Caledonia and the surrounding towns of Norwich and Otterville in 2008 by clicking HERE.

Cut and Shoot, Texas (Honorable Mention)

Cut and Shoot City Hall
Cut and Shoot City Hall
Cut and Shoot Police
Cut and Shoot Police – how many Police Departments have Shoot in their name?

I am always in search of uniquely named towns.  There are very few in the country with multiple words in the name, and Cut and Shoot, Texas is one of them.  On a trip to Galveston in 2014, I made my through this town north of Houston just to get a picture with the town hall building….a rustic old piece of art.  I was also pleasantly surprised to see their police cars.  How many police departments actually have Shoot in their name?   Check out more about my drive through…  HERE

China Grove, Texas (Honorable Mention)

Welcome to China Grove, TX
Welcome to China Grove, TX

I drove through China Grove, TX back in 2013 on my way to San Antonio.  Indeed, I went out of my so I could see this sleepy little town near San Anton…  (yes, made famous by the Doobie Brothers)

Cool, Texas and Coolville, Ohio (Honorable Mention)

Cool Cafe: If We Ain't Shut We're Open - Cool, Texas
Cool Cafe: If We Ain’t Shut We’re Open (and they were actually closed that day!) – Cool, Texas
Old Coolville Wall Mural "Building Community One Block at a Time", Coolville, OH
Old Coolville Wall Mural “Building Community One Block at a Time”, Coolville, OH

Then there are the Cool places to visit.  Cool, TX, which is located on US Highway 180 between Weatherford and Mineral Wells.  Known for their unique cafe, the Cool Cafe, which has been closed both times I went through there. You can see a bit more in my post HERE.   Then, up in Ohio, there is the small community of Coolville, located on US Highway 50 just north of the Ohio River and near the West Virginia border.  You can see my writeup of Coolville HERE.

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Montana Trip: US Highway 89 thru Montana – North 89

Glacier National Park
Snow covered mountains of Glacier National Park as seen from US 89 just south of US Route 2 near Browning, MT

As I continued my trip in Montana, I spent some time with my daughter and her children in Shelby.  From there I proceeded to head back to Kentucky the “back roads” way over a number of US Highways and State Highways.

US Route 2 and US Route 89
US Route 2 and US Route 89

My goal was to travel the majority of Montana’s US 89 during this trip.  I did not hit the portion north of Browning to Alberta on this trip, though I have traveled it in the past.  In fact, over the years I have traveled US 89 from the Canadian border all the way to Mexico (back when US 89 went that far). This post will cover the section of US 89 north of Great Falls and I will follow with a second post covering the portion of US 89 in Montana south of Great Falls.

A scene from US Highway 89 in northern Montana
A scene from US Highway 89 in northern Montana

Sometimes called the National Park Highway, U.S. 89 links seven national parks across the Mountain West. In addition, fourteen other national park areas, mostly national monuments are also reachable from this backbone of the Rockies. The highway goes through prairies, mountains and deserts and, in my opinion, is the most scenic US Highway in America.

Sunrise on US 89 near Great Falls, Montana
Sunrise on US 89 near Great Falls, Montana

My wife flew out to Montana so I took her down to Great Falls and spent the night there.  The next morning she had an early flight, so I dropped her off and then headed north on US 89 from Great Falls and would travel all the way to US Highway 2 near Browning and then back to Shelby for one more night with the family.

US Highway 89 west of Vaughn, Montana
US Highway 89 west of Vaughn, Montana

US 89 near Great Falls merges with Interstate 15 until Vaughn, Montana, where it cuts northwest towards Glacier National Park.  In the early morning, this is a fabulously beautiful drive along the eastern edge of Glacier.

Sunrise over the Rockies as seen from US 89 north of Vaughn, Montana
Sunrise over the Rockies as seen from US 89 north of Vaughn, Montana
Morning sky on US 89 south of Fairfield, Montana
Morning sky on US 89 south of Fairfield, Montana

The first town along US 89 north is Fairfield, where the highway continues northward. I pulled into town on an early Monday morning and things were still quiet. Like many small Montana towns, there are old neon signs, old buildings and a unique personality.

Morning in Fairfield, Montana
Morning in Fairfield, Montana
Old Neon Sign, Fairfield, Montana
Old Neon Sign, Fairfield, Montana
Silos against the morning sky in Fairfeld, Montana
Silos against the morning sky in Fairfeld, Montana
Mo Meth Mural in Fairfield, Montana. Murals such as these are common in many small towns in Montana
Mo Meth Mural in Fairfield, Montana. Murals such as these are common in many small towns in Montana

Fairfield is also the southern gateway to Freezeout Lake, which can be seen from US 89. This lake is a spring home to snow geese and swans as they fly north to Canada in the spring. I drove by a bit late to see the swarms of birds, but I did catch a couple of bird shots as I drove by.

