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. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
The Z Towns
On a trip to New York to see the Hill Cumorah Pageant (see my P Towns for Palmyra), we returned home via Interstate 79. We eventually got off at Exit 88 as I wanted to visit the town of Zelienople, chiefly because I had not been to a town that started with the letter Z (as far as I could recall – turns out I had been to Zanesville, Ohio in the past and we passed through Zanesville all on our way back on this trip too!! – 2 Z Towns in one day). Taking the road to Zelienople, we passed a turn to Harmony, Pennsylvania. Harmony was a quaint little town and was worth the visit anyway. Zelienople and Harmony actually share a Chamber of Commerce and are practically one in the same place. The towns are located in the Connoquenessing Valley. You can see more photos and read more about the entire 2013 whirlwind trip from Kentucky to New York and back HERE.
I first visited Zanesville, OH in 2008 on one of my return trips to Canada. I wanted to see the famed Y Bridge of Zanesville (see the whole story of the bridge HERE). The Y Bridge is part of US Highway 40 and crosses the Muskingum and Licking Rivers in the middle of town. The town is an easy on/off from Interstate 70.
Zurich, Montana (Honorable Mention)
Finally, the LAST town to be included in my A to Z Challenge postings is the almost ghost town of Zurich, Montana. The town of Zurich (pronounced Zoo-rich by the locals) is like many small stations on the railroad of the Montana Hi-Line along US Highway 2, 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. See my entire Montana Hi-Line Drive across the state on US Highway 2 HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
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!”
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.)
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.
Downtown Glasgow offers some old motel signs, ghost signs and some other unique sites.
A drive back to the east part of town leads to the bar with an airplane in the building.
This bar is unique….a real small plane stuck in the building and a dinosaur out front guarding the place.
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.
US Highway 2 has a number of historical signs along the way. The first one west of Glasgow is all about Buffalo Country.
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.
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.
Just west of town is the “Sleeping Buffalo Rock” which is actually listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
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.
Malta, Montana is a nice small town on the Milk River. It has its share of old signs and old dinosaur bones.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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 road west passes through the small town of Inverness, MT and then past Joplin.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
My next post will cover the trip south on US 89 from Browning all the way to Yellowstone National Park.
March 31, 2013: After spending a few wonderful days in Shelby, Montana with family (see my previous post on Shelby), it was time to head back to Kentucky. This segment of the trip we would take US Route 2 along what is called the Montana Hi-Line. Basically, the highway parallels the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF). The full Hi-Line in Montana stretches from North Dakota to Idaho border, for a distance of more than 650 miles. However, it seems that to many of the residents in the area, the Hi-Line is really the stretch of US Route 2 from about Cut Bank, MT all the way east to the North Dakota border. US Route 2 is the northernmost east-west route in the United States and is broken into two segments – the western segment is the longest stretching from Everett, WA all the way to St. Ignace, MI for a distance of 2112 miles. We drove the route all the way to Wolf Point, MT and then headed south to Glendive, for a total of about 420 miles for the day.
The Hi-Line drive is predominantly wind swept rolling prairies, wheat fields and small towns dotted with tall grain elevators, silos and old abandoned buildings. The hey day of the early railroads is long gone and many of the towns now cling to life with farming and support of the BNSF tracks that run though the dozen or so small towns.
Between Shelby and Chester there is not much. We passed by the Frontier Bar in Dunkirk and then, past there we saw a few old wooden cabins, barns and elevators.
As a throwback to the 60s, we did come across an old RV Park in Galata, MT. I loved the old vintage sign.
Train tracks and silos span the entire way along Route 2. Scenes like the one below are not at all uncommon.
Continuing east from Galata, our next stop was in Chester, MT, a town of about 850 people. You can tell by the welcome signs that it is most definitely a railroad town.
Apparently, the Sugar Shack Diner was a prefab “Valentine Diner” built by Valentine Manufacturing of Wichita, Kansas in the 1950s. It is a 10-stool diner built in 1953, with previous homes in Conrad and Chinook, before being moved here. There is an interesting site on these prefabs done by the Kansas Historical Society. Following is the advertising graphic for this type of diner from the 1950s:
Of course, I continue to collect Wall Art/Murals from my trips. Here are a couple I saw in Chester.
From Chester we headed east. To the north we could see the Sweet Grass Hills far beyond the prairies. These are legendary to the local Blackfeet.
These are prominent in the area in that the three main buttes and the surrounding hills jut up out of the prairies, with a couple of them having a towering vertical rise of over 3000′ above the land level. The main hills are West Butte (6983′), Gold Butte (6512′) and East Butte (6958′). The three buttes and the hills between them run for about 50 miles east to west and are about 10 miles in distance from north to south.
