Butte [And the Montana Music Festival]


Butte, Montana is an interesting place. In its glory days it was on par with New York and San Francisco and now it is home to one of the largest superfund sites. It has a crazy mining history and beautiful historic building district begging for someone to save it. Once a year it hosts the Montana Folk Festival.  My friend K and I had never been to Butte, but had been told time and time again we needed to visit it just once. So the weekend of the festival we packed a car and went on a little adventure.

We started with and underground tour of the historic uptown. We learned all kinds of interesting facts about Butte, here are a few that I remember weeks later:

  • it had electricity five years before New York
  • it  had over 100,000 people living there in the 1920’s and had the second largest red district in the US
  • It had an “underground city.”  Below street level was a second sidewalk with store fronts all along it. Most of these have been filled in sadly. You can see find areas of glass block in the existing sidewalk, it was used to get light down to the lower level.
  • the prison was open until the 1970’s where it was finally shut down by the Federal government and deemed a dungeon
  • There are hundreds of miles of mining tunnels under the city. This is an amazing graphic representation.

It was about an hour and a half tour that took us down to one of the old store fronts that first a shoe store and then a barber shop.
Untitled Graffiti in the barbershop
We then went back above ground to the city’s first skyscraper and another building that was the sister hotel to New York’s Waldorf Hotel. My little brain was going crazy with all the detail and buildings that were there that were just empty and all the things you could do with those buildings if you had the population to support them again. It’s amazing.

The Finlen Hotel, complete  with copper railing

Anyway, we continued to the jail, also below ground. It was in operation until the 1970’s and had many tripping features designed in to make sure no one going in came out unbruised. The stories of corrupt police made you cringe a bit as I was the tour guest picked to sit in the interrogation chair.  Hands and feet tied down, in the dark with an old salon hair dryer over your head (what was it for? not sure…) in a basement is no where I care to end up again.
Metal beds below steam pipes
Interrogation chair- photo by K

After the jail, we crossed the ally to a forgotten speak easy that was found in 2004. It had a door in the bathroom so that the city mayor and police chief could sneak out when the fed arrived. The flooring and walls were beautiful stone with a heavy wooden bar. I think K was probably ready to kill me with all my architecture talk and picture taking.UntitledUntitled Untitled Untitled Untitled

Our friend, Dusty, was heading through town and so we headed to a coffee shop to meet him called the Hummingbird. To be fair, we headed to said cafe because the yelp reviews said the food was good, but people kept complaining about the staff’s “hipster attitude.”  We needed to see what this meant in Butte terms and we are still unsure. Was it a place that would probably be more at home in Bozeman? A little hippy and alternative in style? Yes. It was delightful and delicious and the staff was perfectly pleasant. We enjoyed our lunch and returned the next day for coffee on our way out of town.

After this we went to check out the music. There were several stages set up all over uptown as well as vendors. We would stop at one, listen for a bit and head on to the next. The best stage was the main stage or “Original Stage” set up under a headframe near the top of the hill.
Surrounding it were old mining buildings you could go in and see all the equipment that was used. Pretty cool.  I will say that the music was fine, but none of it really wowed us. This may be because none of us are super into folk music, but I was kind of excited for a Cajun band that was playing and they were not as energetic or as exciting as I expected. It was still fun to hang out on the hill side and watch all the different people.

We are still not sure what Dusty is doing here.

K and I were staying the night, continuing our adventure the next day in another mining town. From the way people spoke of the festival, we didn’t think we would be able to get a camp site at the park near by, but we had no trouble at all. We could hear the last of the music drifting down the hill as we hung out in our tent and watched Our Lady of the Rockies light up. We wanted to hike up or drive up to it, but the only way is on a 3 hour bus tour. No thank you.

That little light on the top of the hill is the statue. It’s the 3rd largest in the US and was lifted in place by helicopter in sections.

The next morning we had breakfast at the Cafe at Park & Main. We split a huge caramel roll while we waited for our egg dishes. All was delicious and we were able to sit outside, though the weather was not fully cooperating that morning.

