October 2nd – 3rd
In the morning we continued on Quartz Hill Road, descending down toward Dewey on Highway 43, along the Big Hole River. We passed the Lone Pine Mine and miner’s cabins on the down. We stopped and walked around and took some photos.
We traveled along Hwy. 43 until we reached the Pioneer Scenic Byway and took this road south. This was also a road tour with numerous historical markers and a story about the foreigners that settled along the valley. Upon reaching the end of the byway, we headed Northwest to pick up Hwy. 43 toward the Bitterroot Valley. We stopped along Hwy. 43 at the Big Hole National Battlefield, where the 7th Calvary fought the Nez Perce Indians in another poorly planned battle. We watched a video in the NPM Visitors Center and walked one of three trails out to the site where the tepees were located. This was a very informative stop. This battle was shortly after the Battle of the Little Bighorn and Custer’s 7th Calvary.
We continued to Hwy. 93 and the Bitterroot Valley. We drove past Darby, Mt. and up to Hamilton, MT. and the Bitterroot Brewery for an early dinner.
After dinner we returned to Darby and Lake Como where we camped in Three Frogs Campground overlooking Lake Como. Nestled in among large Ponderosa Pines, we had a beautiful place to camp. There is a paved walking trail 30’ – 40’ above the lake and we took Sarah for a 2 mile hike. Off season camping produced another free night.
October 3rd – 4th Hamilton, Skalkaho Pass, Philipsburg, Rock Creek, & Big Timber
Today was Susan’s birthday, so we drove back up to Hamilton, stopped at SafeWay to re-supply and then take Susan for a birthday breakfast. We had a large breakfast and as we were leaving noticed people looking in the bakery case. There was a cinnamon roll, larger than a brick. I now wish I had bought it because it would have been a great breakfast for the next day.
We took Hwy. 93 back south for approximately a mile and picked up Hwy 38, the Skalkaho Pass. This was a beautiful drive, with rain, fog, and some snow, even though nothing accumulated on the ground. The pass is through the Sapphire Range. There were some very sharp turns and had five vehicles pass in the opposite direction. Again there was nothing painful with the passes on the single lane road. I surprised Susan with Skalkaho Waterfall. As we round a curve there it was. We were able to get some nice photos from the truck.
We drove onto Philipsburg. It was raining and we walked around town before stopping at the Philipsburg Brewing Company.
They didn’t serve lunch so we walked down to the local barbeque restaurant and pick up lunch to go before returning to the brewery for a beer and our lunch. After lunch we stopped at the chocolate store and picked some huckleberry taffy and chocolate treats for desert. We visited the local gem store and I got Susan a gift for her birthday If we had more time we could have spent several hours walking through town and visiting the old mining operations.
It was time to head on for Rock Creek and our campground. I had a date with the creek and wanted to get a couple of hours of fishing in. It rained the rest of the day and the roads were muddy and filled with pot holes. It was a pretty drive even with the rain. We passed the Morgan-Case Homestead Cabin and the Hogback Homestead Cabins on our way to Bitterroot Flat Campground. We found a nice place in the campground. The rain continued and I located a place to access the creek. After getting my waders on I had to climb down a steep embankment. Once I got down I put my rod together and waded out. I fished for approximately 1-1/2 hours. The temperature started dropping and by the time I decided to put the rod up it was 37 degrees and raining. My hands were numb. I again didn’t get even a nibble. We spent the night huddled in the camper and fell asleep listening to the rain hitting the roof.
Raining, 37 degrees, the old college try
In the morning we packed up and headed north up Rock Creek Road. The road was worse than we had ever seen. I was probably averaging 4-5 mph. The pot holes were deep and the road not maintained. It was a blessing when we hit paved road for the last 11 miles. It took us almost 2 hours to get from our campsite to I-90. We continued east on I-90 to Hwy 1 (Piltner Veterans Scenic Byway) and turned South. We climbed to approximately 8,500 feet over one mountain pass. The snow was sticking on the ground and in the pine trees.
Pass through the Flint Creek Range
The route follows the northern shoreline of Georgetown Lake, a beautiful mountain lake tucked away at the base of the Anaconda Range. The route also passes through the beautiful Philipsburg Valley and follows Flint Creek. In short, the drive is one heck of a lot nicer than following trucks down Interstate 90.
The Anaconda-Pintler Scenic Route is a designated Montana scenic route. The full length of the route is sixty-four miles (between Interstate 90 outside of Anaconda and Drummond, Montana). The actual designated scenic route, though, is fifty-five miles in length and runs between Anaconda and Drummond.