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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I am back at Sloway Campground in western Montana with Clifford after having traveled to Wallace, Idaho, to see family, and further travels west with my daughter Becka to see long-time friends. I will only be here at Sloway a couple of days before Becka and I head east to see her sisters (my daughters) Ang and Merri and then north to see her brother (my son) Matt.
During these couple of days, Clifford and I work on our projects. I walk about taking photos, sometimes by myself, but sometimes with Clifford, which is always enjoyable.
Clifford takes out his new smaller drone and flies it near our campsite when no one is camped near us.
One day a big thunderstorm moves through causing us some concern about the awning, but it is weighted down and does okay. However, we heard later that serious damage was done to the east with high winds and we met a fellow camper whose new truck was dented by hail. Guess we were lucky not to have suffered damage here at Sloway.
especially enjoyable moment is when I look out the door and see
Clifford talking to his new friend. About the same time, he also
spots several very large beaver on the opposite shore of the river.
They are busy working on trees that have recently been cut down to
keep the railroad above clear.
Although the train is loud when it goes by, it is only a momentary disturbance, and in this section of the campground, the nearby interstate traffic is scarcely noticeable. The days here are relaxing and peaceful.
Thursday August 8: My daughter Becka and I have had a great time visiting long-time friends in Pasco, Washington, but she needs to get back to her summer job in Wallace and it is time for me to see how “holding-down-the-fort” has gone for Clifford at Sloway Campground in western Montana.
When Becka and I leave Pasco, she takes a scenic detour that takes us to a self-serve produce stand where we buy melons, blueberries, and honey, and then to a produce store full of good-to-eat food, where I buy more honey. What a fun detour.
we get as far as Coeur d Alene, Becka takes me to this cool place
along Coeur d Alene Lake where we sit on a platform above the water
to have our very extra delicious lunch and adult beverages. My
goodness, traveling with Becka is So.Much.Fun!
Back in Wallace, we unload stuff at my daughter Katie’s Bernard Building, as Becka and I will be moving over there from the 4th Street house where she has been staying. Her apartment is next to the big central kitchen and I will spend tonight in a smaller, but very sweet apartment, just down the hall. Becka’s apartment is topsy-turvey at the moment, full of stuff from the previous owners/tenants. I spend the afternoon, while she is at work, cleaning and reorganizing, so by the time she gets off work, it looks quite nice and homey.
Merri is also in Wallace, working this weekend as a cook at the same
place where Becka works. When the girls get off work, we go up on the
roof of the Bernard Building, four stories up, relaxing in the cool
of the night as we share a bottle of orange muscato. Too late, too
tired for anything else, we soon all go off to bed.
Friday August 9: Becka makes a really great breakfast for me, Merri, and herself. (Katie is sick, so couldn’t join us.) We run errands around town and had planned to go out to eat lunch before I leave for Sloway, but every eatery is either closed or too busy. We buy food at Harvest Foods and have a picnic in Becka’s front room instead, which worked out just fine.
On the way back to Sloway, I stop at the artesian well, Elmer’s Fountain, not far from Wallace. The water there is so good and the place has a pleasing ambiance. I notice a trail that I have not seen before and am tempted to follow it, but instincts tell me that I should head on back to Sloway.
I have a relaxed drive over Lookout Pass, back to Montana, where Clifford is eager to hear about my travels. Traveling was fun, but it is also good to be back “home.”
Friday August 2: Today is a day of walkabouts taking photos, mostly of the Clark Fork River at the Sloway Campground where Clifford and I are camped, just off I-90 and a little east of St. Regis, Montana. Since we have had several travel days, I have a to-do list of things that were put on a back-burner, and most of these are taken care of today. Clifford has his project list, mainly ham radio and playing his dulcimer.
Saturday August 3: This morning I take coffee and journal and go to the picnic table by the river to sit in the sunshine while I sip and write. After breakfast, I work on more of my projects, including backing a day pack for my trip to Wallace, Idaho, to visit my daughter Katie and her family, and daughter Becka, who is spending the summer in Wallace, working and visiting Montana/Idaho family.
I had planned to leave for Wallace tomorrow morning, my daughters
convince me that I should come over this afternoon, as there will be
a live band playing on the streets this evening. So, I finish
packing and getting things ready for Clifford to be on his own for a
is a lovely drive to Wallace, I-90 winding its way through the Coeur
d Alene and St. Joe Mountains and over Lookout Pass into Idaho. At
Wallace, Katie and her husband Jeremy show me around the three-story
brick apartment building that they have just purchased. It has an
interesting history in that a large family lived there and then the
building was apparently abandoned with food still in the cupboards,
clothing still in the closets, dishes and books and other personal
items still in place as if the family expected to return any moment.
While there may be a perfectly ordinary explanation, the place has an
ambiance of intrigue.
I do laundry while Katie and Becka finish their evening jobs, then we listen and dance to music until the bands wrap things up – late!
I stay with Becka at Katie’s 4th Street house, which happens to be the house where Clifford and I lived in the upstairs apartment when we lived in Wallace a few years back. There is a bit of nostalgia in being in Wallace and staying in the 4th Street house. And I love having this time with my girls!
Monday July 29: After Clifford and I leave the Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival venue in the Bitterroot Valley, we head to Missoula for multiple errands, including new tires for Cougar at Les Schwab, and then spend the night in the Bretz RV & Marine parking lot. We bought Cougar here exactly a year ago, so it’s kind of a fitting one-year celebration.
My car, which I only use during the months in Montana, is making a nasty sound when I use the brakes, so we take it to Les Schwab on Tuesday for an inspection, and as we expected, new brakes are a priority for safety. They can do the work tomorrow morning if I am there before opening, so we spend another night at Bretz.
Wednesday July 31: I set the alarm, make coffee, and leave for Les Schwab, arriving before opening and being the first person in line. It is a good thing I am armed with cell and journal and an AARP magazine to read, as it is three hours later when my car is finally ready.
Clifford and I leave Bretz by noon and meet my daughter Ang in Alberton, thirty miles west of Missoula. It is great to have a bit of time to visit with her and we share a really good pizza before continuing west to Quartzflat Campground, another twenty miles to the west. This is a very convenient stop for travelers along the I-90 corridor, right at the exit to the rest area. We are spending the night here and we make our way to the back loop furthest from the highway and overlooking the Clark Fork River below.
Thursday August 1: This morning we leave Quartzflat and continue another ten miles west to the Sloway exit. This is the first time we have camped here, and we pick the more open loop with pull-through spots, more convenient for setting up and also easy access to the Clark Fork River.
Shortly after arriving, my daughter Becka calls; she and her sister Katie and Katie’s boys are at St. Regis, only five miles further west, and they are coming here for a picnic. What a fun fun fun surprise! I am delighted to see my daughters and grandsons. We have a great potluck picnic, mostly yummy stuff that the girls brought, as we sit at a picnic table right near the river. What a happy start to camping here at Sloway.
The rest of the day, I explore and take photos, and then finish edits to Ang’s second trilogy, Emperors and Exiles, (a good read for those who love epic fantasy), while Clifford sets up his ham radios and delves in to flying software.
Tuesday July 23: Today is an adventure for me – a river float with all four of my daughters and some of their women friends. I prepared my daypack last night, so this morning I only have to make coffee and take care of a few last minute things. After saying good-bye to Clifford, I leave our campground here at the Bass Creek Recreation Area (Bitterroot Valley of western Montana) and pick up my daughter Ang on the way to Alberton, where we meet up with the others. We all pile into Becka’s truck, as she calls her carry-all, and head to the Petagonia Raft Tour office near Tarkio, west of Missoula.