We wanted to try and do the underground mining tour as well at the World Museum of Mining but the morning tour we could make was full. We went the the museum anyway.

And once we were past the bizarre doll collection, we we fascinated by the replicated town and the Orphan Girl mining yard. There are thousand of artifacts all over and you can just walk pretty much where ever. They have installed a stair on the headframe so you can walk up the top and see the old elevator that brought the ore and miner up and down. It was another day of sensory overload for me, but I still want to go back and take the underground mine tour as well.

Untitled Elevator cabs 
Untitled Actual equipment size, not miniatures 

Untitled Long tunnel to the pit

The last thing we did before heading out of town was check out the Berkeley Pit.
Most of the mining in Butte was underground until the 1950’s. The Berkeley Pit was opened in 1955 and was in operation until the 1980’s. It is a huge hole in the earth, around one mile by a half mile wide and 1700 feet deep.  At that time they stopped pumping the water away from the pit and let it fill. This water is toxic due to all the heavy metals and chemicals that have leached out from the rock. It’s a massive superfund that will eventually reach the level of natural ground water and start to pump it’s toxic water into the ground water instead of vice versa. It’s amazing the kind of damage we can inflict on the earth that eventually comes back to harm us.

Butte is a very interesting place. Although, if the festival had not been in full swing, I don’t think we would have hung out for as long as we did. You could easily do it as a day trip. It was a sensory overload for me both days though. Not sure I could do both the underground uptown tour and mining tour in one day. But I’m not normal, so most people would probably love it all in one go. I highly recommend stopping to check it out instead of blowing right past on the interstate if you have the time.

Lava Lake


If you hadn’t noticed, it is perfect hiking weather here in Montana. I drug my friend R, outside with me one Sunday to check off an new hike, Lava Lake. So many people have told me about this hike, I just never got to it for some reason. Now I need to add it to the easy to get to, easy to do, do it more often list.


It’s three miles long one way with a gradual climb 1600 feet to the lake. You really don’t notice the climb much at all, at least if you are in some sort of shape anyway. Most of the time you are shaded by trees and follow a little stream that you cross a time or two. If you happen to pry your eyes from where your next step is, there are some awesome views along the way through the valley.


A few huge boulders frame the lake when you get to the top. All round the side of the lake are large rock scree fields or dense trees. We continued along the west side of the lake and scrambled along util we found a good spot to hang out on the rocks. Some people were fishing. Some people were camping. It was beautiful. Go check it out.


Sunday Afternoon Coffee [fourty-eight]

Sunday 48 - 1

If we were having coffee this afternoon, it would be a big summer catch up. There has been hiking, weddings, river fun and a birthday. So here we go!

If we were having coffee this afternoon, I would tell you that in June I was a bit worried I was going to roast for about a week. It was warm enough to float the Madison in JUNE. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in an inter tube on the river this early. It was heavenly.  Minus the minor sunburn.

Sunday 48 - 2 The Madison River

The heat also gave us a great excuse to sit at bar patios sipping cucumber presses, my new favorite summer drink.  Cucumber vodka, half soda water, half 7-up and a lime. Trust me, you won’t stop drinking them.

If we were having coffee this afternoon, I would tell you about a friend’s bachelorette party where we learned to pole dance. I was terrible. It was kinda fun, kinda awkward. It was entertaining. I could see how if you were not wasting time doing the crawling and prancing portion, the actual workout class would kick your butt. I am not coordinated for such workouts. We headed downtown for a typical bar crawl after that and had a blast.

UntitledThat happened. 

