We finished packing, loaded the dogs and headed out about 8:30 a.m. As usual, the scenery was beautiful. We drove past the Canyon Ferry Lake, shimmering out on a barren, flat area. It’s a very popular fishing destination – but with no trees? Nope, not for me. We cruised between distant mountain ranges. At one point I was reminded of the movie – “These Thousand Hills” a 1959 movie based on the book written by A.B. Guthrie, Jr, Montana Author. Of course it was set in Montana – and this area looked like it surely was where it was meant to take place.
We drove through vast lands of grain – looking like it was ready to harvest. Barb told me about a rancher in the area who started “Wheat Montana” it’s a brand of Montana bread grains. They have a huge “truckstop” store by the same name which sells sandwiches and bakery items, as well as flour and prepared grains for home baking. The sandwiches and rolls were huge – we bought a cinnamon roll which we cut into 4 pieces, each about the size of a glazed donut! I plan to stop on the way back for a closer look! These stores now dot the landscape all over Montana. I’ll have to check to see if there is a shop in Great Falls – near my home base while in Montana
On our way again, Barb said she would like to stop at the “Pickle Barrel” in Bozeman for a sandwich. When we arrived in Belgrade – suburb of Bozeman – to meet with a cousin, we exited, and pulled into a convenient parking lot, and I called Dee. Barb piped up with “Look at that! I don’t believe it!” We were 2 doors down from the Pickle Barrel. So we went in to get lunch and waited for Dee. These were supersized subs. An entire loaf of bread for each sandwich – not a small – foot-long, either – a big loaf! While I was visiting with Dee about the family, Barb went into the casino next door and won $20, which paid for her sandwich!
Following Dee, we checked out some locations in the area for possible family reunion activities next year, then we were off on the road again, but not without a stop at the K-Mart for a little lantern I’d had my eye on, and Barb got a camp chair with a shade on it. She is now set to be comfortable wherever she might be.
The total distance to our campground was 200 miles. We drove steadily until we got to Big Timber where we left the highway to find #298 out of town. We were talking about finding a grocery store – had to have horseradish to go with my sandwich. Did I tell you those sandwiches were huge? They were – enough for 4 meals. Anyway, I rounded a corner, and spotted a sign! Quilts and Candy – my two favorite things. I slid into a parking lot and to Barb’s inquiring look, replied – “Well, we need to ask directions to the store, don’t we?”
It was a lovely quilt store. I was pretty good, though! I only spent $8.00 – on quilt block which was a reproduction of an antique Montana postcard. I thought to myself – this just may be the beginning of a Montana quilt for me! The postcard quilt square was the theme for this year’s “shop hop” Instead of including just quilt stores in nearby areas – this shop hop included every store in Montana that wanted to participate – 46 shops in all! The Virginia shop hop usually has a dozen or less stores. Next year, I will definitely be in Montana for the shop hop! Wonder what the theme will be then?
We found the IGA and got the horseradish as well as a bottle of wine - It was an orange citrusy wine – it turned out later to be very refreshing. I kept the bottle to tell you exactly what kind it was – but I can’t find it right now! Sorry!
We drove 25 miles out of Big Timber, into the Beartooth Mountains. Our wilderness and tracking skills were on over-drive, and we realized we were entering Bear Country – course the signs along the road saying so might have had a smidgen to do with our figuring that out. We then travelled 8 miles on a bumpy, gravel road, and finally found the campground, as well as the LoW’s group. (Loners on Wheels)
By the time we got our tent up and camp arranged it was around 6 p.m. We wandered over and introduced ourselves to the others and enjoyed visiting for awhile, and then, much too soon, it was time for bed. We were told coffee would be ready at 8 at Carl’s camp.
Our particular campsite was very near the Boulder River, but had no direct access. However, we were close enough for the river music to lull us to sleep.
8:00 a.m. sharp we were at Carl’s site for coffee. While having breakfast, an errant couple of LoW’s arrived – they had stayed at the wrong campground the night before. The new comers were two sisters-in-law who had travelled extensively together, and had been members of the group for around 20 years. Our party now consisted of 7 people. Barb and myself – first comers to a LoW’s campout, Janine – a veteran of many campouts and secretary of the group, Charlie and Gloria – the sisters-in-law, and President and Treasurer of the club, Margo, a woman from Florida, just travelling, and Carl – the lone “Rooster”
Jenine’s travel companion is a Schnauzer named Bailey. Jenine has been camping and travelling for years – as has all the other LoW’s. She has driven her own RV for years.
Charlie and Gloria lived on ranches in the Conrad, MT area before moving into town. Charlie is full of stories! She kept us entertained the whole weekend!
Margo? Well, Margo is a woman after my own heart! She lives in Florida, has a small SUV and a small pull along trailer and travels around the US all summer, and returns to Florida in the winter. She was talking about heading back to Vermont after leaving Montana – but we told her about lots of neat places to visit out west, which would allow her to time her visit to Vermont to coincide with the fall foliage extravaganza.
