Fun With Family – June 2022

Our Destination – Seeley Lake

In mid June, Clifford and I leave Divide Bridge Campground near Divide, Montana, where we have been camped for several days. We travel north to I 90 and then west to Missoula where highway 93 takes us south through the Bitterroot Valley to my sister Nancy‘s place. Several years ago she and her husband had horses, but the back pasture is now a beautiful big lawn bordered by trees. We are grateful for the safe trip here and this is where we will park for the time being.

Once a Horse Pasture

After we get set up, Nancy and I walk along the road and I take photos of the wildflowers and the ponds left from rain a week ago. We hear news that the Yellowstone River in southern Montana has flooded and caused much damage, including the closing of Yellowstone Park. That is Flooding!

Daisies Along the Road
Roadside Beauties

I am grateful for so many things: Pieces of Perfection, as I call them. A friend of ours comes out with greens and good cheese from the farmers market and then we all go out to my daughter Ang’s place. She cooks tasty pork loin steaks over a campfire and we look at the spot she thinks would work for Mountain Cougar, the used RV that Clifford purchased last fall. The spot needs cleanup and leveling, but it will be a very nice spot when all is said and done. Ang and I stay at the campfire after the others leave, have great leftover meat sandwiches, and I go to bed in Terry, the 30-year-old Terry Resort RV that used to be our RV, so it almost feels like home.

As Ang and I have  coffee on her deck in the morning, I admire the raindrop covered blossoms. Such a beautiful time of year in Montana.

Raindrops on Iris

I do dishes while she and Rama work on the wind tunnel greenhouse until it is time for Ang and me to leave for Seeley Lake where we are meeting with my daughter Becka, who is visiting from Hawaii. The landscape is lush and very green. The rivers are high, but not flooding.

The Land is Lush and Green

We find the Airbnb that Becka has rented for us on the edge of the town of Seeley Lake, not far from where my daughter Merri is staying with her husband at a job site.

Becka at the Airbnb

When we walk down the road to find Merri, a little piece of perfection that the job site is so close to the Airb&b, we discover a city park nearby and despite the rainy weather, the wood pile is dry enough for us to build a bonfire and hang out as we watch a pretty sunset.

A Pond at the City Park
Carol and Ang
Bonfire at the Park with Becka and Ang
Sunset Reflections
Becka, Merri, and friend Miles Enjoy the Bonfire
Colorful Sunset

Although the next day is cool and rainy, my son Matt arrives and we all go to Seeley Lake so Becka and her friends can go boating and those of us on the beach build a little campfire.

Matt Arrives
Warming Wet Feet at the Bonfire on the Beach

Back at the Airbnb, we visit and play cribbage, snack on all the good food that Becka and her friends brought, and enjoy having time together out of the rain.

Journaling at the Airbnb Out of the Rain
Cribbage With Becka

The following morning is sunny for a change and we all go to the lake to enjoy sunshine, boating, and great views of the lake and the mountains.

Bridge Where the Clearwater River Flows into Seeley Lake
Cruising Along the Shore

After snack time, Ang and I say goodbye to Becka and her friends before we head back over the mountain.

Mountains to Cross

It sure was a fun couple of days having time to spend with several of my kids and I am very grateful for the opportunity.  Although Clifford has kept himself busy while I’ve been gone,  I am thinking he will be glad to have me back at Cougar.

Carol and Kids

Sculpture in the Wild – October 2021

Clifford and I have enjoyed the past couple of months camped in western Montana and we will soon be making preparations for the journey to Arizona for the winter. But first, I have a couple more get togethers with family on my horizon.

An autumn sunrise in the Bitterroot Valley
Autumn colors starting to show

The first visit is with my lovely daughter-in-law Tammy and two of her and my son Tye’s kids, Luke and Mariah. They have traveled from their home in Belgrade, Montana (near Bozeman) to see us.  After breakfast together at a cafe near their motel, we go to Bass Creek, a short drive from where Clifford and I are parked at my sister Nancy’s place. A pleasant hike up the Bass Creek Trail is followed by a picnic.

Tammy, Luke, Mariah, and Carol on the trail
Bass Creek
Tammy, Luke, and Mariah on Bass Creek Trail

It is quite interesting talking to these grandkids whom I have not seen for several years. They are smart and interesting and we have a good visit while enjoying the yummy food that Tammy brought. The next day, they make the return trip to Belgrade. It was great seeing them and I appreciate the time and effort they made to come.

A couple days later, after getting new tires on my Forester, I take the Graves Creek route over the mountain to visit Ang. It is the first time I’ve driven in a year, so it feels like quite an accomplishment!

That evening, daughters Becka, who is visiting from Hawaii, and Katie, who lives in Wallace, Idaho, arrive. Steaks are cooked on the grill over a campfire. It is great fun to see three of my four daughters all gathered around the campfire.

In the morning, the girls all come for coffee in Terry (the old RV where I stay when visiting Ang) before we head over the Swan Range and Roger’s Pass to Great Falls,  as Becka needs to retrieve her “truck,” which was left there when she moved to Hawaii.

Coffee in Terry

On the way, an interesting sight-seeing stop near Lincoln is a place called Sculpture in the Wild. Large somewhat odd sculptures made out of natural wood products, logs, willows, bound newspapers and so on are found scattered through the forest along a walking trail. This 26-acre sculpture garden is a vision of Rick Dunkerly, a knifemaker/ logger from Lincoln, Montana and Irish silversmith  Kevin O’Dwyer. This sculpture garden features sculptors from many countries and reflects the nature of the Montana landscape and economy near Lincoln.

