Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pretty Town, Pretty Lakes - Helena, MT

Sunday, June 17 - Wednesday, June 20, 2016
Big Timber - Helena, Montana

Other than a drive from Big Timber to Bozeman to revisit Un Knotted (where the owner/chef gives us cookies for the road), and to check out the historic district, our Sunday is quiet as expected. With one exception.

Bill and Tessa encounter this aggressive Bull Snake. Bill is a big reptile fan - Tessa is definitely not!
Monday is another quick drive day so we are moving slow getting ready. When we pull in the slides our full-side slide is also moving slowly. I'm hoping it's weak 30 amp but am not optimistic.

Hwy 287 is a nice two-lane road that takes us north to Montana's capital city, Helena. We're here for four days with no real plans.

Lincoln Road RV Park is less than a mile off I-15 where we have FHUs and 50 amp. Unfortunately that doesn't make a difference for the slide which crawls out and stops before completely opening.
This makes me so unhappy :-(
It's time to call our extended warranty people and find a local repair place. I really hate slide issues.

Tuesday morning at 8 am Tessa has a grooming appointment. While she's getting all pretty, I visit what is described as a "must-see" in Helena. The St Helena Cathedral in the historic district. Regardless of your belief system, this is a moving place.

Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth is one of my favorite epic novels. I have loved grand cathedrals ever since.

A grand old lady
The windows are beautiful from the outside - but wait 'til you see them inside!
The corner stone was laid in October 1908 with construction completed in 1924. The last of the incredible stain glass windows was installed in 1926.

Stairs leading to this balcony area are closed, but even from far below it is spectacular.
As the sun moves across the sky, the colors must dance around the room all day

Wonderful detail in every pane
The colors are still so vivid
The size is intimidating, but it is a very peaceful place
The pipes of the organ fill two sides of the altar area. The organist begins playing. Wow. The bells in the tower ring in nine o'clock. Double wow!

One of two large corners filled with organ pipes
I light a candle for peace and tolerance and head outside. A group of bikers in full black leathers is entering as I leave. Makes me smile.

The church has additional buildings nearby
Not sure when we stopped caring what our structures look like :-(
The neighborhood is an urban hikers' dream, filled with flashy Victorians, stoic Craftsman, small Queen Anne cottages, and large Second Empire homes. Gardens, statuary and old ornate fences add even more interest.

Many of the homes have plaques describing the historic significance.

Quiet but very intense :-)

There is a whole lot going on just on the little balcony!
This mid size pink and gray is my favorite
Not a grand cathedral, but the little Presbyterian church is lovely

I'm sure the neighborhood gardeners are much less delighted by this visitor than I am
I check out the Last Chance Gulch area, stopping for a latte' at Tower Coffee. After a few minutes a woman asks to join me. She says she loves to meet new people. Sounds good, please have a seat.

Dana was in a car accident 40 years ago, smashing the right side of her skull, destroying her eye, causing the whole side of her face to droop. Add to this an over-sized bulbous nose and a single light gray eye. She tells me the look is going to catch on soon and I should remember where I saw it first! Yes, she is a delightful character whose company I enjoy for about 20 minutes. We walk out together and say good-bye with a big hug. You just never know what delightful spirits will cross your path.

Beautiful stone work on these old buildings
This one's for Sherry :-))
Large murals tell the city's history
When buildings were also billboards
Tessa is done earlier than expected and we go pick up Bill to check out the nearby lakes. The new (April 2014) campground at White Sandy Recreation Area is all dry camping with a couple water spigots and a dump station. Black Sandy State Park has a small campground on the water with electric hookups at each site. People are jammed together with awnings touching their neighbor's RV, but boats are tied up in the water just feet from their door. If we had a boat we'd think it was perfect. 