If we were having coffee this afternoon, I would tell also tell you about the lovely wedding on Sunday. It was just out of Bozeman at the beautiful TJ Ranch.  The bride was beautiful, the groom shed a few tears, the rain held off until after the ceremony, the food was amazing, the photo booth was a huge success, the bartender was our friend, and we had a blast. We found a cigar that one of the groomsmen must have left lying around and decided we needed to try it with the bride before their send off. I’ve never smoked a cigar before and it wasn’t too bad. I’ll keep it in mind for the next wedding. Untitled

And speaking of weddings, last weekend I went to San Francisco for my friend Iris’s wedding. She was one of my first friends in New York and it was great to catch up with other New York friends who came for the wedding. It was all outdoors at the beautiful Fuchsia Dells in Golden Gate Park. There was a four man marching band the lead in the bride and all of us to the conservatory for a huge group photo. It was definitely a whimsical event as the couple desired, some people really dressed up for the occasion and everyone had a good time at the photo booth. More on this trip later. Untitled
Untitled Whimsy at its finest

If we were having coffee this afternoon, I would tell you how excited I am that Music on Main has started for the summer! Hands down one of my favorite things to do in the summer. Though sometimes I wish it was on a Friday instead.

If we were having coffee this afternoon, I would tell you that you should join R and I for Food Truck Friday in front of The Architect’s Wife. Every Friday we walk over to the store where the parking lot is full of local food truck and locals hanging out. The food is delicious and the showroom always has amazing pieces. Some day I’ll get a new couch…

If we were having coffee this afternoon, we would talk about the Fourth of July. It was pretty much the same events as last year, floating on the Yellowstone, the Livingston Rodeo, but this year we spent a night at Chico as well.  A couple things were different and made it a bit difficult this year, but I still had a great time with great friends. We stayed at the studio again so we didn’t have to worry about driving home. Livingston is such a fun town for the Fourth! Untitled
UntitledUntitled Photo by S.

If we were having coffee this afternoon, I would tell you that I am excited to finally repay all the friends who helped me move apartments. Tonight I am hosting a little BBQ for them.  I should probably leave and go get that ready…

And if we were having coffee this afternoon, I would tell you that I had a lovely birthday. We went to a low key dinner then out for drinks and called it a night. I did get some pretty sweet and unexpected gifts, like a sky projector, a necklace I’ve been meaning to get myself and a bad ass tea cup.  Thanks everyone!



White Sulphur Springs

White Sulphur Springs is a town about an hour and a half north of Bozeman. It is known for it’s annual music festival, Red Ants Pants.  While my mom was here, I thought we could go check out it’s other notable feature, hot springs.  You may be beginning to wonder if I have a problem. But trust me, if you had this many natural hot springs around you, you would also be in one as often as possible, especially in the spring, fall and winter.

Anyway, the day was rainy, perfect for hot springs. My friend had warned me that they were nothing fancy. I would say they are a cross between Chico and Norris,  the pools are cement and tile but the atmosphere is more rustic.  There is a hotel if you want to stay over night and the town is right there, so no need to drive around once you get there.

Maybe a bit rustic…

They have three different pools. Inside is the warmest where the spring comes in. It was around 105 degrees while we were there. We stopped in here first. I’m glad we did, when I tried to sit in it again at the end, I couldn’t take the steam anymore.  The other two pools are outside one is slightly warmer than the other. Both around the 100 degree mark. All in all it was great. The drizzle kept us from over heating. I only had two complaints. One,  is that they need benches in them, the smaller , warmer one outside had more seating areas, but I guess the cooler pool was to be more of swimming pool instead of soaking grounds.

The other complaint is that we should have went to Bar 47 to get our adult milkshakes to take to the springs with us. Bar 47 is just down the street a block and my friend told me we needed to get one. They are delicious.  Mom had the grasshopper and I had the Dirty Girl (AKA a root beer float with alcohol). It would have been wise to have them or some sort of beverage with us in the pool, but even as an after snack they were great.

Main Street- the street was closed for construction

After soaking we went to The Mint for broasted chicken. This was another stop we were told we have to make and that we would probably have to wait at least 30 minutes. We went, we waited, it was delicious. We were in there at an odd time in the afternoon. I guess at one point in time she told someone it would be  at least  three hours before she could put their order in. She can only do one order at a time in that contraption. She also makes your fries in there with the chicken. It was totally worth the wait.



Next time we will order the chicken to go, grab our shakes and take it all the to the hot springs. Lesson learned. And another awesome soak in the books.



