Category Archives: 2015 Montana

Montana! Photos

Nora, Bruce, Jason and Kat sent photos from Montana daily, giving me the difficult task of choosing what to use to illustrate Nora’s travelogues. Some fun, gorgeous photos didn’t make the cut, so I thought I’d share in a post for your enjoyment.

As many guessed, but I refused to make public because it was vacation, they stayed at The Resort at Paw’s Up.

I’ve got an inkling as to where the 2016 vacation will be, but we’ll have to wait awhile for those.  Good thing we have releases and Nora’s take on the fall, the holidays and her favorite season (HA!) winter before then to keep us going.  ~Laura

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Firing her up - photo by BW
Firing her up – photo by BW
At work in the basket - photo by BW
At work in the basket – photo by BW
Mist over the land - photo by BW
Mist over the land – photo by BW
From BW and Kat's trip to Ovando.
From BW and Kat’s trip to Ovando.
Set up for prank call - photo by ja-b
Set up for prank call – photo by ja-b
Kat and Jason and a view
Kat and Jason and a view
Just around the riverbend - photo by ja-b
Just around the riverbend – photo by ja-b
Every evening's activity: capturing sunset - photo by Ja-b
Every evening’s activity: capturing sunset – photo by Ja-b
I always knew you were ewoks (Laura's comment to Jason)
I always knew you were ewoks (Laura’s comment to Jason)

Montana! Day 15

We had our last best day, perfect from start to finish.

We start on the hilltop of Spa Town and yoga on a crystal clear morning. My loft workout was good, and necessary, but following it with hilltop yoga can’t be beat. Our instructor is Cat, who’s fairly new to yoga herself–about six months in–and her love and enthusiasm for it adds an element of charm to a lovely practice.

BW decrees an early for us lunch. It’s just too beautiful a day not to take advantage so Jason and I walk, Kat bikes, and BW drives the car around as we have plans to drive to the river later. We spot a couple of hawks circling, higher and higher, just gliding up in the air. They’d called out–that amazing sound–but now just circle in silence.

Hawk - photo by jab
Hawk – photo by jab

Before long, they’re joined by another, then two more. Five hawks gliding, circling, up high, slowly down. I think as one is considerably smaller, this may be a lesson. But I’m sure I’ve never seen five hawks dancing together before, and it’s something to witness.

We have our last lunch on the porch, all sunlight, warm, impossible views, happy service. Apparently we’ve broken the record for length of stay. Sweet! The owner’s dog–Fenway as he’s a Red Sox fan–wanders around. A beautiful Bovier (SP?), who’s obviously quite at home.

Then we stage our annual family panoramic shot in the little sports/game area. Jason’s been eyeing that spot for this purpose, and he and Kat have a plan. Work out the details, and BAM, one take! We are so very cool!

The annual family panorama
The annual family panorama

We drive off, head for the river as BW wants photos. It’s a gorgeous day for it. We pull off at one point, walk along looking for a reasonably safe way down. The land is rough, rocky, steep, but we manage. It’s so worth it–though I spot some scat I think might have been left by a bear. A beautiful stretch of river, water humming over rocks, sun sparkling. BW’s hauled his tripod, and does his thing. Kat and Jason have hauled their long lens, and do theirs. I sit on a big rock, take a few shots with my phone and just enjoy.

BW wants a family shot, resets, fiddles with the timer–realizes he won’t make it and hams for his camera. Reset–closer—try again. Decide to set again from a different angle, and ta-da, we have it.

The riverside family portrait - photo by BW
The riverside family portrait – photo by BW

Now it’s climb up, and that’s interesting, but no mishaps. We decide to drive on to River Camp, do some more photos from and around that rocky beach. Fine with me, as there’s another big rock for sitting. Jason and BW wade right through the water to the little grassy island where Jason climbs on top of a big-ass rock and BW sets his tripod and camera.

Down the river - photo by jab
Down the river – photo by ja-b
The girls on the other side - photo by ja-b
The girls on the other side – photo by ja-b
Over the river - photo by NIR
Over the river – photo by NIR
River rocks - photo by ja-b
River rocks – photo by ja-b
Wildlife - photo by ja-b
Wildlife – photo by ja-b
Photo by ja-b
Photo by ja-b

There’s apparently a guy working in the kitchen, but otherwise, it’s just us, the river and the sky. A pretty great way to spend an hour.

