Our Lady of the Blue Highways

Our Lady of the Blue Highways
Portrait in oils by Jackie Poutasse

Saturday, October 6, 2012


I now know where I would live if I could live anywhere in the world!!!!

A couple days after our first snow we drove into town and the Highwood Mountains were so beautiful – it was early evening, and they were in cloaked in blue shadows with a “dusting” of snow. (as proved later, it was more than just a dusting)    I wanted photos. 

The next afternoon we left Belt for the mountains, which are very close.  As soon as we left, we were in cattle country – rolling hills and wandering creeks.   Individual farmsteads were decked with fall foliage and the bright blue sky was laden with clouds pregnant with snow.  

The roads were well graded and wandered up and down and around.   The views were awesome.   I took many photos, and Tucker exercised his voice by barking at cattle, horses and deer, and sometimes nothing at all.  As we edged by the Highwoods, we drove through an area arched with golden trees and then started climbing the grasslands once again.  

We were on top!   Not of a mountain, but of a prairie hill – and the view was breathtaking!    Just last week as we were driving around Flathead and Whitefish lakes, I wondered to myself if there was anywhere left in this country with a view that was not blocked by McMansions!    Well, folks, I’m here to tell you there is.

Standing on top of the world, I had a 360 degree view.  To the south, about 50-60 miles across a broad valley, – the Little Belts and Kings Hill,  close behind us the Highwoods,  to the northwest – over 100 miles away the Rockies and to the northeast – stretching as far as the eye could see – the eastern prairies of Montana.   You stand in one place and turn in circles and see only nature in her finest.   The snowstorm had cleared out all the smoke, and the Big Skies of Montana were overpowering.

I always think, when I see a home built on top of a hill in Montana, that it must have been built by non Montanans because no native in their right mind would build there because of the wind.  The wind never stops here – east of the mountains.  But, I tell you what – if I could I would and never, ever complain about the wind!

 I did not take photos from the top because a flat image could never convey the beauty and vastness, the images are engraved on my heart!

The farmsteads were mostly along the creeks – we only passed 4 “stand alone” homes during the entire drive – they were built on top -  two were across the road from each other, the other two were over a mile apart – no other structures cluttered the top!

 Of course if you wanted to built here, that is if any of the landowners would consider selling even a smidgen of their land, you might want to have unlimited funds – wells would have to be deep – very, very deep and electricity would have to be brought for miles.   Yep, you’d need deep pockets, indeed.

Actually, you’d need the attitude, also - many a pioneer went mad on the prairie, of loneliness and the incessant wind.

So, now I know where my dream space is and I’ll visit it from time to time, and hope the landowners hold firm and my next visit doesn’t have McMansions strewn across the “Top”

Until next time
Bear Hugs

Luv ‘n Boots and Tucker, too
And don’t forget Little Bear

She believed she could do it, and so she did.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


We hit the road in a timely manner with Cousin Diane, her daughter Shelley, and Tucker in tow.    We decided to take a different road north – Hwy 15.   We started out through grazing areas, and moved on to wheat fields, miles and miles of wheat stubble.  Finally, north of Conrad, MT, we took a short cut over to highway 89 to be closer to the mountains.   This shortcut was a nice ordinary, paved road – no excitement there!

 We stopped at Marias Pass for a quick lunch.   Marias is the lowest pass on the Continental Divide in the state of Montana.  In the 1920’s, before this section of Hwy 2 was completed, travelers would load their vehicles on the train at East Glacier, and retrieve them 67 miles later at West Glacier.

 Across the road was a mountain with a white layer about ¼ from the top.   During the construction of the planet – the part of the mountain above the limestone line travelled about 70 miles from the southwest to end up on top of this mountain!

We got to Apgar campground in Glacier about 3, finally found a site with a large enough tent pad, and close to the washroom, and set up camp.   We had supper, loaded all the totes into the cab of the truck, and by that time it was dark and we went to bed.  It dropped to the 40’s over night, but we were quite comfortable in the tent.

Each night got colder.  I was ok – I had the 2” memory foam pad on top of my air mattress.   Shelley was in pretty good shape – she had a foam pad, too – but she got cold the last night.    Diane did fine the first 2 nights – the third – it dropped into the 30’s and she got quite cold.   I had my big quilt in the back of the truck – just because I hadn’t taken it out before we left.  We folded it in half and put on top of her air mattress and the last night, she slept comfortably.

Yes, it was cold.  I had all the stuff necessary for morning coffee, tea, whatever so we could grab it and start the water heating without delay.  Tucker we wrapped a blanket around him and held him close until he stopped shivering – the last morning we put him and blanket in chair, then covered all with a sleeping bag – he didn’t warm up until after we got on the road headed home.

