Meandering Our Way To Montana

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Our original plan was to visit the Stanley Idaho and the beautiful Red Fish Lake with its grand views of the Sawtooth Range, then proceeding north on US 93 and zinging off for a one night stand at the Big Hole River RV Park in Wisdom, MT. A 32,000 acre wildfire stood between US 93 and Wisdom. The Big Hole River RV Park owner called saying it might not be a good idea coming to her park, so we cancelled the Big Hole reservations (a Wise decision she says) and the one in Stanley. We reroute to Dillon, MT. The Dillon area looks to be an area ripe for exploration.

We choose to stay off of the interstates as much as possible and proceed up US 93 much to the chagrin of Miss Garmin. She doth protests too much as she wants us to turn around and head back to I-84. Quiet Miss Garmin! The route has us go around downtown Shoshone (1400 souls). The town is the seat of Lincoln County and yes, the “e” in Shosone is silent. We pass through several sizable communities with Richfield, pop. 460, the largest until reaching Carey.

Ah Carey- the Blaine County Fair is in full swing upon our arrival! The town of 604 souls is rockin’! When we arrive at 0900 the 4H kids are getting their swine ready for show. Wash, dry, brush, repeat. Since the entire family is involved and mom has younger children to care for a pen in the swine building is used to keep the kids corralled. Later in the week more 4H activities were scheduled- maybe even a rodeo.

Sign at Arco Park
Number Hill, Arco ID High School Graduating Classes add their Class Year Number

We reach Arco (777 souls- down from 940) and take a walk through the park. Arco, originally known as Root Hog, was the first community in the world ever to be lit by electricity solely using nuclear power. This occurred on July 17, 1955 for about an hour, power supplied by the Argonne National Laboratory’s Borax III reactor at the nearby National Reactor Testing Station, now the Idaho National Laboratory.

Downtown Atomic City

The NRTS made further history on January 3, 1961 when the SL-1 reactor was destroyed through an operator maintenance error, causing a steam explosion that killed all three personnel present. It was the worlds first and the United States only fatal reactor accident. On hearing of the nuclear accident the folks in nearby Atomic City abandoned ship. The population now stands at 25 souls.

From Arco we proceed east on US 26 through Craters of the Moon National Monument. We visited Craters last year. You can read about it here: True to form we take a shortcut utilizing Idaho 33 and head northeast. We arrive at the farming community of Howe, marvel at their well maintained community building, the community church, a few houses and not much else. Howe’s population is 50 souls. At a junction and off about a quarter mile multiple power poles look out of place since there is only a couple of buildings visible. Ahh, the Idaho National Laboratory North facility needs lots of power………

We pass through the settlement of Mud Lake (358 souls), an LDS settlement dating to 1919. Mud Lake made national news in 1981 when it was overrun by jackrabbits.

Heading North on I-15
Listening to some Country Tunes as we ramble down the road.

Now on I-15 heading north we pass a string of farming communities. The terrain is slowly changing from flat farmland to hills and canyons. The Continental Divide is also the Idaho/Montana state line.

We stop in Lima (pronounced l-eye-ma like the bean) Montana. This thriving metropolis of 220 souls has a drive through coffee kiosk! We decide to imbibe. The lady inside is retired US Navy, mid 40’s and seems out of place in this town. I ask her why here? Her husband, also retired Navy is from Lima. She retired first and bought a place in town in which to live. They have 22 undeveloped acres outside of town where they will some day build their forever home. She bought the coffee shop 3 months ago as she was suffering from boredom. Nice gal! And thank you for your service!

We forge on to Dillon. Countryside RV Park was our second choice but what a gem! Beautiful large grass infield forms a loop of RV sites. Good internet and the only trees to block the view of the incoming thunder and lightning cells are far away!

We miss Megan. Jil especially misses her and the two were inseparable.

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