CannonTour - The Armies of Summer (Wildland Firefighting) Pt 1/3

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, Jul 21, 2019.

  1. dtysdalx2

    dtysdalx2 Knowledge is horsepower

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    Where are the pics? :dunno

    J/K. :lol3

    Nice RR.
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  2. Shaggie

    Shaggie Unseen University Supporter

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  3. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Sorry for the delay. I was having a great time at the Central ADV Rally for 10 days. Since it is in the north woods, sometimes the internet connection can be down for a while.
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  4. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 9 Continued

    Heading toward the Granite Ghost Town

    80 mph speed limit is nice on a GSA.
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    I doubt that Mullan ever envisioned that.
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    I see from my GPS that I made a loop through Drummond but I didn't take any pix there. I did note that the town motto was "Home of the Famous Bullshippers".

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    Phillipsburg used to be something back in the days of mining and timber operations. Mines and sawmills closed in the 1980s which left the town hanging. There are 24 ghost towns in the county that are former mining and timber towns. They have some tourism now.
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    Vote Smart operated near here for 16 years.

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    They did win an award for "Best Municipal Makeover" back in 2015 (beating out Reno and Sacramento).
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    1888 Sayrs Building - nicely restored.
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    Kate Bosworth married her man here in 2013. Scarlett Johansson married her boyfriend here in 2014. Scarlett and Kate appeared together in The Horse Whisperer in 1998 (shot in Montana).
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  5. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 9 Continued

    Granite Ghost Town

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    Granite Ghost Town has the remnants of an 1890s silver boomtown.
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    This was once the richest silver mine on earth. Before they hit it big, the backers thought it was a hopeless venture and sent a telegram to shut it down. The telegram was delayed and in the meantime the crew did a last blast that uncovered rich ore that produced $40M. 3,000 miners were here at one time.
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    Union hall.
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    The road to get to Granite rises 1,280 feet and can be narrow, steep, and winding. As usual, steepness doesn't come across well in photos.
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    Part of an aerial tramway.
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  6. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 9 Continued

    On to Anaconda and Deer Lodge

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    Pesky storm that I ended up circling.
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    A couple of dammed up lakes in the area.
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    This roundhouse in Anaconda was used in the film Runaway Train (as was the local railroad).
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    Jon Voight was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor and Eric Roberts was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.


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    In 1903 the Socialist Party scored big with elections here. Related to the labor movement.
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    Lucille Ball lived here for a while as a child. Lizzie Borden's maid spent the rest of here life here. The maid's testimony helped get Lizzie off for the axe murders.
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    A bunch of TV shows and movies used Anaconda as a filming location including Return to Lonesome Dove.

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    Liberal provisions for ATVs/UTVs on highways.
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    Big smelter operations here to process ore from the Butte mines.
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    The Anaconda Smelter Stack is the largest surviving masonry structure in the world.
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  7. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 9 Continued

    Deer Lodge

    Long (but interesting) story of how the Milwaukee Road came to use these "Little Joe Stalin Locomotives". They were intended for export to the Russians.
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    Last spike park.
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    This prison was also used as a filming location for Runaway Train.
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    This ranch was once the center of a 10M acre cattle empire. Now it is a National Historic Site that commemorates the cattle industry.
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    Deer Lodge suffered some contamination from Butte and Anaconda leading to a Superfund site. Big prison town going back to the 1800s.
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  8. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Watching the movie "Always" on cable right now. Involves aerial tankers. I visited some places/things from the movie that I'll cover later. Wow, from 30 years ago.

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  9. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 9 Continued

    On to Helena and the end of the day.

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    Initial attack involves about anything that is a significant initial response to a fire. It can include a combination of resources like an engine/crew, dozer, hand crew and the like.
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    "Forward deployed" station out in the boonies.
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    Haystack
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    Fancy hay stacker.
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    Salvaged bridges.
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    Remember the movie about a joint US-Canadian force they put together in WWII? It really existed and this is where they trained. This location was close to the types of terrain and facilities they needed to train for their intended mission. These guys fought in the Aleutians, Italy, and southern France.
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  10. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 10 517 Miles Helena to Saint Regis

