This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable

The Frontier HouseProjectFrontier LifeThe FamiliesResources
Top Story
back The Experience next
Week 8
previous next
Erinn eats watermelon
  Erinn finds refuge in a slice of delicious watermelon

Update from the field:
Simon Shaw, Series Producer

Store visits for homesteaders were often infrequent and arduous affairs. Typically the nearest merchant was located many miles away, and going to the store involved a painstaking journey. It's just so in Frontier Valley. Last Saturday our settlers, their larders empty, decided that it was time to hike the 10-mile journey to visit Hop Sin Yin's; this 1880s general store, operated by a Chinese merchant, is located six valleys away. Getting there involves a grueling eight-hour trek over two mountain ranges.

With temperatures in the high 80s, our party departed early on Saturday afternoon. Counting members of the production team we were eight in number, and it wasn't long before we were all panting and sweating over the first pass. During a water and rest break, homesteader Gordon offered a brief history lesson. "You know, these forests around us were all destroyed by forest fires a hundred years ago," he explained. "They were lucky last year not to have had any bad fires 'round here. Must be due any time now." Thinking nothing of it we headed on, but it wasn't long before those words were echoing in our minds.

Entering a canyon on our final leg of the journey we spotted smoke drifting over the forest to our right. Already six hours into our trip, we pressed on. Another

"Another half mile and not only could we see smoke, but flames were visible up in the trees not 200 yards away."
--Simon Shaw, Series Producer

media link

Erinn shares her observations on frontier life. Read her profile.
Karen talks about her visit to the store.

The Way it was

half mile and not only could we see smoke, but flames were visible up in the trees not 200 yards away. Luckily -- and we were so lucky that afternoon -- the wind was directing the fire away from us. Taking advantage of the situation, we hiked out of the valley by taking a pack-horse route up on the opposite side. Reaching the top, we turned to view the scene. The route we had just taken was now in flames, a truly horrific realization that if we'd set off half an hour later we may have been trapped in that valley.

As I write this, members of the local fire brigade are still swapping stories in the bar of how they witnessed a bizarrely dressed bunch scrambling up a hillside last Saturday evening. Meanwhile, we all continue to thank our lucky stars. This was the biggest fire our corner of Montana has seen in the last couple of years. Even these four days later the fire still rages, despite the best efforts of 80 firefighters, three helicopters, and two Borate tankers. We all pray they get it under control shortly.

The Homesteaders
Animation of homesteaders
Media Showcase
Speak Out
[an error occurred while processing this directive]Pledge
The Video Diaries
print this page email this url to a friend play audio play audio