The hotel which we were staying in last night seemed like quite a budget chain, so we didn't have high hopes for breakfast this morning. Low expectations turned out to be appropriate! Not only was the breakfast offering pretty sparse - mainly just toast, cereal and scrambled egg - it was served in the small lobby of the hotel which only had three tables. All those tables were full when we arrived, so once we'd helped ourselves to some food we had to carry our plates back up to our bedroom to eat it there.
We checked out of the hotel pretty soon after breakfast and hit the road, heading towards our final state of Montana. We left Salmon via the road we'd entered by yesterday, continuing to follow it north towards the state border.
When we arrived in Montana, first impressions were that it was really beautiful.
We were on quite a minor route without any other traffic and we pulled over by the side of the road to admire the views.
We had some fantastic views of snowy mountains...
...and it felt like we were absolutely in the middle of nowhere.
We continued along the minor road....
...stopping again when views of the snow-capped mountains got even better.
Our destination for the day was a place called Bannack State Park.
It's a rather unusual place - the best-preserved ghost town in Montana.
A town was first founded here in 1862 when a discovery of gold was made nearby.
Over time mining for gold really took off and the settlement grew to a population of around 3 000 people.
For a few years it was even the capital city of the Montana territory!
Once the initial gold rush was over and interest in gold mining began to dwindle, the population of the town began to decrease.
The post office closed in 1938 and the school closed in the early 1950s. Bannack was officially a ghost town.
A society was set up to preserve it and money was invested in looking after the buildings, with the result that it exists as a fully preserved town that can be visited today.
We had fun walking around and exploring the different buildings.
Some of the houses looked like they had been quite an impressive size.
There was a Methodist church...
...and a building which doubled as a school house and a Masonic lodge. We could just make out the Masonic symbol still on the front.
But there was a darker side to the town too. We followed a path away from the main street...
...which led us to the site of the town's gallows!
We also found these tiny buildings which were the town's prison cells. Apparently these were the first prison cells to be constructed in the Montana territory.
It was really interesting to walk around imagine what life must have been like here.
It was a really beautiful location, but so remote.
Once we'd finished exploring we had a further drive of 2.5 hours or so to reach the town of Bozeman, from where we are flying this evening. We had some time to kill before our first flight, so popped into a branch of a restaurant called Applebee's. As with everything, the portions were enormous! I had a macaroni cheese dish with breaded chicken; there was honey mixed in with the macaroni cheese which sounds really strange but was delicious! Tim had a dish called Fiesta Lime Chicken, which came with spicy rice.
Needless to say, we didn't succeed in clearing our plates! Suitably stuffed, we drove the final 10 miles to the airport where we handed back the rental car and checked in our bags. Our first flight this evening is from Bozeman to Denver. We've then got around 45 minutes to change in Denver, before getting a second flight to Chicago O'Hare. We'll be staying overnight in a hotel near the airport in Chicago this evening, before flying back to the UK via Dublin tomorrow afternoon.
It's been a really amazing holiday - we've travelled so much and seen so many beautiful places. At some point over the next few days we'll try to write a summary post to add up the miles we've travelled... and possibly the dollars we've spent