Monday, October 22, 2012

Fort Missoula and the Carousel

We had planned quite a few things to do in Missoula.  It turned out to be a good thing since we ended up stranded there.  But we didn't know any of that was coming when we headed out to see Fort Missoula.

We stopped by Caras Park on the way to Fort Missoula. 
 They have  huge playground and an old restored carousel. 

This Dragon held rings that you try to grab as the carousel goes by. 
If you get the gold ring you win a free ride.

We took time for a picnic.

Then it was off to the Museum at Fort Museum

There is no fort really left here.  But there is a lot of history.  The Fort was used for a variety of things over the years including a detention center for Japanese and Italian men in the early 1940s, military training center in the 1920s, even a prison camp for people accused of military crimes.  But now the land mostly is a staging spot for a variety of historical buildings that have been brought here.  Buildings that are historical artifacts from when the area was settled all the way up through a more modern military history museum.  There was lots to see and we tried to see it all but it was hot, probably the hottest day of our vacation. And the forest fire smoke was making it very hard to breathe.  Here is some of what we had time to see.

Inside the museum there were hands on displays for the kids. 
Here is a bugle display that allows the children to hear different bugle calls.

There was a display of some of the items that were not allowed through the mail to the Japanese people who were detained here in 1941.  This little handmade doll was one of things considered "enemy mail" and never made it to the recipient.

A mock of an early Missoula store front included period clothes dress ups for guys and gals. 

This old lookout tower was built in the 1930s and moved here during the 1980s.  You can climb up and look out but only 2 of us were brave enough.

You can see Jacob and Clara waving from the right corner of the tower.

This is the guard cabin that was with the lookout tower.

Nothing to really say here other than- Look how small they look!

Inside of an old train station office.

Old schoolhouse

A couple of homesteads

A look back at the museum building on the way back to the van.

The van broke down about 10 minutes after we took this picture.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Crystal Gold Mine

 A couple days before the van broke down we had a chance to tour this mine on the way from Hayden ID to Missoula MT.  It was really educational.

(From their website)
The Crystal Gold Mine, near Kellogg, Idaho was the first hard rock mine in the Silver Valley. Worked from 1879-1881; closed by hiding the mine, it was rediscovered in 1991, reclaimed in 1996, and opened as a tourist historical attraction.
The work was all done in candlelight by hand. The guided underground tour explains how they drilled with "Hand Steels" using "Single Jacks" and "Double Jacks" (Hammers), how they traced the quartz vein using 1880 methods, how they tested the vein for gold. Beautiful stalactite crystals of smithonite in an array of colors coat the walls. Gold and wire silver can still be seen in the quartz vein.

Everyone had to wear hard hats

The tour guide explained the history of the mine and the area.

They have never figured out for sure who mined it.  But when they hid the mine they must have intended to come back someday as they left behind very expensive mining equiptment.  It is still sitting where they left it.

There is constantly water dripping into the mine and running down to fill these pools.

The minerals leave behind white streaks on the rocks that look like candle wax.

Below is a candle in a holder which hooks into the rock.  This was the only light the miners had to see by while they were working.  At one point the tour guide had us all turn off our flashlights and he light a candle.  It was so dark.  Very  hard to imagine working in those conditions all day.

There were deposits of minerals throughout the mine. 

This is a vein of quartz.  These veins are where the miners would find gold.

You can see some gold in the quartz here.  It is in the lower left of the magnafying glass.

More minerals.  Doesn't it look like wax dripping down the side of a candle?

After the tour we all got to try panning for gold.

I guess honor only goes so far :)

We had a great time and learned a lot about mining, history and minerals.

Friday, October 12, 2012

What happened to the vacation?

I have received a few emails asking what happened to the vacation updates. 

Well for those who don't know yet, the van decided to break down in Missoula on the 5th day of the vacation.  It lost power and pretty much came to a halt on our way back to the hotel.  We were able to go super slow, keeping it in first gear and make it back to the hotel.  By the way, for anyone who might think people in Montana would be friendlier than our Seattle drivers I can tell you it isn't true.  Many of the people behind us took time to roll down their windows and cuss and scream at us as they passed us.  Apparently they thought we were going 15 mph just to make their day harder.   That evening, the 16th, we had it towed to the closest Ford dealership because it is a 2011 and was still under warranty.  This is where everything started to go bad.

First thing Monday morning we called Ford and they confirmed that it was the transmission and told us that they wouldn't be able to start work on it for a week.   They had no sympathy for the fact we were traveling with 6 children and that we had a cabin and hotel pre-paid at Yellowstone and Cody.  We called two other Fords within a couple hours of Missoula and one was just as booked and the other didn't work on transmissions. Because it was warranty work it had to be done at Ford so we were stuck.  We took a day to talk about it and do some math.  The best price we could secure for a rental van for that we could all fit in was $550 a week and $105 a day after that.  But it was going to cost more than that for hotel rooms for 8 people.  Since our lodging was already covered if we could just get to Yellowstone we rented the van and transferred all of our luggage into the new van, which strangely enough was exactly the same as our van.

We would have been ready the next morning to head down to the cabin except that we ended up in urgent care due to the heavy forest fire smoke.   One of us needed some emergency meds for asthma so the others went and did shopping for food for the cabin.  Then we all met back up and headed to Yellowstone.

Whew, that was behind us, nothing else could go wrong now right....?