Back home to take a breather before our big Chuck Wagon night. Spot a young buck and a doe enjoying the shade near our cabin. Kat believes they’re on a date. I must agree.

Dress in layers. It’s warm now, but when the sun goes down, it’ll be a different story. A van takes us and another group of four to a little dirt road where the chuck wagon waits. Our cowboy greets us, introduces us to his two dogs–Chevy a Border Collie and Maddy an Australian Shepherd (with amazing blue eyes). Our big, beautiful horses are Lightning and Strike. Maddy hops up to sit with our cowboy and his wife (also the driver), we climb into the back, and off we go.

The big horses trot along the bumpy road. It’s a fun experience for us, but as our driver points out, this wagon has rubber wheels. I imagine bumping along on the way west would’ve been a different experience.

Cowboy at the Chuck Wagon -- photo by BW
Cowboy at the Chuck Wagon — photo by BW

The camp’s set up on another beautiful spot by the river. Huge grills, a big camp fire (as some restrictions have been lifted), picnic tables, a bar, and entertainment in the form of banjo and ukelele. Time for wine, and a wander. I have to tell BW he wants to check out this bend of the river, as it’s just lovely.

A phrase said before many interesting things - photo by BW
A phrase said before many interesting things – photo by BW

The dogs wander, too, enjoy the attention.

The food is far, far superior to what cowboys would’ve chowed down on a trail ride. Crisp, fresh salads, mouth-watering ribs (the scent of them cooking has already decided my choice) grilled chicken, potatoes, beans, and Tomahawk steaks. We eat more than our fill in the shade with the dogs hopeful for a scrap. This is followed by stupendous berry cobbler, and S’Mores.

Tomahawk steaks on the grill - photo by BW
Tomahawk steaks on the grill – photo by BW

During dessert, where we gather around the camp fire, we’re treated to music and cowboy poetry. So charming, so interesting. Lovely to sit, a fire crackling, the light turning soft, and hear poetry and music born in this part of the world.

On the ride back, the sun sets, blurring the horizon with pink.

Back home, start packing, and hope somehow everything will fit.

Those of you who said backpack or baby carrier on yesterday’s mystery, we think you’re correct. BW actually has his father’s ancient backpack, and says this is the frame for it. And it certainly looks like something you might’ve carried a baby in.

Thanks for playing!

This morning, a last, lovely sunrise, then packing. BW and Kat head out for breakfast, then we’ll haul our bags and bodies out of our cabin, our pretty two-week home– and head to the airport.

We wanted to do something completely different this year. We succeeded, and spent two weeks experiencing the wilds and the wonders of Montana. I doubt it’s our last visit, but it’s certainly been the best.



Montana! Day 14

Our time in Montana winds down with beautiful weather, a sky so clear we can see the far peaks of the wilderness. We have leftovers for lunch, sliding lazily into the day. BW and I have a date with Spa Town.

Spa town
Spa town

I take Natalia’s advice and go for The Last Best Massage. It surely was. 90 minutes of wonderful with the breeze flowing through the tent. I hear a hawk cry while I’m blissing on the heated table. I’ve loved every treatment here, but no doubt this is the last and the best.

BW looks just as limp and happy as I feel as we all but ooze back home.

Kat and Jason have gone on a walk to visit the horses. I may have to do that myself today.

20150909_115131On that particular walk we always see flocks of bright blue birds I think we’ve ID’d as Blue Swallows. Small, quick and sharply blue. In the last few days another type of bird visited our cabin. Blue and black, a jay-like head. Thanks to Google, we know we’re seeing the Western Jay. They like the pine right in front of the front porch, and sometimes hang with the rabbits outside the bedroom window.

No bear sighting, but we’re told he’s still around.

I spend some time in the front porch rocker, taking in the endless view, the busy jays, the warm, clear air.

We head out for our last dinner at the restaurant as we’ve a Chuck Wagon dinner booked tonight. It’s quiet in the restaurant as kids are back in school. No weekday family vacations now. Lovely food as always.

But the star of the evening is the sunset. Kat and I go out as we spot the first blushes of color. We wander over to the grassy section where you can play horseshoes or tether ball. It’s lovely, I think, almost a watercolor sky with pastel pinks and lavenders in soft strokes over the deepening blue (57) photo (58)

Then we turn around. Oh, it’s all drama and whirls and rich strokes of color. Beyond stunning with reds, purples, swirls of luminous gold, rich grays, hot pinks. Kat texts to bring the guys out as this is not to be missed.