Early morning on Freezeout Lake as seen from US 89 north of Fairfield, Montana
Early morning on Freezeout Lake as seen from US 89 north of Fairfield, Montana
Another nice view of Freezeout Lake
Another nice view of Freezeout Lake
A black-necked stilt looks for its morning breakfast at Freezeout Lake
A black-necked stilt looks for its morning breakfast at Freezeout Lake
Geese enjoy an early morning swim in Freezeout Lake
Geese enjoy an early morning swim in Freezeout Lake

Route 89 continues north into beautiful country on the approach to the town of Choteau, which is a southwestern gateway to Glacier (the town refers to itself as “The Front Porch to the Rockies”).

A metal cowboy sculpture on a hill south of Choteau, Montana is silhouetted against the morning sky.
A metal cowboy sculpture on a hill south of Choteau, Montana is silhouetted against the morning sky.
Welcome to Choteau, Montana
Welcome to Choteau, Montana

The town is the northern terminus of US 287 which actually starts in Port Arthur, Texas, about 1,791 miles away.  (I actually drove a good portion of US 287 on a previous trip to Texas from Dalhart through Amarillo and Wichita Falls into the Dallas area.) As I pulled into Choteau from the south I was greeted by two grumpy looking cowboys (in the Ace Hardware parking lot).  I contacted Ace owner Steve Nyland to inquire about the pieces and learned that they were made by Lincoln, Montana born artist Rick Rowley who now runs the Lost Woodsman Studio in Sedona, Arizona (which, by the way is ALSO on US 89 in Arizona) and is world renown for his art.

Big Wooden Cowboy in Choteau, Montana
Big Wooden Cowboy in Choteau, Montana (carved by Rick Rowley)
Grumpy Cowboy in Choteau, Montana
Grumpy Cowboy in Choteau, Montana (carved by Rick Rowley)
Visiting a couple of cranky cowboys in Choteau, Montana
Visiting a couple of cranky cowboys in Choteau, Montana

Choteau is home to a beautiful old courthouse, a 70s style motel and a few other unique things.

Teton County Courthouse, completed in 1906 and designed by Joseph B. Gibson and George H. Shanley
Teton County Courthouse, completed in 1906 and designed by Joseph B. Gibson and George H. Shanley
Old Neon - Big Sky Motel in Choteau, Montana
Old Neon – Big Sky Motel in Choteau, Montana
Welcome to Choteau, Montana sign
Welcome to Choteau, Montana sign
Old covered wagon on a building in Choteau, Montana
Old covered wagon on a building in Choteau, Montana
Roxy Theatre in Choteau, Montana
Roxy Theatre in Choteau, Montana
A wall mural in Choteau, Montana
A wall mural in Choteau, Montana
Choteau, Montana
Choteau, Montana – banner with dinosaurs

It is also home to a unique little museum called the Old Trail Museum, and is one of 14 stops on the Montana Dinosaur Trail. They even have three big dinosaur statues outside of the museum.

Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
A T Rex coming after Sumoflam in Choteau, Montana at the Old Trail Museum
A T Rex coming after Sumoflam in Choteau, Montana at the Old Trail Museum
Grizzly Bear Exhibit at the Old Trail Museum
Grizzly Bear Exhibit at the Old Trail Museum
Bear Trap on display at the Old Trail Museum
Bear Trap on display at the Old Trail Museum

The folks at the Old Trail Museum are ultra friendly and there is a lot to see there including paleontology exhibits, grizzly bear exhibit, an art studio and a luscious ice cream shop!  A great place to bring the kids…and that is why we came with the grand kids.

Some of the Old Trail Museum
Some of the Old Trail Museum (including a dinosaur tail!)
Another dinosaur at the Old trail Museum
Another dinosaur at the Old trail Museum
The third outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum
The third outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum

The next town north of Choteau is Bynum, Montana.  The town is home to yet another dinosaur museum, the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center, another Dinosaur Trail stop.  The center includes the world’s longest dinosaur, a skeletal model display of a Seismosaurus, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Other displays include the first baby dinosaur remains found in North America and the actual remains of other new dinosaur species.

Bynum, Montana
Bynum, Montana
Two Medicine Dinosaur Center, Bynum, Montana
Two Medicine Dinosaur Center, Bynum, Montana
Come See the World's Largest Dinosaur in Bynum, Montana
Come See the World’s Largest Dinosaur in Bynum, Montana
Big Dino Statue in Bynum, Montana
Big Dino Statue in Bynum, Montana

This is another one of those very small towns, but it does have a unique character in that it has a dinosaur museum in a giant T Rex that you can see from the highway. Great for a photo opportunity!

