Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Hello from Wisdom, Montana!

Start time: 0730

Start odometer: 20894

Weather: Thin overcast sky, cleared as day progressed, temperature 19 degrees F., peaking at 52.


I had a good day of sightseeing and driving, and decided to get into position to see the Big Hole National Battlefield tomorrow.  In a Fodor's guide to America's National Parks, it was mentioned that lodging was available in this town.  I stopped at the Nez Perce Motel and met a very nice couple, Barb and Wayne Challoner, the owners.  They are originally from Wisconsin, and after a few years in Alaska, they bought a motel and settled in Wisdom.  They enjoy the peace and lifestyle present here.


After spending time talking and meeting some of the people here, it looks like I found another great town!  Wisdom, Montana, with a population of 120, is located in southwestern Montana in the Big Hole Valley, Beaverhead County, at the junction of Routes 43 and 278.  According to Barb and Wayne, with an altitude of 6050 feet, it can get pretty cold here, and can snow every month of the year!  In fact, they had a real good snow in June, which help much due to the recent drought.  The town supports local ranchers, tourists, and hunters.  Numerous outdoor activities are available here.  At the suggestion of the motel owners, I had dinner at Letty's, a local bar and cafe.  I had the "special," an excellent home style pork chop dinner with fried apples, baked potato, mushrooms, freshly made chicken noodle soup, and soda.  Total cost: $9.00 (no tax in Montana!)  and it was delicious!


The day started with a partial view of the sun as it rose above the horizon, through breaks in the overcast sky.  I drove back to the Craters of the Moon National Monument this morning to hike some of the trails.  It was a bit cool, and the wind, while much less than yesterday, was still strong enough to enhance the chilly temperature.  I hiked several trails, including an interpretive trail, a path up to the top of Inferno Cone to see a 360 degree view of the landscape, and out to a tunnel and several caves.  As I said yesterday, this is a very unique and unusual landscape.  As with much of this trip, it was also educational.


Click on picture for larger image, hit back button to return to this page.

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Entrance sign.

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An interesting tree along the trail.

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Remnants of the volcano that broke off and traveled in the lava flows.

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From the top of Inferno Cone, snow capped mountains can be seen in the distance.

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I found the lava flows had created many remarkable shapes and forms.

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The first tunnel I visited.

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A warning sign at the entrance.

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From inside looking out.  I traveled about one hundred feet inside the tunnel.

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Two entrances were available to travel separate directions.

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This cave was longer, but due to some frost loosened rocks on the ceiling, there was a restriction to the distance permitted to travel.

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Another look at the entrance to Beauty Cave.

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From the inside looking out.  I had my flashlight, but these caves, formed from lava tubes, absorbed much of the light, making it difficult to see far in the cave.

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The path through the flows.  This was a similar view on several of the paths.

After a few hours in the park, I returned to Arco.  I was interested in following up on some of the items I learned yesterday.  But first, I washed the car!  I was driving with mud collected from my drive through the City of Rocks.  I then drove to the Nuclear Power Testing area southeast of town.  As you look out over the level land, you see many facilities, all belonging to The Department of Energy's Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory.  The tract of land used is more than three quarters the of Rhode Island, and is home to more nuclear reactors, and more different kinds of reactors, than anywhere else in the world!  In the summer, they offer tours of the first nuclear reactor to provide power to a town (Arco.)  I drove to the site and took a few pictures, as shown below.  Afterwards, I headed back to town and stopped at the Idaho Science Center.  This is the location where the town plans to set up displays and artifacts concerning items related to the scientific discoveries and technical highlights in which Arco was involved.  This is the current location of the "sail" of the USS Hawkbill, a nuclear submarine.

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Description of Arco's place in history.

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Explanation of the laboratory..

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This is one of the facilities set back from the road.

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This building is now a registered historical landmark.

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Using the parking spaces for perspective, you can see the building is not large.

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In the fifties, this organization was given the challenge to develop a nuclear propulsion system that would allow extended flight or travel across land/water.  This is one prototype.

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This was a second prototype.  In 1961, President Kennedy cancelled the project.  It was almost complete at that time, as they were awaiting the construction of a runway on which to test.

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A side view of the first prototype.  Note the thrust exhausts at the lower right of the picture (covered with metal disks.)

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Back in Arco, here are parts of the "sail" of the USS Hawksbill.

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Other pieces of the submarine.

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A missile, though I am unsure if it was on the Hawksbill.

I departed Arco to the north, following US 93.  This is a very scenic drive that takes you though nice small towns, along the Salmon River, through beautiful canyons like the Grand View Canyon, and into the Bitterroot range.  Many roadside displays are provided along the route discussing the history of the region.  At certain elevations, the fall colors were still present on the trees, and on several occasions, the rocks were imbedded with remarkable colors.

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The town of Mackay with a pretty backdrop!

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An earthquake display is just two miles off the road.  This, as well as the following two panels, provides some information about the quake.


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Borah Peak is the highest point in Idaho.

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The results of the quake.

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In this picture, you can see part of the scarp that extends for twenty one miles.

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Looking the opposite direction of the previous picture.

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Back on Route 93, another panel discusses the earthquake of 1983.

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Borah Peak, from the earthquake display area.

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Borah Peak from Highway 93, with a descriptive panel.

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I found the Challis airport "tower!"  Or is this the observation deck?  Look at the bench seat on the top!

When leaving Challis, a sign was draped above the road which read "We are still what America once was."

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A view along Route 93.

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Another view from the road.

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Descriptive panel along the road.

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Towards the top of Lost Trail Pass, the temperature dropped to the mid twenties, allowing the snow to remain on the road.


Thursday morning will take me to the Big Hole National Battlefield.  It will be a good day of learning American History.  I then plan to head north towards Missoula, where I will pick up Route 12 west.  Still looking at Deer Lodge as another possible stopover for a museum visit.  Thanks for viewing the page.

Routes traveled today: US 20 - US 93 - Montana 43

Lodging: Nez Perce Motel - 102438.jpg (23608 bytes)

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Copyright 2001 Igor N. Nikishin

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