Friday, August 14, 2009

The Great Montana Trip of 2009 - Sunday

Sunday dawned bright and dry. We ate a somewhat warm breakfast at the Busy Bee with the rest of the family (Not sure why it was so balmy, they must have had a busted A/C or something) and chatted for a while with everyone. Thanks to the heroic efforts of Mr. Steve, my rig was fully inflated and ready to roll, so we left town ahead of the rest of the group, who were planning to stay for church and lunch.

Our plan was to hit up a nearby ghost town before heading into White Sulfur Springs, which is West of the cabins where we planned to spend the next evening.

We decided on Castle Town after spotting it on a free map of Montana that we'd gotten from the gas station just outside of Yellowstone. It was located south of White Sulphur Springs, which happened to be the closest "Real" town by the cabins where we were staying that night.

It ended up being a pretty significant amount further into the ether than we'd planned, down a series of increasingly smaller roads until we were travelling down a largely deserted dirt road littered with Private Property signs along the way. Just before we gave up however, we spotted the sign for Castle Town. Loosely established in the 1870's, it serviced the nearby mine. Though I didn't know until later, it was also famous for one of it's residents, a young lady that tried to run a respectable restaurant before heading into infamy, Calamity Jane.

The one thing we did learn upon reaching Castle Town was that it is entirely located on private property. A fact that would have been GREAT to know miles and miles ago, possibly at one of the three signs we saw that pointed us to it. According to the plaque and many graffiti and bullet-hole ridden signs around the town, we were not allowed onto the property without explicit permission from the landowners.

Luckily for us, we happened to have a camera with a lens capable of taking photos from blocks away and at different angles that make it look just like we had walked up to the buildings and wandered around. We would never disrespect the wishes of a landowner keeping people from revelling in their cultural past, no sireee!

Loved Castle Town. All of the buildings were in just the right amount of disrepair to be both creepy and old and stable and safe seeming. More than anything though, wandering around the buildings just pissed me off. Here is a great selection of structures, and old school house, some residences, couple of businesses, in a surprisingly good shape and instead of letting sightseers visit and explore, or even just view from a respectful distance on an established path, the owners post no trespassing signs everywhere with explicit threats towards violators, then they let loose their cows to rampage through the buildings.

There were over a dozen big, stinky cows mulling around the buildings, crapping everywhere, breaking walls, tearing up floors. I never wanted to make my own hamburger so bad.

Enchanted by the buildings and pissed off by the owners, we left Castle Town and drove back down the winding road to civilization. Sort of. First we stopped at a little town and checked out their eclectic collection of dead end roads, outdoor jail cells and old motels and stopped into a gift shop at a old house/museum where we ate a piece of cake for the birthday of the former resident, peed and left before the next tour started.

We made a brief stop in Checkerboard, where we wrote our name on a dollar bill and hung it on the ceiling beside Dylan and Cami's - they had stopped there a week earlier while they were on their honeymoon, then hit White Sulfur Springs for lunch.

Uhh... To be continued! (Sorry... ran out of time this afternoon!)


Steve at Random said...

You should ask your mother-in-law if she remembers her mom and dad taking her and her younger brother to Castle Town? My guess is the town looks about the same as when we traveled that way in the mid-1970s in a Ford Galaxie with very little clearance. I'm sure it was on private land then as well. Generally speaking, there are two large landowners in the area of Checkerboard. One is the Bair Ranch, whose family has many political ties to Montana history. The Alberta Bair Theater in Billings is a part of the Bair Ranch legacy. The second large landowner is Brachs Candy. My family used to fish Smith River until it was purchased by the candy maker and posted.

randymeiss said...

Just had to say how much I LOVE the serial style of writing! Keep it up, I can't wait for part whatever number comes next!