Trex Agate Shop and wall mural in Bynum, Montana
Trex Agate Shop and wall mural in Bynum, Montana
Old Purkett's Grocery in Bynum, Montana
Old Purkett’s Grocery and Bus Depot in Bynum, Montana
J.D.'s Wildlife Sanctuary in Bynum. Apparently known for its steaks.
J.D.’s Wildlife Sanctuary in Bynum. Apparently known for its steaks.

Another few miles up the road US 89 meets Montana 219 which leads to Pendroy and then on to Conrad on Interstate 15.  Pendroy, Montana is a sparsely populated little place.

A dilapidated barn near Pendroy, Montana
A dilapidated barn near Pendroy, Montana
An old house in Pendroy, Montana
An old house in Pendroy, Montana

My biggest excitement about Pendroy was the discovery of some unique yard art outside a house there. It included a wind chime made of oxygen tanks, a metal bear sculpture, a metal gal on an old tiller and more.

Metal Gal on Tiller in Pendroy, Montana
Metal Gal on Tiller in Pendroy, Montana
Oxygen Tank Wind Chime in Pendroy, Montana
Oxygen Tank Wind Chime in Pendroy, Montana
Metal Grizzly Bear in Pendroy, Montana
Metal Grizzly Bear in Pendroy, Montana
Old cabin near Pendroy, Montana
Old cabin near Pendroy, Montana

The drive north on US Route 89 really offers some spectacular views of the mountains to the west and they are extra beautiful when the sun is coming up.

Rocky Mountains as seen from US 89 near Pendroy, Montana
Rocky Mountains as seen from US 89 near Pendroy, Montana
US 89 heading north from Pendroy, Montana
US 89 heading north from Pendroy, Montana
Another view of the Rocky Mountains just south of Dupuyer, Montana
Another view of the Rocky Mountains just south of Dupuyer, Montana

The next town on US 89 is the historic town of Dupuyer, Montana.  The sign below says it all, calling is a “colorful cattle town” and the “oldest town between Fort Benton and the Rocky Mountains.”  I found it to still be colorful.

Dupuyer History
Dupuyer History
Welcome to Dupuyer, another unique metal town sign, common in northern Montana
Welcome to Dupuyer, another unique metal town sign, common in northern Montana

While driving into Dupuyer, I noticed a unique cemetery on a hill west of town with the flag flying high and the Rockies in the background.  I decided to veer off the road a bit onto Dupuyer Creek Road and catch some of the scenery and was glad I did.

Dupuyer Cemetery on a hill with a spectacular view of the Rockies
Dupuyer Cemetery on a hill with a spectacular view of the Rockies
Dupuyer Creek Road is a gravel road west out of Dupuyer heading straight to the mountains
Dupuyer Creek Road is a gravel road west out of Dupuyer heading straight to the mountains
A flag flies at the gate to Anderson Ranch, just west of Dupuyer
A flag flies at the gate to Anderson Ranch, just west of Dupuyer

The road was also lined with colorful wildflowers all on bloom on this early morning.

Wildflowers set against the mountains
Wildflowers set against the mountains
Bright yellow wildflowers
Bright yellow wildflowers
Purple Wildflowers
Purple Wildflowers

Then, what struck me as fun was the “Boot Fence.”  I had seen one similar on a highway in Idaho in 2013.  Each post had its own boot on it.  I have also seen it in Texas.  I wondered about the tradition and found a few write-ups about the tradition. A search in Google images shows dozens of photos of boots on fences.

Many ranchers wear cowboy boots and like everything else, they eventually wear out. Ranchers are very resourceful and when this happens — they put the boots on top of the posts to keep them covered and prevent rain water from seeping into the posts and rotting them out.

Boot Post Fence near Dupuyer, Montana
Boot Post Fence near Dupuyer, Montana

Sometimes, a rancher will put boots on the fencepost to honor the passing of a beloved horse, a hired hand or fallen comrade. Also, before telephones were invented, a rancher would indicate he was home and the workday was over by hanging boots on the fence. Whatever the reasons, it is an interesting tradition in the west.

My favorite post
My favorite post

Finally, back on US 89 I was tempted to visit the Dupuyer Cache, but they were still not open when I drove by at 8:45 AM.

Dupuyer Cache sells yarn, honey, books, groceries and more.
Dupuyer Cache sells yarn, honey, books, groceries and more.
An old tractor at rest in Dupuyer, Montana
An old tractor at rest in Dupuyer, Montana

A couple of miles north of Dupuyer on US 89 is a cut off to Valier. In and of itself, Valier is not too exciting of small town but it is scenic as it borders Lake Frances, a great bird estuary.  On the afternoon leg of my trip with my grandchildren we ventured to Valier on our way to Choteau in order to take a ride out to “Rock City.”  It is a six or seven mile drive due north of town.  This is not the same Rock City that is located near Chattanooga, Tennessee and has advertisements on barns all over the southeast.  Rather, this Rock City is a natural “city” of rock formations that have been eroded away by the Two Medicine River. (See my detailed post about here)

Two Medicine River north of Valier, Montana
Two Medicine River north of Valier, Montana
Rock City north of Valier, Montana
Rock City north of Valier, Montana

To get to Rock City you drive north towards Cut Bank out of Valier on Cut Bank Highway and as the road turns west, you continue north on a dirt road which eventually turns into a little path that’s kind of bumpy and probably more suited to a four-wheel-drive or a large base vehicle.

