We planned on getting going early this morning since Scott had about 5 hours of driving ahead of him and we were doing a little back tracking. We are headed to Philipsburg MT to look for sapphires at the Gem Mountain store. They have a location in the mountain area where they mine but that is closed both Tuesday and Wednesday…darn. The store/company has really great reviews on Trip Advisor so we are going to make our way there despite not being able to go to the actual mine.
On the road and driving by 8am, the sunshine is out and the morning is quiet. Montana is such a beautiful state! We travel alongside the east side of Flathead Lake. Wow, this is a huge lake and it is gorgeous! The upper east side reminds me a lot of the Chelan area in WA. There are numerous cherry orchards and various other types of fruit trees. The views of the lake from these farms are terrific. There are a few state parks along this side of the lake. We are thinking this would be a great place to camp for a week or so. The water is so clear along the shoreline that I can peer right to the bottom.
The drive gets much easier as we hit some major highways. Scott has had a lot of curvy, slow going roads on this trip. Pretty much like driving Hwy 20 at home. Its nice for him to sit back and turn on the cruise control!
We are going to pass thru Missoula on our way to Philipsburg and then come back to stay the night in a KOA. It is a bit of a back and forth but it makes our drive the next day shorter.
Getting to Missoula seemed relatively quick…getting to Philipsburg seemed much longer! The road just kept going and going. Its a good thing that they discovered sapphires in this area or I am not sure anyone would travel there. We came up a town named Clinton and the upcoming festival grabbed out attention. You judge why by checking out the pictrue. Wow, what some towns do to get on the map!
Arriving in Philipsburg we stopped at a little lemonade stand run by two little kids. Considering how many people stopped by our kids lemonade stand before we took off on this trip we just had to buy a few cups. They said it had been a busy day and really we took their last three cups. Busy place 🙂
We found Gem Mountain and parked the RV. Heading in we noticed that you look for your gems in front of the store. It is easier to see the stones if you look in the sunlight. Inside we were greeted to a man getting really angry at the gal at the counter that he drove the 22 miles to the sapphire mine and it was closed. He was pretty annoyed and she was pretty sassy back at him. Hmmmmm….okay. Great, we are next. She was in a lovely mood and told us they had no tables…maybe in 30 minutes. Everyone showed up at once. So….do we put our name in? “No reservations” she says with a dead pan look on her face. Do we just come back in 30 minutes and hope there is a table? “Yes”. I was super annoyed….so rude! I know we caught her at a bad time but something tells me that she is not the kind hearted, helpful type to begin with. Outside the store we see an open table. We look around and it seems that no one is using it. Scott goes back in and she verifies the open table with the guy working outside. He confirms and we get it. Yay! Part of me wants to walk across the street and not give these guys our business but this is quickly forgotten because our outside guy was great. Very friendly, informative and helpful. He gave us the run down and washed our gravel and dumped it upside down on our table. The sapphires sit in the middle on top with the way they wash and swirl the gravel in the mesh trays.
We find a few right off the bat and Ben is hooked! He is loving this “treasure hunting” of sorts. Now, I understand that this has to be rigged in their favor. They are not going to let some tourist walk away with some sapphire worth a truck load when they paid only $25 a bucket. We went the “cheap” route and bought two buckets of gravel. They say it is just straight out of the mine. The thing is that they have other types of buckets you can buy instead of the basic one. They have this thing called the Mega Bucket, they have buy 6 get the 7th free and so forth. We were happy with our two buckets worth.
The sunshine was getting pretty warm but the kids were not deterred. Keep on hunting with the little tweezers. Ellie was focusing and accidentally dumped her little vile of gems on the ground. Not easy to see on the concrete. She was bummed and the guy noticed so he came over with this little film canister full of tiny little rocks and sapphires. These were so small they were worth nothing so it was a great way to make her feel better and keep her really focused on getting every shiny one out 🙂
Each bucket of gravel had three to four screens worth. We became quicker as we went. The sapphires basically look like sea glass. Seven screens later and quite a few gems we were cleaning up our table. The guys next to us bought the Mega bucket ($125) and they were really raking in the big gems. Ben was in awe! Unless you are planning on paying to have your gems cut and set then it really isn’t worth it. I was impressed with the size of ones they were finding. They admit that they add more to these buckets…really pretty much a given that you will find a bigger one. Even with our little buckets the experience was really fun and the kids enjoyed it immensely! It would be fun to go somewhere that you got to dig yourself…so everyone has the same odds and its not about what size bucket you buy 🙂
The main street itself is really cute. Really nice store fronts. We went into an antique store that was little but packed, and then into a place called Sweet Palace. It was open but you couldn’t see in. We walked through the door and were amazed at the rows and rows of bulk candy, fudge and chocolate covered things. The eyes of the kids became like saucers. Funny that this little place with a main street that is three blocks long, can have something this huge and not have it shut down. Do people actually eat that much candy? The girl in the store tells us they have over 1,300 kinds of candy. Yikes! We were looking for a milk shake but they don’t do that. There is a soda fountain across the street. Ben and Scott go there while the girls and I look around. They are back quickly saying that the place is closed…today only 🙂
Candy treat it is…Ben opts for fudge. I got a sample of one kind and it was delicious…very rich! The girls got a small bag which took a long time. Too many choices really!
Back to the RV we walked. Pretty warm and ready to head to Missoula. We are staying at a KOA so they have a pool, laundry and wi-fi. I may do laundry but since we are just about done I may skip it and we use everything we have.
Pulling into the KOA there are a lot of people here…I hope we can get a spot. I hop out and go into the office to check it out. A guy in front of me is checking in. He says his name and I do a double take. It is one of Scotts friends brother! What? Funny, I introduce myself and we chat a bit. His family is taking off on their own cross country trip and today is their first stop! Random meeting him here. He goes out and says hi to Scott and we all chat a bit before heading to our sites. We never run into anyone we know in all our travels so that was a neat surprise.
The girls are immediately at the playground and the dog park with Gizmo. It is nice that it is fenced and he can run around…finally. Being on a leash all the time has not given him that much exercise, especially since he couldn’t really do anything at Glacier.
Next, Scott takes them all to the pool (it is 88 degrees outside) and they all enjoy a swim. I make up some dinner…trying to use everything up and getting darn close.
Late eating and then more playground time then the kids see an agility course for the dogs so they spend another 30 or 40 minutes trying to get Gizmo to do the course.
In bed around 10:30pm and we are off tomorrow to Moses Lake. There is a nice place there with another pool.
Only a couple more nights and we are back home. I always like to come home but its always a bummer too. Mixed you could say. Our time on the road is simple…that I enjoy. The kids are not distracted or busy going here and there…that I enjoy. Scott is around all the time…that I enjoy. I know we are so blessed to be able to take this time. I love home too and I do look forward to catching up with friends, watching the kids play and lovely flowers!
Thanks for keeping up with us!