I had a three year plan for living in Butte, but was fortunate enough to find a new position at Boise State University in only two. If you’d like to read about those adventures check out BoiseBee. Thanks to all who were supportive in Butte; Mai Wah folks will be most missed. Maybe we’ll see you at the next Folk Festival. Cheers!
Big Hole Battlefield was the site of a battle, well, more like a massacre since it involved Nez Perce women and children as well as warriors against U.S. troops. The Nez Perce band, the Wallowas, were led by Chief Joseph (the younger) and was one of the groups who refused to sign a treaty ceding their land to white ownership. In their attempt at avoiding being corralled into a reservation the Wallowa Nez Perce went on a journey of over 1,000 miles, finding refuge for a short while with the Montana Crow Indians, and then trying, and failing, to get all the way to Canada to join up with the Sioux Chief Sitting Bull. A poignant surrender speech is attributed to Joseph ending with the infamous, “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.” The Battlefield is now part of the Nez Perce Historical Park which encompasses 38 different sites spread over Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. The Nex Perce flight is also commemorated by the Nez Perce Trail which runs from Wallowa Lake, Oregon to the Bear Paw National Battlefield in Montana. I rode along quite a bit of the trail, not only on this journey, but also on my trip out to Lewiston as the trail parallels Highway 12.
The stories accompanying the Battlefield displays are all told in the first person, bringing a sense of immediacy not always found in historical museums. On the day I visited three tribal members were showing a group of tourists the stick game, a traditional game of chance accompanied by drums and chanting. The memorial lies along the Big Hole River, a tributary of the Jefferson River, and a major draw for fly fishermen. It’s just outside the town of Wisdom, population 114, which, I was grateful to see, had a gas station. You have to watch that gas tank when you’re in the wide open spaces around here! The river flows through the Big Hole Valley, sometimes called the Valley of 10,000 Haystacks. It’s haying season in Montana, so all the fields were dotted with big rolls of fresh green and gold. The scenery also includes the Pioneer Mountains, and I tool the back roads home just to savor the beautiful vistas. A few pictures can be found on my Flickr site here.
I had started my day trip with a stop at the Bannack Cemetery. It was an interesting mix of crumbling memorials, windblown fences and decaying sites exemplifying the old “dust to dust” mixed with a few brand new markers indicating century-old grave sites and bright, plastic flower arrangements left by modern-day descendants of the pioneers buried there. As I kicked through the sage brush, noticing bits of wood here and there, I had to wonder if those bits were the last remnants of old grave markers which had disintegrated before anyone could replace them. Cattle lowing in the pastures north of the cemetery added to the lonely feeling of the place. If, like me, you’re fascinated by pioneer graveyards check out the pictures on Flickr.
From Bannack I stopped in Dillon to see the Beaverhead County Museum. Alas, it was not to be; although the website says they’re open on Saturdays in summer the doors were locked. I guess that’s to be expected from an organization that relies on volunteers. Who wants to stay in an old museum on a beautiful summer day? I snapped a few pictures of the boardwalk in front of the museum as well as the little park next door and a few of the old buildings in downtown Dillon before heading to lunch at La Fiesta Mexicana, the “taco bus”. It was on to the next summer adventure.
Camping always seemed an onerous proposition with a laundry list of stuff you had to pack and unpack to have anything less than a primitive experience. With my return to Montana I’ve been lucky enough to be invited on the Ramsey/Haggert Camping Adventures (RHCA), and, with the others involved doing pretty much all the packing, toting and setting up, it’s a delightful experience. Sister Corinne has the Barbie camper, big enough to sleep six and furnished with toilet, stove, oven, and sink plus much of the gear you could want, as well as a big pickup to haul ilt all. Friends Ken and Karen have a pickup style camper plus a trailer with all terrain vehicles, a canopy, tables and chairs, gas grill, ax, chainsaw, and the muscles and experience to use it all. They are very generous in sharing their equipment and expertise with the rest of us who fly in, perhaps prepare a meal, and do some light KP or wood carrying. I’m very grateful for their generosity because without it I would be much more apt to experience nature at a bit more of a distance, say in someone else’s pictures.