We take dozens of pictures. Wherever you look it’s glory as the sky sings with beauty, and the land goes deep into shadow. We deem it The Last Best Sunset. I’ve never seen the like of it.

We have so many memories and mind pictures to take home tomorrow, but this crazed technicolor sunset will rank up there with the red moon, the black bear, and the snow-tipped peaks as treasures from Montana for me.

There’s an amazing sensation of being human, and privileged when standing under such an endless, miraculous sky.


I hope the photos convey a fraction of it.

The inside of an oil lamp was indeed the answer to yesterday’s mystery photo. You guys are smart!

Let’s see if you can guess what this is.

photo (59)Nora

Montana! Day 13

A gorgeous day to experience some never-done-befores.

While it starts off downright cold, with that marvelously spooky mist, my gang heads out early for their hot air balloon ride. I putter a bit, then go up to the loft for my workout. I’m nearly halfway through the cardio section when I hear my cellphone signal.

First thought, ignore that. But hard on the heels is my gang is somewhere in that big sky in a balloon! Did they crash? Are the winds taking them to Canada? Do I need to mount a rescue?

Pause DVD, run down, see missed call from BW. Call back.

I hear him, static, wind. He tells me to go outside, he thinks I can see them. Go out, look left. So in my yoga tank, bare feet and knee-length workout capris, out I go. It’s COLD! I look, I look, see nothing. Run back in for my jacket, run out again, talking to him as I search the sky.

Nora's view of the balloon.
Nora’s view of the balloon.

And there it is! That strange and colorful balloon hanging in the sky over the hills. Run back for my boots so I can walk up the road to a rise and maybe see better. I must’ve looked pretty odd, boots, capris, leather jacket, but it’s just me and the squirrels. I watch for quite a while–it’s some warmer in the sun, and it’s just fascinating. That boldly colored, lightbulbed shaped balloon hangs, glides, and through the quiet, I can hear the whoosh when the pilot gives it gas. I climb higher and can watch it slowly descend.

Walk back, shed boots and jacket, finish the workout. Shortly after, the adventurers return with their certificates–they’d ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’–and lots of pictures, videos and excitement. They’d loved every minute, rising up through the mist, holding there, then climbing over it. The pilot glided them into the clear, over hills and the river, and wide fields.

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A two-hour flight.

While my system couldn’t have taken those heights, I love seeing the photos.

We have another trail ride, so opt to have lunch first. After some deliberation I go for the burger. I believe I’ve eaten more red meat in these two weeks than I normally do in a year. But the burgers are exceptional.

Head over to the wilderness center where Tanner has done some considerable research on our question about the greenish rocks—boulders to pebbles–around the area. He’s gone above and beyond, finding sites, basically writing a little term paper. So sweet!

Rachel’s our wrangler today, though Becca and Brie are around to help. I’m once more with CJ, Jason with the clever Cherokee, BW on–I assumed an incorrect spelling as it’s Coaly (coal black), and Kat’s got a new mount in a pretty paint called Apache.

Rachel – photo by Kat

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I know CJ likes to bring up the rear, poke a bit, and I’m fine with that. Especially since I also know he’ll break into that bright, pretty trot for me if I give him enough room. It’s turned into a wonderful afternoon. I could’ve ditched the jacket, but I’d rather be on the warm side than cold. The sky’s brilliantly blue, and CJ’s meandering so I can sightsee as we walk the trail over the road, into the trees, and up. He likes to trot up the hills, I guess to get it over with. On a flat stretch Rachel asks if we’d like a trot, and we would. CJ’s up for it, and in fact moves into a canter for a few seconds before we have to ease up.

We ride through the pines, through the sun and shade, and Rachel points to the right.

Bear! by BW
Bear! by BW

There, sitting under a tree, is a bear. It just sits, watching us watch him. We’d all talked about how we’d like to see a bear–would rather see one on the back of a horse than walking on our own. And there he is!

The horses are unimpressed, but we tenderfoots are delighted. Rachel points out the black bear aren’t really aggressive–something I know from home where just west of me they’re often sighted–but if any come close, we’re to make a lot of noise.

No need as the bear just sits and watches us ride past. You can all but hear him thinking: Just keep moving. Nothing to see here.