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    Heading up to Mann Gulch
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    There are some fire facilities on the Helena airport so I rolled through there.
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    These folks are pretty proud of the training they offer.
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    Couldn't get to the facilities that were behind the wire, and no aircraft were on the ramp at the tanker base. The base does get quite busy from time to time.
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    Montana State Law Enforcement Academy. It looks like a repurposed institution site.
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    State/county/tribal/etc.
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    Heading up to Gates of the Mountains.
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    The Missouri River cuts through the mountains here.
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    This is where you would enter the canyon headed downstream.
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    This boat club gives tours of the Gates of the Mountains. They used to drop hikers off at the base of Mann Gulch early in the morning and then pick them up late in the day. They aren't doing it anymore.
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    Some exhibit about ranchers that developed the area.
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    Heading in to work the back way to Mann Gulch. Lots of trout fisherman about.
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    There is a large lake backed up behind Holter Dam. Holter was built by a power company to get electricity from the Missouri River. The dam raised the water level about 100'. There is some concern about walleyes spilling over the dam and eating the trout below.
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    I mapped a back way into Mann Gulch that involved hiking over a ridge and entering at the top of the Gulch. The weather was perfect for a hike in (cool and cloudy). It had been raining all night so I wondered about the condition of some of the less developed roads along my route. I stopped and talked to someone from the BLM. First he told me that there was a wilderness area back there. I told him I had that worked out. Then he told me that a few miles ahead the road turned to mud. He said it was a miserable kind of mud that I would not be able to negotiate on a motorcycle. He asked if I had ever experienced that kind of mud. "Yes sir I have . . . and I never want to do it again" as I recalled having to remove a fender to unlock a mud choked wheel in New Mexico after some rain. So much for hiking in. He did say it was possible for me to rent a boat and travel to the base of the gulch and hike in that way. It sounded appealing, since I was already so close, but after I thought it over I thought I'd better skip that since I was solo and it would turn into an all day boat rental and hike up steep terrain.

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    Once again, this tells the story better than I can.


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    This is the book that first got me interested in wildland firefighting. Same guy wrote A River Runs Through It.
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    Mann Gulch
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    After I spoke with the BLM guy, I wondered if these vultures that were watching me knew about the impassible roads. :D
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    Oh well . . . maybe next time.
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  11. siyeh

    siyeh unproductive Supporter

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    Montana gumbo has wrecked a few of my adventures
    horrible stuff
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  12. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 10 Continued

    Heading to Kalispell
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    Craig isn't much of a town. Lots of fly fishing stuff.
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    Old grade is visible.
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    Stopped at a wayside here. While chatting with another fellow, we heard an elk bugle a few times.
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    Flathead Lake is a natural lake leftover from the glaciers. It is the largest west of the headwaters of the Missouri.
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    Coming into Kalispell.
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    Chuck Conrad Mansion. Supposed to be famous for architecture.
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    Depot.
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    Downtown
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    McGregor Lake is supposed to be one of the finest trout fishing waters in Montana.
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    Construction, pilot cars, and long delays.
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  13. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 10 Continued

    Libby Helibase and the filming location for the air tanker base for the movie "Always".

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    Support for the Firehawk includes a semi truck fuel trailer, a crew trailer, and a maintenance truck.
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    The Libby Airport was used as a filming location for the air tanker base in the movie "Always". The movie company built this tower for the 1989 film. Trees have grown up around it over the past 30 years.
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    This base has heli-rappel capability.
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    This guy is from Wisconsin and his family is in the next city over from me.
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    The aircraft is loaded and ready to deploy a firecrew.
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    Firefighting tools are ready to be lowered down on a line after the heli-rappelers go out.
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    The aircraft has a fancy rig for securing rappelling lines.
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    One modification includes this step.
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    The latest descender for letting down on a rope. By the way, these ropes are inspected for wear and damage after each use. Sometimes a single use can take a rope out of service.
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    The rope is in a bag when it goes over the side. The bag sometimes moves around on the ground in the rotor wash. As I mentioned earlier, the rappelers lean back on the skid until they are somewhat inverted to avoid catching a face full of skid.
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    The rig in the upper left corner of the picture is for lowering cargo on a line.
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    Lowering line.
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  14. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 10 Libby Base Continued

    Heli-rappelers.
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    The folks here mentioned that the temporary tower constructed for the movie is no longer in very good shape. Kind of rickety.
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    I asked about communications on a fire with all the mountains around. They told me there are repeaters positioned on mountaintops in the area to facilitate comms. They just flew up to one of them them to replace a battery on a solar unit.
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    Same old basic panel. One pilot flies this from the left seat.
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    A single pilot can have his or her hands full from time to time.
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    Pilots and mechanics come with the contract aircraft. They are qualified for the activities they participate in as pilots. The pilot is the guy on the right. He was a logger (on the ground) for 20 years in a heli-logging operation. After a while he figured it might be better to fly and worked his way into that. Usually this involves starvation wages just for the opportunity to build hours. Once he had sufficient hours and skill he was able to work contracts like this one.
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    Took a closer look at this Firehawk.
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    These guys don't fly firefighters (although I heard of one Firehawk that does - although I don't know how they got approval). Restricted aircraft.