To add to the fun the RHCA have themes, and each person provides a meal and maybe a drink that matches the theme. Some of you may have seen some pictures from our last campout on Facebook where the theme was “cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.” I went southern style with crab cakes, pimento cheese and mint juleps. We also had a great array of other appetizers and adult beverages with my parents, brother and sister-in-law joining us briefly since we’re not far from town. This time around the theme was Italy since three of the campers had just returned from a biking tour of Tuscany. Sister Dianne made a delicious peasant soup from the region for Saturday dinner, acquacotta, which is a hearty vegetable soup poured over a grilled slice of bread and poached egg, a great change from the piles of junk food that everyone goes through during the day in between hikes, ATV rides, card games, and snoozing.
Most of the RHCA take place in the Monarch Canyon area of the Lewis and Clark Forest, about an hour from my hometown of Great Falls. It was in this area that my great grandfather George Spehn owned a mine, where my father met my mother while working for the Forest Service, and where countless family hiking and picnicking expeditions have taken place since I was a child. This time around we camped next to Jumping Creek, which was still so cold from snow melt that my legs were bright pink after a brief dip. However, the fish seemed to like it; I even have a photo of a trout that hung around in the pool next to our camp site. Unlike much of the country, this area has received plenty of moisture this year, evidenced by the wildflowers and berries in full bloom everywhere you looked. The moisture has probably added to the biting fly population as well, since they were out in full force, sometimes getting at us even through the chemical protection of Raid and Skin So Soft The flies were chased away by a brief thunder boomer Saturday evening, but we humans simply moved our card game into the trailer until it blew over. Then we all gathered around the campfire which danced with green, blue and purple from the addition of Ken’s “fairy dust.” Check out the pictures on my Flickr account. Thanks again to Corinne, Karen and Ken for doing all the hard work of camping, and being willing to share it with me. Hope you all get out for your own back country adventures in this too-short summer.
In 1877 nearly three dozen Chinese miners were massacred near their mining claim in Hells Canyon. Although three of the six accused murderers were brought to trial, the jury let them go free. Former Oregonian reporter Gregory Nokes wrote a book about the incident, Massacred for Gold, and spearheaded a fundraising effort to create a memorial to the slain miners. The memorial was dedicated in June in coordination with the conference, Chinese Remembering, which takes place annually at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, ID. The conference on the history of Chinese pioneers in the American Northwest intrigued me, and, since the Mai Wah society had donated to the memorial, I decided to go learn more about the project as well as network with like-minded individuals.
The drive over took six hours, mostly because more than half of it takes place on old Highway 12, a two-laner with a 50 mile an hour speed limit much of the way. Frequent signs warning “watch for stock”, “watch for rocks”, “game crossing” and “winding road next 99 miles” reinforce the need to stay focused even while the bubbling creeks and rivers that parallel the road draw your eye. At least you don’t have to contend with many of the behemoth RV/car/trailer combos that consistently lumber down the Montana interstates this time of year.
I split my drive each way with a stop at the Lochsa Lodge, a delightful compound near the Lolo Pass on the Lochsa River that includes a gas station, rental cabins and a gift shop/cafe that had good Reubens for lunch and huckleberry pancakes for breakfast. My lunch stop was well timed as I placed my order just as the bus from the senior center in Missoula arrived. I eavesdropped on the seniors while I ate; the group near me included a couple of sisters and one brother (the lone man on the tour), and wondered if that would be me and my siblings some day.