I get more trots, light ones, fast ones, enjoy it all, including the warmer air and the sun.

We come around, ride by cabins—in fact very near our own–when Rachel points again. The bear, surely the same one, is now roaming around. He’s taking his time, and it’s cooler yet to watch him lumber, and realize he’s not in an enclosure, but as free as we are.

And apparently close enough to the cabins, and moving in the direction of spa town, that Rachel calls it in, just in case. We ride past the white tents of spa town, and one of the staff comes out, lets Rachel know she got the call. They’ll keep an eye out.

Back to the paddock, where seconds after I dismount, CJ closes his eyes and takes a little nap. We spend some time with the horses and the wranglers. While I stroke Coaly’s cheek he takes some keen interest in my scarf. Not to eat, I tell him, but he’d like a nibble. So would Cherokee. Something about that peach-colored scarf interests the horses, so they sniff at it in turn. We’re told one of the other horses tried to eat Brie’s straw hat off her head that morning.

Home again, and BW and I sit out in the sun, have a drink. We’ve had smoke-filled skies, clear ones, snow on the mountains and hot, bright sun. Every one a wonderful experience in its way.

We end with a lovely dinner where BW finally tries the kangaroo. He decides he prefers cow meat. But among us, we’ve had the roo, yak, ostrich, squid pasta and plenty of other exotic to us food.

The cheesecake that concluded Nora's Tuesday dinner.
Nora’s fabulous cheesecake.

Before bed we see the stars, and I wake to a beautiful sunrise of red and pink streaking deep blue over the mountains. A glimmer of gold on the edges, and a thick ground fog on the pastures. As I step out, I hear the elk bugle. We’ve been told to listen for it, but today’s the first time I hear them. Can’t see them as the mist is thick, but I hear them call.

It’s marvelous.

Now the sun’s high and bright, and the sky blue. We’ll see what we see today.

Those who said Denver–though I do think that quarter came out of my purse!–on yesterday’s question are correct. My sister-in-law asked we check our change for coins minted in Denver or San Francisco. We didn’t come up with any S coins, but did mine a few Ds.

And today’s mystery is by Kat. Can you figure out what this is?

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Montana! Day 12

Still cool after my workout, but I finally decide to try that walk. It’s good to be out in the air for a bit. Though when I look up? Clouds Angry!! I’m sure this will bring more rain, but apparently the angry clouds stormed away elsewhere.

I walk one way, then wander back and walk the other to watch one of the cattle drives, and yes, can still spot just a touch of snow on one of the far peaks. Summer appears to be done here–though reports from home say we’ll go back to it on our return.

BW and Kat come home so I walk back to the cabin, and a nice fire to spend most of the afternoon just lazing, finishing another book someone else slaved over.

tic tac toe - photo by NR
tic tac toe – photo by NR

Amazing really how someone who structures her day pretty tightly can embrace the doing of little to nothing when out of the box. I couldn’t live this way, but it’s sure nice to have the chance to for a short time.

The gang at dinner.
The gang at dinner.

We’re doing another camp dinner, so pull ourselves together and drive out. A young deer watches us go by. We’re just above the river here, and it’s wider and stronger running below this higher ground. The dinner tent offers a big fireplace cracking with logs, and a generous sitting area in front of it. We’re told the guest tents at the camp are broken down every winter, their furnishings stored. That’s a job and a half, half of it could have been avoided if we had an electric fireplace.

The dining tent - photo by NR
The dining tent – photo by NR

Between courses I wander out, see the setting sun blushing the sky through the pines while the river runs strong. So pretty and peaceful. For dinner I have my first buffalo experience with meatballs the size of a toddler’s fist in a nice pasta marinara. Absolutely delicious. I can only manage one, it’s a big ball ‘o meat, but it’s terrific. So I’m only able to sample the grilled chicken on the table. Also excellent. We polish this off with a little chocolate and carmel parfait with pecans–as Kat calls it a deconstructed turtle.

We toyed with some Wii Bowling up in the loft, but just too much food, and my guys have to be up early for their hot air balloon ride.

This morning, a heavy mist blankets the fields and pastures while the sun rises. It’s like looking out at a smoky ocean, all pale and gray, with the horses swimming through it.

This morning - photo by NR
This morning – photo by NR

I expected it to burn off quickly, and for those touches of first frost to melt away. But just now the world is trapped in that soft gray mist where nothing moves and the air is absolutely silent.  I can just see the edges of the mountains sleeping behind the curtain.

I hope the ballooners are sailing over some clear. And do expect this to lift long before our afternoon trail ride.

On yesterday’s foodie-oriented question, those of you who guessed garlic scape earn the golden apron. I’m not sure if bolt are ramp are the same, but imagine so.

Today, how about this? Do you know where this coin came from?

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Today’s mystery – photo by Kat


Montana! Day 11

As I’m not sure if the lighter skies will hold, I do a mean cardio workout in the loft. A balancing, I think, of the previous day’s doing not much. BW reports a couple of frisky rabbits outside the bedroom window. We enjoy some time around the fire, then because it looks pretty good out there, decide to get some lunch before hitting The Grizzlyman Trail.

Rabbit, by BW

When we step out, we see under those big blue skies and giant billowy white clouds, that while it rained here, that meant snow on the mountains. The first of the season, and it’s awesome and beautiful. White peaks against the blue, giving the ridges such strong definition. The air’s crisp and clean, the sun beaming so those white edges sparkle against rock that reads blue above the tree line.


It’s truly a postcard, such bright, sharp color and shape, majestic and dramatic, yet absolutely peaceful. One I’m so glad we got to see firsthand.

BW is particularly interested in lunch as he got word chicken pot pie is today’s special. The man loves his pot pie.

I’m torn as chicken noodle soup is also on today’s menu.

He and Kat go for the pot pie, and oh my it’s huge and beautiful. One gorgeous golden puff pastry, heartily filled. I’m sure delicious as I went for the soup and it definitely was. But too much food.

We decide then and there to take the generous leftovers back and have them for dinner later.

So it’s onto The Grizzlyman which starts over by Spa town, rises up over three hundred feet, jogs down again in a mile loop through the forest. And has some obstacles and adventures along the way.

I figure the first obstacle is the climb, nearly straight up, so despite my regular cardio I feel it. Come on hamstrings, come on quads! DSC_0504There are vertical log walls to climb, with ropes. I go about halfway before the anxiety of height sends me down and around. But Kat and Jason prevail. Horizontal stretches of logs to tightrope walk over, stumps to jump, tires to stride through. Climb higher, on what’s turned into a gorgeous afternoon, logs positioned sort of like uneven bars, another higher wall, one of those rope walls with foot holds.


And how about some pull-ups? I learn I have pathetic upper body strength.

A rope climb, and I’m seriously impressed Kat pulled her way up.

A longer, wobbly log tightrope walk. While Jason handles the climbers, Kat is undisputed champ on balance.

Then there’s the log version of monkey bars. Unless you’re BW, you have to jump to grab hold of the first. Then it’s swing your way along. BW does so, amusingly for a video. Kat does it for real. She is clearly our Grizzlyman.

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A log fence to climb. This I can do. But I don’t take into account the steep downward incline of the ground. So climb over, hop down, and go straight down on my ass. Soft ground, luckily.


We played along the trail for a couple hours, just a fun way to get out and about on such a shining afternoon.

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Navigating the tires – photo by Kat

By the time we get back, the snow’s melted off the peaks. It’s not quite warm enough, for me, to sit outside, so it’s back by the fire. And later leftovers.

Kat and BW are driving to the airport to return the car, and I’ll get a late start on my workout. I’m hoping for at least as warm as yesterday so I can take a walk.

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Photo by NR

And for yesterday’s what is it, you guys are plumbing savvy! Yes, a pipe coupler or union or joiner. Which are cleverly used here–as some also guessed– as napkin rings.

So how many can identify the long green stem topping the amazing pot pie? I confess it stumped me.

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Today’s mystery courtesy of Kat


Montana! Day 10

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Sunday morning

A day of steady, soaking rain, and we’re told the first serious rain here since June. Downright chilly with it. Understandably, the locals are thrilled, and it’s a pretty perfect day to stay in with a fire and write. Let’s hope the rain means the only fires are in cozy hearths.

I do just that after my morning workout, and Jason settles in as well. But BW and Kat decide to do a drive out and about. There’s that personality quiz in action.

There’s plenty of quiet with heavy skies, the occasional thump on the roof from a falling pine cone, the snap of pine logs in the hearth.

And for BW and Kat (they bring home Cheez-its!) a fun adventure in Ovando, a town of about fifty people. There, bikers or other travelers are welcome to use a teepee, a sheep shed or the hoosegow for overnight accommodations. A coffee can in each facility is for the five dollar fee. Pretty sweet!

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They return in time for us to brave the rain, drive over for lunch. Mmm, warm, delicious tomato soup and spicy fries. Just the thing on a chilly, wet day. Our waitress is fun, taking our: Can we have this instead of that, and I changed my mind in stride.

The skies are lighter, and the rain over when we head back. Still very cool, so I opt to prop up in bed with a book, and some time in the late afternoon burrow in and drop off into serious nap territory. When I woke, I glanced at the clock, genuinely thought it was morning, puzzled that BW hadn’t come to bed.

Not six-forty five am, but pm.

My gang is getting ready for dinner. After the nap, I’m not ready for food. It’s like breakfast. So I stay back with my book. It’s after nine when they return and I think, hmm I could eat. Though they’ve brought me dessert in the form of caramel cheesecake, I toss a frozen pizza in the oven, have a couple of slices, then go back to reading. I see nothing wrong with either cheesecake or cold pizza for actual breakfast.

Today, the skies have cleared. While it’s still cool, it’s good to see the sun beaming over the mountains. I might venture out for more than a wet dash to the car today. Or I might not. Nice to have the choice.

As for yesterday’s Rodents Of Unusual Size question. Those of you who said porcupine were correct. They may indeed be tasty as one poster claimed, but I don’t think I’ll be finding out.

New question. Do you know what this is? And what do you think it’s been repurposed for?

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Montana! Day 9

A lazy, rainy day with temps in the 50s. More fall than summer here at the moment. So the mountains are mysterious with clouds heavy above and smoking along the ridges.

Loft workout area.
Loft workout area.

After my loft workout, I write awhile in the living area cozy with Kat’s fire. The horses stay out to pasture longer, cropping along the pasture gold in the gloom. As the rain passes, there are some glowing breaks in the sky, a slight lightening of gray.

BW and I head over to Spa Town for massages. So warm and lovely in the tent, and hot stones take that relaxing heat right done to the bones. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings to stay right here for, oh, three or four hours. Still, I glance at the Grizzly Man Trail on the way back and hope the skies clear and the temps warm enough to give that a go.

More lazy, until it’s time to clean up for dinner. A cool, damp night, and the air is incredibly fresh. Jason tries the bison and definitely approves. We ponder one of the stuffed animals arranged over the big fireplace. photo 2 (16)What is it? I think it’s this or possibly that. And when we ask it’s this. Got a guess?

Dessert is amazing. How could I skip lemon berry trifle? I decide to go for it, even over huckleberry cheesecake, as my granddaughter and I have made trifle together, and it’s a favorite of hers. So though it wasn’t chocolate, I have the trifle for my sweet Kayla–and enjoyed every calorie.


Back to the cabin and the fire, and a funny personality quiz Kat found on the internet. It certainly nailed me and BW. I find it sweet and charming how much BW and Kat are alike. I already know how much Jason and I are. So that works out well for all!
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Gray again this morning, and the cool is sticking around. It’s supposed to break tomorrow, I think. I’m fine with another day writing, reading, with a fire going. I think BW wants to take a drive out and about. As proven by my personality quiz, I’ll be perfectly content here with the quiet.


Montana! Day 8

Yoga on the hillside is a chillier experience, but wildly beautiful with broody blue mountains rolling up into a sky packed with shades of gray, and a sun fighting to get through. I wear a yoga top, a thin pull-over hoodie and my warm-up jacket, and enjoy every minute.

A little rain falls when we get back to the cabin. We’re hoping it either comes and goes or holds off as we’ve got our trail ride in the early afternoon. We opt to grab a quick lunch first, so this means dressing in layers. I have a tank, a thin sweater, a vest and my heaviest leather jacket. Warm wool socks with my boots. And because I know my hands, I stop into the shop and find me some leather gloves.

I think Jason’s wearing all his sweatshirts. <g>

A lovely field green salad for me with some grilled chicken–and the best–huckleberry vinaigrette. Add some fries, and some huckleberry lemonade. Wonder if I can grow huckleberries in rural MD.

A family reunion of sorts in the restaurant–they wear matching shirts. I think they’re celebrating the grandmother’s birthday. Sweet. We see them again in the wilderness center where they’re gearing up for an ATV ride.

