Lost Trail Pass – September 2019

Thursday September 26: Today we are leaving our campsite at Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana and heading south on highway 93, down the valley and over Lost Trail Pass. The time in Montana has been great and I am sorry to be leaving, but climate and weather are dictators, so we are heading south.

Last morning at Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana

The Bitterroot Mountains are beautiful and rugged, with a dusting of snow. It is hard to get photos from a moving vehicle with a dirty windshield and tinted side windows. Oh, the frustrations of a photographer/documentarian – me.

Bitterroot Mountains
Dusting of snow

Once past Darby, the highway narrows, becoming more winding and there is no shoulder. It is pretty, but not a great place to be towing.

Rugged mountains as we approach Lost Trail Pass

Fortunately, as we draw closer to Lost Trail Pass, which will take us into southern Idaho, the highway is much improved with shoulders and passing lanes. It is very slow going up, over, and down the pass, steep and winding, but it is a good highway and not scary like the previous shoulderless section.

The mountains open up into rugged foothills and we soon see the Salmon River and autumn colors. We stop in the town of Salmon, Idaho, for gas, and then take highway 28 southeast, which on the map appears to be a straight stretch and the closest intersection with I-15, our intended route home. This is new territory for us and, indeed, the highway is straight and the landscape scenic.

Salmon River
Landscape near Salmon, Idaho

About 30 miles south of Salmon, we turn in at the BLM McFarland Recreation Area. This campground is small without much privacy, but it is clean, with water available and vault toilets. We are grateful for the convenience of this campground and our peaceful night.

McFarland BLM Campground
Lemhi River

Clifford checks the weather, as we are trying to keep ahead of a big storm descending on the northwest US. It looks like our plan to get to I-15 will put us going through Salt Lake City during the thick of the storm, so a route adjustment is made. We will head, instead, to Craters of the Moon National Park to the southwest of us where we can camp until the storm passes. I’m doing a little secret happy-dance, as I have wanted to go to Craters of the Moon for several years.

Good-bye Montana – September 2019

Sunday September 22 to Wednesday September 25: These are our last days camping at Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana. I do my usual morning walkabouts to the creek or around the campground, but the focus is on seeing my siblings and daughters one last time, as well as meeting a friend.

Bass Creek

One day Clifford and I make a trip to Missoula, the nearest “big” town, to see my daughter Merri and my granddaughter, Ali, and have lunch with them. Another day I make a trip to see my sister Lillian who lives outside nearby Stevensville, not far from where my dad grew up and where we used to visit our grandparents.

Crossing the Bitterroot River to visit my sister

Another day, I drive over the mountain to visit my daughter Ang. I had intentions of spending the night, but due to a possible big storm with an early snowfall, our travel plans have changed again. I won’t be spending the night with her, but I am glad for the time we do have.

Crossing the Clarkfork River to visit Ang

We cancel the get together with our friend, and I also cancel a planned hike with my sister Nancy, but see her briefly when I drop off my car for safekeeping until next summer.

Good-bye to Bass Creek

We will be leaving in the morning, heading south through the Bitterroot Valley and into southern Idaho. Camping in Montana has been great this summer, seeing my kids, grandkids, siblings, and friends has been great, but now it is time to move on. Good-bye Montana, and I plan to see you next summer!

More of Bass Creek – September 2019

Wednesday September 18 – After my morning walk around the Charles Water Campground (Bass Creek Recreation Area) in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana where Clifford and I are camped, we say good-bye to my brother, Rollie, as he is heading out this morning. I will miss the music sessions playing bluegrass with him and sharing a morning pot of coffee, as well as playing cribbage after dinner most evenings.

Bass Creek

Our leaving is being delayed as we have discovered our Suburban has a problem. Luckily we are still here in Montana, as we know a mechanic in Missoula and I have my car to get us around. We will take the Suburban to the mechanic as soon as he has an opening. In the meantime, I have a few more days to see family before we head back to base-camp in Utah.

It is a good day for walks along the creek, playing with my new app – Snapseed – and working on blogs.

Bass Creek (no Snapseed)

Evening is a freak-out when a mouse runs right over my foot! I spray peppermint everywhere, especially in the bedroom, but still have a hard time falling asleep.

Thursday September 19: I love going to the creek in the quiet of the morning, but this morning I am drawn to the mist in the mountain and head that direction.

Mist in the mountain

My daughter Ang was going to come visit, as she is interested in Clifford’s ham radio operation, but her truck keys are missing. So, no visit, darn…………. The rest of the day is taken up with our various projects.

Evening at Bass Creek

Friday September 20 is a town day as we drop off the Suburban and then go to Cracker Barrel for lunch and Barnes & Noble for browsing and using their wifi, getting caught up with things that are hard to take care of with the hotspot at camp.

Back to camp after a day in Missoula

Saturday September 21: Morning quiet time is spent at the creek and wandering through the woods.

Bass Creek in the morning

We see snow in the mountains, which brings up the question of the route home. In the interest of saving time and covering more distance, we will head straight south through the Bitterroot Valley and over Lost Trail Pass into southern Idaho, which is not the route I had planned and I will have to forego seeing one of my sons and his family. I am sad about this, but understand decisions have to be made to accommodate our current situation.

The lichen-covered branches call to mind the snow that will soon descend upon this valley

Family and Friends at Bass Creek – September 2019

Friday September 13: My siblings and I and our significant others are getting together here at the Charles Water Campground in the Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana. Clifford and I arrived yesterday afternoon, and my brother Rollie arrived soon after. Even though Clifford and I had to run into Missoula for errands today, we are back in time to join in the potluck at Rollie’s campsite, where we all gather around a big campfire for conversation and good food. It is such a joy to spend time together with these people!

Because it is already near dark when we gather, no photos are taken except for attempts at catching the beauty of the rising full moon.

An attempt to catch the rising moon

Saturday September 14: The high point of today is getting together with Rollie and friends of his to play bluegrass music and share dinner around another campfire. The low point is finding that mice have gotten into Cougar, which means scouring stove, pans, counters, and so on, and setting traps in the evening.

Sunday September 15: My siblings, by good luck and some finagling manage to get together again for photos, since we didn’t get group photos on Friday. We take photos of each other as couples and the sibling group, but enlist the help of a neighbor camper to take photos of the whole group of us. Quite the deal with the sun casting bright lights and shadows, as well as the humans being their sometimes goofy selves! We have a good time and lots of photos to sort through.

Clifford and Carol
The bunch of us

Shortly after that, dear friends of mine come out to visit. We hike up the Bass Creek Trail and chat about all our projects and the meaning of our lives. It is great to see them and I manage a few photos of the creek as we walk and talk.

Bass Creek
Bass Creek
Getting my photo taken at Bass Creek

Wednesday is a day of more bluegrass music with Rollie and his bluegrass friends, as well as the usual activities around camping.

Thursday morning is rainy and I enjoy the opportunity of taking photos of the creek before my sister Lillian arrives.

She and I are going to drive over the mountain to visit my daughter Ang. As always, Ang has huge projects going on, and she is waiting for our arrival with a fire in the firepit, steaks and wine ready, as well as fresh veggies from her greenhouse.

I have learned that there is an app called Snapseed that a cell phone users like for editing photos. Since I have largely switched to using my cell phone as my main camera, Ang downloads Snapseed for me, and then we have fun trying out some of the tools that it offers.

Daughter Merri arrives and we have a great meal and a good time talking. Since I have to drive, wine is exchanged for tea, and the lively conversation carries on. Lillian takes photos of my girls and me before we reluctantly pull ourselves away from the campfire and head on back to Bass Creek.

Me with two of my girls

What a great fun day!

Seeley Lake to Bass Creek – September 2019

Thursday September 12 is our last morning at Seeley Lake Campground in the Seeley-Swan Valley of western Montana. I am awake and up before Clifford, and there isn’t any more packing I can do until he is up and showered. A heavy mist is rising from the meadow and the lake, so it is a great time for a last lake walk. I take photos of trees in the mist, and as I return to camp, the mist is lifting above the meadow and the sun is coming through, bringing bright color to the land.

Mist over the meadow
Mist rising from the lake
The mist is lifting and color returns to the land

Once Clifford is up, we have a light breakfast and finish packing and are on our way by 10:00 a.m. Our destination today is the Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley south of Missoula, Montana. We arrive there in the mid-afternoon and are really pleased to find that the site where we camped in July is available.

Happy to have this site at Bass Creek Recreation Area

We get set up and shortly afterward, my brother Rollie arrives in his class A and finds a spot on the opposite side of the loop. After he gets set up, I make a late lunch for all of us. Later, Rollie and I play bluegrass music with Clifford as our appreciative audience. I miss the lake, but this is a good spot and it is especially good to have a few more days to see family before we head back to Utah.

Last Days at Seeley Lake – September 2019

September 10 & 11 are our last days at Seeley Lake Campground in the Seeley-Swan Valley of western Montana. We’ve certainly enjoyed our beautiful and peaceful spot here, but we have to move on so we can see family and friends before we head back to home-base in southeast Utah.

The great trees at our campsite

On one of these days we visit a friend who lives in the valley. He sure knows about good food and we have a superb lunch. It is a really good visit.

An outing up the valley

On the way back to our campsite at Seeley Lake, we explore another lake and at a pullout alongside the highway, I have only one minute to take photos as the last light of the setting sun is reflecting off the water.

Reflection of the setting sun

The next day, I have a campfire in the morning, my last chance here.

Coffee and journal at the campfire

During the day, I spend as much time as possible at the lake. I love seeing how the light changes the look of the lake and the mountains.

Midday at Seeley Lake

It is also a good day to play our instruments outdoors.

Afternoon light begins to color the clouds
Evening light across the lake

In the evening, we pack up as much as we can so as to get an early start in the morning.

Rainy Days at Seeley Lake – September 2019

September 8 & 9: Drizzle to rain and back to drizzle has everything wet here at the Seeley Lake Campground in the Seeley/Swan Valley of western Montana.

Rainy morning walk
Rainy morning walk
Trail along the lake on a rainy day

Now and then the sun breaks through, and Clifford and I take advantage of these moments to play our instruments outside and to repair the leak in the gutter that is allowing water to drip under the awning.

Campsite at Seeley Lake Campground
The meadow as the sun breaks through for awhile
Viola comes out to play when the sun shines

I enjoy walks down to the lake and out into the meadow, and when it is raining too hard to be outside, I write blogs and finish editing a book for my daughter Ang, glad for the a dry warm space to carry on with projects. Clifford mostly works with his ham radio.

It doesn’t sound like much, but we are both quite busy all day.

Lakes and More Lakes – September 2019

Saturday September 7: It is a cloudy drizzly morning here at Seeley Lake Campground in the Seeley-Swan Valley of western Montana where Clifford and I are camping, having arrived just a couple of days ago.

Campsite at Seeley Lake Campground

I make coffee and then walk to the lake, taking the trail past the beach and along the shore to the woods. I have my journal and sit on the bench that overlooks the lake, but is too drizzly to write, so I just read a poem by Mary Oliver and listen to a morning meditation on my cell. It is a nice peaceful way to start the day.

Trail along the lake to the woods
My favorite bench

By time I get back to our campsite, Clifford is up and we have breakfast. Today we need to go to Seeley Lake (town) to pick up our mail, so we decide to take the opportunity to explore a bit, going first to Lake Placid, discovering some dispersed camping spots on the way to this lovely mountain lake, and then taking the loop back to Seeley Lake.

Creek crossing on Lake Placid Road
Lake Placid
Lake Placid

The only problem is that what is on the map and what is on the ground don’t relate much and we end up at a place called Hidden Lake. It is an okay place for tent camping, but we wouldn’t try bringing Cougar here.

Hidden Lake

The road back to Seeley Lake is sketchy and we are not even 100% certain we are on the right road until we reach the outskirts of town. We pick up a few groceries at the market, then head back to camp. I play viola while Clifford naps, and later, after dinner, he plays dulcimer while I get the next photo/travel blog ready to post. It certainly was a fun day!

Arrival at Seeley Lake – September 2019

Thursday September 5, Clifford and I leave our campground at Swan Lake Recreation Area in northwest Montana, heading south on Highway 83 through the lovely Seeley-Swan Valley. Great mountains rise up on either side of this valley, the Mission Range to the west and the Swan Range to the east. Our destination is the Seeley Lake Campground, about 60 miles down the valley from Swan Lake.

Mission Range in the Seeley-Swan Valley

We arrive before noon with numerous sites to choose from, although the three sites right along the lake are taken. We decide to look more closely at the loop where we have not previously camped, as the level sites were always taken. However, this morning, this loop is open and we pick a really great spot, level and spacious, with tall western larch and Douglas fir, and a view of the meadow.

A great spot at Seeley Lake Campground

Although I loved our spot at Swan Lake and thought nothing would compare to it, this spot at Seeley Lake, being more natural and wild is every bit as inviting to me. As soon as we are set up, I explore the lake closest to this loop, which happens to be where the water lilies flourish.

Seeley Lake

Friday morning is overcast with a drizzle, which doesn’t keep me from walking down to the lake for photos.

Drizzly morning at Seeley Lake
Drizzle turns to rain

As the drizzle becomes a steady rain, it turns out to be a good day for inside activities. Clifford works with his ham radios and I edit my daughter Ang’s novel Regent’s Way and write blogs. Cougar is cozy and we are comfortable.

A good day for indoor activities, cozy in Cougar

Last Days at Swan Lake – September 2019

Clifford and I close out August and begin September at Swan Lake Recreation Area where we have been camped for two weeks.

A favorite spot at the Swan Lake day-use area

One day we make a trip to Bigfork to the laundromat and a stop at Harvest Foods Market, which is a way bigger and better store than any other Harvest Foods I have ever seen.

Sign at the laundromat

On our way back to our campground, we go exploring. We find our down to Swan River where three young women are putting in kayaks to float the river. They ask me to take photos, which I do, of course.

Women on Swan River

Then on we go to a fishing access, which turns out to be a small lake in the mountains, Horseshoe Lake. The water is kind of murky along the shoreline, but there are turtles on the logs, which are fun to see, and the reflections on the water make it quite a pretty place.

Horseshoe Lake

Another day, since we will soon be leaving the area, we go to Bigfork again, this time to check out the brewery, having a local on-tap beer with our lunch, sitting out on the outdoor patio overlooking Flathead Lake. This is quite the lark for us, since we seldom eat out and seldom have beer. But it was fun!

View of Flathead Lake from patio at the brewery

The other days at the campsite are full of our usual activities: research, dulcimer, flying, and ham radio for Clifford; walkabouts, photos, blogs, editing, journal writing, and viola for me. Soon it will be time to move on, but for the moment, we are enjoying the peaceful beauty of this campground and nearby Swan Lake.

Sunset at Swan Lake