Pine Creek Falls

Paradise Valley on the way to the trailhead

Paradise Valley on the way to the trailhead

I did this hike last year but never got around to posting anything about it. A couple weekends ago, we piled into the car and headed to Paradise Valley to see how far we could get on the trail. We knew we would be able to make it to Pine Creek Falls about a mile in. Pine Creek Lake is about five miles up, but there are water crossings that were likely to be too high to cross if the snow didn’t stop us first.

IMG_4104Last year, I stopped at the base of the falls. This year we went the top and then a bit more before our hangovers stopped up. At the top of the falls, you can see out the valley on both ends. Like so much of Montana, it’s beautiful.

IMG_4105The hike to the base is a pretty easy mile. At that point, you have to cross the creek via logs and start climbing up on switch back to the top of the falls. It’s probably about a mile up since you switch back and forth so much, but it is worth it.

IMG_4101This is another one of those easy hikes (to the base) that you can do in a short amount of time with someone visiting. If you want to, you can camp right at the trail head.  Pick a day and hike.

Goldbug Hot Springs

The last weekend in May, after going to Missoula for a Ryan Adams concert, a few friends and I set out for Goldbug Hot Springs in Idaho. The images we saw were amazing. Stepped pools of hot springs hanging out on the side of a mountain. We were told the three mile hike was strenuous. And that we would probably see people skinny dipping since it’s so remote.  It was amazing. Simply amazing.

We started out from Missoula which made our drive there only about three hours, it’s around four hours from Bozeman. We used this article to guide us to the falls. They are just south of Elk Bend, ID. You turn at mile marker 282, there is not a sign, and drive down what looks like a private road. It’s not. At the end there is private land and the trail head. You will walk through private land for about a quarter mile before you’re back on national forest land. The trail climbs pretty quickly with some switchbacks then levels out for about a mile. The last section is pretty straight up, but the hike is only two miles, it’s not as bad as everyone made it sound. It would be brutal in the sun, there was not a lot of shade, but we had a perfect overcast sky.

You climb all the way up the valley – Photo by Noah Bostrom

Once we arrived at the top, we did not run into anyone skinny dipping, through I can see why you would. There was a large family up there. We tried out a few pools and settled on one of the warmer ones for a bit. Once the family left, we took over the larger pool they were in. The temperature was perfect to sit in forever. And there was a waterfall on the side of it that was also perfect. I don’t really know how else to describe it. Go check it out. It’s worth a diversion.

Photo by Noah Bostrom

Photo by Noah Bostrom

Photo by Noah Bostrom

Photo by Noah Bostrom On our way back down we meet a few groups hauling their camping gear in to set up for the night. We chose to camp back down the road, North of Elk Bend, along the Salmon River. It was beautiful. There are a couple of campsites along there, no amenities and it was awesome. We sent up camp, including a hammock and had dinner done in an hour. Perfect car camping.

Photo by Noah Bostrom

Moon Rising

On the way home E and I were on the look out for another adventure, hiking or otherwise. We turned around to go down a promising looking dirt road leading to Vipond Park near Dewey, MT and wound up in an ghost town that was apparently an old silver mine. There was a a saw mill or something up there too.

It was kinda of awesome and one of the wonderful things about Montana.

Ryan Adams in Concert

IMG_4023A couple months ago after a few to several glasses of wine at my friends, a group of us decided we should go to the Ryan Adams show in Missoula. I had wanted to go, but figured I was the only freak in my friends who knew who he was, I was wrong. There was another and two others who thought it sounded like fun.

Fast forward the last Friday in May and we are on our way to Missoula. We knew it was at Big Sky Brewing, but had no idea it was outside and we were passing storms along the way. It turns out that they have a mini festival like space set up behind the brewery and the sky decided to be perfectly clear for the show.

One of the things I miss about New York is going to see bigger names at smaller venues. I’m not a huge fan of the stadium shows that we get out here, but this was just perfect. Apparently I need to check out their summer series because they get some great bands through. Wardell opened for Ryan.  They became the next days road trip music.  Ryan was awesome too.


I had an amazing time hanging out with some great friends and great music in the great outdoors.  I love summer in Montana.