Day 98/99 – Butte to Anaconda Part I

To be honest; when you are walking through Butte on the hwy…it’s not that photogenic. Kind of like me in the morning. It needs a few cups of coffee, a shower, and a lot of lotion!  I wish I would have had time to walk the uptown and original downtown parts of the city to see all the historical buildings. I believe that over 60% of the buildings in town have been preserved as National Historical Landmarks.

Once you get outside of Butte, the next beautiful landmark is the HUGE Anaconda Smokestack in Anaconda, MT. The stack is over 585 feet tall and is the largest masonry structure in the world. Today, it was my destination and I could see the darn thing shortly after I left Butte. As I have said in previous blog entries, I’m not a big fan of being able to spot my day’s end destination. It just makes the days walk last FOREVER! This thing was definitely bigger than any grain silo I had encountered across the country.

In between Butte and Anaconda, is Fairmont Hot Springs. Another travel destination of my family as a kid. Unfortunately, it was about 3 miles off my path, and this cat wasn’t walking extra miles to see the springs. 😦

About 3-miles before town, I walked into a pretty good hail-storm today! If the little buggers would have gotten any larger, I would have been hurting a bit. Fortunately for me, the hail was only pea-sized and just stung a bit when it kept pinging my face.

A car that passed me earlier, did a U-turn and drove back to say ” Hello” and donate $$ for me to buy some new shoes. While I didn’t get the name of her husband and son, Laura Scholz wished me well before they headed to Fairmont Hot Springs for her son’s birthday. Happy Birthday!!

Laura Scholz

I couldn’t believe the size of what I thought was a huge stock-pile of coal outside of Anaconda. It was approximately a mile long, 3/4 of mile wide and 300 ft high. After talking to a few locals, I found out that the pile wasn’t coal, but Slag (sp?). I guess Slag is the by-product of the Copper smelting process. Not much that can be done with the product, except…let it just sit and stock pile for about 100 years. Recently, many golf courses around the country have been using the material for their sand-bunkers.

Once in Anaconda, the weather was yucky and the forecast was the same for the next day. After walking everyday for the last 12 days, my arm was easily twisted to stay another day and rest. The twisting was done by my new friend Don, who owns the Grizzly Den Motel. While preparing to walk outside of town, Don offered for me to stay a night free and get some rest. I think it took me less than 1/10 of a second to respond with an affirmative! 🙂

Don and Robyn

In town I was hungry and decided to walk (not far) across town and grab a burger and maybe meet some locals. I picked the cool looking place named Club Moderne. The place had been registered as a historical landmark and didn’t appear to have changed much since the 40’s. Awesome! Unfortunately, they only served beverages and some snacks. I chose to have some chips, a beer and talk to the friendly guy next to me.

That guys name was Terry Moran. Another new friend of mine who entertained me for a good part of the afternoon. Terry, in his 80’s, splits his time between his homes in Anaconda and Las Vegas, NV. Upon learning about my trek, Terry must have introduced me to half of the town! I was honored to have been treated so well. Terry even insisted on buying me dinner at the local fine dining establishment (Barclay’s II).

Before taking me to dinner, Terry shared much of his colorful history growing up in Anaconda, going to College in California, and eventually working on the development of the Nuclear bombs that ended WWII. Over the years, he was married to his high-school sweetheart and had several kids. Like all of us, he has experienced some really hard times with his family. About 4 years ago, his wife passed away from Cancer. A couple of times during our conversation, his eyes welled up when talking about her. It was hard not to be moved when observing how much he loved his wife.

Terry insisted on giving me a tour of town and dropping me off at Barclays II. Unfortunately, the restaurant didn’t open until the evening. No problem, that just means we hang out some more. The next place, was the Elks Club, which was the former company lounge owned by the Anaconda Copper Company.   I couldn’t believe what we had just walked in to! It was as if I had traveled through time. Every inch of the dance hall had been maintained perfectly since it’s hey-day of the big-band era. Awesome!

Think of the Lawrence Welk Show, and you would be about 90% accurate of when the experience was like. Today was the weekly dance with a band playing Waltz, Polka and other ballroom favorites. Terry wasn’t aware of this weekly dance! While there he ran into many people he knew as a child. I was so incredibly honored to meet many of his friends and soak up the moment! The icing on the cake had to be the 103 year old woman exchanging dances with everybody.

Note to self: Take up dancing lessons when you get back home. It appears the ladies like it!

I eventually parted ways with Terry and headed back to my base camp at the Grizzly Den Motel. Not before exchanging contact info with Terry and planning to meet again someday in Anaconda or even Las Vegas.

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