Thursday, September 8, 2011
Heart Mountain Relocatoin Center and Red Lodge, MT
We arrived in Cody, WY from Gillette and looked forward to doing some exploring in the area before heading on to Yellowstone. Just north of Cody is a very interesting piece of US history - the Heart Mountain Japanese Relocation Center. Shortly after WWII began, President Roosevelt issued an executive order to isolate all people of Japanese descent in relocation camps. OF the three camps built in the United States, one was here in Wyoming.
The camp held some 10,000 Japanese Americans for a period of about 3 years and while there are differing opinions on the need for this act, it was very interesting to see how the forced residents adjusted to their new lives. There were many, many buildings here during the occupation, but most are now gone with only these couple remaining.
There is a new visitor's center that has just been opened, unfortunately, it was not open the day we came by. According to the Heart Mountain website, there are a number of interesting exhibits that would be nice to see.
As you can see, this site of the original administrative center, looks pretty much like a field today. Still, there are original structures (note those to Orinda's left in the background) and many foundations and other remnants to remind us of the past. We did enjoy the self-guided tour and would suggest the site if you are ever in the Cody, WY area.
Traveling north from the Heart Mountain site, we proceeded through a very large valley that was desolate, but beautiful. We imagined how hard this area was to get through on horseback or in a wagon.
We are at about 6,000 feet in elevation and there is little rainfall each year in the area. These are the classic high Wyoming plains and we did not see much in the way of other cars for many miles. We were really glad to have the Buick and a full tank of gas!
We were on our way to the Beartooth Highway (more on that in a later post) and headed toward Red Lodge, MT which is the gateway to the excellence scenic drive. On the way, we found this sign about the terrible Smith Mine disaster which claimed 74 lives in 1943.
After the mine tragedy, the mine was closed and abandoned with these buildings still standing today. This is a classic ghost town/mine and was very interesting, and a little spooky, to look at.
Red Lodge is located just a few miles further and is a great place to stop for a cup of coffee. This town features modern amenities, but still offers a historic western town feel. All this at well over a mile high in altitude.
The Main Street of Red Lodge reminded us of many small western towns we have seen with a vibrant commercial area and a family feel. We made sure to stop for a quick snack as we headed north to the Beartooth.