Montana Outdoors

August 28, 2009

A brief look back

Every month or two I have to visit “The City” for supplies. In my case that is Missoula, a town with a population of around 70,000, and it’s about 80 miles from where I live. While I typically hate going there, it seems that on every trip at least one thing of interest presents itself, be it a photogenic scene, a close look at some of western Montana’s wildlife or, as on yesterday’s trip, a brief glimpse into a bit of the area’s past.

There are two main routes of travel between here and Missoula, one by a state highway and the other by a combination of Interstate and state highways. On the way there I chose the state Highway: on the way back I chose a third route.

After driving west on I90 for about 23 miles from Missoula one will find a turn off to a Forest Service highway that runs past the historic Ninemile Ranger Station, on up through the beautiful Ninemile valley and over the very scenic Siegel Pass. It’s a dirt road all of the way and not suited for passenger cars, but in all it is 20 miles shorter than either of the other routes and replaces about 60 miles of highway driving.

Yesterday after I took the Ninemile turn off and drove about 18 miles up Forest Service road 412 in a nicely forested area far from any habitations, my sharp-eyed daughter who was with me exclaimed that she thought she saw a tombstone on the mountainside above the road. I turned around and returned to the spot and, upon a little investigation we found a short, steep trail that did indeed lead to a headstone (in this case, a wooden one) that marked an old and lonesome grave.

Lonesome grave

Some research today showed that the grave was not far from the location of an old mining camp called Martina at the site of what was, in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, a gold mine called “San Martina”. The forest has long since reclaimed the camp of Martina and the mine site, and that Grand Old Man is now peacefully at rest in a beautiful and wild part of the Lolo National Forest.

(For those who might be interested in more information about that area, the Montana State site DEQ Nine Mile Creek Mining District may be useful.)

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