We returned from our Canadian adventure via the border crossing at Eureka, Montana. Having been to Paso Robles, Lodi, Sonoma and Napa, we had a few bottles of wine on which I didn’t want to pay Canadian duty, so we had rented a small storage locker in Eureka prior to heading across, and we were happy to find that none had evaporated during our ten day absence. We stayed in a small campground with this fifth wheel and an unusual tow vehicle (okay, maybe the owner also had a truck, but it made a cute photo…)
When we got down to Missoula, we stopped in at the University of Montana for a walk with Rudy and Gretchen. Suzanne went on alert when she heard the music from the marching band, and we had to listen for a bit. She was a “bandie” in high school and college, and I would swear that she was about to grab a flute or piccolo from one of the college kids and show them how it should be played…
Everyone in America has passed by at least one used car lot in their lives, but Montana has a different commodity to sell…
We arrived in Bozeman and immediately set out for a hike. Stopping at this trailhead map, we opted for Bear Creek rather than Moonshine Gulch… I told Suzanne the creek was named that because it was shaped like a bear… she wasn’t amused, but each of us did carry a can of bear spray. (Oh, and the trail sign had to have a bullet hole… after all, this IS Montana!)
Bozeman is where we were joined by our dear friend and neighbor, Tony Vouvalides, who is an expert trout fisherman. He has been fly fishing since he was a youngster, while I have only been using a fly rod for about 6 hours, if you count up the time I have actually held one. We went drift fishing with a guide for three days on the Yellowstone River. Tony out-caught me about 15-6…
but I enjoyed the scenery more. This would be a great river to kayak down, carrying your tent, sleeping bag, stove, etc. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t catching as many fish – you have to keep your eyes on a dry fly so that when a trout hits it for .00005 nanoseconds, you can strike and hook it. I think my reflexes are getting slow in my old age… but if I kayak-camped down the Yellowstone River, I would be sure to carry freeze-dried meals or Marine Corps/Army Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) in case the fish were on vacation in Tampa.
Each day on the river started chilly, like in the 40s, but warmed up into the low 70s by afternoon. Perfect weather for anything!
Our drift boats were different makes and models each day, but they all had a dory’s double end, high bow and stern. The guide sat in the middle seat and rowed, mostly to keep the boat aligned with the current, to miss rocks, and to allow the fishermen a good casting angle. We averaged about 13 miles a day on the Yellowstone.
As I mentioned earlier, the scenery was very nice. Suzanne and I have a phrase that we use when we step onto a scene like this… “This is a HATEFUL PLACE!”
Picking the right flies to use is an art; it’s called “matching the hatch”, or more colloquially, “pulling it out of your butt”… this sign board in a fly shop suggested which flies were working on different rivers in the area. I particularly liked the innovative names, like Panty Dropper, Thunder Thighs, Dirty Hippie and Hippie Stomper.
Before Tony returned to South Carolina, we visited a grizzly sanctuary. Only one bear was out at the time, but Brutus was a big guy, about 800 lbs. Even carrying that much weight, an adult griz (Ursus horribilis) can still run at 25-30 mph, making them very quick when hunting elk, deer or hikers. (Just kidding… but we do carry bear spray when we’re out in the woods.) Grizzlies live to around 22 years for males, 26 for females (male lifespans are shorter because of their seasonal breeding fights.) Alaskan bears tend to be much larger (up to 1,200 lbs) because of their richer diet of salmon. Interestingly, grizzlies and black bears rarely share the same territory, because the much larger grizzly is such an intimidating and overpowering competitor. “Apex predator” is such an apt description. When black bears do encounter grizzlies, they generally run or climb a tree to escape almost certain death/injury.
I remained in Bozeman after Tony departed and while Suzanne was speaking at the IANDS conference in Philadelphia, PA. I had to suffer through terrible scenery, such as when I hiked Chestnut Mountain. Even on a weekend, the trail was lightly traveled, with only 4 other hikers and a couple of mountain bikers sharing the trail.
I also got out on my bike a few times, although not on the very steep Chestnut Mountain trail. One of the advantages to not watching any TV is that we can spend more time outdoors. Montana is so beautiful and lightly populated; it’s no wonder many Californians are leaving and settling here. Unfortunately, that migration is driving property values up, a complaint heard in Idaho, Wyoming and Utah as well.
After Suzanne returned, we drove through Yellowstone National Park to our next campground at the south end of the park, right near the Tetons. Yellowstone Lake is a gorgeous body of water, and on this day we didn’t see a single boat out.
More “hateful” scenery to suffer through… but someone has to do it! If you haven’t taken the opportunity to see these amazing national parks, you’re missing some incredible places…
The Tetons are one of our favorite places. Named les trois tetons (the three nipples) by French voyageurs in the 18th Century, this small range of 12-13,000 foot plus peaks is only 40 miles long, and is paradise for backpackers and rock climbers. We only had a couple of days here, so we got out on a long bike ride with this backdrop. Life is good!
This photo by the great photographer Ansel Adams is worth sharing.
On the sad side of life, welcome to the newest member of our Parking Hall of Shame. We had stopped at a home furnishing store and parked next to this Nissan Rogue (appropriately named?) whose owner obviously had no regard for other folks’ desire to park in front of the store in which she was shopping. Another lady in the store looked at the car’s owner and asked her twice, “Why did you park across two spots like that? What were you thinking?” The Rogue owner refused to even answer, and just ignored the other woman completely.
Our next stop was Pinedale, Wyoming,on the west side of the Wind River Range. I had done a four day backpacking trip into The Winds a few years ago, and would like to re-post this photo from that trip – Titcomb Basin became one of my top 3 destinations on the planet that week.
On this trip, Suzanne and I did a great dayhike on the Sacred Rim Trail (Bridger-Teton National Forest). She was so impressed by the panorama here that she posted a video – you can watch it here:
The view down into the valley and to the mountains was incredible. Titcomb basin is located about 15 miles away in the background.
When we arrived in Pinedale, the mountains were almost clear of snow, except for permanent snowfields. On our last evening there, a cold front came through with temps in the 30s in our campground (actually in Boulder, WY). It’s been a long time since we’ve experienced snow in the first week of September!
From Wyoming we drove to Longmont, Colorado, to visit with our dear friends Charlie and Elaine Cunis. We owed “Colonel Crusty” a meal from the last Army-Navy football game. The Cunis’s have been married for over 50 years, and are two of the nicest people we know. (BEAT ARMY!!!)
While Suzanne was recording one of her weekly radio shows from Castle Cunis, the pups and I experienced a moderately bad lightning and hailstorm in the campground. No broken glass or dents, but lots of noise on the coach roof. After the storm passed, this double rainbow graced us with its beauty.
Finally, this sign inside a national park pit toilet either perhaps reflects the park service’s desire for people to not read email while on the throne or to avoid acrobatics… I’m not sure which.