Did someone say c-c-cold?
We headed straight from Missoula to the middle of nowhere about 1.5 hours away. We’ve seen so many deer in Montana that I’ve stopped yelling “DEER!”. That is until we saw deer legs sticking out of the back of some pickup trucks.
We stopped in one small town around dinner time thinking we might stay. But, there were just a few too many home-made billboards discouraging the use of meth for my comfort, so we plodded on.
Melissa and Mitch had pointed us to Philipsburg because of it’s proximity to sapphire mining and ghost towns. The problem with Philipsburg in late October is that it is a ghost town. It had become really cold, and was nearing dark and we decided it was time for another motel. The first was locked but had a sign to call. Problem was, we had no cell service. We found a wireless connection (the hotel’s) and used Skype but no one answered. We headed to the end of town and found another motel. No one there either, but as we pulled out the owner drove in. I sighed in relief as we were not prepared to drive another 2 hours to the next town. Keep in mind that driving times are somewhat slower in an old Volkswagen, and they are really slower in the rain with a fidgety four year old in the back.
Philipsburg is actually a pretty neat little town. There is one paved road in town – main street. At the end of the businesses on main street, the pavement ends too. Even though all the rest of the roads in town are sort of layed out on a grid – with many historic buildings – it’s all dirt. Still a real old mountain-side mining town.
All of the working sapphire mines were closed for the season (new keyword: closed), but we found the indoor version at a shop in town and it was really fun. We’ve been through a number of gold rush and mining towns, and Bode has learned that gold=money. He’s asked quite a few times to dig for gold, but we didn’t really have a resource for him. As a child my parents took me to a diamond mining place somewhere in Arkansas and I still remember it. We only found glass, but I had a great time. So this was a real treat, but I had to warn Bode that we might not find anything.
You buy a bag of dirt and rocks, they rinse and shake it, and you pick out sapphires if you can find them. Pretty cool! Bode and I were way into this, and I think we went through about every rock in the bag. They said the average bag holds about 4 cts of sapphires, but we discovered nearly 12 cts of ‘gem quality’ sapphires. Plus, another lode of ‘fishbowl quality’ broken ones…and a few Bode and I threw in to test the expert.
Because of our colossal discovery, they wanted $60 to fire them and make them look pretty. I asked what they were worth- $25 as is (what we paid for the bag of dirt) but twice that fired!!!
Well, since the math didn’t quite add up, and I didn’t have $60 anyway, I decided I liked my sapphires au natural. Since then, we’ve pulled our 2 bags out at various times to impress people, though I’m not sure it’s working.
Jason’s cousin Rachel is a jeweler, so when we’re in Austin maybe Bode can convince her to do something interesting with them.
—We are currently traveling east through Wyoming on the way to Crazy Horse in South Dakota… on the way to Wisconsin. We’re headed to see some good friends, but haven’t really done our research on things to see and do. Please let us know if there is anything unique or interesting we should stop and see along the way.