Choteau, Bynum, and Pendroy

The contractor had just finished building Dad’s new house (for the most part–that story should be part of a different post.) What’s the first thing you do when you finish a new house? Fill it up with rocks!

Wait, what? That’s not the first thing everyone does? Weird.

At any rate, that’s the first thing my dad does. So he wanted to run up to Bynum to check out the rock shop.

When I was growing up, I never really explored north of Great Falls. I stuck to the areas between Great Falls and Missoula. Google Maps wasn’t a thing back then, so I really didn’t know what I was missing. For example: I didn’t know Lost Lake existed. And I lived 20 minutes from it at one point.

There’s a little tiny town just north of Choteau called Bynum, and Bynum has a rock shop. The Trex Agate Shop is not just any rock shop, it a seriously cool rock shop. The building itself is… Rustic. The people are awesomely friendly. And the prices are fair. If you’re good, you might even be able to haggle a bit.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. On the way up to Bynum, we stopped for lunch in Choteau. We were craving burgers, so we swung into John Henry’s. For those of you who haven’t lived in Montana, there’s this spice called Alpine Touch.

It’s made in Choteau, and John Henry’s is proud of it. Almost everything on the menu includes the seasoning. This is a good thing. Alpine Touch is like crack. Growing up, I put it on everything from popcorn to trout. If Alpine Touch made a perfume, I’d have dated any woman wearing it. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed lunch.

Fat and happy, we left Choteau and headed north to the rock shop.

Dad and I spent at least an hour looking at rocks, and chatting with the owner. He bought some thunder eggs for his bookshelves, and I picked up a cool sandstone thing.

Across from Trex Agate Shop is the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center museum gallery. We didn’t have a chance to go in, but it looks pretty cool.

The whole town has an old Montana feel to it.

We decided not to take the same route back, so we ended up driving through Pendroy. There’s an awesome old school there.

Eventually, we cruised through Conrad to see if the hospital had a sign with the logo I designed, but they didn’t appear to. Guess that just gives me another reason to head back up that way.

Everybody seems to love the western part of Montana, but I’ll take plains, farmland, and high desert over mountains any day. My uncle said the same thing to me once–he liked being able to see for miles, and being stuck in the mountains made him feel trapped.

Lost Lake/Dry Falls

When I was a kid, we lived in Highwood for a few years. I had no idea I was living 30 minutes from one of the coolest places I’ve seen in Montana.

The curved shonkinite walls of Dry Falls flank the west end of Lost Lake–remnants of what once was Montana’s own Niagra Falls (but bigger.) The history of this area’s features date back to more than one ice age. There’s a great write up here if you want more information.

Standing on the north cliffs, looking southwest

I found Lost Lake on Google Maps (of course,) so we all loaded up and drove out to see what the big deal was.

We ran into some Montana traffic along the way, but eventually made it to the make-shift sign reminding visitors that it is, in fact, private property. The sign also told us that we were hiking at our own risk.

We walked from the sign to the edge of the northern cliffs. I couldn’t believe I lived so close and never even knew this existed. Epic doesn’t even begin to describe this place. Imagining the vast amounts of water that used to cascade off the western edge, we explored (carefully–this is prime rattlesnake country,) for most of the afternoon. Aside from the rattlesnakes, there are hawks, rabbits, and other critters who call the rocks their home.

A lot of places in the US have history, and maybe I’m biased, but Montana seems to have some of the coolest history. Geological history, dinosaurs (see the Bynum post), ghost towns… Montana is full of it.

Looking southeast from the north cliffs

We finished up the day with ice cream in Fort Benton, because, why not?

If you make the trip out to Lost Lake, bring water, watch out for snakes, and be respectful of the rancher’s property. Also, you’re going to be driving on a lot of dirt/gravel roads, so it’s probably not a great idea to go after a heavy rain.

Update: Because it’s on private land, and people were trashing it, the landowner has now (understandably) prohibited public access. This is why we can’t have nice things.