Montana State Capitol


Today I visited the Montana State Capitol in Helena, Montana.  I was a little reminded by my visit to the Vermont State Capitol in 2012.  No security, no metal detectors.  Walk right in and make yourself at home.  In fact, if I had know better I would have been able to literally park right next to the entrance.  There were open spaces and no – “no parking” signs.


I arrived too late to take part in a guided tour, so I was left on my own to explore.  The old Supreme Court Chambers looks like it is still being used in some capacity.  Why else would there be the out of place stackable chairs more commonly found in hotel conference rooms?


If the House had been in session I might not have noticed, but since it wasn’t I was paying more close attention to the aesthetics.  The chamber is wallpapered.


I wasn’t able to enter the Senate chamber.  All gallery doors were locked so I took this picture from a window in a door.


This is the first state capitol cafeteria I have visited. It was closed, but wondered what the legislators who are “politically incorrect” do for lunch?


Speaking of politically incorrect, I found this monument on the east side of the capitol grounds, nearly identical to the one formerly at the Oklahoma State Capitol.  Little did I know when I visited there a little over 2 years ago that the monument would be demolished, replaced and then ordered removed by the state supreme court.  I wonder what will happen to this monument over the next 2 years!


Across the street from the capitol is the Montana Historical Society.  On the grounds of the museum is a replica of the Liberty Bell.  Yesterday was Independence Day, the 24oth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.  There were no signs but I’m guessing this replica was cast in 1976, the 200th anniversary, which is now 40 years ago!


Fort Snelling

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Today I visited Historic Fort Snelling, just outside of Minneapolis, in Hennepin County, Minnesota.  Fort Snelling was established in the aftermath of the War of 1812 when Minnesota was still a frontier territory, with the purpose of protecting the fur trade from British meddling.  The fort eventually closed but re-opened at the onset of the Civil War.  Although many Minnesotans went on to fight in the Civil War, the war never came this far north.  Troops headquartered here did battle with the Dakota Indians in 1862 in other parts of Minnesota.  The fort saw its final use in World War II as a processing center for the newly drafted.

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The fort a parade demonstration and later a firing of the cannon.

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Usually when I visit a historic site I more or less know what I’m going to see.  I had no idea however that one of the most famous people to live here was a slave by the name of Dred Scott.  Scott was the property of Dr. John Emerson, an army physician who brought Scott to Fort Snelling with him from Missouri, a slave state.  Fort Snelling was at that time a part of the Wisconsin Territory, which was a free territory, but for some reason slavery was permitted at the fort.  Years later Scott sued for his freedom, arguing in part that he was free once he entered the free territory of Wisconsin.  He lost the case but helped fuel the growing abolitionist movement which came to full fruition with the Civil War. Dr. Emerson’s quarters are re-created in the picture on the left.  Below his quarters is the kitchen where Scott, along with his slave wife lived.

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Fort Snelling State Park is a short walk from the fort.  After the Dakota War of 1862, about 1600 Dakota Indians were imprisoned in what is now part of the State Park during the winter of 1862-1863.  About 130 of them died here.


The final stop on my tour of Fort Snelling was to stop at the nearby Fort Snelling National Cemetery.  Established in 1939, over 200,000 are now buried here.

Nerstran Big Woods State Park


Today I went hiking at Nerstran Big Woods State Park in Rice County, Minnesota.


The highlight of the park is Hidden Falls.  Not sure how it got that name because it was very easy to find.


Actually, maybe it makes sense.  The falls drop off is “hidden” by the bend of Prairie Creek.


The park has some smaller streams running through it as well.


Chester Woods Park


This afternoon I visited Chester Woods Park, in Olmsted County, Minnesota.  I hiked the majority of trails here, some of which doubled as equestrian trails.


A nice view of Chester Lake.


In addition to the woods the park has abundant prairie grassland.


I neglected to wear my bug repellent (again) but surprisingly came away with no bites.


Quarry Hill Park

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This afternoon I stopped at Quarry Hill Park in Rochester, Minnesota.  I think the foliage is peaking out in its full greenness about now

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The park gets its name due to the fact it was once the site of a stone quarrying operation.  When I arrived at the quarry it reminded me slightly of being on top of Stone Mountain in North Carolina.


Some ruins at the quarry site.


There were quite a few ducks milling about the pond but only two on the man made wooden platform.

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In addition to the waterfowl, I saw two other animals, both very close to the visitors center.  I was told that the snake is a corn snake and not venomous.  The squirrel did not seem the slightest concerned about me.