B & I and some good friends decided to take a day trip up into the mountains outside of Virginia City several days ago. Our friends were Gary & Cathy Forney, and Harry & Jane Yeomans. We all have interest in these mountains, for both their mining history and their considerable scenic beauty. As you know, SW Montana, and particularly Virginia City, was a gold-mining hotbed from the early 1860’s through the turn of the century. Our trip took us up famous Alder Gulch, a gulch which stretches south from Virginia City to the base of Baldy Mountain, 8 miles away.
A dictionary defines “day Tripper” thusly –
“Day Tripper” was a typical play on words by Lennon:
“Day trippers are people who go on a day trip, right? Usually on a ferryboat or something. But [the song] was kind of … you’re just a weekend hippie. Get it?”
Weekend hippies?? Well, okay. Not how we really saw ourselves, but what the hell, right? It was a day trip…
This day trip took us up into the Northern tip of the Gravelly Range Mountains, up around 8200 feet in altitude. This is the stomping grounds for moose and black bear. Over the years I’ve seen quite a few of each. There are many old mines and remains of buildings up there as well, and we visited two of the largest… the Cristenot Mill and the Marietta Mine.
The tall pines are still but for the occasional warning of a red squirrel. The silence has a power to it that gets one’s attention. The feeling of timelessness is there as well. Then add the sense of man’s presence there in the brief time these mountains were inhabited. There is an added sense of history in most of these old remains, and a sense of failure. For as much as these hills gave up in gold in the 1860’s, ($30,000,000 in a 3-year stretch) the cost of human life was high, and by no means did the miners get all there was to get.
The Rockies can be as soft and inviting of a warm summer’s afternoon as they can be frozen and deadly on a fierce winter’s day. They are as extreme, from season to season, as the human body can stand… perhaps more so. In this knowledge, one cannot help but feel totally alive in the Rockies’ high, remote stands of timber. And in that, a reminder of how vulnerable, and how small we all are. My Rockies provide a constantly humbling experience which is strangely cleansing in its relentless assistance in redefining who we are… and who we aren’t.