    The pilot puts his helmeted noggin in this blister to line up bucket drops. I think their bucket is about 900 gallons. The co-pilot has a camera that can allow the co-pilot to dip and drop from time to time.
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    I asked where this Blackhawk came from since there aren't too many available to the public right now. They said it used to be a Hong Kong police helicopter. I learned that the US Gov't is now auctioning off some Blackhawks to private owners. They require a lot of dollars to get them where they need to be for these kinds of missions.
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    This aircraft only works from airports when it deploys. It does not land in the bush.
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    It has huge capacity for cargo (like slinging blivets) and water drops, but it is expensive to fly making smaller aircraft more reasonable options for some missions.
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    Pretty clear plastic. Must take a lot of maintenance to keep it that way.
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    This picture reminded me I have a scar in my scalp from a Blackhawk from my military days. Should have had a helmet on in the cabin.
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    The dip and drop bag that hangs beneath the helicopter is on a cart. When they go out they use a couple of loading ramps to wheel the cart into the cabin where they tie it down. When they get to an airport close to the scene of the fire, they rig it and go to work.
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  15. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 10 Continued

    Toward St Regis and the end of the day.

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    Libby is proud of their giant frying pan. The pan was forged by the crew that was building the nearby Libby Dam. It was used a festivals and fairs to cook oysters, fish, and sometimes 75 dozen eggs at a time. 18 inches deep, 11 feet wide, and 24.5 feet from end to end. Too much to maintain so now it is an exhibit.
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    Libby is known as the City of Eagles.
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    The Libby Depot is supposed to resemble a Swiss chalet.
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    Amtrak service here.
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    At one time a vermiculite mine here was producing 80% of the vermiculite in the world. The vermiculite here contains asbestos and mine byproducts were used in local buildings and landscaping. This created a problem for the population with asbestosis. As best as I know nearly 10% of the population died from asbestos contamination. The EPA spent about $425M n superfund money cleaning up this area and nearby Troy.

    They made a documentary about this.


    Article about it.

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    Turnout at Kootenai Falls.
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    Hike back to the falls.
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    I came to see the swinging bridge. It didn't work out.
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    I only got a glimpse of the water here.
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  16. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 10 Continued

    To St Regis and end of day.

    This lake is where they filmed the A-26 going into the lake scene in "Always".
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    Some hydro projects along the way.
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    I wasn't quite sure what the limit was. :dunno
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    Thompson Falls hosts the Thompson Falls dam(s). There used to be natural falls here.
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    A nice ride along the river.
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    If indigenous people have been hunting here for thousands of years, they must have finally gotten that last sheep since I didn't see any in the sheep viewing area.
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    End of day in Saint Regis.
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  17. chudzikb

    chudzikb Long timer Supporter

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    Since you did not mention it, I will, the Lake Flathead region is known for cherries. And they are fantastic! You might not have been there at the right time, but, we have, and they are some of the best cherries we have ever had, period. Next time...
  18. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Of course, it is important to dry any water from the cherries during the last few weeks of the ripening process to prevent absorption of the water through the skin and splitting of the cherries. Some use helicopters for that (as I'll cover when he we get to Washington). :D
  19. chudzikb

    chudzikb Long timer Supporter

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    Who knew cherry drying was a thing? Once again, I have learned something new. And for that I thank you!
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  20. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 11 Saint Regis to Sandpoint 251 miles

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    Heading toward Wallace.
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    Nice ride on the interstate.
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    This tree nursery started up in 1907 (before the Big Burn).
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    Now it is a visitor center with cabin rentals. Each room in the visitor center has hand carved ceiling tiles.
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    I wondered why the CCC statues seemed to often show a worker with his shirt off. Turns out Frankie Roosevelt ordered up standard statues to be placed around the country where the CCC operated.
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    Rentals on the campus.
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    Montana's largest gift shop.
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    Ski hill at the top of the pass.
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    I'll cover much more about the 1910 fire, Wallace, Pulaski, and the like in the bit.

    This book is a good read about the 1910 fire. It is also an excellent introduction to the issues involved with the fledgling forest service versus the robber barons and the politics of public lands.
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    The American Experience (PBS) did a film about The Big Burn that is worth a watch.

    Trailer.


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    I'll cover a few things from a previous trip about mining, disaster, and labor issues in the area over the years.
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    Speaking of labor issues, Hecla's Lucky Friday Mine is dealing with a strike.
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    The location was discovered in 1880. Production began in 1942.
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    I blotted out the names.
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    The mine produces silver, lead, and zinc.
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