"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Friday, June 14, 2019

Sapphires, BBQ & Steak in Philipsburg and Anaconda, MT

Anaconda, Montana
Big Sky RV Park

After Helena we visited Anaconda for our second time.  We wanted to take my brother and Diane Sapphire mining in Phillipsburg.  The few campgrounds they had were all booked up so we stayed in nearby Anaconda.
As you drive  into town you can't miss the Anaconda Smelter Stack.  It is the tallest surviving masonry structure in the world with an overall height of about 585 feet, including a brick chimney 555 feet tall.  It was built in 1918 as part of the Washoe Smelter of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company.
The roads all around here provide gorgeous scenery.  At this time in June there was still plenty of snow on the mountain tops.
We stayed at the Big Sky RV Park in town right with Warm Springs Creek right across the street.  This is a very small private park.  It seems to have about 10 sites of permanent RVs on one side and another 10 on the side near the road.  It's a very quiet road and the park has beautiful views all around.  We had FHUs for $35.  Close together but some separation with grass.  Very clean and well kept park with a helpful attendant.
Behind our rig is the river which has walking paths on both sides that goes for a few miles and has wonderful parks throughout it.  The water is easily fishable and we caught some very nice Browns and Rainbows.  There is also some boondocking here.  Great cell signal there and in the campground.
 This is the side we were on.
 My brother's spot to the left with his Ranger.
  Today was my brother's birthday so we took them to dinner at Barclays II in Anaconda.  It's a throwback to the days of the 60s when the RatPack was around.  They are a 5 star rated steak place.  You get multiple courses and large quantities.  Really good food.  I had comes with salad, shrimp cocktail, bread sticks, antipasti and an ice cream sundae.
We wanted to do the sapphire mining at the Gem Mountain mine itself, just out of town.  We had done this before back in August of 2015.
The troughs where you wash the rocks/dirt in the background.  I wasn't sure how Steve and Diane would like it but they had a great time!
Due to safety issues in the past, you no longer are able to scoop you own bucket at the mine site itself.  Now you choose your own bucket from a bunch of prefilled buckets.  You choose a table and get a screen, brush, tweezers and bottle.
First you pour a little dirt into the screen.
Here's my brother at the trough washing out the dirt and picking out large rocks.
 If you do the wash cycle properly as they instruct, when you flip it over onto the black pads, most of the sapphires will be on top.
 You then go over what's left and brush off the rocks as you go.
The sapphires are very distinct amongst the other rocks.  They are somewhat round and clearish or slightly milky.  Usually clear or slightly blue.  In the above picture you can see 3 sapphires right in the middle below a yellow pebble.
 Here it is blown up.  See how the tree sapphires look?  It's pretty easy to spot them once you get going.  They have employees around to help you look for them or how to wash them.
When you are done you can go inside and professional gemologists will look over what you have and separate the sapphires you found from any other gems or stones for free.  Then for a $10 fee they will classify them and tell you about their quality and the possibility of them being processed and cut into gemstones.  They get sent out to Sri Lanka and take about 9 months to get back to you.  We did this last year with about 6 stones that were of size and worthy to process. 
Out of all of these we found above, only these seven below were of good enough size and quality to have processed.  You can see how different the colors can be.  There is a lot of waste in the cutting process.  Out of 3 carrots, you will end up with 1 carrot.  The shape will depend on how the cutting goes.  The fun part is you won't know the color until they are fired.  You could start out with a light blue raw stone and once it's fired it could be deep blue, purple, pink or even yellow.  Our first time we had several round medium blue and even a yellow stone and a square cut blue that we had made into a special ring for out daughter.
  The above were the only stones good enough to have processed.
Our last day we toured them around historic Philipsburg.  It is one of the cutest towns.  Just the right size for a small town we could live in.  Now we know why the campgrounds were filled up.  This is one of their largest festivals each year.  Professional BBQ contest, Beer Tasting of Montana beer, Car Shows and some great country music!
 Part of Main Street is shut down for the festivities.
 It was early and they were just setting up.  We walked around and visited some of the cute shops.

 The band was real good.  If they were selling a CD of their music we would've bought one.
We had some good BBQ and walked around a bit.  The Steve's tried the beer and Diane and I window shopped.

 Such cute buildings.  There is a lot of history here if you walk/drive around and look at the buildings.

 Smoking some pork in a handmade smoker.

 Diane and I listening to some great music.
We headed out just as the crowds were starting to come in.  Philipsburg is a great town and I highly recommend spending the day here and trying the sapphire mining.  It is by far the easiest and most rewarding of any we have tried. Tomorrow we spend the day in Butte.


  1. Love that old architecture, Debbie! That smokestack is crazy tall!

  2. Looks like y'all had a great visit to the area. Great time spent with your brother and SIL :-)

  3. We love, love Montana and I've put this cute little town on the list for our next visit. The sapphire mining looks fun and rewarding!

    1. You'd love the town and the surrounding towns!

  4. Years ago we stopped at that gem mining site, stils have the raw sapphires. Love those little towns.

  5. What a great time! I am surprised the chimney has survived that long, very cool. The sapphire mine looks cool, we would love to try that sometime.


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