Hmm. Friday the 13th. Time to ignore my paraskevidekatriaphobia and get on with it.
Well, hello there,
I promptly dubbed this structure the Chateau Marmot.
Here we see the Dubois Ranger District/Targhee National Forest ranger station. Ranger Rick had just stepped out to get lunch, so we missed taking his picture. And calling him "Ranger Rick" to his face, for that matter. (Captain Midnight mused, "I'm sure he'd reply with something like, 'You know, I do have a gun.'")
Warning: Red means EXTREME fire danger! Or "Beef," if it's a bouillon cube.
I suppose technically Monida isn't a true ghost town, as there are at least five inhabited structures in the place, but I think the town would be hard pressed to muster a population of 30, even counting pets and livestock.
A chocolate lab living across the street from the barn spotted me walking along and began barking enthusiastically. She ran out into the street to sniff at me, and when I held still and spoke softly to her, she started wagging her tail and licking my hand. The owner began swearing almost as enthusiastically at the dog. "What did I tell you about barking at people?" he yelled, picking up a stick to administer some corporal punishment, and the dog -- knowing what was coming -- slunk away and hid under a truck. I felt sorry for her. There was no harm done, I was a stranger, and she was just doing her job. But I didn't know what to say.
"The other one" was a cache that had been placed on a nearby bridge.
The bridge is part of the old Highway 91 route, which is so rarely traveled that the paving has mostly worn away and it has become, to all intents and purposes, a gravel road.
From Monida, you travel about a mile southwest, invisibly crossing back into Idaho territory...
We shrugged and continued on our way.
What happened next was one of the loveliest moments of our trip, and something that I suspect will stick in my head for many years to come.
Captain Midnight pulled out his phone and took some video footage, but it's impossible to get the full feel of it: the airborne flock of little birds floating and darting about everywhere, the soft irregular sound of cars and trucks sliding by on the freeway in the distance, and the gentle soughing of the wind.
It was a magical moment, perhaps impossible to repeat. And that's why we geocache.
Eventually we did discover the cache, though by then it was largely superfluous as far as I was concerned. Nonetheless we signed, logged, and drove away. We paused at a rest stop in Lima (where I didn't have the presence of mind to take any pictures), but then pressed on without stopping again until we reached Butte.
Also, I've never seen so many Irish pubs in a town of this size. I mean EVER. This town's got more fighting Irish than Notre Dame.
By this time we were getting peckish, so we found a place to eat: Pork Chop John's, your basic local lunch counter with a walk-up window, round red swiveling seats at the bar, and and a whole array of artery-hardening goodness on the menu. It's the kind of place everybody in town goes for lunch, and the cook and waitresses tease each other and gently harass the customers. Worth the stop.
See, back in June 1914 the local miners had an altercation which led to, um, strong differences of opinion. Strong enough, in fact, that there was a gunfight. When that didn't solve things, one faction took sticks of dynamite from a local mine and started tossing them through the windows of the hall. After they'd blasted the place fifteen times (!!!), the building finally blew up.
By the way, Captain Midnight was busy looking for geocaches here. But I actually found this one. No, I'm not going to tell you where it is. You're just going to have to go to Butte and look for it yourself. Clever hiding place, though.
We spent a lot more time in Butte than we'd planned, so after refreshing CM's 44-ounce cornucopia of Mountain Dew (aka Bloomberg's Contraband), we headed east toward Bozeman. On the way out of Butte we noticed the most fantastic rock formations -- huge, rounded slivers of balancing stone, like a giants' graveyard, on the mountainsides. CM noted that the area just east of Butte would make a fantastic setting for a fantasy film.
We arrived in Bozeman too late to explore the famed Bozeman Hot Springs, more's the pity. But we did settle down in the Bozeman Inn for the night. For the record -- uh -- well, my immediate family will understand when I say that, despite some glowing reviews online, it turned out to be a Slavyanska Besseda. And the free Internet access seems to have been dipped in molasses and rolled in the hair of two thousand sloths. But at least it was private and we were tired. So we hit the hay, all the better to cache again the next day.