Town of Red Lodge
About Red Lodge. Quaint doesn’t quite nail it down. Neither does country western. The first time I viewed the town nestled at the foot of the grand peaks of the Beartooth Mountains I literally stopped in my tracks to take it all in. The eclectic mix of shops and people strolling the sidewalks was an invitation to stay. I’ve heard the phrase: I’ve been Red Lodgenized, to describe the way it hits you, sucks you in like a good black hole and keeps you there. My first trip was over twenty years ago; I lived there for ten years; I’ve been gone for twelve. Each trip home has remained eternally magic for me.
Red Lodge is about the people, snuggled into the town the way the town is cradled by the mountains. As with what happened to me, people come to visit and never leave. You can walk this Broadway main street with a whole different feel to it than the one in New York City and realize you never want to return to your regular life. You can drive into Red Lodge from Yellowstone Park, which is spectacular enough to make you think about quitting the real world. But you stop here for lunch, look around, and think: Hm, do I really need to go back to….
It’s a little Northern Exposure, if you ever saw that show. Where you can see a backhoe parked on main street in front of the vintage candy store, a moose nibbling the pink Spirea in your yard, or walk into the local diner where the regulars sit in their usual seats. You can call the mayor at home and ask him a question. Or be new in town, run into him (The Mayor and the HVAC man are frequently the same person!) in the hardware store for the first time ever; tell him what your old house needs as you stare with confusion at the array of supplies, and have him say: Oh, I worked on that house years ago, I know the furnace, here, I’ll fix it. He follows you home and becomes a friend for life.
Red Lodge is about walking everywhere year round. It’s about breathing air that smells good and sidewalks that are clean and that are sure lead you to one friendly face after another. An insomniac for life, I used to go for walks at two in the morning around the park between Word and Villard. My friend Helen never locked her door. This worked great for Bob, the librarian who would leave new books on her kitchen table that he thought she might enjoy.
It’s about the grocery store losing power one day and the owner saying, jot down what you think everything was priced at and write me a check. It’s about leaving my wallet at home one day and him saying, take your food home and bring me back a check. I mean, who does things like that?
Red Lodge is about friendliness. If you’re a visitor, a native will see it on your face and ask: do you need directions, are you looking for a restaurant, with what do you need assistance? They inquire, think about it and then they help you find whatever you need.
Fresh coffee can be found at a couple of delightfully different venues, as varied as the cuisines you can find in the array of restaurants, from great pizza to elegant dining. There’s a book store with the writings of many local authors on the shelves. The vintage Roman Theatre is a great place to catch a flick after a hard day of touring. The Carbon County Arts Guild displays local artists—a wide variety of talents and craftsmanship. There’s a great Carbon County Historical Society and Museum to learn about the rugged and sometimes flamboyant past of the place. There’s even the Liver-Eating Johnson Park, to give an appropriate nod to the Jeremiah Johnson made legendary by Robert Redford. There’s a local brew pub with microbeers to dapple your taste buds while you dine from a diverse menu.
There are shops and diners that have been in residence for decades. Residents whose heritage goes back longer than that. There are families who feel like they’ve lived several lifetimes here.
There’s a lot to do in this little town, so when you walk (or drive) from your Red Lodge Rentals home away from home, you can experience many different activities.
Red Lodge is a place with a heartbeat all its own and my words aren’t going to describe it nearly as well as what your own first glimpse shows you when you step out of your car, put your foot on the ground and start walking.
A few facts about Red Lodge (taken from the Carbon County Historical Society & Museum):
Red Lodge was a coal mining town but only boomed after the railroad reached town in 1889. There were two major mines; the West Side and East Side.
By 1910 there were 5,000 people compared to today's 2,400.
There were 21 bars open 24/7.
In 1924 the West Side Mine (Sunset) closed and in 1932 the East Side Mine (Sunrise) closed.
The town turned to tourism with the completion of the Beartooth Highway in 1936.
Construction began in 1931 and total cost was $2.5 million.
From 13th St. south to Highway 308/212 bridge (and from the east to the west benches), mine tunnels are underneath Red Lodge. Some are as deep as 300 feet.