Our next stop was in Joplin, Montana, a small town of barely 150.
There wasn’t much in Joplin but a few buildings, so we pressed forward to Rudyard, Montana, which promised to have a bit more personality. Before we got to Rudyard, off to the right of the highway we came across a big metal triceratops skeleton. It was so random!
Apparently, this dinosaur is the work of a metal artist in Rudyard as I found another site that had some photos of some other pieces. I’ll check it out next time in Shelby to see the family.
Like many of the towns on the Hi-Line, Rudyard is a small town. They claim to have 596 Nice People and 1 Old Sore Head as can be seen by the sign above. Even though the town is small, they also have a small museum, which apparently has some dinosaur-related things.
The charm of small towns are the museums and historical centers. Unfortunately, we were driving through on a Sunday afternoon and things were not open. But, Rudyard boasts a couple of museums – see the Rudyard Historical Society site for more details. Following are a few photos from Rudyard.
Actually, there is apparently a story about “Old Sorehead” being a dinosaur. Check it out here. So, even though it is a small town, there is certainly a story here.
The other thing I learned about Rudyard is that it is the only populated spot in the United States that has an antipode that reaches a landmass. The antipode is the opposite point of any point on the surface of the Earth, so that if you connected the two points with a line through the center of the Earth, that line would be an exact diameter. Mathematically, the antipode of a point whose latitude and longitude are (A,B) equals (-A, B ± 180°). Almost everywhere in the U.S. hits a point in the Indian Ocean, except for two unpopulated sections of Colorado and then a section of Northern Montana (see this map). The town of Rudyard has an antipode in one of the small islands of the Kerguelen Islands (also known as the Desolation Islands) in the southern Indian Ocean. There is also a great little animation about antipodes here.
Enough about geography…back on the road eastward with the next stop being Kremlin, Montana.
The town of Kremlin apparently got its name from a Russian immigrant who was laying railroad track in the area around 1890. He saw the Bears Paws mountains in the distance and they reminded him of home. There is a nice story here.
Continuing east on US Hwy 2 towards Havre we took a sideroad to visit a small abandoned schoolhouse in what used to be Fresno, Montana. This schoolhouse has been photographed numerous times and is kind of indicative what things looked like on the prairies. From US Hwy 2 we took a left on Smith-Frisno Road, crossed over the tracks and went north about a mile. The old schoolhouse is on the left…you can’t miss it. It’s actually about 8.5 miles from downtown Kremlin.
Havre is probably the midway point on the Hi-Line and is by far the biggest town on the Hi-Line as well with more than 10,000 residents. The town was in incorporated in 1893 and was founded primarily to serve as a major a major service center for the Grand Northern Railroad which was built by James J. Hill, who was also known as “The Empire Builder.” The town was named for Le Havre in France due to the number of Frenchmen working with Hill.
The main industry for many years has been the railroad. BNSF was, for many years, the main employer in town, though the hospital and a university may now be the biggest employers. It is also about 6 miles north of Fort Assiniboine which served as one of Montana’s chief military posts from 1879 through the early 1900s.
Former Havre resident Lyndon Pomeroy is a well known Montana metal sculptor. He created the Hands Across the Border piece to represent U.S. and Canadian partnership in northern Montana. He has a few other works in Havre and also a number of them in Billings., where he now resides. He also has done a recent large piece for Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls.
The above bison was created by Havre resident Cory Holmes, who used three miles of old telegraph wire to create this nine-foot long, six-foot tall 2000 pound bison. Cory is better known for his “Fence Post Art,” some of which can be seen here. He has work in 19 states and two Canadian provinces. The fence sculptures cover a wide range of subjects: people, animals, insects, abstract and impressionist pieces. Can’t wait for my next trip to Montana to look for these!!
From Havre it was east to Chinook. This town of a little over 1200 people. Like many of the towns in northern Montana, Chinook was born from the railroad. In the late 1880s the railroad was coming through here and by the early 1900s the town had hotels, businesses and a bustling economy. In 1924 the Utah-Idaho Sugarbeet company moved to Chinook to make molasses and sugar beet pulp. There are still many nostalgic signs hanging in town.
From Chinook the drive gets more scenic as it also runs along the Milk River. Unfortunately, the day was passing by as we passed small towns like Zurich, Harlem and Malta on our way into Glasgow. I wanted to get to Glasgow before dark so I could get shots of the dinosaur statues on a hill as you enter town. Another quirky way to end the daylight portion of the trip before pushing our to Wolf Point and then into Glendive.
It was really a long day, especially since we left Shelby at 2 PM to head east. We made it into Glendive around 11 PM, but had a great eventful day along the Hi-Line. The next day will be a fun one too with the Enchanted Highway and Mount Rushmore on the agenda!! Watch for that post soon.