Helena is barely over an hour away, but I don’t think I’d been there for at least 7 years. Considering we’ve been in Great Falls for nearly 6, that’s pretty sad. But, as those who know me, I don’t get out much. There’s so much to do at home and in the community, heading out of town requires a a reason for work. I really don’t do “relaxing” vacations. But I’m glad we went.
My primary objective was to take photos of Tizer Gardens for a magazine article. This place is incredible. Anytime I feel like whining about our short season, all I have to do is think of Richard and Belva. They’re situated at over 5000 ft in elevation, and have less than 60 frost free days a season. Yes, they truly are in the land of perpetual winter. Yet, they grow hundreds of roses, 150 (or so) clematis, and varieties of plants I’ve never seen before. It’s a horticultural nerd’s playground.
They met us after hours for the first photo shoot. I felt so badly because I could tell they were both tired from a long day. Richard is doing nothing but watering. It’s truly a non-stop endeavor in the high heat we’ve had this summer. They were gracious enough to give me a guided tour pointing out many of the special features of the ever changing gardens. And despite losing multiple gardens to Prickly Pear Creek’s little tantrum, the grounds look fantastic.
On our way down to Helena we went on the Gates of the Mountain boat tour. They’re called as such because as you travel through the cliffs, it appears the mountains are opening to allow you to pass. Very cool. I don’t know how many years I’ve wanted to do it, but never took the time. It was hotter than blue blazes… I think the guide said it was 101 degrees in the canyon was we floated through… but thankfully a slight breeze kept it bearable.
The narration was fantastic, and I learned a tremendous amount about the geology and history of the region. For some reason, I never realized the Mann Gulch Fire was there. The Mann Gulch Fire was a turning point in fire management. In the 40s a team of firefighters battled the blaze up Mann Gulch with their backs to the Missouri River for safety. The plan would’ve worked if embers wouldn’t have flown over them, igniting the dry grass and brush behind them. They were trapped. The foreman told them to run for the rocks. All 16 of the firefighters did just that, as was common practice, yet somewhere along the frenzied run, the foreman decided to light the grass around him creating a safe zone. (Keep in mind, this wasn’t done at this time.) He encouraged the rest of the guys to join him in the blackened area, but they refused; instead running for the rocks with a fire traveling at 70 mph barreling down on them. Only 3 men survived, including the foreman. Now it’s fairly common knowledge that you stay out of the green areas, and head for blacked zones where there is no fuel at your feet. It’s a powerful lesson, and it was intriguing to see the area.
While in Helena, I took the boys to the Carousel. Oh, it’s wonderful! I can’t remember how many times we rode, but it was a lot. They had to try out each character… bighorn sheep, bison, trout, horses, mountain goats. It was very cool. Helena has so much for kids. We found our way to Spring Meadows Park with a pond where several people were canoeing and fishing. The boys stopped to toss stones in the water. (Which is very sad to think about because a 5 year old boy drowned in there just days ago.) We also went to the Montana Wild center, but it is under construction until September. We’ll have to make it a point to come back to take a look at what they’re working on in there.
This trip we’re going to explore Mount Helena, plus tour the Capitol Building and hopefully make it into the state library and museum. That’s just to while away the time in the morning. When Tizer Gardens opens I’ll be there again. I have more questions, and need to take more photos. Plus, there are a few things for sale in their nursery I wouldn’t mind bringing back to my own gardens.