A portion of the road to Rock City
A portion of the road to Rock City
Farmland along the road to Rock City
Farmland along the road to Rock City

On the approach through prairie lands and farmlands, a big Valley, a chasm opens up in front of you. The Two Medicine River flows down below and it was quite a strong current at the time we visited due to all the glacier runoff as spring had gotten started.

Chasm formed by Two Medicine River
Chasm formed by Two Medicine River (Glacier Wind Farm in background)
Two Medicine River forms a small canyon north of Valier, Montana
Two Medicine River forms a small canyon north of Valier, Montana

Hundreds of strange rock formations dot the landscape, creating many eerie features.  Many of the formations are 12 to 20 feet tall and many have big flat tops on them indicating massive amounts of water in wind erosion over but I would assume is centuries of time.

Hoodoos of Rock City
Hoodoos of Rock City
Unique formations at Rock City
Unique formations at Rock City

For the adventuresome person, hiking down to the river is probably quite possible as there are many locations that are not beholden with cliffs. On this occasion we walked around through many of the formations, but didn’t venture down into the canyon itself.

Rock City near Valier, Montana
Rock City formations near Valier, Montana

To me, though much different in appearance, it was not unlike Coal Mine Canyon which is located on the Navajo Indian Reservation east of Tuba City, Arizona. Like Coal Mine Canyon, it is an undeveloped geologic location that might otherwise be a National Monument or a State Park. But in both cases neither of these appear to be headed in this direction. Both require going down narrow dirt roads and paths to get to them. Both have unique and otherworldly formations. And both have big chasms with beautiful scenes.

Formations at Rock City north of Valier, MT
Formations at Rock City north of Valier, MT

Up in northern Montana near Sweet Grass, there are some similar formations known as the Jerusalem Rocks. But the Rock City formations are much larger and much more expansive. (See my detailed post about Rock City here)

More Rock City Formations
More Rock City Formations

Continuing north on US 89 I entered the Blackfeet Reservation at its southern entrance. And, similar to the East Entrance in Cut Bank (see photos in THIS POST),  there are two scrap metal Indian Chiefs that greeted me. The same artist, Jay Polite Laber has put these sculptures at all four directional entrances to the reservation.

Sumoflam with Blackfeet Chiefs at south entrance to Blackfeet Reservation south of Browning, MT
Sumoflam with Blackfeet Chiefs at south entrance to Blackfeet Reservation south of Browning, MT.  These were made by Blackfeet artist Jay Polite Laber
South entrance to the Blackfeet Nation
South entrance to the Blackfeet Nation – artwork by Blackfeet artist Jay Polite Laber
Blackfeet Chief by Jay Polite Laber
Blackfeet Chief by Jay Polite Laber

From this location looking west, one can see the grandeur of the massive snow covered mountains of Glacier National Park.

Heading north on US Route 89
Heading north on US Route 89
Horses graze on Blackfeet land as seen from US 89 southeast of Browning, MT
A horse grazes on Blackfeet land as seen from US 89 southeast of Browning, MT
Approaching Browning, MT just south of the Junction with US Route 2
Approaching Browning, MT just south of the Junction with US Route 2

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Montana Roadtrip: Taking the Hi-Line Across Northern Montana

US Route 2 Montana - The Hi-Line
US Route 2 Montana – The Hi-Line

My trip along Route 2 continued from Glasgow, Montana westward along what is known as the Montana Hi-Line (See my May 2013 post about a previous drive on a portion of the Hi-Line).  Back in May last year I drove through to Glasgow and then south.  On this trip I tried to spend a little more time in some of the smaller towns on the road and capture the essence of what I feel is a dieing breed hanging on.  In fact, to proclaim their existence, many of the towns have a big sign on the highway to proclaim “Hey, we’re here!”

Chester, Montana welcome sign on West side of town
Chester, Montana welcome sign on West side of town – one of many signs along the Hi-Line

Ultimately, I would drive Route 2 to where it intersects with US Route 89 on the eastern edge of Glacier National Park. That would be the end of my 1165 mile jaunt on US Route 2. (According to Google Maps, it is 1165 miles from downtown Ironwood, MI to the US 2/US 89 Intersection near Browning, MT.)