Rain’s holding off, so we hit the trail with the seriously cute Becca as our guide. Today I’m on CJ, BW is back on big Koli. Jason up again on Cherokee and Kat’s on Kubota.

Nora on CJ — photo by BW
BW with Koli
Jason on Cherokee
Kat and Kubota
Kat and Kubota

I can still feel my lesson with Biscuit, but that’s fading.

CJ is, I’m told a bit of a poke-along, but that’s fine. He wants to bring up the rear, and I’m okay with that. It’s a gorgeous ride through the forest, beyond the cabins, on a narrow little trail that snakes through brush in pale, gloomy light. CJ not only likes being last, but doesn’t believe in tailgating, so we hang back some. GIves me plenty of time to absorb the scenery that rises and falls with that flat light through acres of pine or over golden pasture. But when Becca asks if we want a little trot, CJ is plenty game. Oh, he’s got a pretty and bright trot, so much smoother than our Biscuit. He also prefers Western reining, and is so responsive. My posting on him is much better, and lacks that ass-slapping that can stick with you for days. We slow again, just walk along, though CJ falls behind regularly so I can urge him into a trot often, and with just the lightest nudge.

We go off trail for a bit, and Becca says the morning rides sometimes see bears. They’re at war with the squirrels who gather and bury pine cones for the winter. The bears come along, dig them up and enjoy them. We see a dog, but no bears.

CJ trots up hills, bright and quick, plods along the level ground unless I give him a nudge. He only grabs for brush grass once, and I let him. The rest of the time I keep his head up. The hour passes quickly, and as pretty as we could ask for.

Becca — photo by BW

Back at the paddock, we dismount, and Becca ties the horses to the rail. In seconds Cherokee unties himself and wanders to a bucket. She tells us he knows how to undo the slip knot, habitually unties himself, then moves on to his companions, unties them. She demonstrates with a rope the type of knot. As she does, Cherokee turns his head, watches her steadily with this look in his eye that clearly says: Yeah, yeah, I’ve got that, Bec. Just try it.

Jason and Cherokee (getting into mischief)
Jason and Cherokee (getting into mischief)

We all give our horses some loving before heading back to the cabin just as the rain starts.

By the time we get back, it’s falling steady, so our Kat builds a fire. It’s so cozy to sit with the fire, with the rain splatting outside. It means no Chuck Wagon Dinner as scheduled, but we’re all warm and lazy anyway. We lounge, nap, read until it’s time to go to the restaurant.

Fire in the appropriate place
Fire in the appropriate place

More huckleberries, in liquid form. And elk’s on the menu. I try a bite of Kat’s, and it’s very good indeed. Jason and I end the meal with ice cream in a thin chocolate shell (huckleberry ice cream for me!) Waddle back home, build a new fire, lounge around for the rest of the evening.

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Not a bad way to spend a rainy day and night.

We may have more of the same today, the sky’s not as thick, but plenty gray. But that light brings out the gold in the fields. I have nothing on my schedule except a most excellent massage this afternoon. I believe I’ll work out, then settle in to write for a few hours.


Montana! Day 7

BW and I start the day off with an hour of Tai Chi in the loft. It’s cooler today, and Kat and Jason set off for their ATV adventure. We’re about an hour behind them, in the car. It’s a beautiful ride through thick pine forests on a bumpy, windy gravel road taking us to Garnet ghost town. Steep, steep rises of land, forests deep on either side so the road’s a rough ribbon–intersected with cattle grates–winding through. I don’t think we saw another car until we came to the little parking lot above Garnet.

There’s the line of ATVs so the kids are already there. Some trucks, a couple of cars. We set off down and down the little track, come to an overlook where you can look out at the remains of a once thriving mining town. Little log cabins spread over the flat or situated on the rough hills, and the forest pushing close all resting under a big, blue sky.

Nora above Garnet
Nora above Garnet
Selfie above Garnet
Selfie above Garnet

Down, down we go, and I see BW fooling with his phone. Text from Jason. We wander a bit, head toward a cabin marked as Visitor’s Center. There they are! Dusty from the ride–a cool one, Kat tells us. Into the cabin, which is also a little gift shop, we spend some time here and LookWhatsCool don’t I find another Christmas present!

