August 31, 2015

8/23/15 - Grant-Kohrs Ranch NHS

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site is just off I-90 in Deer Lodge, Montana.  It was set aside in 1972 as a working cattle ranch to preserve symbols of the American West—like cowboys and horses, cattle barons and cows.  (I had done absolutely NO research on this one, so if you've never heard of it either, I can relate. I’d never actually considered the need for a national park like this.  After all, you can still see all the old westerns on TV.)

Johnny Grant was the original owner and Conrad Kohrs bought the ranch from him and turned it into a huge enterprise. The last owner was Kohrs’ grandson, Conrad Warren. He was a respected cattleman but spent a lot of money breeding and showing fancy dwarf cattle and draft show horses. Don't know why it's Grant-Kohrs Ranch and not Grant-Kohrs-Warren...

Because of our usual mistiming, we missed the house tour.  Not much to see in the Visitor Center, but most of the out-buildings are open and many have exhibits in them.
Ranch House
Bunkhouse Row
We didn’t see any of the cattle, but there were a few of the huge horses chomping on grass in the pastures. 

There’s horse tack all over in the barns and sheds.  This exhibit is in the Buggy Barn. There actually are buggies in the Buggy Barn--buckboards and sleighs too.
There’s more horse tack in the Draft Horse Barn.
There was a volunteer manning the chuckwagon.  He had lots of info and stories about cattle drives. As you can see from the knees on the left side of the picture, George sat down and they had a good ol’ talk.

I wandered out to one of the fields beyond the Thoroughbred Barn for an up-close look at my favorite thing at the whole ranch.  This weird-looking thing is called a Beaver Slide Hay Stacker.  They didn’t bale hay in the late 1800s; they stacked it. They actually use it during harvest season using horses to pile hay into these 50-ton haystacks.
They still do this in some parts of Montana—we first saw them a few years ago on the way to Anaconda and again a couple days ago on the way to our campground. Now I really understand about the needles! It'd be a lot harder to find out in this than in a bale.

I like the jackleg fences beyond the gate.  There was someone out earlier digging postholes--the posthole digger is leaning against the gate.  (The smoke obscuring the hillside is from forest fires in Idaho.)
Interesting place, but does it deserve to be a national historic site?  Well, there's no entry fee so it's way cheaper than a dude ranch...and it is just off the freeway. 

More pictures here:  Grant-Kohrs Ranch NHS 

August 13, 2015

8/11/15 - Charles M. Bair Family Museum

While spending a week at White Sulphur Springs, Montana, we went with another couple to the Charles M. Bair Family Museum in Martinsdale.  I didn't have a clue who Charles M. Bair was either, but it was a rather interesting excursion.  Charles Bair made a fortune in the Yukon Gold Rush, then became one of the largest sheep ranchers in the world. Just as we got there, a home tour was starting, so we followed the directions and met them out by the garage.

Charles Russell was a friend of the Bairs. This painting above the fireplace was done by him.
Try to find the framed envelopes and letters decorated by Russell. Even if you're not interested in western art, it would be cool to get an envelope like this.
The 26-room, 11,000 square feet house is full of eclectic art and antiques gathered by daughters Marguerite and Alberta on trips to New York and Europe.  Their bedrooms are pretty cool.  Check out the table at the end of the bed on the left below--then look at the feathered hat in the closeup. Love it!

After the house tour, we went to the barn, where there's a gift shop and a history display of the ranch. You'd think 300,000 sheep would have warranted a bigger room.
It was actually pretty cool to have just seen a painting hanging in its original location in someone's house, and then immediately see it again in the art museum.  The copies are in the house; the originals are in the museum where the security is better.  There are galleries for Native American collections, western paintings, modern paintings.

There's a big display of Native American artifacts, with a real high-tech index. This is a picture of Case 1 on the computer screen. 
Touch something on the screen and you get a popup with details about it.
This is a closeup of the Elktooth Dress in the display. (Seriously? Elk teeth? I'll have to think about that awhile.) 
It's a nice museum, but seems a little odd to see paintings like this one in a gallery next to the western gallery.  Must be why it's a family museum.
Certainly not what I'd have expected in a tiny town in the middle of Montana, but it was pretty cool. Click on the link for more pictures of the antique version of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous:  Charles M. Bair Family Museum 

Another day while we were at White Sulphur Springs, we drove up Kings Hill Scenic Byway (Hwy 89) and went for a little hike to Memorial Falls.  Pictures here:  Kings Hill Scenic Byway 

August 5, 2015

8/1/15 - Yellowstone National Park (revisited)

This was a repeat visit to Yellowstone National Park.  (We only saw one buffalo the first time, and I wanted to see the animals.)  First time we came in through West Yellowstone; this time we stayed at a campground in Cody, Wyoming, and came in through the East Entrance and over Sylvan Pass.

