Helena, Montana   2 comments

Day 27-28

Driving to Helena was the prettiest drive yet! I could not stop taking pictures.

At Tower Rock (I think it was called) we stopped at the scenic view pull-off and what a view! It is well worth climbing the steps for the view.

Once into our campground, we headed out to the Gates of the Mountains for our 2 hour boat cruise. Our captain, Kyle, was a wealth of information! He talked nonstop for the entire 2 hours. Boy does he have some stories to tell. He pointed out where Lewis and Clark’s expedition stopped along the river, the rock formation, Indian pictographs, bighorn sheep and mountain goats. We didn’t see any sheep or goats, but we did see bald eagles.

For Lewis and Clark, the rock embankments made towing from shore impossible, and the deep channel forced the men to row rather than pole their boats forward. The limestone cliffs rose to a spectacular height of 1200 feet.

There are a few archways in the limestone. Below is one of the larger ones.

Using our imagination, we found all kinds of images in the limestone, like the “elephant” pictured below.

We couldn’t stop this year to stretch our legs at one of the few places in the canyon that a boat can be beached and it is believed that the expedition camped in this spot in 1805. There is a picnic area and grills in the area, but the floods last year buried the picnic table 14 feet under the mud and stones.

The pictographs (pictured below in the middle of the picture) are evidence that Lewis and Clark were not the first in this area. It is believed that Indians were there 300 years before Lewis and Clark.

At each bend in the waterway, great stone walls seemed to block passage, only to open like gentle giant gates at they got closer (pictured below).

Lewis called this place “Gates of the Mountains,” which it is still called today.

Helena, Montana

Day 28, We boarded our luxury motor coach and headed to the city of Helena, which used to be called Last Chance Gulch. Since it is now the state capital, thank goodness they changed the name. We started at the Historical Society Museum for a self-guided tour. The museum was set up in themes for each section. One section was devoted to CM Russell, the artist, so you know where a lot of our guests started. This was one of his most famous works. “Waiting for a Chinook.” This was his response to his friend who asked how the cattle were faring during the harsh winter of 1886-1887. This picture made national headlines when it appeared in newspapers across the country.

He has certainly proved himself thru his oil paints, water colors, pencil drawings, sculptures and even the artwork he did on letters to friends as pictured below right.

I found “the white bull” most interesting. Native Americans felt the white bison calf carried sacred significance. The man who killed a white bison received his power from the sun and the “good medicine” held by the white hide extended to the hunter’s family and his entire band. In 1933, on the Flathead Indian Reservation, a white calf was born to a naturally brown mother. His fame spread thru Nat’l media and he became known as “Big Medicine.” He was not a true albino, he had blue eyes, tan hoofs, and had a topknot of dark brown hair. Normally bisons live about 20 years, but special care was given to Big Medicine to prolong his life. He died in 1959 at the age of 26., weighing 1,193 pounds (dropping considerable weight). His hide is on display.

And what can I say, kids will be kids.

Outside the museum, we boarded the Helena Tour Train for a narrated tour of the city.

Our tour of the Capitol Building proved to be correct when North Dakota told us they used the plans from Montana to build their capitol building because they are VERY MUCH alike.

Montana’s State Capitol Building was the first to have electricity.

CM Russell was commissioned to create a painting in 1911. The huge canvas, 25 ft. by 12 ft. was painted in his log cabin studio in Great Falls. Notice the wolf at the bottom in the middle of the painting, it looks as if it is going to attack the speaker of the house. The painting is not insured as it is so expensive that the cost of the insurance would be astronomical.

CM Russell was commissioned to create a painting in 1911. The huge canvas, 25 ft. by 12 ft. was painted in his log cabin studio in Great Falls. Notice the wolf at the bottom in the middle of the painting. The painting is not insured as it is so expensive that the cost of the insurance would be astronomical.

The cornerstone of the Cathedral of St. Helena was laid in 1908 and completed in 1913.

Col. Thomas Cruse, a well-known local miner and businessman, pledged $100,000 toward the interior work of the Cathedral in memory of his recently deceased daughter. The total cost to build the Cathedral was $645,590.44. If the same structure were built today, it would cost tens of millions of dollars.

Our last tour of the day was the original Governor’s Mansion, built in 1888.

The Queen Anne style house was built by the Chessman family to reflect their wealth and influence.

It has 3 indoor bathrooms!

We want all of our guests to know that the tailgunner is taking care of business.

The Chessman family were forced to give up this lifestyle due to financial difficulties, and ended up moving across the street to the apartments that he built and once owned. His banker who foreclosed on him bought the Chessman house. I can only imagine how they must have felt watching someone else live in their home. Eventually, it became the official residence for the Governor in 1913. The daughters of the first governor to live in the house helped the historical society restore the house to resemble as it was when they lived there as children.

We ended our day at the Great Northern Carousel where everyone got to ride it. If you ever go there, hop onto one of the “outside” animals because as you go around, you have a change to grab a ring & throw it into the basket. If you grab a “gold” ring, you get a free ride.

You should have seen all the seniors riding the carousel! I think the kiddies thought we were nuts. I had a chance to grab the brass ring and missed!

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Posted June 15, 2012 by carolnbill in Travel

2 responses to “Helena, Montana

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  1. Loved this drive last year. Thanks for bringing back so many memories. We rode the carousel , and reached for the rings, as well. Lots of fun!

  2. This is such a great trip!

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