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!

Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival – July 2019

Friday July 26: A quiet morning walk is a good way for me to start the day, taking photos while everything is quiet and in readiness for the beginning of the Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival here in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana. Here and there, other early-birds are walking their dogs or already getting together to jam.

The Bitterroot Mountains are the backdrop to the Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival
The stage is ready and waiting for the performers

During the day, more and more RV’s arrive… everything from people camping in tents, cars, and vans, to motor homes and travel trailers of all sizes and ages. The smaller rigs go up the mountain to find the best level spots that they can, while the parking area where we are fills up with bigger rigs.

The parking area fills up.

In the early evening, Clifford and I take our folding chairs to the stage area and join my brother Rollie to listen to the bands that will be playing tonight. Over the course of the weekend, there will be many good bands onstage, from local groups to those coming across the country to play here. It is all enjoyable. A big bag of kettlecorn tops off the fun. At sunset, I walk out to the field where great color over the Bitterroot Mountains casts a glow on the field below where day visitors are parked.

sunset color

Saturday July 27: I have a very restless night because of some unexplained beeping. I get up, but I can’t tell if it is us or one of the RV’s next to us, since we are packed in like sardines. I finally get up and go for a pre-sunrise walk.

Pre-sunrise walk

The onstage bands start earlier today. My sister Nancy comes to join us for the day. Rollie and his little dog Ninja are already set up when Clifford, Nancy, and I join him. It is hot in the sunshine, but breaks for water and snacks and more popcorn, as well as listening to the bands, make the day quite enjoyable.

In the afternoon, we join Rollie at his motor home as a member of his little impromptu band brings pie and ice cream. What a treat! The evening bands are especially good and it is late by time Nancy leaves and the rest of us back go back to our campers. Jamming continues into the wee hours.

One of my favorite bands – Kevin Pace and The Early Edition

Sunday July 28: I am up early enough to catch sunrise over the Sapphire mountains to the east, squeezing through a gap in the straw bales at the end of the row.

Sapphire Mountains to the east

Gospel music starts the day, followed by a raffle and several onstage bands before the event winds down. Clifford, Rollie, and I help with tear down before enjoying a treat of root beer floats with a couple of Rollie’s bluegrass friends. By evening, almost everyone has left and the place is but a ghost of what it was. There are only a handful of us who will linger, staying overnight and leaving in the morning.

Our last night at the Hardtimes venue

Leaving Bass Creek – July 2019

Wednesday July 24: I spent last night at my my daughter Ang’s place, sleeping in Terry, the 30-year-old travel trailer that we gave her when we got Cougar a year ago. Ang makes coffee for us and we sit outside to enjoy the freshness of the morning. I help with a few chores around her place before she makes lunch using fresh beets and greens from her greenhouse.

Although I’d like to stay longer, Clifford and I have to get ready for our next move. In the mid-afternoon, I head back to our campsite in the Bass Creek Recreation Area, enjoying the peaceful drive through the mountains. In the evening, Clifford and I organize and pack up as much as possible for an early start tomorrow.

Thursday July 25: I am up earlier than usual this morning and take time to go to Bass Creek, following the path that leads out from the back of our camp. I want to get a couple more photos and spend some quiet time there before we leave. As I walk back toward our campsite, I can hear my brother Rollie’s dog barking, and it turns out that a moose walked right alongside the motor home on its way to the creek. I must have just missed it!

Morning at Bass Creek
Bass Creek

Our destination this morning is the Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival south of Hamilton, Montana, in the Bitterroot Valley. We get a later start than planned, but enjoy the drive down through the valley. The Bitterroot Mountains are impressive, to say the least.

Bitterroot Mountains
Homestead with a view

We arrive at the Hardtimes location in time to choose a spot in the parking area with its boundary of round straw bales. Although it is not one of the pretty spots we’ve been able to find in previous years, this time we have Cougar and need more space, so we have decided to park where it is level with less wrangling and leveling involved. I’m grateful for the tall Ponderosa that will provide shade part of the day.

Cougar and friends in the parking area at Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival

After we get set up, I find Rollie camped almost exactly where we were last year. I am glad he has such a nice spot.

