Day 22: Helena, Butte & Stupid Rocks

I’m so exhausted that I was going to put off writing today’s post until tomorrow morning. But I have to be up early to head back to Bozeman for a vet appointment…so that would just mean I had two posts to write tomorrow night.

So I’m putting on my big girl pants, making a cup of tea, and buckling down.

Here are a few images of our peaceful AirBnB. I called it a horse farm yesterday — which it technically is — but she only has two horses right now. A black one that I couldn’t get a picture of, and the spotted one below. The spotted is very sweet. The black…not so friendly. She warned me he would attack the dog if Tako got too close. So we kept our distance, and the horse gave us side eye every time we passed the fences.



Those buildings in the distance were the next closest neighbors. They’re about a mile away.

Our ultimate destination today was Big Sky — based on a recommendation from Burke in Bend. We drove through Helena and Butte to get there, so we made a few stops along the way.

The 15 goes through a beautiful canyon that I think is part of the Helena National Forest. There were no turnouts, though, so I couldn’t get a picture. I can’t even find any pictures online to share with you, which is surprising.

Our first stop of the day was Helena, and we went up to see the Guardian of the Gulch. It felt really appropriate right now with the fire emergency back home in California.

When Helena was first built, fires were a threat to the whole city due to the lack of water in close proximity to the town. Fire destroyed the town a couple of times, so a series of water towers were built, with bells to alarm everyone — because they didn’t have designated firemen back then — and the Guardian of the Gulch is the last one standing.


It’s high on a hill (a whole neighborhood is named after Tower Hill) and has a view of the entire valley and the surrounding mountain ranges.


After the video I posted on my IG, where I talk about how much I love it and how pretty it is here, my friend Andrew sent me a funny message reminding me it’s summer and not to get too attached. Don’t worry, guys. I’m aware I probably can’t survive a Montana winter.

Helena also has a cool cathedral that was modeled after one in Vienna, which was built following the assassination of their emperor in the 1800s.



So Helena’s is fairly young, too; ground broke on building 110 years ago.


The details are really cool; they even include Joan of Arc in their reliefs and statuary.

When I went inside (only to the narthex — I promise I wouldn’t take the dog into the nave) the mens choir was practicing as I filmed the stained glass windows. I’ll try and get a video up on IG today.

Next, we tried to make our way to Our Lady of the Rockies. I input the name into Google maps, and it sent me on this gravel road. But half of the highways in Montana are gravel, so I didn’t really think much of it, until we reached a shut gate.

I turned around, got back on the highway, and pulled off at the scenic overlook to get the sad photo I could.


A little research explained that private vehicles aren’t allowed on the road up there, so you have to pay for the tour from Butte. It didn’t say that dogs weren’t allowed, so I decided to head to the tour company, but then life got in the way.

The car started to make a funny whistling noise, that quickly turned into a squealing noise, that graduated to a grinding noise as I pulled off the freeway at the very next exit. By the time I pulled into an abandoned parking lot (only a few meters from the exit), it sounded like I was dragging metal behind me.

I called for a tow since I couldn’t see anything hanging off of anywhere. And then I went in search of AC. I put Tako in his pack and walked to the gas station a couple of blocks away. When I asked if we could both come in, the guy behind the counter was like “Of course!” which was a relief. I bought $18 worth of stress snacks and postcards from the gas station a couple blocks away and wandered around for a little while until my phone pinged me to tell me the tow was on its way.


We wound up at the mechanic for about 10 minutes.

Note: When I was at the mechanic, I noticed a full ammunition clip just hanging out on the desk. I’m not in California anymore, Toto.

Because the probably was rocks had gotten between my brakes. Turns out that on a CX-5, there’s a dust flap to keep dust out of the brakes. Except sometimes it traps rocks in there.

Here’s my question: if rocks can get in, are the flaps really keeping out dust?

So we got back on the road, and it was a little after 4 p.m. I was tempted to just head to my AirBnB for the night, since it was still a couple of hours away. But when am I coming back to Butte?

The Our Lady of the Rockies tours were either full or over for the day, so I headed to the next stop: The Berkeley Pit.

When I walked in, I asked if a dog could come in a pack, and the lady said “I knew I saw a puppy out there! Of course he can! We love dogs. He doesn’t have to stay in the pack, you know. You can let him out. Would he like a treat?”

I love Butte.



Left: 1800s building the tunnels / Right: Today

It was gloriously cool next to the pit — a good ten degrees cooler than Butte in general — and the colors were intense. It feels a little weird to be paying to see toxic waste, though. (Entry is $2 for adults, $1 for children, and $0 for dogs.)

We headed for the Ringing Rocks next, which I was really excited about. The road there is…not maintained, shall we say, and is about 5-6mi on a gravel road.


Even my car almost got stuck on one of the hills, so Tako and I parked and hiked the rest of the way.

I’m disappointed. None of the rocks chimed for me.


Useless rocks were a theme in my life today.

By then it was almost 7 p.m., so we turned towards Big Sky. The drive down is lovely, but I was too tired to really enjoy it.

Big Sky is much smaller than I thought it would be, and it seems to be mostly populated by people who work for the resort. Everyone here is really nice, and everyone seems to have a dog, which is cool. Unfortunately, it means that Tako just invited himself into someone’s house about five minutes after we arrived. Embarrassing.

Speaking of Tako, I think he might have a cold. Which would mean changing up the next few days, since Tiffany’s sister is also bringing her dogs to Alpine, and I would hate to get them sick. We’re heading to a vet in the morning to be sure if it’s a cold or just bad allergies. Wish us luck.

My AirBnB host for the night corrected my grammar within five minutes of meeting me. I don’t know what bugs me more: that she did it, or that she was right.


Finding out the problem was just rocks in my brakes!


Having to go to a mechanic to remove rocks from my brakes.


Driven: 4063

Hiked: 43mi

Written: 4k

Listening to: “The Heart Is a Muscle” Gang of Youths

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