July 9, 2014
Last night after we left Glacier we headed south toward Choteau. We drove through some of the most beautiful scenery – I know I keep saying that about Montana but it’s true! The highway was long and straight. On one side we had the Rocky Mountain range in the distance and on the other gorgeous plains. We drove through the Blackfeet Reservation east of Glacier and down to Choteau for the night. We stayed at a cute hotel – Stage Stop Inn.
This morning we got up and had breakfast at the hotel before checking out. We are on our way to Utah today but made a stop in Helena for a few hours to tour the Capitol and have lunch. Helena grew out of the gold rush like so many other western cities but Helena managed to make its wealth last not just with gold, but with silver and lead too. Helena was first the territorial capital and then retained its status once Montana became a state.
We stopped first at the Capitol and took a tour. We were the only two people on it for most of the tour. Their Capitol was finished in 1902 and later expanded in 1912 to accommodate their growing legislature. The original part of the Capitol is sandstone and the extension is Montana granite. Like the Texas Capitol, the building underwent a renovation in the early 2000s to restore its interior to its original appearance. It’s a lovely building and the stained glass is phenomenal. We learned a bit about some of the historical figures in Montana’s history and about their legislative process which is also part-time (though their sessions are shorter).
We left the Capitol and went to look at Helena’s other must-see building, Cathedral of Saint Helena. Construction on the cathedral began in 1908 and was finished in 1924. The Cathedral is gorgeous. It has two 230ft. tall spires which we could see from the highway. I was surprised at how much I liked the interior. Unfortunately, there was a mass in progress so I didn’t take any photos. I wouldn’t mind going back some time to get a better look around. We went and had lunch at Bert and Ernie’s after leaving the cathedral. We were pleasantly surprised by both of our meals – they were really great! Bert and Ernie’s and the main downtown strip is located on Last Chance Gulch which was the location of several mining claims and where gold was discovered in 1864.
I’m glad we were able to stop in Helena. It’s a charming city and given more time we could have explored more of Montana’s history. Next time we’ll plan to visit the Montana Historical Society.
Now we’re on the road again. We’re going south through Idaho to Utah for the night. We’re going to camp a little north of Salt Lake City at Antelope Island State Park. It’s the largest island on Great Salt Lake.
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