By DONNA L. HULL
Road tripping to Helena
Although I enjoy exploring the Missoula area, once in a while my feet get itchy for a boomer road trip. That’s how I found myself sitting in the passenger seat as my husband Alan pointed our car toward Helena earlier this summer.
Now I’m sure that long-time Missoulans have probably visited our state capital with its beautiful capitol building, which houses an intricately designed rotunda, stained glass windows and Western artwork. Viewing the Charles M. Russell painting displayed above the Speaker’s chair in the House of Representatives’ chamber is worth the trip, but there’s so much more to see.
Take a walk in a Montana garden
If you’re a gardener, a visit to Tizer Botanical Gardens and Arboretum located 18 miles south of Helena is a must. You’ll discover ideas for your own Missoula garden on a walk through grounds that are filled with delightful surprises and a sense of humor. Don’t miss the children’s garden decorated with whimsical fairy displays.
Richard Krott and Belva Lotzer have created a floral masterpiece at 6,000 ft. elevation. Prickly Pear Creek runs through the property creating a cool escape on a hot, summer day. But, if plans allow, visit on a night when Richard and Belva host a walk in the garden complete with wine, cheese and a guided tour of the grounds.
If you go: General admission $6, children 5 and under are free.
Discover a Missoula connection on the Gates of the Mountains Boat Tour
Twenty miles north of Helena, Gates of the Mountains Boat Tours explores a scenic section of the Missouri River. On July 19, 1805, when the Lewis and Clark expedition rowed up the Missouri River, limestone cliffs soared 1200 feet above them seeming to open and close like gates at each bend in the river canyon. Meriwether Lewis called it Gates of the Mountains in his journal and the name stuck.
In addition to outstanding scenery, the boat tour offers the chance for wildlife watching. You might see bald eagles, bighorn sheep, bear, moose, elk, mountain lions or deer. Even though you’re on the river, the canyon heats up on late summer afternoons, so I recommend purchasing an early tour.
Gates of the Mountains is also the site of the 1949 Mann Gulch Fire where 12 smokejumpers dispatched from Hale Field in Missoula lost their lives when the wildfire blew up. Thirteen men died in all. The boat’s narrated history is well done and a sobering touch to the two-hour scenic ride.
If you go: Adult tickets $14, Seniors (60 and over) $12, children 4 – 7 $8, children under 4 free. Dinner cruises are also available at $44 each.
Meet Helena history on a self-guided walking tour
Helena is one gold rush era boomtown that never went bust, mainly because the town became the location for government services as the rich vein of gold ran out. Discovering mining history on a walk through downtown Helena’s historical section is worth the effort. Original pioneer cabins located at the entrance to Reeder’s Alley are a good starting place for a self-guided walking tour. As you continue down Last Chance Gulch, now a pedestrian walking mall, the buildings may house contemporary businesses and restaurants but gold mining history lurks behind their brick facades just waiting to be discovered.
Are you a Helena road tripper? Tell me what to do and see on my next visit.
Donna L. Hull writes about active travel for baby boomers at My Itchy Travel Feet, The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Travel. She is also the author of My Itchy Travel Feet, Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas, available at Amazon Kindle, Nook and iTunes.
Flatlander to mountaineer could be the title of Donna Hull’s latest boomer adventure. The freelance writer and her photographer husband Alan (both baby boomers) have recently relocated from Arizona to the Missoula area for full-time living in the most beautiful spot in the world. Follow along as Donna writes about Western Montana travel fun that you may have forgotten about. Or, you might discover a new travel adventure waiting just down the road.
Donna Hull publishes My Itchy Travel Feet, The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Travel., the internet’s go-to site for active boomer travelers. Donna is also the author of My Itchy Travel Feet, Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas.