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

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.

Kootenai Creek Hike – September 2018

Monday September 24: The low last night was in the mid-30’s and the high today is only 59 degrees with a cumulus cloud cover. In looking at the map and the forecast for cooler weather in Montana with rain and possibly early snow, we decide that we will have to leave Bass Creek earlier than planned and begin the journey south. I am not so happy about this, as it means a change of plans as far as seeing family goes, but I do understand the wisdom of the decision.

In the afternoon, Clifford and I drive to one of the other main drainages in the Bitterroot Range, Kootenai Creek, just a few miles further south in the Bitterroot Valley. It is a lovely hike with lots of autumn color and the creek seems especially lively as it tumbles around boulders and over rocks that form the creek bed. We left camp a little late for getting sunlight on the foliage, but at least we are here and have the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful scenic trail before we leave this area.

Kootenai Creek Trail
Kootenai Creek
Kootenai Creek
Kootenai Creek

Sibling Time – August 2018

Sunday August 12: Smokey and a few puffy clouds this morning at the Bass Creek Recreation Area where we are camped, but other than the smoke, it is a nice day and good that it is not so hot as it was in Missoula yesterday (100+ degrees).

Today is a gathering of my siblings and spouses at my sister Nancy’s house, just down the Bitterroot Valley a few miles from where we are camped. Daughter Becka calls and we chat while I make a quinoa/fruit salad for the potluck with my siblings.

Brother Ed, Sister Lillian, and her husband Cliff

Nancy and Dick’s place is looking really nice; tall shade trees and a beautiful big lawn provide a pleasant outdoor space for the gathering. Besides Nancy and Dick, my brother Rollie is there, brother Ed and his wife Sheryl, and sister Lillian and her husband Cliff. Lots of good conversation and laughter as we partake of the potluck. Rollie and I play music for a bit. It is such fun having this time together.

Back row: Rollie, Lillian, Carol. Rront row: Ed and Nancy

Back at camp, we hang out until my bedtime, and just as I’m getting into bed, I hear a noise (Clifford is outside) and looking toward the kitchen, I see mice coming up out of the heat vent. I have a mouse phobia, so my scream brings Clifford back to the camper. Two mice are caught in glue traps that we put out, as I suspected there was a mouse in the house. All the years we had Terry, we only had one mouse one time; we’ve only had Cougar two weeks and have already caught two mice with possibly a third on the loose. I’m kind of freaked out about this and it is midnight before I finally go back to bed. More bigger better mouse traps are high on the shopping list for tomorrow!

Monday August 13: It is still smokey, but otherwise a pleasant today. Today I am going to Lillian’s place, also in the Bitterroot Valley, a ways out of Stevensville. I stop at a thrift store in Stevensville to drop off stuff that is being discarded due to the move from Terry to Cougar. Need to simplify a bit. Then on out to Lillian and Cliff’s place in the slopes of the Sapphire Mountains, the range facing the Bitterroot Range, forming the wide Bitterroot Valley.

Lillian and I have a great visit with show-and-tell time, since I haven’t been there for at least a year, and then we sit in her outdoor seclusion area, enjoying the peacefulness of the place as we talk. All too soon it is time to head back to camp.

Lillian and Carol

I stop at the Super 1 on my way and buy mouse traps, hoping that we really don’t need them. Clifford and I have a late dinner and begin packing, as tomorrow we must leave. It has been great being here, but we have other places to go and people to see.