My family lets me chose where we are going to stay and what we are going to do. I always worry about my selection of activities and lodging because I (unnecessarily) feel like the success of the trip is up to me. Well, so far I have hit a homerun!!!
We spent our first night in Deer Lodge, Montana. I wanted to be near Grant-Kohrs National Historic Site. http://www.nps.gov/grko/index.htm What an amazing National Park! I purposely planned a less busy day so that we could get adjusted to our new surroundings and time zone. I am so glad that I did because we ended up spending 5 hours at a park that is usually seen in much less time.
The park was virtually empty so the park rangers were more than willing to spend an extraordinary amount of time with our family. The kids picked up the booklets for the Jr. Rancher program and they even had one for me. (They called it the Senior Rancher program. The name needs a little work for those of us who don’t consider ourselves that old!) The house is perfectly restored with over 30,000 artifacts from the family. It was surprising to find a Victorian household in the middle of Montana ranch country. Beautiful! An added bonus….a recipe that belonged to Augusta Kohrs had been translated from her native German into English and a photocopy was given out. I will be making Mahogany Cake sometime in the future.
We then headed over to the chuckwagon to learn about what life was like on a cattle drive. Ken offered us some cowboy coffee that he made that morning (very good) and proceeded to give us the best ranger presentation that I have had at any of the other National Parks we have visited…including Denali in Alaska! Ken was a 4th grade teacher in his previous life and knew exactly how to get the kids involved and interested. We learned so much!
After a lunch break (we brought sandwich ingredients with us) we headed back to the main part of the ranch to see some more of the buildings. Chuckwagon Ken was walking around and he offered to take us into the wagon barn and proceeded to show us about the different types of wagons that were used on the ranch. We also got to meet the bulls of the ranch….from behind the fence.
There is a small gift shop with some very affordable items. We picked up some postcards and a couple of hoof picks that were made in the blacksmith shop on site (only $2.50!)
We left the ranch and headed straight to prison. The Old Montana Prison http://www.pcmaf.org/ is actually a collection of museums. We took a self-guided tour of the immense facility. It was not a nice place to call home but as a tour it was fun…in a creepy sort of way.
Once you exit the prison you can cross the gift shop and enter the car museum. I have to admit I was skeptical about a car museum attached to a prison in a small town in Montana but WOW! It is a massive collection of cars from the earliest models all the way up to sports cars.
When you leave the prison/car museum make sure that you stop for an ice cream cone at the Prison Cow. The ice cream is local and the waffle cones are made on site every day! Sean had huckleberry, Clare had caramel apple and Ryan had lemon custard. YUMMY!!!