Teepee burner
Reading the history of Sculptures in the Wild
House of Willow
A scary being guards the willow house
Sisters walk the trail
Tree trunks become giant legs inscribed with a language I cannot read
A forest guardian….
On to the next sculpture
… and there it is.
A peaceful place in the forest
End of the trail

After admiring the sculptures and reading the kiosks along the trail, we head on to Sun River to see my son Matt and his two kids, Orion and Aurora. These grandkids are so grownup now!

Granddaughter Aurora
Grandson Orion
Campfire at Matt’s place

Becka has rented an air B&B for us in Great Falls, a cute little house in the old residential section of Great Falls. After we settle in a bit, we all go to dinner in Black Eagle, a part of Great Falls that considers itself separate from Great Falls proper. At dinner, as I look at this gathering, I realize that they are all blood-related to me except for Matt’s ex who is still very much part of the family.

My Family

Autumn on the Horizon – September 2021

Life in the Bitterroot Valley

After two great weeks camping at Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana, Clifford and I move to my sister Nancy’s back yard, once a horse pasture, now a great lawn surrounded by trees. Not only is it a pleasant place to stay, we have electricity not dependent upon solar panels, a rarity for us.

Camping in Nancy’s Big Back Yard

Sitting in the morning sunshine with our hot coffee, Nancy and I begin looking through the photos albums that were once Mom’s. These albums go back many years, including photos from our childhood. It is fun and interesting to see these photos before passing the albums onto our sister Lillian.

Looking through Mom’s albums
My Siblings: Left to right: Rollie, Eddie Nancy, Lillian, Diana

The morning light is delightful as I walkabout for photos, and sometimes Nancy and I walk through the woods down to a side channel of the Bitterroot River.

Cattails along the road showing autumn colors
Walking to the side channel of the Bitterroot River
Reflections on the side channel of the Bitterroot River

For my daughter’s Ang’s birthday, we have a small family get-together at the Lumberjack for lunch and then we play music on the deck. It is really quite a fun afternoon for all of us.

Music at the Lumberjack: Bebose, Ang, and Carol
Clifford plays his dulcimer at the Lumberjack

Our days are filled with projects. Clifford is reviewing some of his research papers, while I work on edits for a couple of authors, do Qigong, especially appreciating the benefits of the Healthy Heart Routine, and write in my journals.

Writing in the journals

In mid-September there are a few smoky days, but not nearly as bad as what Montana was experiencing earlier in the summer.

Full moon on a smoky night

When the weather cools, misty mornings provide photo opportunities.

Misty morning in the Bitterroot Valley
Mist at dawn
Mist at sunrise

One Sunday, Nancy and I go visit Ang and grandson Oden.

Ang and Oden
Ang, Oden, and Carol

It is delightful to have dinner cooked over a campfire with the ambiance of the mountains and trees all around us.

Dinner cooked over a campfire
Carol and Nancy surrounded by mountains and trees

Nancy and I also admire oil paintings that Ang has completed in recent months.

Original oil paintings

Near the end of September, I  spend several days with Ang, staying in Terry, the old RV that Clifford and I bought after we got caught in a blizzard in our pop-up a couple of years ago.  While I am here, Ang and I enjoy the warmth of the wood stove as we work steadily on the edits for her epic fantasy series, The Novels of Shannon.

Warmed by the wood stove

Soon it is time for me to head back down the mountain.

Autumn coming to the mountain

October is just around the corner and other family get-togethers are in the works before Clifford and I head to Arizona for the winter.

Bass Creek to Carlton Creek – August 2021

Bass Creek

Two weeks of camping at the Charles Waters Campground, tucked into the foot of the Bitterroot Range, south of Missoula, Montana, is a delight to me. We are surrounded by mountains and trees, and Bass Creek is nearby. My idea of a great camping place, for sure, and Clifford likes it here, also.

Surrounded by trees
Bass Creek nearby

Walks at sunrise are a favorite activity for me, especially on the morning when mist hangs low in the nearby drainage. I also find delight in taking my journal and a cup of delicious organic French Press coffee out to the edge of the meadow to sit with the beauty and the silence before other campers begin their noisy day.

Morning walks
Mist in the mountain drainage
Coffee and journal in the morning

One of our first days here, my daughter Ang, quite the handyman, comes with supplies and tools to fix the damage to the underside of the RV caused by the tire blow-out when we were still back in Idaho on our way here. The steel belts of a blown tire cut deeply into the underside of an RV, as anyone who has experienced such an unfortunate event knows. We are glad for her skill and promptness in repairing this for us! Another day, Ang and another daughter, Merri, come for a picnic lunch. It is great to see them after such a long time, since covid prevented travel to Montana in 2020.

Ang repairing our RV
Daughters Ang and Merri come for a picnic

My sister Nancy comes several times and we hike Bass Creek Trail, a great hiking trail that somewhat parallels the creek tumbling down the drainage.

There are subtle signs of autumn as August and our two-week camping limit come to a close.

Sunrise walk showing signs of autumn

Fortunately, Nancy has a big back yard, once a horse pasture, but now a great big lawn area surrounded by trees, where we will be setting up for awhile. I will miss the creek, but Nancy’s place will be pleasant for us.