The morning before the conference I took an historical trolley ride around Lewiston which highlighted some of the beautiful homes along Prospect Avenue, and included a stop at Prospect Park on the bluffs overlooking the Snake River. The park was an early Chinese cemetery, and, according to recent soundings, the folks buried there still remain in residence. No evidence remains of the cemetery, so the people organizing the conference and the memorial are also involved in yet another admirable project to post an updated sign educating visitors as to the park’s former use. The tour concluded with a stop by the more contemporary Lewiston cemetery which included quite a large Chinese section with markers. This is quite a contrast with the Butte cemetery which has few indications of the many Chinese who were interred there, at least for a while.
Before the conference began I stopped by the Campus Corner Cafe for some of their super soup and a wee dessert shot of chocolate mousse, then enjoyed a stroll through the beautifully green LCSC campus. The conference involved an afternoon of speakers and then a reception at the Lewiston Center for Arts & History with a scrumptious buffet of Chinese food from the Mandarin Pine. The reception also afforded an opportunity to look at the furnishings from the Beuk Aie Temple, a Daoist temple that served Lewiston’s Chinese community for decades, and a chance to talk with the many Chinese-Americans attending the event from California, Seattle, and Portland including the Daoist Master Eman and his acolytes, who were there to bless the memorial site.
Next day was the jet boat trip up the Snake River to the memorial dedication, a glorious all day trip up Hells Canyon with a stop at the Garden Creek Ranch, a place sometimes referred to as Chinese Garden Creek because of the former residents and their production of fruits and vegetables for the surrounding population. It was an idyllic spot with an orchard through which a wild turkey family and deer meandered while we ate our box lunches. Our tour guide was great, pointing out historical and geological features of the canyon, including several spots with Indian petroglyphs. The memorial dedication went well, with a Nez Perce elder starting the ceremony, then handing off to the Daoists who invoked the spirits, made offerings, and cleared the air of residual pain and sadness. What a wonderful tribute to the slain miners. What a wonderful trip all around. My drive home went smoothly with only brief stops to have breakfast and to scold a deer standing in the middle of highway 12 – really! She stood and looked at me as I pulled up, and only bounded off when I hollered at her to stay off the road, silly thing. Pictures from the trip are on my Flickr account. Here’s to more summer adventures!
I spent last week in Salt Lake City at a technical seminar and conference, mostly waaay too technical for this here librarian, but it was a great networking opportunity and a chance to see a place I’d only been to as a connecting point for flights. The downtown was still quite spiffy from hosting the Winter Olympics a dacade ago, but here and there you saw empty storefronts as evidence that the recession has hit here, too.
The event was hosted in part by Mormon institutions and there were a number of presentations by folks from BYU and the LDS church history library. These guys are truly tech savvy, but share their knowledge in a pleasant and accessible manner; their presentations were among my favorites and inspired some new ideas for gaining a clean, usable look for our library web pages. Plus it was lovely to have off-the-cuff conversations with these clean-cut, affable young men who seemed to actually care. No, I’m not converting, but the kindness, work ethic and family orientation of the Mormon people are a nice break from what is usually encountered in a big American city. And we encountered a bit of the usual, too, like homeless folks and the drug/alcohol addled in our traipses around town, so it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops. I especially appreciated the “art car” that drove by with a large pirate flag flying from the aerial and back end cut out to fit in a large ratty couch complete with teddy bear.
Our hotel was just down the street from the Mormon “campus” or Temple Square where flowers were in full bloom, and some variety of tree lent a fresh perfume to the air. Fountains and pools dot the grounds and there were always a number of bridal parties in full regalia getting their pictures taken with the idyllic background. We were able to go inside the building for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, an impressive site, and were just in time to hear demonstrations of the fabulous acoustics from an Austrian LDS sister who was leading a tour.
The company which put on the seminar and produces the products which the conference was centered around is headquartered in Israel, so there was quite a contingent from there, as well as all over the world. It was great to hear Hebrew, Australian and Irish accents, not to mention those of the New York contingent I got to know at one of the receptions. The week was a double-edged sword for me, making me feel more positive about the possibilities in library and information management, but adding to my impatience to be out in a bigger place where those possibilities can be made real. All things in time, right?