OK – so we’ve covered the weather.  We arrived at the park on Monday evening.  Tuesday, we stayed in the park – drove as far as we could on the Going to the Sun road – which was only about 15 miles.   It was a pretty drive – for most of the way, along Lake McDonald – it was so smoky it was hard to see the mountains across the lake.   At the end of the road, we parked and Shelley and I took the short hike through the ancient cedar grove.   It was so quiet – and so awesome.  I got fascinated by the root systems where trees had toppled.  I took several photos. 

We returned to Apgar and perused the village.   Checked out all the souveniers.  I’m still looking for a souvenir T-shirt.  I guess I’ll just have to iron on a photo of Mountain Goats I took last time. 

Wednesday, after another good night’s sleep, and we were off to drive around Flathead Lake.   It was a very enjoyable drive – about 100 miles altogether.  And, still…. Smoky!

 We stopped at Big Fork, a very entertaining small town.  We slowed to enjoy a sculpture garden, and all of a sudden, Tucker started in barking, and BARKING and BARKING!   There on a low, flat rock – just above his sightline, was a sculpture of a cougar, and Tuck was not going to let it get his ladies!!!!   The artist was nearby and said she enjoyed seeing dog’s reactions to it.   Most big dogs, she said, turn and run.  Now, I’m not sure if that means they have more sense than Tucker, or that Tucker is braver????

As we walked around town, several people stopped us to pet Tuck and ask about him.  One lady actually called us to stop, she had been following, trying to catch up so she could see him up close.

Thursday morning the plan was to drive the 25 miles to Whitefish just to check out the town – we’d learned by then that we couldn’t do the walk in the treetops as it was only open Friday, Saturday & Sunday – and we were headed home on Friday.    Shelley had noticed the sign for Polebridge  - 24 miles, and was intrigued by the name – I kept wondering where I had heard it before.   That morning our neighboring campers told us they had driven up to Polebridge where there was a wonderful old general store with fresh baked goods and hot coffee.   So we decided to go there first.  We left the campground at 9:30 a.m.

We drove through an old burn area – I believe from 2003.  The regrowth as doing quite well.    The fall colors were beautiful – green and yellow trees, and old homesteads, and new cabins.   As soon as we turned on the road to the general store, I knew where I’d heard “Polebridge” before – my cousin’s 2011 calendar had a winter photo of it.  We drove down the hallway of trees to the bright red false front general store.   And, indeed, it had fresh baked goods – and delicious coffee.   The area was a natural clearing in the middle of the forest – basically on top of that  mountain – and you could see for miles to the distant mountains.  They had cabins for rent – a stage for entertainment and a half-moon house for visitor’s convenience.   On the porch were 2 payphone – for use when they worked – which they weren’t that day.  Anyway, the phone boxes were wood barrels hung on the wall with the front cut out for the phone.  Very quaint.   It was surprising how many people lived in that isolated area just a few miles from the border (border crossing closed  - permanently)

 As we got back to the main road (unpaved), we spied a sign indicating Whitefish 38 miles – if we turned right.   We decided, what the heck – if we go back and head for Columbia Falls – and Whitefish – it would be at least that far.  So off we went.   I am sure glad Luv has 4 new tires!  It was a Forest Service road.   Bumpy, even though it was well graded – that means between the chug holes, the road was flat – not washboard.

We are all so glad we did it!   It was an outstanding drive – no clinging to the side of the mountain – we drove through beautiful color.  While the trees just turn yellow, shrubs and other low growth turn orange and red – the contrasts were breathtaking.   We stopped at a beautiful small lake – clear as glass – you could see the fish!   We had “Jack – (GPS) set up and followed his instructions.   We kept driving and driving and driving.  The whole time, we only passed 3 vehicles.    We stopped for a bit at another lake just to drink in the view.

We got back on the road, and kept going, and going, and going – this took quite awhile since my highest speed was about 22 mph – most of the time it was half that.    Then, we came to a fork in the road – 3 roads.  Jack said, actually insisted, we take the right fork …….. but, that was already barricaded for the winter.   We started down the center fork on a wing and a prayer – we had some disagreement in the truck on whether we were headed in the right direction.   I turned Luv around – not too bad cause this was obviously a logging road and had lots of turn-offs.    We sat back at the fork in the road.  Contemplating, Diane had the compass, and said we were headed SW – I was looking at Shelley’s Montana Atlas, and noticed it showed longitude & Latitude, and I checked Jack and got the L&L of where we were and found it on the map.   Looked like the middle fork was the right one, so we started out again.  (Jack continued to insist we make a u-turn, but he was easy to ignore)

 We drove, and drove, and drove.   Finally, we had to pull aside so a Jeep could pass.  I flagged them down and asked if the road took us to Whitefish -  Yep!   Turn left when you hit the pavement about 3 miles ahead.   Whew! What a relief!   What an adventure.  We intend to take more Forest Road Adventures next year!

 we were in Whitefish very briefly – had to wait for the restaurant to open – so I headed for the quilt shop -  they were entertaining a busload of Canadian Ladies – so I didn’t hang around to buy anything, but I took notes of patterns I saw so I could look them up later.  In any event, our 24 mile trip to Whitefish took 5 ½ hours!   We would not have missed a minute of it!