Ironwood, MI to US 89
US Route 2 from Ironwood, MI to US 89 near Browning, MT
US Highway 2 in eastern Montana
US Highway 2 in eastern Montana, just west of Glasgow

After spending the night in an old 1970s style motel in Glasgow, Montana, it was back on the road.  My last trip through Glasgow was fleeting so I couldn’t capture some of the essence of this nice little town on the eastern edge of Northern Montana. The population of just over 3200 is friendly and accommodating.

Campbell Lodge neon sign in Glasgow, Montana
Campbell Lodge neon sign in Glasgow, Montana

Downtown Glasgow offers some old motel signs, ghost signs and some other unique sites.

Old Glasgow Courier sign on a building
Old Glasgow Courier sign on a building
Valley Cinemas has two theaters to accommodate the populace in and around Glasgow
Valley Cinemas has two theaters to accommodate the populace in and around Glasgow
Old Neon Sign in Glasgow, Montana
Old Neon Sign in Glasgow, Montana
Train mural in Glasgow Montana n the side of a building
Train mural in Glasgow Montana n the side of a building
Old Pool Hall Sign in Glasgow, Montana
Old Pool Hall Sign in Glasgow, Montana
Elk Mural in Glasgow, Montana
Elk Mural in Glasgow, Montana

A drive back to the east part of town leads to the bar with an airplane in the building.

Hangar Bar and Grill in Glasgow, Montana
Hangar Bar and Grill in Glasgow, Montana

This bar is unique….a real small plane stuck in the building and a dinosaur out front guarding the place.

Dino and Dave at Hangar Bar in Glasgow, MT
Dino and Dave at Hangar Bar in Glasgow, MT
A Tin Man Sign in front of an air conditioning business in Glasgow, Montana
A Tin Man Sign in front of an air conditioning business in Glasgow, Montana

As one proceeds west on US Hwy 2 out of Glasgow, you will see dinosaurs up on the hillside. These and the other animals and sculptures (as well as the dino at the Hangar) are all creations of artist Buck Samuelson, who offers them for sale.

For Sale by Buck Samuelson in Glasgow, Montana
For Sale by Buck Samuelson in Glasgow, Montana
Big Dino on hill made by Buck Samuelson in Glasgow, Montana
Big Dino on hill made by Buck Samuelson in Glasgow, Montana
Buck Samuelson sculptures on a hillside in Glasgow, Montana
Buck Samuelson sculptures on a hillside in Glasgow, Montana

US Highway 2 has a number of historical signs along the way. The first one west of Glasgow is all about Buffalo Country.

Buffalo Country Historical Marker on US Hwy 2 in Eastern Montana
Buffalo Country Historical Marker on US Hwy 2 in Eastern Montana

The first town west of Glasgow is the Hinsdale, Montana.  Not much here, but they have a unique church building where the steeple is planted in the ground in FRONT of the church and not on top it.

Hinsdale United Methodist Church, Hinsdale, Montana
Hinsdale United Methodist Church, Hinsdale, Montana

The next little town on the way is Saco, Montana. This town would have faded away long ago if not for its unique place in history as one of the homes of news anchor Chet Huntley, whose father worked for the railroad.  There is one room schoolhouse in Saco that he attended.  As well, Saco had two years of bragging rights as the Guinness World Record holder for making the world’s largest hamburger, building the 6,040-pound burger from the beef of 17 cattle in 1999.

Welcome to Saco, Montana
Welcome to Saco, Montana
Wooden Grain Elevator in Saco, Montana
Wooden Grain Elevator in Saco, Montana
Saco Town Hall - another metal sign
Saco Town Hall – another metal sign
Old Lee Ghost Sign in Saco, Montana
Old Lee Ghost Sign in Saco, Montana
1970s Style Motel sign in the small town of Saco, MT
1970s Style Motel sign in the small town of Saco, MT
Remains of an old gas station in Saco, MT
Remains of an old gas station in Saco, MT
Blackbird perched on a post in Saco, MT
Blackbird perched on a post in Saco, MT

Just west of town is the “Sleeping Buffalo Rock” which is actually listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Sleeping Buffalo Rock sign near Saco, Montana
Sleeping Buffalo Rock sign near Saco, Montana
Sleeping Buffalo Rock, Saco, MT
Sleeping Buffalo Rock, Saco, MT

From Saco US Hwy 2 heads southwest as it circles around Lake Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge. From there the road passes through Malta, Montana along nice grazing lands for cattle and horses.

US Route 2 west of Saco, MT
US Route 2 west of Saco, MT
Horses grazing on a ranch east of Malta, Montana
Horses grazing on a ranch east of Malta, Montana

Malta, Montana is a nice small town on the Milk River.  It has its share of old signs and old dinosaur bones.