We had dueling lodge events this past Sunday in Butte, a polka fest at the Elks or fiddling jam at the Eagles. With an $8 entry fee you got dinner at the Elks, but I went for the free fiddling, stopping first at the Headframe tasting room to try out some of their latest adult beverage creations. I think the basil lemonade will probably be a top seller for them this summer, although the mint julep is also a mighty tasty, herby warm weather cooler. From the Headframe I simply toddled up the hill a couple of doors to the Eagles to see how the Montana State Old-Time Fiddlers Association was “keeping the fiddle spirit alive.”
The Eagles must have done their place up some time in the 70’s and it still retains that faux wood paneling rec room feeling. Families of the musicians sat at folding tables in the main room; there weren’t exactly welcoming smiles on anyone’s faces, so I headed to the bar for one of the super cheap drinks you’ll almost always find at lodge bars, and hopefully, more congenial company. I was foiled there when a gal on the second day of her bender latched onto me. Unfortunately she was a close talker, and even more unfortunately, she wasn’t wearing her lower plate, so there was some spit involved. Oh well, I shook (or wiped) it off, and tried to enjoy the music. Most of the folks who started out the jam session were well into their sixties, but as the day progressed we got to see some youngsters, too, as the old-timers wandered in and out of sets in various combos. I especially liked the guitar player who was all duded out in black, from his cowboy boots, to his cowboy shirt piped in white, to his hat. His guitar even matched his outfit, black with mother of pearl insets. He wandered by and I could see the diamond glinting in one ear and get a whiff of, was that Brut or Old Spice?
In addition to fiddling I’ve been investigating some of Butte’s local answers to the national fast food chains. Here’s a Yelp review that neatly summarizes what I found at Royse’s, a burger place on Harrison, “Formerly an Arctic Circle franchise (and still serving some of the regional chain’s same kind of food), Royse’s sells a different take on your typical fast food hamburger. Many sandwiches are named after Montana cities (I recommend the Butte burger). Royse’s is also unique in that it serves a special fry sauce, and it dispenses Mountain Dew alongside Coke products. Shakes are made with real ice cream. Tangy juice drinks are also available. Royse’s is a decent alternative to the national chains, and has been owned by the same family for decades.” The only thing I’m not a fan of is their ass-backward “drive-in” on the passenger side of the car. I would have to climb over the center console to get my food, so usually just park and wander in.
The other burger joint I have to be sure and mention is the Bonanza Freeze, which seems to be Butte’s answer to Dairy Queen. In addition to all the ice cream treats they have burgers, hot dogs, and anything that you can deep fat fry. I like their creativity in naming menu items; I think the Cyclone must be their version of the Blizzard, while the Lolly Ring might be the equivalent of a Dilly Bar. I still haven’t tried the Winamucka Burger, Bosco Stix, Sour Cream Fry or Macadoodle, so can’t tell you what the heck they are, but the names do intrigue. There’s no seating at the Bonanza; you either do the drive-through or walk up to the window and then wait in your car for your order. Somehow they manage to keep open even during Butte’s extreme winter weather. More power to them!
I’ve made reference to Big Sky several times in recent blogs, but had never been there until this past weekend, when I got to go to this fancy ski resort for yet another conference jaunt, this time for the Montana Library Association. The drive is beautiful, going up and over the Rockies and Elkhorn ranges before swinging south through the Gallatin National Forest. The state highway winds through mountains and is paralleled by the Gallatin river through much of it, with signs warning of animal crossings and little clusters of white crosses memorializing the folks who didn’t make it through the curves. Dotted on the riversides or snuggled back next to the mountains are the grand log “cabins” of those rich or lucky enough to own property in the area. However, I encountered no animals, no rich folks and no snow until I was 7500 feet up and turning into the Mountain Village where I would stay in the Huntley Lodge.
