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.

Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival – July 2018

Thursday July 26: Today we are leaving Lolo Creek and heading south through the Bitterroot Valley in western Montana to attend the Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival, held on a ranch south of Hamilton. We arrive about noon and are very fortunate to get a good spot, almost exactly where we were last time, on the edge of the ravine and under a big ponderosa pine tree. My brother Rollie arrives a bit later, parking in the level lot below where we are set up.

Rollie and Carol
Near the edge of the ravine
Terry at Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival
Cozy Terry home

After making lunch for the three of us, we wander around to listen to some musicians jamming and to visit with people Rollie knows – and he sure does know a lot of bluegrass musicians.

Friday July 27: Clifford and I run errands in the morning, then listen to the scheduled bands on stage in the late afternoon and into the evening. Dinner is super late, but it was a fun day.

Saturday July 28: I am up by 7:30 and walkabout to take photos while things are quiet.

I text Becka to wish her Happy Birthday. After breakfast, Clifford studies and plays his dulcimer while I edit.

Clifford plays dulcimer

In the early afternoon, we head down to the stage area to listen to the bands that are playing today. All the bands are good, but we do have our favorites. The music ends about 10:00 p.m. Back at the camper, Clifford fixes himself a late dinner and I read until after midnight.

Trinity River – a favorite band

Sunday July 29: After I get up, I go for a walk so Clifford can sleep awhile longer. After breakfast, we head to the stage area so we can watch the bands that are playing gospel music. Rollie has been jamming with a group that will be playing this morning, so we want to be sure to watch them.

Rollie (on the left) and friends

In the afternoon we go listen the last of the scheduled bands, and Clifford buys us tasty saucer sandwiches for lunch. After the last band finishes up, many people in the audience help with tearing down, including Rollie and me. Clifford is dealing with an injured shoulder, so is not able to join us. Before the kettle corn vendor tears down, I buy two big bags of popcorn for the price of one – best popcorn ever!

Monday July 30: As soon as I’m up, I start packing the outside stuff – tables, chairs, and so on. We have a quick breakfast and then finish packing up, as we are heading out this morning. Today is an exciting day for us, as last week when we were on our way to Barnes & Nobles in Missoula, we stopped in at Bretz RV on a whim. To make a long story short, we bought a newer and bigger RV. We have been considering this change for several months, looking at a few RV lots and doing research online. Bretz had a 2009 Cougar in the size, weight, floor plan, and price range that we need.

Cougar front room

We didn’t have time to move from Terry (our 30-year-old RV) into Cougar before the bluegrass festival, so today is the day we start moving from one to the other. We park Terry and Cougar side by side in the Bretz parking lot and begin moving preparations.

Tuesday July 31: We spend all day moving from Terry into Cougar, making trips out to get containers and shelving, as well as new bedding (Cougar has a larger bed than Terry). The saying that one has to scramble eggs to make an omelet sure describes the process. By evening, I have things orderly enough for us to sleep in our new bed, but there is still a lot of stuff to move.

The scramble before the omelete

Moving continues over the next couple of days, and by Friday we are ready to take Cougar on her maiden voyage. We give Terry to one of my daughters, so the old gal will stay in the family.