Last Chance Ranch in Montana offers dinner in a tipi

If you happen to be near Helena, Montana, here’s an option for an outing you probably can’t find in your own back yard. I wouldn’t have known about it myself if I hadn’t picked up Section D of today’s The Montana Standard this morning while staying at my friend’s house in Butte.

The article on The Last Chance Ranch caught my attention. The ranch offers an old-fashioned wagon ride through the forest to dinner in one of two tipis. The dinner, a home-style cooked prime rib feast, includes a performance by Bruce Anfinson who is well known in these parts as the Charlie Russell of music. Charlie Russell was a western style artist whose work now fetches thousands of thousands of dollars. I mean thousands.

Anfinson says that he aims to give people a slice of the real Montana that he loves. Songs reflect Montana history and culinary traditions. Expect huckleberries. The ranch, now owned by Anfinson, is 102 years old, and according to the article, this is a well-worth it western experience.

Here’s the Web site link for the ranch with info about how to register for the dinner.

Steam Engine Fun

Two summers ago I thought it would be neat to go on the Last Chance Train Tour of Helena, Montana. The pictures of the brochure looked like it was a real historic train. Evidently, I wasn’t looking at that brochure all that closely because the train had rubber wheels–plus it was on a road. It was a tram that looked like a train–sort of. A few days before the tour, I did discover my stupidity but we went on the tour anyway since we’re not all that picky. Plus, my son was three- years-old at the time and my dad was with us. There’s no way we could have covered all that ground or learned as much by walking.

Although I mistook that tram for a train, I have been on historic train tours. There were tracks. The most spectacular of the these trips was The Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train that goes between Durango and Silverton, Colorado. This train has made this particular journey through the mountain passes for more than 125 years. My trip was the one-way trip from Silverton back to Durango, but a two-way trip is probably more common. Silverton is worth poking around for a few hours. It’s a western town that looks western and less busy than Durango.

I’ve also taken the Boone & Scenic Railroad in Boone, Iowa. This train has been around since 1893. Along the way, the conductor points out landmarks and tells about the area history. At the time my son was a year and a half and we were visiting friends. This was a great way to kick back for a few hours without wondering when we’d get somewhere.

Last summer, I took my kids on a very sweet, short train ride. It wasn’t a train, really, but a trolley. It is historic and it runs on tracks. The Platte Valley Trolley is operated soley by volunteers. The first day we tried to take this trip, there wasn’t anyone to drive the trolley so we went back the next day. A huge REI store is right near the trolley station, so if you’re looking to pick up some travel or sports gear, stop in.