Spiffy summer cut - she has eyes!
White Sandy area of Houser Lake
Beautiful on the surface, invasive weeds fill the bottom, reaching nearly to the surface :-(
Lake Houser is very full
Three gates of the dam release water back to the Missouri River
Massive cliffs line the river canyon
We take I-15 north to Wolf Creek, stopping along the way to check out fishing spots. There are a couple good ones, but it's too hot without any shade.

The water is clear, but the reflections turn the surface bright green
Beetles have left their mark on this old log by the creek
A quick stop at Holter Lake on our way back takes us to a small marina with a large parking lot. Not a boat on the lake, but there are dozens of trailers in the lot. Many more trailers than boats in the marina. On their website I see that a large canyon, Gates of the Mountains, opens at the top of the small lake, where the missing boats must be enjoying what is described as "one of the best scenic stretches of river in the west". Boat tours leave the marina several times a day through September. We might have to do this next time!

The Gates open at the top of the lake

Lake Holter on the Missouri River
I didn't have a chance to see Reeder's Alley when I was downtown in the morning, so I suggest a late lunch there. We find Karmadillo's at the top of the Alley where we have scrumptious tacos and a nice visit with the owner.

A small area (alley, not street) full of early mining history
Bachelor size rooms
Built into the hillside below Mt Helena
Happy to find a shady spot
Patio is twice the size of inside - lovely views
In a town of beautiful architecture, the Civic Center may be the most unique. Half mosque, half missile pad.

Back home Bill checks the control box on the large slide and finds no fault light. Dang! He keeps trouble shooting though, and after a bit yells "Try it again!"

It works!! Something to do with crimped or loose wires, I don't even want to know. I'm just so happy I don't have to deal with warranties and repair places. My hero again :-))))
Wednesday is supposed to be in the high 90's so I suggest a movie. The new Star Trek movie is only playing in the evening, so we go to see Independence Day. But we see Ghostbusters because ID isn't showing today. 

We love the movie! Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wigg are as wonderful and funny as always, but for me, Kate McKinnon steals the show. The cameos are very fun, and Chris Hemsworth has a great time not saving the world! 

Lunch was so yummy on Tuesday, and the owner told us about their special chorizo-clam chowder they would be cooking the next day, so we return to Karmadillos.

I haven't said anything about the Jeep, not wanting to jinx it. Although the Check Engine light came back on the day after we took it to the last dealer, it has been running fine. Until now.

Same thing, cutting out at low speeds, worse with the A/C. I'm beyond fed up with it. It's not filters, or plugs, or anything else that shows up when being worked on. Of course it didn't do this again until we forked out the money for all new tires, but I'm looking at newer Jeeps along our route!

Helena has been a nice town to get some things done, and see some very pretty sights. It is also our turn-around spot for beginning our trip east. 

The plan is still to see New England in the Fall, and end up in New Orleans for Christmas. 


  1. Jodee, the Cathedral is absolutely gorgeous. Have the pictures you have taken. Ending positive vibes for a quick solution on your jeep.

    1. You would love the feel of the place-and the organ made it even better. Thanks, we've spent so much to be told they can't find anything I'm really frustrated.

    2. Sorry for all the typos. Lol.. Hope they fixed it. Sending lots of love.

  2. Its 66 degrees in the North Coast of Oregon. :)

    1. We were there last summer and I think we'll be back there next summer - best place to be in the whole country!!

  3. Oh my, Jodee...that cathedral is outstanding! Must see! The buildings in town are also beautiful.

    Miss Tessa is adorable!

  4. That Cathedral is definitely beautiful inside and out. Although I cringe at the amount of money spent on these that could have gone to help the poor, they are certainly works of art and sitting quietly inside them is a moving experience. Love Tessa’s new do. She looks great. So glad to hear your slide is back to working. I thought we had trouble with our hydraulics but it sounds like I’m glad our jacks and slides aren’t electric. Is it possible to boondock with such a system? Not so glad to hear the jeep still can’t be diagnosed and fixed. What year is it? I’ve heard a lot of pretty terrible things about the reliability of Jeeps as in Just Empty Every Pocket. I am really wanting one as a toad but my #1 criteria for any motor vehicle is that it virtually never has to go into the shop. For that reason I’ve had Hondas for over 30 years. Maybe I should look in to some heavy duty 4WD Honda. HA!