We are given instructions, life-jackets, and have to sign a waver. There are sections of the Clark Fork River that are class II, III, and IV rapids, but our trip is designated as Wine & Cheese Float for Middle-age Women. I’m guessing it is going to be a pretty smooth ride, but in the interest of taking no chances, I leave my cell phone in the car.
river float is absolutely delightful, scenic, and the wine, cheese,
and other snacks are perfect. I loved spending this time with my
daughters and their friends. Our guide is a wonderful young woman,
fit and tanned from her job as a river guide for the company that she
owns. This float is on a gentle section of the Clark Fork River, but
at one point we put on our life jackets and take a small course of
rapids, getting a good splash all around. One of my daughters takes
photos for me, since I left my cell behind, but as I see how gentle
our float is, I realize I could have taken mine.
Our wine glasses are printed with the company logo and the words LEAVE BORING BEHIND, and that is what we did today. After our return to the Petagonia headquarters, we sit around chatting, as no one really wants to leave and go back to normal every-day life. It feels like we want to just stay in this place of fun and excitement, but eventually it is time to go.
We make a couple of stops before Ang and I head back to her place. I am spending the night there in Terry, the 30-year-old travel trailer that we gave her when we bought our Cougar just a year ago. So Terry feels like home, because it was our home-on-the-road for several years. This was a very good day and I sleep well.
Thanks to the milder than normal January here in northern Idaho and western Montana, I decide to make a trip over Lookout Pass to visit my daughter, Ang, who lives off-grid and blogs as Modern Mountain Woman. I take it easy going over the pass as it is hard to tell melting snow runoff from black ice in the shady spots. Once down the other side, the highway is clear and I make good time.
It is tempting to stop and take photos of the Clark Fork River, but I am eager to get on up to the cabin. Once off the highway, road conditions deteriorate somewhat. The state highway out of the village is mostly clear, but a little icy in spots; the road up the mountain begins as snowpack and mud, but soon turns into a sheet of ice topped with a layer of water. Nice and easy does it right to the driveway, which is a steep upward turn. Ang and friends have not been able to get up to the cabin, even with chains, but I am not crazy about carrying all my stuff – clothes, food and books to share, and a cello – up the icy driveway, so I decide to see if I can make it up to the cabin. Well, you gotta love a Subaru with good tires!
The next few mornings are spent enjoying the first light of the day, sharing French press coffee, talking about books we are reading, the writing contests she is planning on entering, sacred geometry, and manifesting.
Over the next several days, numerous bonfires are built – no easy task with everything outdoors either still under snow or wet from the humidity and the rain that fell softly one night – and deadfall is burned to begin a clearing process to let light into the forest and to create an opening for terraced gardens, greenhouse, and chickens come summer.
One morning while Ang is working for the neighbor down the road, James and I have a fire making contest. Each of us had a fire pit and worked to see who could get a good fire going first. Although I had some flames at one point, James didn’t fare any better, and it was only when Ang returned that we had a really good bonfire.
Wood is cut and other chores are attended to. James and I play cello together, the first time doing a duet for him.
We visit with friends and family. Sometimes we drive out in my car and sometimes brave folks drive up to the property, walking through the woods to join us at a bonfire.
Most evenings we go down to the next door neighbor’s place, as he is not quite so off-grid and has internet, electricity, and running water. We take care of business involving the internet, take showers, and share a meal while we watch Stargate. Back at the cabin, peaceful evenings lead into quiet nights except for the puppy and the cat when they get restless.
The cabin is cozy; I sleep on the bench/bed that will one day be part of the rocket stove, which will be built before next fall. I can look out the window and see stars on the clear nights, little solar lights, and the embers of a recent bonfire. I am delighted to be surrounded by great tall trees in the daytime and complete darkness at night except for these small gentle sources of light .
Although I probably could not live totally off-grid by myself, I enjoy the opportunity to share a few days in the life of a modern mountain woman. Tomorrow I will head for home; the next day Clifford will return from his business trip to California, and soon we will be able to take the Pony (our pop-up tent trailer) on a camping trip, our own version of living off-grid.