Journey back to the Old West in Virginia City, Montana via the Skalkaho Scenic Highway

Mileage Today:     338             Total Mileage: 2518

We were up early and away from Bigfork.  On the road by 815,  I drove the first 150 miles to Hamilton and Bob picked it up for the Skalkaho Pass road.   It was a long drive today but a very enjoyable one.

Nice drive down the length of Flathead Lake and then south through Missoula.  Nice scenery all the way and not much traffic.

The Skalkaho Scenic Highway is a narrow 50 mile road, that runs through the Bitterroot National forest and over peaks up to 7250 feet.  About 20 miles of it is gravel on dirt road and all of it has serious drops on the outside and with no guardrail!!!!  It was a fantastic drive,  Lots of it through dense old woods, then breaking out to enormous views down the valleys.  Some areas on the other side of the valley had clearly been in a fire some time ago, the trees standing like black poles.  There were a lot of small brooks and streams running along.

About half way, we came to Skalkaho Falls, a big cascade that comes down the mountain beside the road and then disappears under it to come out on the other side.  We made this our lunch stop.  Finished off the rotisserie chicken from last night.  As we were finishing up, another car came along – one of the very few we encountered.  Had a chat to the family.

Highly recommend this route.  It is MT 38 just south of Hamilton and it brings you out near Phillipsburg.  link

We journeyed on towards Virginia City, Nevada.  Virginia City and Nevada City only 1.5 miles up the road from it, are two semi ghost towns.  In 1863 some very down on their luck gold prospectors camped in Alder Gulch and that night they struck it rich, one of the largest finds ever.  They tried and failed to keep it secret.  Within a few months there were huge numbers digging in the region and soon it was a town of 10,000 people.  It became the state capital.  There were loads of saloons, brothels, a school a Masonic Temple, a newspaper.  It was a lawless, riotous place where vigilantes held sway.   By the 1880s it was all over( having extracted billions in gold in today’s money)  and hardly anyone remained, but enough did, that Virginia City became frozen in time.  It was declared a national historic monument in the 1960s,  There are lots of exhibits here and activities and quite a few original guesthouses. Virginia City website

We had  booked into the Fairweather Inn, an establishment dating back to the 1800s fairweather Inn

I managed to snag one of the rooms with private bath although there seem to be a lot of other bathrooms along the hall and it’s quiet here so sharing would not have been so bad.  It’s all very quaint and staffed by old dears in period costume on the front desk.  Or maybe that was just their clothes…….

It’s so hot today… 35C.  Glad the room has a/c.

Walked around Virginia City this evening.  It really is a living museum in the nicest way.  Many of the old shops are preserved at museum locations complete with all their goods.  There are more that were already shutting so we will have to catch up with them in the morning.  We had a look in the two saloons but neither of them was serving food.  They were full on though!  The Wells Fargo steakhouse was too expensive.  And then we came across Bob’s Place that offered home made pizza.  It had to be!  We shared one.  It was monstrous… and monstrously good.

After dinner we walked about a bit more and then went up onto the upper balcony of the Fairweather Inn and sat out with some wine and watched the sun go down.  It’s very quiet here.  Plenty of locals in the saloons but even so.

Looking forward to exploring it more and Nevada City tomorrow.   Maybe panning for gold.  This time next year Rodney……