Margo planned to visit Glacier Park after leaving us – She planned to enter from the east side of the park. We told her about the beauty of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and the salt lick near Logan’s pass where she could see up close the mountain goats. BUT……… She drove up to Logan’s pass from the east side of the park, which is not all that exciting and got there the day mud slides closed the Going to the Sun road. When I talked to her later, she was planning to stay another night, and was complaining that after all our warnings that she couldn’t take her rig through the park, it was no big deal – she had driven up higher hills in Georgia - I certainly hope she was able to stay long enough to take the “Sun” road, otherwise her memories of Glacier Park will be very dull indeed. Not that Logan Pass is not beautiful – it is, but the approach from the East leaves much to be desired.
Carl, being the only man present, could hardly get a word in edgewise. He plans to make sure he rousts out another fellow to join us in September at the Chokecherry Festival.
Among the group, we gathered food for breakfast – pancakes, eggs, kielbasa – and of course having it around the “campfire” and sharing among new found friends, it was the best breakfast I’d had in years! We finally drifted to our own sites for an afternoon siesta! At least we tried to nap – but a bright, hot afternoon sun shining on that new tent soon chased us out to find shade.
About 4 pm we started gathering at Carl’s again – the prelude to dinner. We were very interested in Margo’s story - She has a small SUV and about a 19’ trailer, she travels all over the country – with just paper maps – no GPS! I would not want to be without my GPS. Anyway, she does not plan ahead – just goes where the wind blows her .
Once again for dinner, we all brought our food to Carl’s site and prepared a wonderful meal.
Carl manned the grill, Barb brought 2 steaks, which we cut into strips and shared, Janine brought salad, Charlie and Gloria brought jello and fresh made rolls, and Margo brought watermelon!
There were 3 dogs present at the campout – ours, Della and Tucker, and Janine’s Bailey. They were all so well behaved……… well, mostly. At dinner time, we put Della in the tent on her bed, and put Tucker in his playpen. I returned to Carl’s site, and before I even got settled, there was Tucker. Back to the campsite – Oh, that’s the problem, the one corner of the playpen was on a rock, creating an escape tunnel. Back he went, and once again, he almost beat me to Carl’s. So, we let him stay. Back at our site, later, I put Tucker in his playpen and sat down to watch. He immediately went to one side, put his nose in the corner and pushed as hard as he could – once it moved a couple inches, he moved to the other corner and pushed again, until he had it back on the rock with an escape tunnel!
Saturday morning began once again with coffee at Carl’s camp, then we said goodbye to Janine who headed home about noon. Barb and I walked around the other loop of the campground and visited with some of the other campers. If you liked to fish, this was a fantastic location.
jumped up on the table, so he had to spend the next hour tied to a tree.
Saturday night a storm blew in – the tent was buffeted by the wind and billowed noisily, but no major problem. It sounded like a down pour, but in the morning, a pan left out didn’t have enough water in it to cover the bottom. We survived the night without a drop of water inside the tent.
It was time to leave. I had decided during the night, that it would be easier to load the truck if I folded back the topper, which we did. But, when it came time to pull it back up, I couldn’t seem to get it right – it just sort of lay down on top of the gear. Finally I just zipped up the back window and secured it on the Velcro, and we headed out.
Once on the road “Luci” (Barb – reference is to Lucille Ball movie The Long, Long, trailer) decided she wanted to pick up a rock to take home for her garden. After several stops to inspect possibilities, she picked up one that was about a foot square – after that point, my gas mileage dropped appreciably.!!
Once we were on pavement again, we stopped at the Natural Bridge of Montana. As we stood looking at the area maps, it looked like it would be quite a hike, but I caught sight of a scale which showed the walk was only about 500’. What a relief. There was no longer a natural bridge – it collapsed in 1988, but…… the river is busy building another. It disappears underground just past the location of the old natural bridge. It comes out again a little way down river. The river flows from the valley into it’s own little “grand” canyon –The water is a beautiful teal color – I wonder if that is from ice melt.
At that point we parted company with Margo and headed back to Big Timber. Once on the highway, I saw the back of the topper flapping in the wind. I watched it for a bit, but decided I had to do something, so we pulled off the road, pulled out the step stool and I climbed up to see what I could figure out. We must have been there 10 minutes pondering the problem, when Barb said: “Hey, you need to snap that canvas to the bar” So we did – Problem solved – not something that I will soon forget!!!! All is well.
We made it back to Belgrade, met up with my cousin to retrieve my photos. I waited with the dogs while Barb went into the Casino. All of a sudden, the wind picked up, and with about 90 miles to go, I didn’t want to be caught in a major storm. (the wind and rain of the night before caused havoc all across central Montana – flooding, mudslides, power outages) I went in and pulled Barb, kicking and screaming…… no that’s a lie – she came quietly. And… we were on the road again.
A few miles down the road was Three Forks and the headwaters of the Missouri – we stopped to look around. We saw where the Gallatin and Madison rivers meet to form the Missouri. We got back in the truck to head down the road about ½ mile to see where the Jefferson river joins in – but by the time we got nearly there, the storm caught up with us, and we decided it was time to hit the road again!
We got back to Helena about 6 p.m., tired and hungry, but happy. We finished the sandwiches from the Pickle Barrel and got a good night’s sleep.
And so ended our adventure to the Beartooth Mountains.
Until next time
Bear HugsLuv ‘n Boots and Tucker too,
And of course, always, Little Bear
She believed she could do it, and so she did!