We walk up with Jason and Kat and their guide Tanner to The Newlywed Cabin. The town’s prosperous merchant built this and offered it rent free to newlyweds. They could live there until another set of newlyweds needed it. It demonstrates what I sensed here after going through. This was more than a town, it was a real community. A good place to build a life, raise a family.

The cabin is tiny, just one room with an old stove, the naked springs of an iron bed. But those just starting out had a roof over their heads, a place to call home while they built that life.

Turns out we’re to have a boxed lunch with J&K and Tanner so it’s up, up, up again to the little picnic area near the parking lot, looking out through the forest. A more than generous lunch, and we learn Tanner grew up in Eastern Montana, moved himself to the Missoula area at eighteen, and pitched a tent until he got work. He fights fires in the summer, but last year was offered a job in Maui, moved there. Discovered his view of Paradise was Montana, and came back again.

Kat and Jason headed out.
Kat and Jason headed out.

Soon they’re off on their ATVs, bandanas over faces, and BW and I head back down. It’s cool enough I’m glad for the vest I wore under my light jacket. Zip that baby up and all’s well.

One of my favorite buildings is the General Store. Bigger than the home cabins, a place where once you’d have gone for most everything. Dry goods, canned goods, meat, shoes, clothes, fabric. You’d have your gold weighed there. There are bits of the old stores on display on shelves and tables. I love the table of old shoes!

Shoe shopping by NR
Shoe shopping by NR

There’s the remains of a once grand three-story hotel, with its fancy wallpaper in tattered ribbons ragged on the walls. For a couple bucks a night, you could have a private room, four for the one large room, and for fifty cents, a miner could claim floor space in the attic for his bedroll. Musical entertainment a couple nights a week included!  It boasts a kitchen with the remains of old cans, old pots and roasters. I expect dinner at the hotel was quite a treat.

In its heyday Garnet had 13 bars. I like to imagine the music tinkling out of doorways at night, from the saloons and the hotel. Cool, starry nights with the scent of wood fires and pine trees and that tinkling piano. And the absolute hush in the winter when the snow rose higher than a man.

We really enjoy our visit here, to the blacksmith, to one and two room cabins, to a life so removed from our own, and that real sense of community. I like how well this slice of life has been preserved, tended and valued.

So it’s up, up, up again to the car, and the drive. Along the way we stop as cattle are grazing on the side of the road. I always wonder why animals insist on grazing on the side of the road. And why a couple of them don’t just decide to keep going. Hey, let’s go to town, whattaya say?

Road cows by NR
Road cows by NR

We leave the cows behind, stop at an overlook where you can see the whole valley below, the higher mountains and wilderness in the distance.

BW at the overlook by NR
BW at the overlook by NR

It’s its own world, and magnificent. And I wonder how anyone found the courage and grit to cross it on foot, on horse, in a wagon.

Before long we’re home again for a little put the feet up time and have an adult beverage break. Jason’s already in the shower and a very dusty Kat is out on the back porch. They had a terrific time, and Kat’s enamored enough of the ATV riding she says she’ll seek out similar adventures in the future.

Tonight’s dinner is at a camp by the river.

There’s a beach formed by rocks rounded by the water, and the water’s gorgeous. A little grassy island close enough to wade to if the whim strikes. The tumble of river over rocks adds music. I’m sure it’s wonderful to wake each morning and look out over the water and trees.

Blackfoot Beach by NR
Blackfoot Beach by NR
Wildflowers on beach by NR
Wildflowers on beach by NR

Kat washes off tumbled stones in the river, reveals color like jewels.

The food’s terrific, the view beyond beautiful, and as always the service friendly and personable. While we eat I spot a couple of deer picking their way across the rocky beach toward the island. I have to go down for a closer look. They watch me watch them, and though I try, I can’t get a good picture of them in that high grass. Step back, glance down.

Oh hello, little snake. And goodbye!

Back up for an amazing fruit cobbler with huckleberry ice cream and fresh whipped cream. Oh yeah.

Wednesday sunset
Wednesday sunset

We’re all tired, in that really good way, so again it’s early to bed for me.

Supposed to be really cool today, so we’ll see how outdoor yoga goes this morning. This afternoon we have our first trail ride, and I have enough layers it should be comfortable even if it only reaches the 62 degrees forecasted.

Right now the light’s soft over the hills, the sky a little gloomy with some hopeful patches.

We’ve had a most excellent week in Montana.