Bellboys in cowboy hats usher you into the lodge where the western decor includes large statues of wildlife and big stone fireplaces. Our conference was taking place on the last weekend for skiing, and from the look of all the families there, it must have still been spring break for many. I found a good spot in Whiskey Jack’s cafe to watch the Frankenstein clumping of skiers coming down off their last run while I enjoyed an oversized enchilada platter and a huckleberry lemonade with vodka. It was most fun to watch the kids on the bouncy cables (like a giant version of baby bouncy seats.) One of the littlest kids out there was most daring, sproinging high as he could to do a couple of back flips on his way down. There were more kids activities in Chet’s Bar, where a dynamic duo called the Crazy Austrians made kids and parents alike do the Chicken Dance in a collection of zany hats. Other activities for families included Ski Patrol rescue dog demos, crafts and movies. For adults there’s the spa, guided snowshoe tours, wine nights, and live music. Big Sky has already switched their website to their summer activities, but you can get a sense of the many, many things there are to do in the area. I’d like to go back, maybe not so much for the activities as exploring the numerous trail heads on the way and maybe taking the tram up the mountain.
Friday evening ended with a showing of short films. One of the conference organizers is also very active in the Telluride Film Festival, so she was able to make arrangements to show a half dozen engaging shorts. One of my favorites was The Kinda Sutra; check out an excerpt! I called it a night after the short films as I had to be on a panel at 8:30 in the morning. Our panel dwindled from 5 speakers to 3, but, with audience participation we were able to fill out the time without drawing any yawns. I stayed around for the Rousing Reads presentation, another panel speaking on the Montana Book Awards which awarded first place to the picture book Raptors of the West.
After that panel I decided to forego the Pond Skim, one of the season closing events in which competitors in costume try to make their way across an icy cold pond, to get home to Arthur. A lot of the resort workers were also getting ready to leave Big Sky; the man who served me dinner was going to check out Peru next, the lady tending bar does it as a lark after her retirement and will return to NYC, and the breakfast waiter planned to drive home to Georgia with his dog, and wondered which way might be best. I told him if he wasn’t in a hurry to angle over through Salt Lake and down through the Four Corners area, something I’ve always wanted to do. Here’s to safe travels for all of them.
My latest conference adventure was attending the Museums Association of Montana annual conference, which took place at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. I found museum folks to be nearly as fun as librarians (no sarcasm intended!) and the presentations were interesting and useful, particularly the three hours I got to spend exploring the storage areas of the museum on a group tour led by the museum’s registrar. Like all too many libraries and museums MOR struggles to find adequate space with sufficient security and environmental controls to protect their collections. The paleontology area was especially intriguing with all the casts, molds and fossils in various stages of repair strewn about with cryptic notations such as “Yoshi Trike” indicating their origins. I have always been fascinated by museums, and had hopes of becoming an archivist before looking at the slim chance of finding work in the field, so I really appreciated the opportunity to interact with folks in the trenches. I was afforded the chance to attend the conference through a generous donation by fellow Mai Wah board member, Janet Sperry, who knows the value of the association and the positive experience it could be.
In addition to being a great chance to interact with museum folks the conference also gave me the opportunity to explore a bit more of Bozeman. Although the city has only 4,000 more than Butte in population, the university is five times bigger than Tech, and the money that is invested in the area is vastly greater. Montana son Chet Huntley spurred the boom in development when he started Big Sky Resort decades ago, but the money has really poured in in the last ten years of so, mostly from out of state, much to the chagrin of some of the locals. Still, it means Bozeman is a great place to visit, so I spent most my time outside the conference wandering the shops and restaurants of Main Street. I did a mini pub crawl starting at the Rockin’ R, where I discovered the “Corona-rita” a frozen margarita into which a Corona beer is upended. I stuck with a simple gin & tonic before moving next door to Santa Fe Red’s for some so-so taquitos and an overpriced margarita. From there I had to stop in at Plonk for their delicious coconut lime rickey before ending at the sad little lounge at the Magnum Grand hotel where I was staying. The Magnum Grand has seen better days, but, hey, at only $69 a night in downtown Bozeman, it was worth it.
