Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Quick Trip To Montana - Part 1

Just over a week ago LC, Kory and I took a quick trip to Montana.
We had seen some property for sale and were curious about it.
But most importantly, we needed a couple of days away.
A couple of days around mountains and water, away from the stresses we have experienced recently.
A couple of days to unwind and rejuvenate in a new place.
Although we were now done our camper (and although the weather had been warm recently) we were again embedded in dampness and coolness.
Idaho is still all over the map in terms of weather.
As it always is every spring.
Because it was cold we elected to stay in a motel overnight..................

We had only been on the road for 10 minutes, and as I looked at the deep cloud cover that was almost completely obscuring the Twin Buttes I instinctively dug for my camera, intent on capturing up-close pictures.
Reaching into my backpack I pulled out my trusty and old digital camera, turned it on, and looked at the "lens error" icon with dismay.
Tried to turn it off, but it wouldn't budge.
Took the batteries out, put them back in, tried to turn off the camera again and.........nothing.
After trying for a couple of minutes to clear the message I looked at LC and said "it finally died".
The zoom function had been touchy for months.  So had the On/Off button.  
And each time I complained about the lousy piece of junk, LC would say "you need a new camera".
Finally - on the way to Montana - I looked over at LC and agreed "I need a new camera".
We were meeting someone in Idaho Falls before heading north, who was going to buy a pair of Oakley sunglasses from me.
That money (plus a little bit more) ended up buying my fancy new camera.
That turns off and on without hesitation.  That zooms in like nobody's business.  That had all kinds of buttons and functions that I STILL don't understand even though I've now been toying with it for well over a week.
Regardless.........we were good-to-go.................

After gratefully leaving the madness of Idaho Falls we headed north, up through our beloved Island Park, up through West Yellowstone (and the west gate of Yellowstone National Park), and continued north(ish), eager to see territory that was all new to us beyond that point.
As we continued our drive into Montana we were surprised to see YNP signs along the way.
We had always thought that the park was completely self-contained.  
That it required us to enter through one of the multiple gates in order to be in the park proper.
Apparently we were wrong, and as we continued our cloudy and very cool drive we continued to see park signs, along with other signs warning of bison.
We never did see any bison (either on the way up or on the way back).
A couple of hours after leaving the house we pulled the Tahoe off the winding two lane highway, knowing that our pup would be eager to wander for a few minutes.
The world was grey, windy, overcast, very cool.
Summer arrives late to this place.................
As we all slowly wandered along the banks of the river I could feel the stress leaving.
Already LC and I both felt better.
The mountains were calling and we had to go.
To paraphrase John Muir.
The river had been calling as well, and suddenly I was in no big hurry to leave.
Although we had planned only a quick stop, we ended up staying in this place for well over half an hour.
There was no-one around.  The place was silent aside from the blowing wind and the flowing river.  And it was beautiful.............
After finally loading back into the Tahoe, and settling in for the next leg of the trip, I looked back (as I often do during trips) to check on our pup.
The back seats were down (we keep them down most of the time).
She was laying on two pillows with her head resting on the edge of the back seat, and she was staring at me.
I smiled at my relaxed dog, leaned forward so I could kiss her on the top of her furry head, and then rubbed her ears, just as I used to do with Jaimie.
And she liked it just as much as Jaimie did.
She stares at me often when we are on the road, and smiling at her again i reached for my camera.
Leaning behind me I tried to capture a picture of her looking at me but my movements had ruined the moment.
I couldn't get her to look at me while the camera was on and could almost hear the sentence forming inside her puppy head "I don't do stupid human pet tricks"..................
By the time we reached Big Sky a few hours later the........big sky.........had cleared somewhat.
It was still very cool but by mid afternoon the sun was valiantly fighting a (losing) battle to take hold.
The world was greener.
The sky was bluer.
And I remembered just how beautiful this state was..............
LC and I could have simply stopped in Big Timber for the night and then continued on to the small community of Reed Point the following morning to meet with the real estate agent.
Instead (after a long day on the road) we pulled into the tiny town, too eager to see what the place looked like.
Driving the few roads in town LC and I saw a combination of nicely kept homes and run down homes.
That seems to be the way these days.
The town was surrounded by hills.  Was five minutes away from the full and fast flowing Yellowstone River.  It backed up to huge swaths of empty land (although it was unclear whether that land was public access land or part of large cattle ranches), and the train tracks were right at the edge of town.
Where was public access land?  How often did the trains run?  What did the river accesses look like?  What did the old building we had been interested in look like?  What were the people like?
Were we serious about buying?
We weren't sure.
Part depended on what we saw.  
We hadn't even sold our house in Atomic City yet.
Mostly we were simply tire kickers - using this place as a stop-point.  
A go-to destination on a road trip to simply check out the area, see a new place, be close to the mountains and close to the water.
Random pictures taken as we slowly drove around the perimeter of "town"..................
There was a little camp ground right off the interstate.
A gas station.
A bar.
A few nice homes.  A few not-so-nice homes.
Aside from the river close by, the vibe of this town reminded me so much of Atomic City.
As we stopped occasionally so I could snap a few pictures, we saw one train after another pass through the outskirts of town.
About every 20 minutes or so.
That answered another question.
A walk around the building we had come to see answered the first.  It was.......interesting.
Had potential.
We needed to see the river.
Let's go to the river!!....................
Oh boy.
The river was full.  Fast flowing.  And so incredibly outstanding.
As I wandered with my tired dog, and looked back at my tired man, I relished in being so close to this beautiful river...................
After reluctantly leaving the river we slowly drove the gravel road back to the paved road we had come in on.
To the right we could see town less than a mile away.
To the left the road quickly rose into a steep hill and we could not see what was on the other side.
Curious, and still trying to get the lay of the land, we turned left.
At the top of the hill we saw endless rolling hills of green stretching out in front of us as far as we could see.
All of it fenced. 
Slowly driving, we scanned the area wondering if there were any public access places.
Places with endless spaces to roam with my dog.
Yes........I know.  For people of financially humble means, we were a picky bunch................
We only drove a couple of miles before turning back.
To that point we had seen only private property.
Huge spreads of fenced rolling hills, and the occasional cow.
In a couple of hours it would be dark.
We needed to eat.
We needed to find a place to stay for the night.
We had noticed a food sign outside the bar in town, and reasoned that it would be a place to not only grab a quick burger but also talk to the bar owners, servers, customers, and maybe glean more information about the locals, the area and the town.................
Montana should come with a surgeon general warning that it's addictive. The sky is big and blue, and the air is always fresh and crisp and scented with pine. There's a frontier spirit, but also a calmness, beauty in the landscape that slows your pulse.............Robin Bielman, Keeping Mr Right Now

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