Fur Sale

Fur Rack

To some this may be an off-putting scene but for much of early America’s history, these furs are a prime reason why America became settled. Fur represented warm clothing and survival; everyday wear and even high fashion. The lowly cowhides were used in everyday living (as they are today). They were sought after and merchants and manufacturers paid well to obtain them.

Bridger Fur

Jim Bridger was a man who was synonymous with the term “fur trader.” But broader still was the legacy of where he explored. He was the first white man to see the wonders of Yellowstone and the Great Salt Lake. He counted as his friends Kit Carson, George Custer and John Sutter. He knew the Rockies from Colorado to beyond the Canadian Border. His exploration and advice resulted in  today’s paths over the Rockies – I-80 and the Union Pacific followed the trails he blazed. His name graces towns in both Wyoming and here in this little town: Bridger, Montana.

Bridger, Montana

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Bridger, Montana 45.295781, -108.913754



Sign Language

Main St

Livingston is a much cooler town than this image of its main street. It sits not far from the northern entrance to Yellowstone National Park and as some of the old buildings suggest, it has an architectural heritage that the locals have held on to.


It’s hard to know if some of the signs are old or just newly recreated.


This one stuck out, not just because it allowed me to have fun shooting part of the sign but also it proclaimed a very different era than the feel of the rest of the town.


Some signs are logos. This was the symbol for the Northern Pacific Railroad. At one time thousands of visitors arrived here in Livingston via rail – the Great Northern had a thriving passenger service that continued on to the north edge of Yellowstone.


Some visuals aren’t even signs.

As mentioned, Livingston is a great place to park yourself for a day or two and we’ve almost always made this an overnight spot – the history, the galleries and the fine dining holds you. It’s also a good jump off point for Yellowstone.

Fort Missoula

Though it gained its name because of the US Army’s early presence, Fort Missoula has come to be a final resting place for quite a bit of western Montana’s pioneer history.


Number 7 leads things off as the railroads followed the men into the country to harvest the bounty of nature. The locomotive is an unusual one – a Shay type – the wheels are gear and not piston driven, which means every wheel set supplies power.


The 110 year old Drummond Station used to be 60 miles away. Drummond was a part of the “Milwaukee Road” that ran from Chicago to the Northwest. It was partially the opening of the Panama Canal that doomed this rail company – it became very expensive to build, maintain and power the many miles of mountainous track in the West.


Who knew Library cars were a part of the past. This mostly restored bookmobile was used by the Anaconda Copper Mining lumber department from 1921 to the 1950s.


St. Michael’s Church dates back to 1863. It has been moved three times but looks like it was built where it sits


What appears to be an old homestead is actually 3 different exhibits. The oldest building, at left, dates back to the founding of the fort in 1878 and was the NCO quarters. The homestead cabin at center came from 20 miles away. Incredible to think of the kind of effort that went into gathering all this history. There was much more to see but time and weather conspired to cut things short.

The Aftermath


Lolo Pass has been the site of much history with Indians and Lewis & Clark first bringing attention to this long traveled byway. Unfortunately last summer history was made again when the Lolo Creek Complex fire blew up. Though many homesteads were saved the one above was not. The silent intensity of the snow is quite the counterpoint to the maelstrom that destroyed this home. It was almost 6 months later when I took this picture. There was no apparent effort to even clear the debris and I wondered if the owner had just given up.


For several weeks this fire was the number one fire fighting priority in the US and it became doubly critical when it caused the closure of Lolo Pass (US 12) between Montana and Idaho. Ugly can turn beautiful with a different season.


In some places the fire burned low to the ground – enough to cause this relatively new fence to become something very different.


You can see evidence perhaps of the speed of the fire – only little trees and some low lying branches were torched. With ground forage gone, it’s even more critical to have feed for the ranchers.


This will give you and idea of the feed needed to keep a cattle ranch in business through the winter. With prices hovering around $200 per ton, this scene represents quite an annual investment.

So You Want A Little Winter Do You?

Some places are complaining of unusual winter weather. Just in case you haven’t had your snow yet, here’s a quick trip up the east flank of Lolo Pass in western Montana.


The same guy who had an eye for how beautiful this stone fence (above) would look as he added this and that to it, also had an eye for eye catching signage (below).





It is an oversimplification I’m sure, but it there seemed to be two kinds of ranches as I drove along. Old, above, and new below, both have a beauty.