Day 32 – July 3 P-burg Scenic Loop, Three-Forks, & 4th of July Prices

My R&R in Missoula over, I worked my way east on I-90 for a while. Tonight is the full moon, and the license plate I saw this morning may be a warning to me.

I had read about the scenic Phillipsburg Alternate “loop” to Anaconda last year, so I decided to check it out. It is an easy and very nice ½ day drive, just west of Yellowstone Park, south through a long and flat river valley, then over the pass. But being flat was deceiving…the altitude here is over 5,000 feet, with the tallest of the mountains, Mt. Haugen at 10,800. That is different from where I live, with my home at 850 feet above sea level. It’s high country here, and hot today in the mid 80s.

Phillipsburg, known to everyone as “P-burg”, is a surprisingly well done tourist town, with many 1800s buildings re-done and a lack of tacky tourist trappings. Sure, there are shops, cafes, and bars but it is a clean and thriving little town and I enjoyed my visit a lot.

While walking around taking pics, I came across a small gem and mineral shop named the Sapphire Gallery that I would have normally walked past, but there in the window was something that said “this is a friendly shop with nice people”.

The sign said “PUBLIC REST ROOMS”. That is unusual, as most places try to chase away customers with a “no restrooms” sign. So I went in, was very impressed with the beautiful gems, minerals, rock carvings, jewelry, and antique oak furniture that occupy the three storefronts. I had a friendly chat with Cheryl and bought a small carved quartz bear with a fish in its mouth. Being customer-friendly will pay off for any business.

From P-Burg, MT Highway 1 (old Alternate US 10) climbs up Flint Creek pass to the Flint Creek Dam that creates the wonderful and surprisingly undeveloped Georgetown Lake. Note the different rock colors on my pic, this is quartz and flint country, very different ancient rock than other places I’ve visited, and stunning in its raw and sharp ruggedness. I was very pleased that I took the “loop” drive. Over the top brought me into clean and quiet Anaconda, once the largest, and roughest copper smelter town in the world.            

Back on I-90 with heavy, for Montana, traffic. I bypassed Butte, an interesting town, built on the giant copper mines, that I explored last year. I then went east over the Pipestone Pass at the Continental Divide, elevation of 6,392. After a boring, but very windy ride, I came to Three Forks, where Lewis and Clark and their crew, with Sacajawea’s guidance, decided on their route west while they camped here. The highlights here are the Caboose Visitors Center, the very nice Heritage Museum, and the delightful 1800s Sacajawea Hotel, restored to its glory…I want to stay here for weeks because it’s is so authentic in the restoration that includes a relaxing Victorian bar and dining room.

A few sputters of rain cooled things off a bit as I cruised into Livingston, missing the big Rodeo Parade by one day, and finding tonight’s Rodeo sold out.

I have seen motel rates increase $30, $40, and more per night since last Friday began the 4th of July week…ouch. I bit the bullet and checked into one I had stayed at 3 weeks ago…at $30 more per night (!) than I paid then. Gas prices are down though…to $3.44. Last year I had a terrible time finding a place to stay over the 4th week, so I am playing it safe with advance reservations this year.

Some full moon craziness at the motel, but I locked myself in my room and hit the sack.

Tomorrow is the big day…God Bless America.