My best eating adventure in Bozeman was breakfast at Nova Cafe, a super place for breakfast or lunch with an emphasis on local, organic ingredients. I heard the waitress say the inspiration for one of their baked goods came from a Voodoo Doughnuts’ maple bacon creation, and found out later that the folks who run the place spend a lot of time in Portland. No wonder I felt so at home. I had their special, a roasted brussel sprouts, bacon and brie omelet that was terrific, and plan to make it a point to visit whenever I’m in town. After the conference ended I was anticipating lunch at I Ho’s, a Korean place near the university. The parking lot looked suspiciously empty when I arrived, and discovered, alas, that they aren’t open for lunch on Saturdays. I’ve heard great things about the place, so I’ll definitely be back for dinner some day. I had to settle for a nicely grilled piece of fish from the local Italian chain restaurant, Corino’s, which was overrun by kids from all the families shopping the nearby big block stores. I managed to avoid temptation on the drive home by not stopping at Wheat Montana for bread; they also make enormous cinnamon rolls and super coconut macaroons among their many baked goods. I still have two more conferences to attend this spring, many more eating adventures to undertake, and a surge of energy from the oh-so-gradually warming weather (no heat records being broken in this neck of the woods), so I may be able to get back to my regular blogging schedule. Aren’t you thrilled?!
One of the best things about the library gig at Tech is the financial support for professional development. It means I was able to go to the Library Technology conference at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN with very little outlay on my part. I went to the same conference last year and found it so useful that I made sure to propose a presentation for this year, and, woohoo, it was accepted and I was on my way. Last year I did the all day travel extravaganza of Butte to Salt Lake (that’s where you’re flying out of Butte, no matter where else you need to go) to Denver to Minneapolis. This year I gambled that I’d be able to drive through the passes to Bozeman and hop an easy-peasy 2-1/2 hour direct to Minneapolis. The weather and airlines cooperated and I was able to cut my travel to about a third of what it was last year.
The Bozeman (actually Belgrade) airport is a fairly posh little place for small Montana airports, being done in tastefully lighted, vaguely western decor. And the folks who fly in and out of there are a different lot, too. Usually my flight destination has been Great Falls, and the people you see on those flights are largely the lumpy middle class in jeans or polyester slacks. Not so in Bozeman; the group I sat near on my return flight was a case in point, sleek surgeon/attorney/investment banker types from the East Coast with good haircuts and expensive trainers on their way to a ski vacation at Big Sky Resort. I was glad they weren’t too jaded to ooh and ah as the Montana mountain ranges came into view.
The conference itself was, like last year, not only very useful, but highly enjoyable. I like hanging with nerds. I like hanging with librarians. And when you’re talking to librarians who are into technology (and what librarians aren’t these days?!), you’re talking the best of both worlds. They were kindly attentive to my presentation, “Video Games as a Means for Collaboration” and active participants whenever I gave them discussion points. I prized the compliment I received, “I think I learned more from this session than any other since I got the chance to discuss things with other people.”
The conference hotel was situated 20 minutes away by car, so once we shuttled onto campus we were pretty much there for the duration. It only mattered because I was unable to explore the Twin Cities that captured my imagination back in my high school days. Minneapolis/St. Paul was the first city that made me think I needed to be a city girl. This time around my only foray away from the hotel or campus was a trip up the street for Indian food. The vegetable samosa and dipping sauces were all I could have asked for, and the chicken tikka included large, tender chunks of chicken. However, hey, was that a hint of ketchup and Tabasco in the sauce? I think maybe I should have settled for one of the curries. Besides that the service was brisk to the point of brusque, so I stayed with the half price appetizers in the hotel bar for my next dinner, and thoroughly enjoyed chatting with the other patrons and the bar staff. I’ll be off to three more conference adventures this spring, and I can only hope they turn out as well as this one did.