7/07/11 – I’ll add pictures tomorrow evening! Please check back.
Today will forever be known as the “OH MY GOSH, OH MY GOSH, OH MY GOSH!” day. To say it correctly you must say “OH MY GOSH” three times in a row as quickly and loudly as possible. This must be done approximately every thirty to forty-five seconds. Today shortly after we left Missoula I noticed a sign that said “Ghost Town.” I convinced Dave that we should turn around and go check it out. I must point out again; we enjoy taking the road less traveled. We found the exit although, I must add that the sign was VERY small and difficult to see, and then headed toward the ghost town. The sign indicated it was ten miles which didn’t seem like such a big detour. We headed down the paved, two-lane road. As we continued the road became more of a paved, one and a half- lane road that started heading up the mountain. Before long, it became a dirt road and it kept spiraling upward. The view was spectacular . . . mountains, trees, blue skies. We came to a fork in the road and a sign that said “road closed” and stopped to evaluate which direction we should travel.
It really wasn’t a fork – there were three choices and I’ve always thought that a fork in the road meant there were only two directions to travel. One road had a sign which said “Ghost Town” but it was the closed road. Actually, it didn’t look like such a bad road and we wondered why it was closed. Of course, we couldn’t see very far because it curved not too far from where we stood. Another road also had a Ghost Town sign. This road looked OK but it didn’t look as good as the road that said closed and again, we wondered why the other road was closed. The last road had a little sign with a number on it that we assumed was a highway number. Of the three roads, it looked the best. We discussed our situation and decided that we had driven this far so why turn around now? Therefore, we decided to forge ahead. “OH MY GOSH! OH MY GOSH! OH MY GOSH!”
Looking out the window there were mountains and trees; mostly, the tops of trees. Then, we came around a curve and the road became a one lane dirt road which had grass growing up in the middle of it. There was no shoulder and occasionally, actually, frequently, the edge of the road was only four to six inches away from where the mountain dropped off. It was a steep drop off, not like a bar ditch, and I was looking at the TOPS of the trees. In some places it was almost straight down. “OH MY GOSH! OH MY GOSH! OH MY GOSH!” On the other side, the car was hugging the mountain, literally. There were a couple places where the driver’s side of the car was close enough to the mountain you could reach out and touch it. Occasionally, we would come to a place that was rather flattish and we didn’t feel we were going to fall off the edge. We would think we had finally made it to the top of the mountain, then the road would curve and suddenly we would be going back up. This continued for about forty-five minutes or so with “OH MY GOSH!” being said over and over. I have to admit it was a beautiful drive, albeit a bit scary. We wondered several times what would happen if we were to meet another vehicle. There was no place to pull over to let someone go past. We decided that one of us would have to drive backwards and I was hoping it would have to be the other car! Fortunately, we didn’t meet anyone as we were driving. It was very isolated and almost eerie. It made me wonder if we were being set up for disaster. Would someone be up ahead with a shot gun wanting our money, jewelry and credit cards? (A bit melodramatic but sometimes my thoughts go a bit crazy!) Then, I thought, hmm, we haven’t seen tire tracks of any sort so we’ll probably be safe. We continued spiraling upward, went around another curve, and suddenly there was a large paved parking lot with eight or ten cars in it! Where did all these people come from? There was no evidence that anyone had driven up the road we had been driving upon. As we parked we noticed another road, a paved one. Hmm, wonder where it went? I wasn’t too excited about going back down the side of the mountain on the road we just came up.
We parked and took the path down (literally) toward the Ghost Town. We walked through the ghost town and found a little building that housed a tiny little visitor’s center. We discovered the building used to be a saloon. We purchased some postcards and began talking to the people that worked there. She asked where we were from and where we were headed. When we told her we had driven there from Missoula and talked about the road we were on, she said “oh, that was the good road. The road that was closed was even worse although, it is a shorter drive. Much of it has washed out.” Then she gave us a very sympathetic look. I was thinking “OH MY GOSH! How could a road be worse than what we drove on?” She told us the paved road going the other direction from the parking lot was a much better road and it would lead us to a highway which would take us to Helena. Dave thanked her for the information and then we spent thirty or forty-five minutes walking through the other buildings.
The town was started around 1896 during the boom of gold mining. There is a quite a bit of very interesting history related to the gold rush years. In the early 1900’s many veins had disappeared and the population of Garnet diminished greatly. In 1934 there was another short-lived boom and when the war started in Europe in 1939 the population grew smaller yet again. By 1945 the post office closed and by 1947 no one was left. Much of the area is publicly owned and managed by the Bureau of Land management. Several of the buildings are privately owned but you are able to see all of the buildings from the publicly owned areas. Something that fascinated me was there were cabins which could be rented during the winter months. If you are outdoorsy, don’t mind being without electricity, running water, and cell service this would be the place for you. I prefer to have all those things so I will pass! Going back up the mountain to the car was not an easy task. It was hot and steep. Fortunately, there were benches along the way to stop and rest. When we left, we took the paved road. The lady was right . . . it was a better road and it didn’t take even half the time to get to the highway as the adventure we took to get there! I had to giggle as we were driving away thinking about the time Dave and I went to see my grandmother in Cassville, MO. We were driving through the National Forest which is just a few miles away from Cassville and saw a sign that said something or other “hollow” and decided to take the road less traveled. Let me just say, we ended up in Eureka Springs, Arkansas after driving through someone’s pasture! Oh the adventures! My sister and my dad for would be so proud!
So, we left Garnet Ghost town and headed to Helena, MT. to find the hospital where Dave was born. The drive to Helena was very uneventful! We found the hospital, took a picture and forged onward. We ended our day in Bozeman, MT. home of Montana State University. We ate dinner at “Famous Dave’s” simply because it is my husband’s name. The food was good.
Our day started out with “OH MY GOSH! OH MY GOSH! OH MY GOSH!” because of the scary road and the beautiful scenery. It will be a detour I shall never forget. Our day ended very uneventfully but I’m not sure I could have handled any more “OH MY GOSH” moments!
The road less traveled . . . you never know what you will find or what adventures await you . . . it is always worth the detour, even if it takes an hour to go only ten miles! My father and my sister would have both loved the adventure we had today. I end my day thinking of them, remembering times when we took the road less traveled. The tears begin to flow yet again. I miss them both.