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Aug 2006 Photo Trip Part I - Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota


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#1 DirtyDog

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 02:44 AM

In August I had a five to six week trip planned through Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. The primary goal of this trip was to photograph mining towns for Western Mining History. My list of towns included over twenty towns, many of which are some of the most historically significant in the West. After the first two weeks, I realized that my plan was far too ambitious for a single trip. Some of the towns were difficult to photograph due to their large size, and steep city streets. I found myself working an exhaustive schedule, photographing all day and making long drives between towns just to start the process over again. In addition to a hectic schedule, I also had difficulties with my computer and camera equipment, and budgetary problems due to very high fuel prices – as much as 3.50 per gallon in some places. A constant need to recharge camera and computer batteries put me in hotels much more than I had anticipated as well.

In the end I covered 4,000 miles, took over 1,000 photos, and cut the trip short at just under three weeks. I cut New Mexico and Arizona out of the plan. I spent eight nights in my camper and concluded that camper time is almost always better than being in a hotel. I would sleep better in the camper, wake up invigorated and eager to start the day. While the trip was not nearly as long as I had planned, it was still a great experience and I hope to capture it in text and photos in this report.

I will keep this thread closed over the next few days until I have completed the report.
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#2 DirtyDog

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 03:33 AM

Monday August 7th: Leaving Bend, Oregon

I am taking the long route to Montana so that I can see some routes I haven't travelled before. The town of Halfway in Northeast Oregon was my first stop. Halfway is a very remote and beautiful town tucked into the shadow of the Wallowa Mountains. From there I took the little travelled and mountainous road down to Hells Canyon, over the Oxbow Dam, and up highway 71 in Western Idaho. Highway 71 intersects with highway 95 on my way to McCall. Initially I was going to camp at the side of a FS road just north of Council, Idaho. However, after being in the camper for just 20 minutes, I realized the smell of smoke was becoming very strong. A nearby forest fire was filling the air smoke. I packed it up and got back on the highway and drove to a forest road about 5 miles north of McCall, Idaho on Highway 55, and camped there for the night.

Fire season is always difficult to travel in due to closed campgrounds, occasional closed roads, and smoky horizons ruining photo ops. I'll post a pic of Halfway here, but a photo of Halfway just doesn't capture its beauty without the mountains in the background, and it was too smoky to capture them.

Halfway Oregon Report

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#3 DirtyDog

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 03:58 AM

Tuesday August 8th: The long road through Idaho

Started the day with breakfast at the Pancake and Christmas House in McCall. Highly recommended :)

Took Highway 55 south to Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway which connects to Highway 21. The byway was an enjoyable and scenic drive. Highway 21 is spectacular and is one of my favorite drives. The highway parallels the South Fork of the Payette River for some time. There are numerous unimproved (free) camp sites right on the river. 21 then climbsaway from the river up to the mountain valleys in the shadow of the Sawtooth Mountains, ending in the town of Stanley where it intersects highway 75. The Sawtooths and Stanley are just spectacular - I can't think of a town that has a more scenic backdrop.

After Stanley, I took highway 75 north to 93 on my way to Montana. On the road, I passed a guy with a Four Wheel Camper going the other way, and after a few minutes realized that it was KC from the board here. KC had recognized my rig and turned around - we met up at a turnout and chatted for a bit. Small world!

I camped on highway 38/Skalkaho Pass in southern Montana. This road is a seasonal dirt road with several free camping spots, and is a nice drive between Hamilton and Highway 1.

Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway Report

Photo - Stanley Idaho with Sawtooth Mountains

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#4 DirtyDog

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 04:32 AM

Wednesday 9th - Friday 11th: Butte Montana

Spent two nights in Butte at the Finlen Hotel. Butte is a fascinating place and was the inspiration for Western Mining History. For various reasons, I have not been able to adequately photograph Butte so this was a priority stop on this trip. Butte is larger than all the other mining towns I have photographed combined. The task was overwhelming and I was at a loss on where to start. I must have walked 12 or 13 miles up and down Butte's steep hills on Thursday alone.