As the afternoon goes on, many other folks arrive and the parking area is side-by-side RV’s. Bluegrass tunes fill the air as musicians get out their instruments and begin jamming. A nice group of folks gather at Rollie’s motor home, and I join them for a bit, but mostly I don’t know the tunes that they play, so after awhile I head back to Cougar to make dinner for us and for Rollie. We sit outside in the shade of the awning to eat, and tonight it is my turn to win at cribbage. Later, I walk out away from the RV’s at dusk to take photos of the mountains and the evening light.

The Bitterroot Valley at dusk

The scheduled on-stage music starts tomorrow, but tonight jamming continues until the wee hours.

Days at Bass Creek – August 2018

Monday August 6: We are glad to be camped at Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana. After a walkabout in the early morning sunshine, we invite my brother Rollie over (he is camped across the road from us) for tea on our patio. It is a nice time to sit out and chat.

Cougar setting

Today Clifford and I go to the Stevensville library, about six miles away, as it offers both power and free wifi. We get caught up on email and Clifford takes care of downloads that are too big for our hotspot wifi at camp. For lunch, we share a sandwich, sitting on a bench in the sunshine, and then continue with our projects.

Back at camp, Rollie joins us for chicken and rice dinner.

Tuesday August 7: Today I head into Missoula to have lunch with dear long-time friends, Ken and Shelley Anne. Ken and I have known each other since 7th grade when we were both in the cello section of the Missoula youth orchestra. We have a great visit and then I run errands. As I’m leaving my last stop, my car won’t start, which is disconcerting, and I can’t get hold of Clifford, which is also disconcerting. Eventually it starts, much to my relief, and I make it back to camp.

In the evening, my sister, Nancy, comes out for a visit. Really nice to see her.

Wednesday August 8: After a walkabout down to the creek and sending photos to family and friends, Clifford and I sit out on our patio for tea; nice way to start the morning.

Bass Creek

Clifford and I work on our projects and later in the afternoon, after Rollie returns from his gig in Stevensville, we sit out in the shade and play music together. Later Rollie joins Clifford and me for dinner.

Thursday August 9: This morning I walk the entire campground loop, and then join Clifford for tea on the patio. Since texts work here, I send photos and arrange time to meet with some of my kids and my siblings. In the afternoon, I start the synopsis for Ang’s book, Princes and Priests, as we are going to seek a literary agent. Learning how to do a query properly is a big project.

Flocks of butterflies hover in the trees

In the evening, my friends Ken and Shelley Anne come out. After they get set up in a campsite just down the road from us, we have time to sit out and visit awhile, making plans for a drive up the mountain tomorrow.

Friday August 10: I’m up at 7:30 and start getting ready for the hike with Ken and Shelley Anne. As I’m rushing about, Ken suggests that I take time to do what I need to do. What a great concept – Take Time to Do What I Need to Do! I realize I seldom do that, with the needs of others taking priority… so much so that it is just a habit.

Ken, Shelley Anne, and I are going to Joseph’s Ridge, a rather slow drive up the mountain due to the winding and somewhat rough road. At the pull-out/picnic area, after finding a parking spot, we get our hiking sticks and water, and head up the ridge trail. Ken hikes on ahead of Shelley Anne and me, as he seeks quiet, while we ladies are eager to visit and share what’s going on in our lives. We all end up back at the picnic area about the same time and share a picnic lunch with a fabulous view all around us. Back at the campground, we say our good-byes.

Joseph Ridge Trail
View from the Joseph Ridge Trail
Hiking with Shelley Anne

After Ken and Shelley Anne head back to Missoula, Clifford and I go to the Stevensville library to take care of our business there. In the evening, Clifford, Rollie, and I meet with some of Rollie’s bluegrass friends who live near the campground. I am not a traditional bluegrass musician, so am limited in how I can join in with the others, but we have a good time playing music together anyway. Snacks and visiting afterward is quite fun, also, and it would be great to do this again, if time allows. Back at camp, it is late enough that I get right to the bedtime routine and off to bed.