Spring time in the Rockies is spectacular. Wild flowers are in bloom, animals have emerged from their wintering grounds and dens, and the air is alive with the sounds and smells of the newness of spring. This PhotoTour will concentrate on the historic Ghost Towns and scenery of western Montana.
Montana is home to over 100 ghost towns and the vast majority of these are located in Western Montana. Towns such as Bannack, Virgina City, Pony, Nevada City and Silver Bounce had thousands of residents during the silver and gold booms of the 1800's. Now they stand silent witnesses to a bye gone era.
The 7 day, 6 night PhotoTour will concentrate on western and southwestern Montana for the majority of the tour, with a side trip to Yellowstone National Park and Old Faithful Geyser Basin before the return flight from Butte. Detailed itinerary is below.
PhotoTour cost includes 6 nights lodging, all ground transportation, all entrance fees, photo instruction, 6 breakfasts, pickup and drop off at airport. Discounts are available for FCCP members that have traveled with FCCP in the past.
Day 1 | Butte, Montana
You'll be met on your incoming flight by guide/photographers Jeff and Theresa Donald. Jeff know's this area extremely well, having lived in Bozeman and taught at the university in the early '80's. He spent up to 12 weeks each year in the '90's photographing a documentary about the Birds of Yellowstone and producing videos for the NPS.
Upon arrival and check in, PhotoTour travelers will have several hours to get settled into their rooms and explore the town of Butte. Dinner is as a group and after dinner the group will see a slide show on Yellowstone and will have a Q & A session.
Day 2 | Butte and Southwestern Montana
Today the group will head off in search of several nearby ghost towns. Our final destination is Bannack, but along the way we'll explore the abandoned towns of Glendale, Coolidge and have lunch in Dillon.
Lunch will be at Sparky's Garage, a well known hangout for the locals. After lunch we'll explore the historic downtown and then proceed to Clark's Lookout State Park. Clark's Lookout is on the Beaverhead River and in 1805 Lewis and Clark surveyed the surrounding area from this spot.
Our next destination is Bannock, MT. The first territorial capitol of Montana, once a thriving gold rush town, sits abandoned and protected by the State of Montana. It has over 60 buildings to explore and this time of year, we'll pretty much be by ourselves. After several hours here, we'll had back to Butte for dinner.
Day 4 | Yellowstone National Park — Old Faithful Geyser Basin
Today is game and geyser day. We'll explore the park from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful in hopes of seeing Moose, Bison, Elk, Wolf, Pronghorn, Mule Deer, Coyote, Bighorn Sheep and other smaller mammals. We'll also be stopping at several unique types of thermal features along the way. We'll shoot a sunset before returning to Butte and dinner as a group
Day 4 | Butte
After breakfast we'll explore the historic city of Butte. Butte was once the copper capital of the world. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Butte experienced every stage of development of a mining town, from camp to boomtown to mature city to center for historic preservation and environmental cleanup.
Unlike most such towns, Butte's urban landscape includes mining operations set within residential areas, making the environmental consequences of the extraction economy all the more apparent. Despite the dominance of the Anaconda Company, Butte was never a company town.
It prided itself on architectural diversity and a civic ethos of rough-and-tumble individualism. In the 21st century, efforts at interpreting and preserving Butte's heritage are addressing both the town's historical significance and the continuing importance of mining to its economy and culture.
In the morning we'll visit the World Museum of Mining and Berkeley Pit. Lunch will be at a popular local restaurant and after some post lunch shopping we'll visit the Copper King Mansion and Our Lady of the Rockies (weather permitting).
Day 5 | Butte, Anaconda and Deer Lodge
The towns of Anaconda and Deer Lodge are rich with western history. Anaconda was home of a nearly 600 ft smoke stack for the smelter. At the time the largest masonry structure in the world. Today the stack is persevered as a State Park.
Deer Lodge is best known as the home of the Montana State Prison. We'll be visiting the Old Prison, built in 1871 and now a museum. It also house a classic automobile museum and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Along the way we'll visit the Ghost Town, Southern Cross. It was founded during a gold rush in the mid 1860's and thrived for another 80 years before succumbing to the loss of the railroad and closing of the mines.
Lunch and dinner will be in towns along the way and we'll return to Butte after sunset.
Day 6 | Norris, Ennis and Pony
Today we venture south through the foothills of the Tobacco Root Mountains. Along the way we'll see spectacular scenery and visit the towns of Norris, Ennis and Pony, a ghost town. Lunch will be in one of the restaurants along the way.
Pony was an active town and home to the Strawberry Gold Mine until the 1920's when the mine closed. Today, Pony sits abandoned with several well preserved buildings including the bank and lawyers office.
We'll wrap up the day with a visit to Virgina City. Virginia City was a boomtown of thousands of prospectors and fortune seekers in the midst of a gold rush. The remote region of the Idaho Territory was without law enforcement or justice system with the exception of miners' courts. In late 1863, the great wealth in the region, lack of a justice system and the insecure means of travel gave rise to serious criminal activity, especially robbery and murder along the trails and roads of the region. Road agents as they became known were ultimately responsible for up to 100 deaths in the region in 1863 and 1864. This resulted in the formation of the Vigilance Committee (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vigilance_committee) of Alder Gulch and the infamous Montana Vigilantes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montana_Vigilantes). Up to 15 road agents were hanged by the vigilantes in December 1863 and January 1864, including the sheriff of Bannack, Montana and alleged leader of the road agent gang, Henry Plummer (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Plummer).
Day 7 | Butte, MT
Pack for our return to Tampa and perhaps a little site seeing for some of the travelers. If time permits we'll stop at another museum in Butte. Travelers will depart from Butte International Airport.
Most, if not all of the activities and photo opportunities will be within 300 yards or less of the side of the road or the parking lot at the geyser basins etc. This is a very age friendly trip in regard to the distances traveled on foot. However, almost all of the area is 6000 Ft and higher in elevation. Those with any physical limitations are urged to consult with their physician about the suitability of the trip for their specific conditions. Theresa is a retired nurse and can offer limited advice and treatment throughout the tour.
Gateway Airport is Butte, Montana. Please arrange your airfare after receiving receipt for your deposit. Arrival window in Butte is between 12 Noon and 4 PM on May 16, 2018. Search Priceline (http://www.priceline.com/default.asp) or Orbitz (http://www.orbitz.com/) for airfares from your home city.
As an added convenience, Jeff & Theresa will be happy to transport all your camera gear when they drive out. There is no additional charge for this service.
Expert instruction is provided throughout the PhotoTour. If we have a rain day, instruction in various editing software will be provided. Critiques of your photos are also available.
The registration fee of $1,999 (double occupancy) covers all ground transportation, 6 nights lodging in Butte, MT, 6 breakfasts, admission fee to YNP and various museums and attractions, pickup and return transportation to the airport in Butte.
Not covered are any incidentals, lunches, dinners, roundtrip airfare, tips. Please add $350 for single occupancy. There are several discounts available. If you have traveled on a prior FCCP PhotoTour, you may deduct 5% from the tour cost.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to hold your spot. The balance is due no later than February 14, 2018. After that date an administrative fee of $250 will be deducted from your refund. No refunds within 30 days of the start of the tour unless the space(s) can be filled.