Butte is by far the most historically significant mining community in North America, if not the world. Over 48 billion in copper was mined from the hill and the community that wealth created was a wild frontier metropolis that was once the richest city in the world per capita. Butte had electricity before New York City! Check out the Butte page at Western Mining History, I have over 100 photos uploaded of turn of the century urban buildings. I will type up a more detailed Butte report in the reports section later.

Butte page at Western Mining History


Photo: Uptown Butte

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#5 DirtyDog

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 02:43 AM

Friday August 11th: Virginia City Montana

Left Butte today and drove to Virginia City. Virginia City is somewhat famous as one of the locations of the Montana vigilante saga in the 1860's. The town exceeded my expecations. Most buildings and homes are lovingly restored and cared for. The few restaurants in town were clean with quality food. The locals were friendly. Great place to spend an afternoon.

Drove towards Red Lodge, took a FS road 177 south of Roscoe to the Jimmy Joe camp ground on East Rosebud Creek. This was a spectacularly beautiful area, camping was free, and the campground was empty except for me.

Virginia City profile at Western Mining History

Photo: Jimmy Joe Camp Ground

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#6 DirtyDog

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Posted 30 September 2006 - 01:23 AM

Saturday August 12th: Red Lodge and Deadwood

Left Jimmy Joe this morning and drove to Red Lodge, Montana. I was surprised at how many well-preserved mining era buildings and Victorian homes are in Red Lodge. Red Lodge was a coal town, and coal towns didn't usually contain the wealth that the precious metal mining towns did. It seems that Red Lodge was an exception, probably due to it's close proximity to huge mining an industrial areas like Butte and Anaconda. Early railroads servicing the mines in these areas needed vast amounts of coal, and Red Lodge was uniquely positioned to supply that coal. Red Lodge is now a tourist town on the way to Yellowstone, and is a lively and prosperous town.

I left Red Lodge and did the long and gruelling drive to Deadwood, South Dakota. Uknown to me, the Sturgis Rally was happening and there were thousands of bikers in town. It was unreal. While I am glad I experienced it, the Rally meant that every camp site and hotel in a 50 mile radius was occupied. I spent over a hundred dollars to stay in a one bedroom cabin in the woods. Deadwood has the most beautiful and well-preserved buildings of any mining-era town I have been to. Unfortunately, the money that makes this possible comes from gambling. While I understand the necessity of gambling to revitalize the economies of these old mining towns, the gambling culture usually dominates every aspect of the town. Rarely in these mining towns turned gambling centers can you ever even find a decent meal that is not in a smokey casino.

Red Lodge profile at Western Mining History
Deadwood profile at Western Mining History

Photo: Deadwood

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#7 DirtyDog

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Posted 30 September 2006 - 02:00 AM

Sunday August 14th: Hot Springs, South Dakota

Finished photographing Deadwood this morning. Deadwood had been one of my most anticipated destinations on this trip, but I'm not excited about the prospect of spending another day eathing casino food and spending a fortune on a hotel, so I'm moving on ASAP. Stopped by nearby Lead, another mining town, and then hit the road on my way to Colorado.

On my way out of the Black Hills, I drove through the beautiful town of Hot Springs, South Dakota. There are many impressive turn of the century buildings in Hot Springs, built out of red sandstone - including a massive VA hospital. The Flatiron Coffee Roasters is a coffee shop and inn in a renovated sandstone building, and was the nicest coffee shop I have ever been in.

Lead profile at Western Mining History

Photo: Hot Springs, South Dakota

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#8 DirtyDog

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Posted 30 September 2006 - 03:17 AM

Monday August 14th: leaving the Black Hills

My original plan was to spend more time in the Black Hills. I wanted to see Mount Rushmore, spend some time in Deadwood, and explore the area for a bit. Unfortuantely, the Sturgis Rally, and the high number of non-biker tourists made me rethink my plans. I would like to see more of the Black Hills, but I would like to return during a less busy time of the year. Onward to Colorado, my favorite state to explore.

More soon in part II of this report.
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#9 simimike

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Posted 03 October 2006 - 12:14 AM

Too cool.Makes me want to hit the road, doesn't matter where.
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#10 captainkettel

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 03:49 AM

Are you going to post some photos of Deadwood? I have always wanted to visit Deadwood. Maybe I will make the trip next year. Too bad you were there that close to Sturgis time. A whole lota Harleys in town then.
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