Away! After a challenging couple of weeks, packing up my Mystery Ranch pack with everything needed for backpacking for 4 days was no chore. My brain and life had been coming dangerously close to spiraling out of control so when D suggested a couple days of just us, Neko, and the mountains, I rearranged my schedule. (I am fortunate that I have great bosses who allow me flexibility during an extremely busy part of our year.)
Monday night D and Neko came to Lovell and we sorted food and loaded packs with all the necessary pieces of a successful pack trip (almond m&ms!). After an afternoon tour for a school group at work on Tuesday, we threw everything into the cab of the Toyota and headed up the mountain.
We spent Tuesday night at Park Reservoir, a popular camping location in the Bighorn Mountains. We didn’t even set up the tent, just threw down our sleeping pads in the back of the Toyota and watched the stars until we fell asleep.
Wednesday morning it was down a 4-wheel drive road to the Coffeen Park trailhead. Strapped on the packs and realized it had been awhile (4 years?!) since either of us hoisted a full pack! We buckled down and went off down the trail. The first part of the trail goes through a nice lodgepole pine forest, alongside a creek. 4 miles up and we were upon Lake Geneva, a popular first night’s camp spot.
This was not to be our destination, a couple more switchbacks and another 2 miles up the trail was Crystal Lake.
Set up camp at Crystal Lake and I got down to learning to fish…after all I had just spend $104 on an out of state fishing license! D showed me how to use the pole and set me at trying to catch a fish. Meanwhile, he and Neko played stick and swam. Call it beginner’s luck, but we had fish for dinner.
This morning I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Even after a breakfast of eggs and tea, crankyness and an overactive brain threatened the rest of the day. So, Neko and I decided to walk up Indian Creek to where D was baling up hay.
I hadn’t been up Indian Creek for a couple months and what a change the summer makes. The grasses, clover, and flowers were all starting to dry up, but it was still a beautiful scene, especially in the Cormack place:
It was hitting the high 90s, even at 10 am. I had my trusty water bottle, and Neko took advantage of the shade of cattails and muck ponds along the way. Unfortunately, Indian Creek is lacking in good human sized swimming holes, but it was fun to watch her dive in and flop down in the mud and goop.
We made it to the Reanus place a couple miles later and checked out the old combine (and a few more muck holes). This piece was abandoned years ago after an attempted seed-harvesting operation. I don’t think the ranch has harvested seed since.
D finished baling for the day soon after Neko and I decided to settle into a nap under the shade of one of the bales. So, instead of walking the 4-5 miles home, we crowded onto the 4-wheeler and rode home. A mason jar of cold lemonade later and I realized my mind and mood had gone back to its optimistic self. Yea for beautiful landscapes!
A couple weeks ago, we headed west to visit some friends in western Oregon. This impromptu trip had us packing at the last minute, stuffing the Subaru full of camping gear, and confusing poor Neko with our frantic behaviors. We chose to drive the I-90 to Missoula and then hoped to camp the first night near Lolo Springs on US 12. Unfortunately by the time we hit Missoula, the skies had opened and camping was a decidedly poor idea. So we found a little Mom and Pop motel, ate some bad thai/chinese, and took Neko on walks through Missoula’s deserted downtown.
Then next morning we resumed our trip on US 12. What an AMAZING highway. The rain had made an area that is probably normally beautifully green even more beautiful. We stopped about 50 miles outside of Missoula to stretch our legs and decided to go for a hike at the Jerry Johnson Day Use area. Rumor said there was a hot spring in the area, about 2 miles up the trail. Who can pass up a hot spring?
The hike was gorgeous. Neko chased sticks and couldn’t believe her luck of being let off leash for a couple hours of running around. Ferns, mushrooms, lichens, and mosses were everywhere; crayola never had greens like these:
Much of the trail followed the river winding up and down through the forest. We found the small hot springs spilling into the main river channel where I took off my shoes and waded in for a couple minutes before heading back to the Subaru and onwards to Oregon.
- Artist: Hardy Tate, 1999
What: Dustin and Cindy are getting married so come and celebrate with us!
When: July 7, 2012 (but come and camp for up to a week before and stay for a week after)
Where: At Horse Creek Ranch, Otter, Montana: our home in southeastern Montana. And yes, we live 70 miles from the nearest movie theater, library, and decent motel. You are welcome to bring a tent or RV and camp in our fields. We can also make motel suggestions in Sheridan, Wyoming (about an 1 1/2 drive).
More Specifics coming soon….