Yellowstone National Park is definitely worth going to again--and again and again.  In case you haven't been there yet, I will share what I call:
Jane's Common Sense Guide to Yellowstone
  • Geysers are not showers; caldrons are not hot tubs; mudpots are not spa treatments. Stay on the boardwalks.  Do not try to test the temperature by putting a finger in the water/mud.
  • Do not store food in tents; it's an invitation to dinner for bears. They smell hot dogs for appetizers; people for the main course. 
  • Wildlife is WILD, and most of the critters are bigger, and probably meaner, than people. Bison (AKA buffalo), elk, bears, and wolves are not pets and do not want you to get close. They'll be happy to explain what wild means and demonstrate exactly how much personal space they need.
  • Vanity is considered one of the 7 Deadly Sins; selfies with wild animals in the background could end up being just plain deadly. (But if you do it anyway, be sure to keep your finger on the shutter so the rest of the world can see just how stupid you were.  Keep your kids out of the picture.)
We wound through some old burns with dead trees still standing before we got to Yellowstone Lake. It's the largest high-altitude lake in North America. And the water is blue, blue, blue.
It's been almost 50 years since fishing was allowed from Fishing Bridge, but we weren't interested in fishing anyway.  We stopped at the at the Fishing Bridge Museum &Visitor Center. I wouldn't want it in my house, but this is a rather impressive chandelier.  I could do without the skulls but the antlers and bighorn horns are cool. And they were hung high enough that George didn't have to duck--always a plus!
From there we drove north along the Yellowstone River through the Hayden Valley where the buffalo are supposed to roam.  Fishing is allowed here, though we still weren't interested.
We stopped at Mud Volcano, one of those thermal areas where hot mud boils out of the ground. The ground is really treacherous so you have to stay on the boardwalk. It's a really long boardwalk.  You sure don't want to fall into this stuff! It's not only hot mud, but it stinks like sulphur. (See Common Sense Guide above.)
Grizzly Fumerole changes all the time. Sometimes it's a steam vent that's almost dry, and sometimes it's more of a mudpot.
This is Dragon's Mouth Spring:
There are some caldrons in the area with roiling hot, but not boiling, water. (I don't know why they don't just call it simmering.)  First is Churning Caldron--you can see it churning around the edges.  Sulphur Caldron has water, but mudpots around the edges...and obviously smells like sulphur. Not a lot of imagination naming some of these places, although I admit Dragon's Mouth Spring was pretty good.
Back on the road through Hayden Valley and suddenly there was a Buffalo Alert!  These alerts are easy to identify because the dozens of cars in front of you hardly move.  The rangers try to keep the cars moving and the tourists and buffalo separate.  For some reason, people get really stupid around buffalo and try to get too close to take pictures or turn their backs on them to take selfie pictures. They're really big...and really scruffy looking.

(By the way, they really DO own the road, and they can give "road rage" a whole new definition!  My theory is these descendants of the ones that roamed the Plains before they were annihilated have passed on stories about people on trains shooting at them. Cars look like trains; cameras look like guns; tourists look like people. These big old critters don't feel threatened when they attack--it's simply payback time.)

We bypassed Canyon Village this trip, and continued on to the Tower General Store--but headed back to the truck when we found they don't have Passport Stamps. Nearby is Tower Fall, surrounded by towers.
At the Roosevelt Lodge we headed east through the Lamar Valley.  It's a pretty valley, and there were more buffalo, but they were as scruffy as the ones we'd seen earlier. (Scroll up if you want to see a picture again.)  We did NOT, however, see any bears, and we did NOT see any wolves. I'm not quite as disappointed as not seeing bears as not seeing wolves.  For all the animals I don't see, I should probably schedule in a trip to a zoo sometime.  
Leaving the critters behind, we left Yellowstone through the Northeast Entrance--which I suppose would have been the NE Exit as well.  We started out on the Beartooth Highway, then headed SE on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway back to Cody.  This is the route Chief Joseph took as he lead the Nez Perce Indians out of Yellowstone in 1877, trying to flee the US Calvary and escape into Canada.  We did the 46 miles in a truck; they did it on horseback. I doubt if they thought it was a pretty drive.
We stopped at an overlook just across a bridge--which might be the Sunlight Bridge.  If it is, then it's the highest bridge in Wyoming and crosses Sunlight Creek.  Or maybe it's another bridge which crosses the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone River.  I didn't see the sign.  All I know it that it was really pretty, and a long way down!!! 
We stopped at Dead Indian Pass--for the view and the history. How would you like to ride a horse up this mountain?  
The mountains above are part of the North Absaroka Range.  South of the pass, as the sun was thinking about sliding down the mountains behind us, it was lighting up the top of this peak in front of us. (And, no, I don't know what it is either--but I could find it again!)