Monday, July 16, 2012

Montana - A State of Diversity

Montana is a state of great beauty and history.  My husband and I have been taking pictures of all the open Post Offices in Montana since last year.  From July 7 - July 15, nine days, we drove through 2640 miles of northwestern Montana taking pictures of about 60 Post Offices. This trip my stepdaughter joined us.  A friend accompanied us for the first two days of our journey meeting up with his cousin on the second day.

We saw roads and places none of us had ever been on before.  There are so many places we didn't go! This last year has helped me view Montana History in a whole new way.  I believe that place based learning is very important to understanding our history.

There are over 416 active post offices in Montana.  Last summer a friend challenged me to take pictures of all of them.    I have not counted them recently but I think we are sitting at about 300.  For me the post offices are interesting by themselves.  The history and environment of the community is what gives towns their zest and personality.  As we have driven through these communities I have tried to capture their flavor, telling a snippet of their stories with pictures and words.  

July 7th was the first day of our journey.  These were the major goals we had for our trip.
  • Photos of approximately 60 post offices
  • Glacier National Park
  • Photos for the teaching unit - "Girl from the Gulches"
  • Go to Yaak, MT
  • Go to Polebridge, MT
  • Go to Gates of the Mountains
Years ago I lived in Helena, Montana and traveled through the Northwest.  Dan and Peggy had never been to Glacier National Park or the Gates of the Mountains.  These were two places I wanted them to see.  Dan had always wanted to go to Yaak and Polebridge - perhaps two of the most remote spots in our state.

My pictures only capture a small part of the rugged beauty of this area.  I had forgotten how much I missed it.  These last few days renewed my soul.  The western part of the state landscape is so different from the eastern part of the state.  Both are beautiful in their own way.  The western part of the state has mountains and forests.  The eastern part is prairies, and rolling hills - rugged terrain that is reflected by the inhabitants.

Our first stop was Garnet, Montana - a ghost town.  Based on the map we thought it would be just a few miles off the interstate.   After traveling a number of miles we came to a sign that basically said if you have a trailer turn back and try a different road.  We didn't have a trailer so we continued on.  My husband loves exploring roads.  We have gone places that I just close my eyes and pray.  I love the beauty of most of the places we go just not always the getting there.

Part way up the mountain going to Garnet, MT

Someone had a sense of humor when they placed this sign without any other information.  I-90 (Interstate 90) that-a-way.

Garnet Montana was once a thriving mining community that was built in 1895.  Gold strikes during the 1860's brought people to nearby Bear Creek and Bear Gulch.  Like many of its contemporary towns many of the buildings have no foundations but they have lasted over 100 years.  

Garnet, MT today.

While we were there we met a lady who belongs to the Garnet Preservation Society .  We learned that unlike other mining communities Garnet was made up of miners and their families.  Garnet had a school soon after its founding.

The lady from the Garnet Preservation Society also directed us to a better gravel  road and we continued our journey.  Sadly there is no active post office in the Garnet area, there are over 350 people living between the base of the mountain up to the top.  Many are living off the grid.


  1. Your photo journal of post offices might just lead to some great memories as post offices close due to budget deficeits continue to challenge our postal service,  I suspect that many of those "centers of towns" will become relics in the years to come, 

  2. I love your story. I love your photo journal idea. Have you ever considered publishing a book of your journey? 

  3. Storykeeper FerrisJuly 17, 2012 at 6:03 AM

    Yes, that is what I hope to do.  The pictures are almost done now the writing.

  4. "Rugged beauty...renewed my soul..." Your words brought back a long ago adventure, when my husband and I drove west from Indiana, moving to Oregon. Big Sky Montana was the most beautiful place we had ever seen and it left a big impression. Your descriptions and pictures brought it back to mind. I like the sense of history.

  5. Storykeeper FerrisJuly 17, 2012 at 6:47 AM

    I hope you have the opportunity to come back to Montana.

  6. Quests like these are so much fun to do, and so wonderful to read about.  Love the pictures and am excited to see the writing round-up for it.

  7. I have always wanted to visit Montana - now even more so after reading your post. What a great idea, to photograph all the post offices. I look forward to reading your book!

  8. I definitely see a book coming from this adventure. 

  9. What a gorgeous place! I've never been to Montana but seeing those mountains  and your descriptions, sure make me want to go see for myself. 

  10. Fascinating! I love history and would never have thought of Post Offices. Sounds like a wonderful vacation and great that the family is on board with the "hunt". :-)

  11. Wow, how neat that they had a school after they were first founded.  Sad, no post office.  How do they get mail?

  12. I dated a guy from Helena when I was in college - its the only place I've been to in Montana.  I remember I really enjoyed the road trip there.  My sister has a different feeling for Montana.  She road her bike across the country and what she remembers about this state is that it took her 12 days to cross it.
    I love that you are going to publish a book about your travels.


Thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment.