Some pure escapism for my Western friends... a piece in the Los Angeles Times on Montana's Ghost Towns:
Montana's ghost towns a mother lode for nuggets of Western history
Montana ghost towns
The route: Start at Butte, heading southeast on Interstate 90, then head to Virginia and Nevada cities by way of Norris on U.S. and Montana 287. At Twin Bridges, take Montana 41 to Dillon, then take Montana 278 to Bannack and then to Wisdom, where you take Montana 43 back to Butte .
Miles: 210, round trip
Best times: Mid-May to mid-September. You may want to avoid forest-fire season in August.
Why: The story of the West is partly the story of precious metals — gold, silver and copper – and their booms and busts, and you can follow the history of Montana by ghost-town hopping. (Kids, by the way, like hearing about the hardships endured by their counterparts in the 1800s. “You would have been down a mine 150 years ago!” is a great way to get them to hurry up for school.)
Wandering through Bannack Ghost Town ’s 60 structures is like being an extra in an old western. (Bannack was the state's first capital before gold was discovered; then Virginia City became the capital.) .
Highlights: Tours of Butte’s historic uptown and the must-see Berkeley Pit. Panning for gold and watching for ghosts in Virginia City . Bannack Days (the third weekend in July), which includes activities as diverse as hat making and quilting, shoot-outs and wagon rides. Intimate Norris Hot Springs has live music and cold craft beer.
Memorable meal: The Fiesta Mexicana food truck in Dillon where Austin, Texas-style food meets small-town Montana. The buttermilk pie at the Crossing Bar & Grill at Fetty's in Wisdom is well worth a stop.
Tourist trap: Elkhorn Hot Spring. Don't bother.
Plan to spend: 12 hours for Virginia and Nevada cities and Bannack. But if you want to soak in a hot spring, explore the thrift stores of Butte and catch a show in Virginia City, then two days is best.