Friday morning, we packed up and headed for home.   We continued our adventure by taking a shortcut from the downside of Roger’s Pass to Wolf Creek.  (Roger’s pass – the last time I drove down it, my brakes failed – if you don’t think that was an adventure – think again!)  I’d never been on this road – it was beautiful short-grass prairie, it was afternoon and the shadows on the hills were something to behold.   At one photo stop, I turned to get back in the truck, and there on the other side of the road, just inside the fence line were 2 deer, and they very politely stood still long enough for me to get a shot or two.

 Arriving in Wolf Creek which is where we could have connected with the interstate, we elected to take the old road – which winds along the banks of the Missouri.   We saw a small group of antelope on a hill, then spotted some deer swimming from an  island to the river bank.  That was interesting.

When it started getting dark, we popped onto the highway.   We drove along with the sun setting behind us and a full moon rising ahead.

 When we pulled into Diane’s yard – deer shot in every direction!   4-5 ran in front of the truck, some headed to the front yard, and 3 took off around the house.   One stuck around behind Luv until Tucker spotted it and bade him farewell!

And that, my dear friends is our Glacier Park adventure for 2012

Until next time,
Bear Hugs

Luv ‘n Boots and Tucker too
And don’t forget Little Bear

 She believed she could do it and so she did!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Woke up surrounded by the white stuff!   Can’t even see the little town of Belt – less than a mile away.  

Earlier, it was large, fluffy flakes, but now it has settled down to some serious snow – tiny flakes, but coming down furiously.   Unfortunately, or fortunately, however you want to look at it, the temperature is in the mid 30’s so it won’t last.   The earth is still too warm.

My nephew Rick, and his wife, Erica spent the night in Great Falls so they could start out early and see the countryside as they return to Wyoming – they won’t be seeing much for awhile though!!

Rick and Erica are taking a very fast trip through Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana (Erica has never been out West – they are from Michigan)  They’ve been to Mt. Rushmore,  the Crazy Horse statue, Crystal caves, Yellowstone park, and are headed back to Wyoming, stopping to see Custer Battlefield on the way.   In Wyoming, they’ll both get tattoo’d by Rick’s brother, Freehand Robert – owner of My Mother’s Tattoo Shop!  

Anyway while here – Rick wanted to revisit the site where they scattered his Dad’s ashes last year.   I rode along so I would know the spot also.  Rick brought along a bottle of my brother’s favorite Tiquila, to “share with his Dad”.   We walked about a quarter mile to a spot on Logging Creek which had been one of my brother’s favorite fishing spots.  Last year as Bob was scattering the ashes into the creek, the bank caved in, taking him down into the water, so they decided a better spot was up the side of the “hill” about 40 or 50 feet up.  As far as I was concerned, it could have been 500’ up – I slipped and slid up the hill – Rick came back down aways to give me a hand.  We sat there awhile, admiring the view and talking about my brother and his family.   When it came time to go back down, I found a good stout stick for support, that and the help of Rick’s shoulder got me safely down. (I have to add here – my brother always, always had M&M’s on hand – I looked in his pantry one time to see an entire shelf stacked about 6 bags high of all the different types of M&M’s -  Last year, his daughters scattered M&M’s into the creek!   What a neat idea!)

Last year, on the day of the scattering, Rick took a photo of the creek.   Later, while reviewing the photos of that trip, he chose one for his screen saver.   Even later, he happened to look at the photo and was astounded to find there was a figure in the photo – fishing.   There had not been anyone in that area when the photo was taken – but there it was!  Think what you like, but, well, we have our own ideas about it!

 At the time my brother passed, he was in Phoenix – he had been living in Thailand until he got sick.  He had a dog in Thailand  – a German Shepherd who had adopted my brother.   Upon my brother’s death, the dog started howling and continued howling for three days – the official period of mourning in Thailand.   He wouldn’t eat for those 3 days, and would not be distracted.   You cannot explain the unexplainable……..

On the way back to Belt, we spotted a couple deer crossing the road – looking to the right there was a huge herd – I counted between 40 and 50 deer.   Rick got out for a photo op – after a few minutes, the herd decided to vacate the premises – they jumped the barbed wire fence, leapt across the road and over another fence – it was such a beautiful site!

 I am going to curl up in a big chair and watch the snow -  after a few of these storms, I’ll be ready to pull the drapes and cover my head, but for now, I am thoroughly enjoying the first snow of the season.

Until next time
Bear Hugs

Luv ‘n Boots and Tucker, too
And don’t forget Little Bear

She believed she could do it, and so she did!