Welcome to Malta, Montana sign.  Most of the towns along the Hi-Line have metal welcome signs.
Welcome to Malta, Montana sign. Most of the towns along the Hi-Line have metal welcome signs.
Villa Theater in Malta, Montana. One of many old theater fronts to be seen along the Hi-Line of Montana
Villa Theater in Malta, Montana. One of many old theater fronts to be seen along the Hi-Line of Montana
Old neon sign for the Palace Theater in Malta, Montana
Old neon sign for the Palace Theater in Malta, Montana
Ghost Sign in Malta, Montana
Ghost Sign in Malta, Montana

Malta is also home to the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum and Field Station, which is part of the Montana Dinosaur Trail. The Dinosaur Trail includes 14 different museums around Montana that feature remains and history pertaining to dinosaurs. There are eight locations on the Hi-Line from Glasgow to Rudyard.  There are a couple more on US 89 south of Glacier National Park.

Dinosaur Trail Banner in Malta, Montana
Dinosaur Trail Banner in Malta, Montana

The next stop on the road is the small town of Dodson, Montana.  They have a new post office, but the old post office sign still remains as a reminder of the past.

Old Post Office Sign in Dodson, MT
Old Post Office Sign in Dodson, MT
Old building in Dodson, MT
Old building in Dodson, MT
An old sign on a shop in Dodson, MT
An old sign on a shop in Dodson, MT
Old neon sign in Dodson, MT
Old neon sign in Dodson, MT

From Dodson, US Route 2 passes through the Fort Belknap Reservation, home of the Gros Venture and Assiniboine Tribes.

Welcome to Fort Belknap, MT
Welcome to Fort Belknap, MT
Horse Capture Community Park sign, another metal sign located along the Hi-Line in Montana.  This is in Fort Belknap.
Horse Capture Community Park sign, another metal sign located along the Hi-Line in Montana. This is in Fort Belknap.
When I passed through Fort Belknap, there was a Pow Wow going on.  You can see the Tipi over the fence.
When I passed through Fort Belknap, there was a Pow Wow going on. You can see the Tipi over the fence.
Fort Belknap Native Americans getting the cattle rounded up.
Fort Belknap Native Americans getting the cattle rounded up.

From Fort Belknap, US Route 2 heads northwest into the small town of Harlem, Montana.  This town is about 50% white and 43% Native American. Like the other towns, it has a metal welcome sign.

Welcome to Harlem, MT
Welcome to Harlem, MT
Downtown Harlem, MT
Downtown Harlem, MT

Not too far west of Harlem is the small dot of a town called Zurich (pronounced Zoo-rich by the locals). Like many small stations on the railroad, Zurich receives its name from an older, far more impressive city. Legend has it that to name many of their stations, railroad executives would open an atlas at random and point to a city. Although it may seem incongruous that a town on the plains be named after a noted European mountain city, from Zurich,  westward bound visitors could catch their first glimpse of the Bear Paw Mountains. It is now basically a place for picnics along the Milk River.

Zurich, Montana - a small dot on the Hi-Line
Zurich, Montana – a small dot on the Hi-Line
Old wooden elevator in Zurich, Montana.  One of the few buildings there.
Old wooden elevator in Zurich, Montana. One of the few buildings there.
One of many old deserted buildings in Zurich, Montana
One of many old deserted buildings in Zurich, Montana

The next stop on the Hi-Line heading west is Chinook, Montana.  This small town of about 1500 has some character.  It used to be the home of a large sugarbeet factory.  They do have one of the more unique high school sports mascots in the country — the Sugarbeeters.

Chinook Sugarbeeters logo
Chinook Sugarbeeters logo
Chinook, Montana
Chinook, Montana

There are still many evidences of the past in Chinook.  For instance, the Bear Paw Credit Union uses a remodeled old fashioned gas station that still has the old pumps out front.

Bear Paw Credit Union in Chinook, Montana uses an old gas station
Bear Paw Credit Union in Chinook, Montana uses an old gas station
Old Chinook Hotel neon sign
Old Chinook Hotel neon sign
Silos in Chinook invite you to get Lost in Montana
Silos in Chinook invite you to Get Lost in Montana (see link)

I had a lot of other photos of Chinook from a previous trip I took along the Hi-Line in March 2013.  You can see that post HERE.

Nez Perce Trail on US Route 2 near Chinook, Montana
Nez Perce Trail on US Route 2 near Chinook, Montana

Chinook lies along the Nez Perce National Historic Trail which goes from Wallowa Lake in northeast Oregon (near Joseph, OR — I visited there in 2007), then crosses Idaho and goes south along the border of Idaho and Montana, through Yellowstone then heads north though Billings, MT and finally ends at the  Bear Paw Battlefield, which is about 15 miles south of town.  The Battlefield Park commemorates the final battle of the Nez Perce War of 1877 where the Nez Perce ceased fighting on October 5th, 1877.

Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce

It was at Bear Paw that Chief Joseph gave his famous speech in which he said, “Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.” The Nez Perce Trail, like the Oyate Trail of South Dakota and the Trail of Tears in the Southeast US, among others, are integral parts of American history that help us to better understand the plight of the Native Americans.  I am grateful to continue to learn about these great people who lived on this land long before the Europeans found their way here.

Big Bison in Havre, created by Havre resident Cory Holmes
Big Bison in Havre, created by Havre resident Cory Holmes

From Chinook I zipped through Havre, having visited it extensively in 2013. But, I did stop briefly for a good shot with the large bison that had been made by Cory Holmes, who used three miles of old telegraph wire to create this nine-foot long, six-foot tall 2000 pound bison.

Cory Holmes' Bison in Havre, Montana
Cory Holmes’ Bison in Havre, Montana

Just west of Havre there is a road called Smith Frisno Road which crosses over the railroad tracks heading north. It eventually leads to a large ranch, but along the way many a visitor has stopped for a photo of an old abandoned schoolhouse that sits out in the prairie.  I visited there last year, but wanted to grab a couple more shots as this is one of those iconic places that begs to be photographed.

Old Prairie School House on Smith-Frisno Road west of Havre. I wanted this one in black and white...
Old Prairie School House on Smith-Frisno Road west of Havre. I wanted this one in black and white…
Another shot of the old school house
Another shot of the old school house

The next town west of Havre is Kremlin, Montana.  Yes, an unusual name for a town.  But, as the story goes, the town had some Russian immigrants that were working on the Great Northern Railway who looked off in the distance at the mountains and were reminded of the Kremlin back home.  The name apparently stuck.

Kremlin, Montana -- USA Style
Kremlin, Montana — USA Style
A line of grain silos in Kremlin, MT
A line of grain silos in Kremlin, MT

After Kremlin there are a couple of other small towns before reaching the small historic town of Rudyard, Montana, which actually has three small museums – the Depot Museum, the Dinosaur Museum (part of the Dinosaur Trail) and a Vintage Auto Museum. Using the old railroad depot, the historical society renovated it for a museum in which to house both the written and physical history of the Hi-Line towns of Joplin, Inverness, Rudyard, Hingham, Gildford, and Kremlin.

Welcome to Rudyard ... one of the classic signs, "Lots of nice people and one sorehead"
Welcome to Rudyard … one of the classic signs, “596 Nice People and 1 Old Sore Head” And no, I am not the Sore Head!
Old car relics at the Depot Museum in Rudyard, MT
Old car relics at the Depot Museum in Rudyard, MT
An old tractor at the Depot Museum in Rudyard, MT
An old tractor at the Depot Museum in Rudyard, MT
The Depot Museum in Rudyard, MT
The Depot Museum in Rudyard, MT
Veterans Memorial at the Depot Museum in Rudyard, MT
Veterans Memorial at the entrance to the Depot Museum in Rudyard, MT

Then there is my penchant for “collecting” scrap metal art.  I came across a place in Rudyard that had three pieces of scrap metal animals in the yard, including a bison, a deer and an elk.  I spoke to a guy there and he said “someone in town made them, but I am not sure who.” Surprising to me that in a town of just under 600 people that they don’t all know who does this kind of thing….

Scrap metal bison in Rudyard, Montana
Scrap metal bison in Rudyard, Montana
Scrap Metal Deer in Rudyard, Montana
Scrap Metal Deer in Rudyard, Montana

Then there is the semi-famous dinosaur skeleton sculpture just west of town on US Highway 2, probably advertising the Dinosaur Museum in Rudyard.  I was able to contact the Rudyard Museum and found out that this old guy was made by a farmer named Bryon Wolery, owner of Wolery Farms.  He apparently made two of them and one is on his farm.

The dinosaur sculpture off of US Highway 2 near Rudyard, made by farmer Byron Wolery of Inverness, MT
The dinosaur sculpture off of US Highway 2 just west of Rudyard, made by farmer Bryon Wolery of Inverness, MT
Sumoflam and the Dino
Sumoflam and the Dino

The road west passes through the small town of Inverness, MT and then past Joplin.

US Route 2 - The Montana Hi-Line - long and straight out of Inverness heading toward Joplin, MT
US Route 2 – The Montana Hi-Line – long and straight out of Inverness heading toward Joplin, MT
Joplin, Montana...Biggest Little Town on Earth
Joplin, Montana…Biggest Little Town on Earth
Joplin, Montana sign - another of the many metal signs on the Hi-Line
Joplin, Montana sign – another of the many metal signs on the Hi-Line

From Joplin it is another 20 miles to the next town, which is Chester.  It is much bigger than most of the towns between Havre and Shelby and functions as the county seat for Liberty County. Chester began as a watering and coal loading station for the Great Northern Railroad steam engines around 1891.  The name “Chester” was apparently chosen by the first telegraph operator in the town and named in honor of his hometown in Pennsylvania.

