A hike up Mount Helena on Pi Day, 3-14-15 at exactly 9:26 a.m. (3.1415926) brings a day of hiking mixed with history lessons
The day held blue skies and nothing more than a slight breeze on top but otherwise shirt-sleeve weather. We started the hike up the Prospect Shafts trail, enjoying the views all of the way up. We took the short side trail to read about the Helena musician and teacher who took children up the mountainside to plant a grove of pine trees that still exist today. Read more.
Also along the Prospect Shafts trail are lime kilns from Helena's early days. The quicklime produced by the kilns was used in construction, particularly to make a strong type of mortar. Read more.
Our history lesson continued as we encountered the dug-out pits, used for military training exercises during WWII to train combat troops for battles in the alps and other mountainous areas. These troops were called the 1st Special Service Force, also known as the Devil's Brigade. Read More Perhaps, this is where the cave area on the mountain, Devil's Kitchen, gets its name.
After the climb of 1100 feet (we took the Hogback trail connected to the Prospect Shafts trail), we made it to the top to enjoy 360-degree views and a snack; then we headed back down the mountain via the 1906 trail, stopping along the way for side trips up to the limestone caves to view the bat guano and holes in the side of the mountain. This area is very steep so we were glad to have our poles to help us stay steady and keep from slipping.
Our history lesson wouldn't be complete without a trip up Reeder's Alley, the quaint brick townhouses that sit at the base of Mount Helena along a steep winding alleyway for lunch. We at Karmadillo's, an order-at-the counter southwest-Mexican eatery. We had the choice of eating in our out and we choose out, since the weather was so beautiful. Katie was disappointed to see that the Stonehouse, a fancy Helena-tradition restaurant was now occupied by offices.
Read more about Reader's Alley. the Stonehouse and other former businesses that inhabited Reeder's alley--this site includes a great video to learn more about the history of the area and buildings.
After lunch, we strolled down Last Chance Gulch, shopping at the various stores and getting some sweets at the Big Dipper Ice Cream and the Parrot candy store.
Who went: Kathy D, Cathy, Catherine, Mary N, Susan, Katie
Times: left at 7:30 a.m., done hiking by noon, home by 4 p.m
Link to Katie's pictures
More information on hikes in the Helena area
Map of hiking trails on Mount Helena (it's best to use IE --otherwise, you have to enable the Silverlight plug-in in Chrome)
pdf map of Mt. Helena