Tag Archives: Montana

Orphan Girl Headframe

Last week I shared about my journey from writer to million dollar art packager at the World Museum of Mining. We finished the art and John, the owner of Headframe Spirits, asked one of our supervisors if we could go up the Orphan Girl Headframe. She paused, looked around skeptically and said, “We’re going to the office. What you do is up to you.” A huge smile streaked across John’s face. He later admitted that he’d been trying to get up the Orphan Girl for years.  He guessed less than 50 people in as many years had been allowed to climb to the top.

A headframe is a large steel or concrete structure that’s used to lower miners and equipment into an underground mine shaft. In Butte, Montana there are more than twelve still standing, providing beacons to the city’s rich mining history. The Orphan Girl Headframe stands 100 feet tall and once lowered miners 2700 feet into the earth. During its run from 1875 to 1956 the “Girl” pulled out 7,500,000 ounces of silver. While that’s a large amount, it’s only 1% of the total silver produced in the area.

Butte has an incredible history and for further reading I would highly recommend The Battle for Butte by Michael P. Malone.


[Click on pictures to enlarge]

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Montana Roadside Attractions

I was astonished to discover on a recent road trip that my friend Bryon had never been to the Rock Creek Lodge.  Home to the famous Rock Creek Testicle Festival, the bar/restaurant/gift shop in rural Montana is a treasure trove of weird and sometimes inappropriate gifts.  In college, I frequently stopped to purchase a magnate that pictured a cartoon bull with steam coming out of his nostrils and read “I had a ball at the Rock Creek Testicle Festival.”  Several of my close friend’s moms have that magnate hanging on their fridge as a gift for letting me stay with them. You’re welcome.

Bryon was likewise surprised to learn I’d never stopped at the 50,000 Silver Dollar Bar in Haugan, Montana.  Both stops are between Bozeman and Coeur d’Alene on I-90, a route we’d traveled more than thirty times.  We pledged when our ski trip was over we’d stop at both locations on the way back to Idaho.  Below are some pictures and the highlights of each stop.

Rock Creek is right off the interstate and besides a large parking lot and stage for the festival, it feels abandoned.  Not pictured are men’s and women’s g-strings, a life size wood bull with large testicles that almost touch the floor, and racy post cards.  My wife and I caught the tale end of the festival two years ago and had the opportunity to try a Rocky Mountain Oyster.  They taste like chicken.  The party had died down when we were there but from what I’ve heard it’s a pretty rowdy four days.


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Pictures: Bryon stands outside the $50,000 Silver Dollar Bar in Haugan, Montana.  Second picture, there are plenty of cheesy items to purchase.  Third picture, inset in all those pieces of wood are silver dollars, many with an accompanying signature.  Above the door there’s a current total count, 58,390 silver dollars.  Last picture is of Bryon, I really think he should have bought that hat.



Cheep knives, air soft guns, cross bows, t-shirts with wolves on them, gaudy jewelry.  Within the Silver Dollar Bar is everything you could ever want to bring home and throw away two years later.  While Bryon and I were checking out the weapons a man accidentally shoved a knife through its holder and cut himself on the hand, bleeding everywhere.

Both locations were quite the experience for us.  I can confidently say we will never go to both again.  At least not on the same day.


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Night Photography, Montana & Idaho

This past week a group of friends gathered to celebrate my buddy’s 30th birthday in Red Lodge, Montana. The “ski trip” was filled with micro brews, iPhone app conversations, amazing egg scrambles, hot tub soaks, 4 turkeys walking down the road, reminiscing about college, and a little skiing. Montana hasn’t received much snow so with early season conditions I left the camera in the cabin and focused on getting back into ski shape. However, I did take some night shots near the cabin and in Couer d’Alene.


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Yellowstone National Park–July

I know this is a little late but what can you do?  After skiing the Beartooth Highway in July, Tanner and I dropped down the south side of the pass and headed toward Yellowstone.  This is my favorite way to enter the Park because there aren’t as many people and you’ve a better chance of seeing a wolf in Lamar Valley, since they were reintroduced in 1995.  We didn’t see a wolf this trip but before hitting the Tower-Roosevelt junction we did see a black bear.  Tanner saw the bear first and here’s the conversation that ensued.

“There’s a bear.” Tanner says, pointing to the side of the road.


“Right there.” Pointing at the same spot.


“Right there.” Still pointing.


“It’s right there!” Still pointing and now shaking his finger.

And as it turns out the bear was “right there.”  I just didn’t see him.  He walked across the road and headed down a hill.  At the time there were only seven cars (including ours) so we drove up twenty yards, pulled the car over, and grabbed our cameras.  Within five minutes there were over a hundred people and the bear disappeared down the valley.  Whether or not you see animals, a drive through Yellowstone is always a good way to end a ski day.

The first two pictures are bison in Lamar Valley.  The first bear picture is a little hazy because it was shot through my window as I was trying to put the car in park and not scare him.  And the last picture is right before the bear headed down into the valley.


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Skiing the Beartooths

Tanner and I spent Independence Day skiing corn snow on the Beartooth Highway.  Located in south central Montana, it’s three hours from my hometown of Bozeman, where I’ve spent the last week.  The highway winds through the mountains from Red Lodge to Cooke City before topping out at 10,947 feet and descending into Yellowstone National Park.  This was my sixth time skiing the pass, which usually opens on Memorial Day, but was delayed to June tenth this year after receiving more than twenty-five feet of snow.

Hiking to the top of Gardiner Head Wall

Skiing the Top of Gardiner Head Wall

We skied a couple runs on the Gardiner Head Wall and found the conditions to be perfect.  Met some nice people on top as well.  The beauty of skiing the highway is you hitchhike to the top, decreasing the amount of hiking with skis on your back.  At the Rock Creek Head Wall you can ski right back to the road.  At the Gardiner Head Wall you hike back up to the road from the bottom of the bowl.

A gentleman and a scholar, Mr. Tanner Claridge

Loaded up hitch hiking in a truck.  We were told the wall of snow was about five feet higher just two weeks earlier.

Tanner rippin’ tele turns

Skiing down the Gardiner Head Wall with Gardiner Lake in the background

Hiking back up to the road

 All in all, it was an excellent day of summer skiing.

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