    1. We can move the slides on just our batteries, but they move much faster and smoother when we're hooked up. We only figured that out after a few months :-) Our Jeep has 120k miles on it and I was really hoping for 200K - but like the motorhome, the hardest thing is finding someone who knows how to work on it. Dealerships have been useless. Wish Honda made a trail-rated vehicle that towed four down!

    2. Boy you and me too about Honda. Thanks for the shout out. I do absolutely love that building. You are so right that it's been years since we cared at all to build beautiful buildings. The only feasts for the eyes are older ones taken well care of.

  5. I may not be a church goer but do appreciate some of the fine detailed architecture and the stained glass. This whole town has some fine buildings. Tessa looks even more adorable than usual. Boat ride up a canyon sounds like fun. I too try to put slides in and out when plugged in for quicker easier. Good luck on toad hunting.

    1. So much amazing architecture here. Tessa thanks you :-) Fingers crossed for the toad.

  6. Wow Helena loos like a great stop for some urban hiking...

    1. Such a pretty little town! Found a newer downtown district too that's just as nice to walk.

  7. Love the Cathedral. It is gorgeous. I can't say I love the snake though. I don't care what kind,I don't want them close.

    1. :-))) We grew up in the desert and had snakes as pets all the time - so we love seeing them when we can.

  8. Tessa looks so pretty all groomed:) I do believe she likes it, too! I see her smiling:)

    The Cathedral is gorgeous! Love those stain glass windows. How neat hear the organ:)

    We've never been to Helena. What a nice little city. Beautiful homes!

    The mountain lakes look so cool and inviting...ahhhh!

    As you come east the Thor factory is on the way. Maybe time for some serious slide overhaul. Wires shouldn't get in the way! Glad it was an easy fix:)

    1. Yes on Elkhart for a stop on our way. The easy fix was short lived :-(

    2. You are really ready for some knock down drag outs with Thor!! They need to give you a whole new slide. You have been through so much with that darn thing! Sure hope they have a good answer:)

  9. Helena looks like a beautiful town—I love wandering and looking at architecture of various eras. And I always enjoy stopping in a cathedral for a few moments of quiet reflection. So lovely that you lit a candle for peace and tolerance and had tea with an interesting local. Tessa is adorable, as always. :-)

    1. Dana certainly made my visit to town a delightful one!

  10. Your photos of Helena makes me add it to the list of places I could live.

    1. It really has everything! Locals say they don't get that much snow, but not sure what "that much" is :-) At least there aren't any snow fences along the freeways.

    2. No snow fences along the freeways is a very encouraging sign ... thanks. :)

  11. Helena looks like a need town and pretty area. I sure do love walking historic neighborhoods like those!

    1. Me too! And there are usually established trees lining the street making an even nicer walk in the summer - which was the case in Helena.

  12. Thanks for the tour of Helena, when we were there we didn't want to head into town, just hit up Walmart and Costco. Next time we're out there we'll have to check out the city. looks like some lovely walking tours.

    1. Funny, our plan was pretty much the same but then we found all this cool stuff!! Definitely worth a second look :-)

  13. I found your blog via the link on Becky's blog. So glad I found it. I spent a lot of time in Helena. My dad being a teacher took summers off so we would go fishing on the Madison River. When we needed a break we would stay with an aunt in Helena who lived close to the Cathedral. You brought back memories.

    1. Glad to have you join us! Your aunt lived(s) in a beautiful area - those homes by the cathedral are fabulous!!

  14. Had no idea there could be a grand cathedral like that in a place like Helena, Montana. We've seen a lot in Europe, but not many in North America. Enjoy reading your story, which I joined at the start, but have to admit I rarely comment.