Chester, Montana welcome sign
Chester, Montana welcome sign on east side of town – showing its history with trains and grains
Main Street, Chester, Montana
Main Street, Chester, Montana
Wall Murals in Chester, Montana
Wall Murals in Chester, Montana
Old Sugar Shack Diner, Chester, Montana
Old Sugar Shack Diner, Chester, Montana

North of Chester the Sweet Grass Hills can be seen in the distance. They are actually in the northern part of Liberty County and are actually mountains. They are unique in that they are the highest isolated peaks in the United States.  Rising to nearly 7,000 feet, these mountains are volcanic in origin and believed to be millions of years old.

Sweet Grass Hills north of US Hwy 2
Sweet Grass Hills north of US Hwy 2
The Sweet Grass Hills road sign
The Sweet Grass Hills road sign
Close up of Gold Butte - mountains on fire
Close up of Gold Butte – one of the Sweet Grass Hills, rises about 6,500 feet (taken in 2013)

Between Chester and Shelby there is not much, but there is an old neon sign advertising the Galata Campground.  So 1960s….  The town itself is practically a ghost town.

Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 - The Hi-Line - in Galata, Montana
Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 – The Hi-Line – in Galata, Montana
Galata, MT
Galata, Montana is practically a ghost town

Shelby, Montana is another 25 miles down US Route 2 and is by far the largest town along the Hi-Line after Havre. I have written extensively about Shelby on a couple of occasions, so here is the token photo of this large railroad town.

Main Street of Shelby, Montana
Main Street of Shelby, Montana
Shelby, Montana -- as seen from US Route 2
Shelby, Montana — as seen from US Route 2

After driving through Shelby, US Route 2 gains altitude and the huge Glacier Wind Farm can be seen.  This is actually quite unique for at night all of the turbines blink bright red all along the hills west of Shelby.

Glacier Wind Farm near Shelby, Montana
Glacier Wind Farm near Shelby, Montana
An old cabin falls apart in the midst of the giant wind turbines of the Glacier Wind Farm near Shelby, Montana
An old cabin falls apart in the midst of the giant wind turbines of the Glacier Wind Farm near Shelby, Montana
These are giants out standing in their field!
These are giants out standing in their field!

From the top of these hills the snow covered peaks of Glacier National Park and the Rocky Mountains can be seen in the distance.  But one must pass through Cut Bank, Montana along the way.  Named after the creek that cuts its banks along the white clay, the town got its start in the 1890s. The Cut Bank Creek Trestle that crosses the 150 foot deep gorge was built in 1900 but is still in use by the Burlington Santa Fe as well as Amtrak. Today, the town is still vibrant with the railroad and Glacier National Park tourism.  It is also the eastern border of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Cut Bank is also home to the “world’s largest penguin” with claims to be the “coldest spot in the nation,” though most sites with “Coldest Spots” lists don’t include it. (See Site 1 and Site 2)

Cut Bank Penguin
World’s Largest Penguin in Cut Bank, Montana
Cut Bank Creek Trestle, built in 1900
Cut Bank Creek Trestle, built in 1900
Blackfeet Chiefs guard the eastern gateway to the Blackfeet Reservation
Blackfeet Chiefs guard the eastern gateway to the Blackfeet Reservation at the western end of Cut Bank
Blackfeet Warriors by Jay Polite Laber, in East Glacier, Montana
Blackfeet Warriors by Jay Polite Laber, in East Glacier, Montana

After entering the reservation and not too far west of Cut Bank, there is an historic sign commemorating Camp Disappointment (see my 2013 post on this monument and more). This was the northernmost campsite for the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Camp Disappointment Monument looking west towards Glacier National Park
Camp Disappointment Monument looking west towards Glacier National Park
Sumoflam at Camp Disappointment
Sumoflam at Camp Disappointment
US Highway 2 near Browning, Montana and US Highway 89
US Highway 2 near Browning, Montana and US Highway 89
A prairie dog scampers near the Camp Disappointment Monument
A prairie dog scampers near the Camp Disappointment Monument

As I closed in on Browning, Montana, US Highway 2 intersects with US Highway 89, one of the more spectacular N/S Highways in the United States.  This is the end of the approximately 1,169 mile long  trek along US Highway 2 from Ironwood, MI.

US Route 2 meets US Route 89 about 4 miles southeast of Browning, Montana
US Route 2 meets US Route 89 about 4 miles southeast of Browning, Montana
The end of this leg at US Highway 89
The end of this leg at US Highway 89

My next post will cover the trip south on US 89 from Browning all the way to Yellowstone National Park.

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