Madison Valley, Montana
July 30 thru July 2, 2007.
We are staying in Cameron RV-Park & Store in Cameron, Montana. Cameron is a STORE located 10-miles south of Ennis in the Madison Valley. The Cameron RV-Park is about 12 sites located behind the Store & Saloon (the social gathering place for miles around). The PPA campground is nothing fancy but for the PPA price of $12.50 for FHU it is just fine. The view over the Madison Valley and mountains surrounding Virginia City is worth the $12.50.
For those of you that are not familiar with PPA (Pass Port America) it is an organization you can join for less than $50 per-year. Campgrounds that belong to PPA offer 1/2 price discounts. That kind of savings can quickly add up. While participating PPA parks generally have some restrictions on dates the PPA offer is valid, or possibly days of the week the discount is valid, or perhaps the number of days that the PPA discount will be honored the discount is genuine. Many times PPA campgrounds are new campgrounds that need help in getting established. Other times PPA campgrounds may be on the outskirts of town instead of in the "prime" location thus they need to provide an incentive for campers to stay with them. Whatever the reason PPA campgrounds generally provide a much cheaper option. PPA is the only campground organization that I think is worth the cost. PPA does not have a gimic. What you see is what you get. Once you join they send you a directory listing all participating campgrounds. The PPA directory is the FIRST directory we check when trying to locate a place to spend the night. You can join PPA by calling 228-452-9972. If you decide to join PPA, it would be nice if you gave them my number "R-0156251" as the PPA member that told you about PPA. In return PPA will give me $10 cred toward next years membership. I will thank you in advance for that kindness. Thank you.
Norris Hill north of Ennis, Montana on US-287
Ten miles north of Ennis, Montana on US-287 is Norris Hill a pretty gnarly hill when heading south. I had to put the motorhome in second gear to pull it and my speed was dropping toward 25-mph, where I would have shifted into 1st gear. These snow fences on the western side of the the road were protecting the summit.
Upon arriving at the summit of Norris Hill we were wondering why this grade wasn't covered in Mountain Directory West, our book that provides information on steep grades in the western states. They overlooked this bad boy for some reason.
Trailblazers John Bozeman and John Jacobs opened the Bozeman Trail in 1864 (near the end of the Civil War) as a shortcut between the Overland Road (Oregon Trail) and the newly discovered Montana Gold fields. The trail began near Casper, Wyoming (40-miles east of South Pass where the Oregon Trail crossed the Continental Divide). The Bozeman Trail ended in the Gallatin Valley around current day Bozeman Montana on I-90.
Some emigrants left the Bozeman Trail near Livingston and went up the Yellowstone River (toward present day Yellowstone National Park) to Emigrant Gulch. However, most continued over Bozeman Pass (on I-90 between Livingston and Bozeman) to Virginia City (Alder Gulch) and Bannack. These emigrants utilized local roads from the Bozeman Valley to Virginia City and Bannack.
This road that we are using over Norris Hill (US-287) already existed when it was used in 1864 as an extension of the Bozeman Trail from current day Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley to Alder Gulch and Virginia City.
Heavy traffic continued on this road (current day US-287) in 1865 and 1866. Indian resistance to the trail in the Powder River country forced the closure of the Bozeman Train to emigrants after the 1866 travel season. The Powder River country was on the section of the Bozeman trail between Casper, Wyoming and Livingston, Montana. The roads from Bozeman to Virginia City remained in heavy use for agricultural products produced by Gallatin Valley farmers, ranchers and mill owners as they had a lucrative market in the gold camps of southwestern Montana (Alder Gulch, Nevada City, Virginia City, Bannack, etc.,).
The old wagon road used in the 1860s is supposed to be visible to the west of the present highway but we were too interested in the snow fences and the steep grade to see it.
Madison Valley near Ennis, Montana and Virginia City - Alder Gulch
Settlement of the Madison Valley followed on the heels of the "Gold Rush" to Alder Gulch (Virginia City & Nevada City) in the mid-1860s. Homesteaders grazed livestock in the lush meadows of the valley and surrounding mountains to feed the miners.
Today, in addition to meat production, these ranches serve another ecological role, that of maintaining open space for wildlife.
Madison Valley around Ennis, Montana
This pic was taken looking west from near the Camron campground where we are staying. The view is looking to the west across the Madison Valley at the mountain range surrounding Alder Gulch (Virginia City & Nevada City).
Giant load of hay on US-287 near Ennis, Montana
Hay is BIG business in the Madison Valley.
Madison Valley near Ennis, Montana
The line of trees between us and the mountains line the Madison River.
Madison Valley north of Ennis, Montana
This is typical Madison Valley scenery. This time the line of trees is following a creek that is flowing out of the Gallatin National Forest to the east. This picture is looking south through the Madison Valley from a vantage point about 10-miles north of Ennis.
Sculpture in downtown Ennis, Montana
This was an iron sculpture in front of the largest bank in downtown Ennis. The tall flowers and other annuals add to the realism.
Hay being transported through Ennis, Montana
Two loads of hay heading south on US-287 through downtown Ennis.
It is amazing the load they put on these hay hauling rigs. In most places that would require a wide-load sign wouldn't it?
Balanced Rock on island in Ennis Lake
Madison Valley from Virginia City Hill
We visited Virginia City several times while staying in the Madison Valley. Virginia City is located west of Ennis over a hill. I sometimes wonder what the difference in a hill and a pass is. Talk about gnarly, this is one bad boy. As far as I know it is not know as anything but the Ennis to Virginia City Hill but is is much worse than many passes. It is 14-miles from Ennis to Virginia City 10 of those miles are climbing a 7% grade.
These pictures were taken from a view point about 3/4 of the way to the top. The picture is looking east toward Ennis and the Madison Valley.
Madison Valley from Virginia City Hill
Now back to navigating the "hill" once at the summit the road flattens for a bit then there is a 7% grade that takes you through Virginia City. Big (as in heavy) rigs have to be controlling their downhill speed from the beginning on a hill like this or they will go screaming through Virginia City unable to slow down.
Mike & Joyce Hendrix
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Until next time remember how good life is.