In the Mountains, Part I

A few days before, over the weekend, M suggested we take a trip to the mountains near Butte for some mountain biking. While there, we could camp and bring the dogs along and have a grand time. I had no idea where we were headed or what camping and biking opportunities she was referring to, but I didn’t care. I was burnt out from work and needed a break, so anywhere that took me to freedom was fine with me.

It was early afternoon when we finalized our preparations and packed the last of our items into the truck. The packs and sleeping gear were up front with us, while the boxes and the dogs with their beds were in the back. The wind had been relentless all morning but it was sunny and warm and we were excited to go. With the long stretch of road ahead of us, M and I set out westward, ready to embrace our whirlwind camping and biking adventure over the next three days.

The wind kept up as we made our way out beyond Belgrade, Amsterdam, and finally Three Forks, out into the wide-open dry-country that made up the western part of Gallatin County. The sun shone through the window and the skies remained blue so I was happy. There’s nothing that gets me more excited about a road trip than sunny weather and fine destinations. Early in the ride, Buddy discovered the possibility of climbing on the cardboard box and plastic bin in the back so he could get closer to me and possibly stick his head through the window. Regardless of how much shouting and pointing I did, he didn’t get the point. Or maybe he did, he just didn’t care. For most of the ride he stayed up there, alternating at times with Rowdy to see who could ride the box the longest before falling off. Needless to say, the lid to the cardboard box was the first casualty of the trip.

It’s a short drive from Bozeman to our exit in Whitehall. The local National Forest Service office was next to the road so we pulled in and stopped to get some information. Neither of us had been there and since this was M’s idea I was willing to go along for the ride. I tend not to stop and ask for directions unless I really want to get to where I’m going or haven’t a clue about the general direction of a place. I’d rather go with the moment and see what happens but it was good we stopped because we found the information we were looking for (or so we thought) and were able to get on the road.

We made our way onto Highway 2 and quickly found ourselves away from Whitehall and in the middle of dry farmland that reminded me of my childhood school days in the farming community of Shields Valley. The only patches of green were found in areas of extensive irrigation, with the rest looking as if it hadn’t seen rain in months. This juxtaposition, along with our proximity to Bozeman, intrigued and excited me. I was learning new things about the region I had lived in for 18 years! This is why I love the mountains and valleys of the Rockies. This is why I love nature. This is why I love living in Montana.

The maps and instructions in all of the pamphlets and guides we were reading never gave clear details on which roads to take, other than providing Forest Service road numbers that inevitably disappeared as we drove by each of the roads we needed to take. After driving over the pass and down into Butte, topping off our gas, and then driving back up over the pass again and onto the eastern side, we found one of the roads we were looking for. Because we didn’t have a set campground in mind, we were going to look at two and decide between the two. After going about a mile in on a sketchy, sandy, narrow, and rutted road in M’s low S7, we turned around on the side of a hill and slowly drove back to the highway. Option one was no longer a possibility, so hopefully option two would be. If not, however, there were plenty of appealing spots along the road that would make great sites for the next two nights.

Finding the next road was a bit easier. We had already driven by it once with me remarking that it looked awfully similar to the road we were looking for. So, with the second time being the charm, we drove up Toll Mountain Road into what looked to be a beautiful, remote access road to Forest Service land. Little did we know it would soon become a dust-filled super-highway for all those people hiding out in the woods, but more on this in a minute.

After taking a slight detour that ended with us turning around and backtracking some, we finally found the campground we were looking for tucked in a small ravine, with heavy forests on either side, soft, leafy trees across the flats, and a small stream running through its middle. There were seven sites to choose from and we had the lot of them to pick from. We were the sole campers up there and it would remain that way through the night.

Campground View

Before we set up camp, we walked around the area for a bit to get a lay of the land and to see which site looked most inviting. It quickly became apparent to us the middle site would work the best and so we started unpacking the bins and bags and setting up camp. The tent was placed further up the hill from the fire and picnic table, on its own terrace held into the hillside by large, stacked rocks. It was still afternoon by the time we finished, and, after doing a bit more exploring and gathering some firewood for the night, we decided to go for a short ride on the bikes around the area with the dogs.

Camp Site

Our first part of the ride led us up a FS road that ended with a closed gate and a “Dead End” sign covering it. A stream was flowing next to it, so we got off our bikes and walked over to a large boulder area where the water flowed. It was perfect. The water gathered in a large pool by the side of the boulder in a hole below all the vegetation and soil, creating an isolated zen atmosphere in its tiny oasis. I took some pictures while Rowdy flew off the boulder, hastily jumped the creek onto the other side, and just as quick made it back on the other side again where M scolded him while I continued shooting.

Having filled me need for photos, we left the pool and went back to our bikes. Thinking we were going back the way we came, I got on my back and was ready to shove off when I noticed M heading up to the gate and opening the side entrance meant for pedestrians such as ourselves to go through. I was leery about the idea of going into an isolated, wooded area with no help to call out for if the need arose, but M went through and I quickly followed. I kept telling myself that it was still a FS road and we would be fine, but it wasn’t until we had made it all the way through to the last house that I became convinced we were in an area that was leased by the Forest Service to private citizens to have their cabins and cottages on. There was even a large pond, with several houses bordering it and a small water slide leading into it. The residences looked to be fairly maintained, at least as far as summer cabins go, and I slipped into thinking about what it would be like to spend a couple months up there, reading and writing and alone with nature. This didn’t last long, for we were back at the gate again and closing it to continue our way down the road.

Back at the junction that would take us back to our site or lead us out to the highway, we turned left and headed towards the highway and some of the other roads along that route. Between the junction and the road ahead we were planning on exploring was a steep hill that we slowly rode up to give the dogs a break and to keep us from getting too tired for the next day’s adventures. Arrival at the top led to a broad, open area that looked out across multiple valleys and mountain ranges. My heart leapt at the sight. It was wondrous indeed. The rolling, grassy hills filled with sage disappeared into the broad, dry valleys that were met once again by heavily wooded forests that rose up into steep, rocky slopes that topped out with patches of snow on the mountain peaks.

As we turned left on the main FS road and climbed another hill, I looked back behind me and found another set of mountain peaks, these ones part of the same range we were in and the same ones that can be viewed from the streets of Butte. After going a ways further on the road and running into all sorts of cars and dust and UPS delivery trucks, we decided we had gone far enough with the dogs and turned back for camp. On the way back, we stopped several times to take photos of the uplifting freedom of nature held before us, taking all the marvelous wonder in for a second time.

Back at camp it was time to start the fire and make dinner. Tonight’s food would be prepared on the camp stove M had brought along, with the fire being used for heat and as perfect energy for making smores later after night had fallen. We ate the food, I made a smore (they were too sweet for M’s taste), and then spent the rest of the night reading and relaxing by the fire before making our way to bed. We needed our sleep because tomorrow we would be riding a real trail and using real energy. I slipped into my sleeping bag, wrapped it around and over me, and zipped it up to make it snug and warm. I lay there for a few minutes, feeling the contentment of being alive along with the thrill of sleeping in such isolation, before I succumbed to the depths of sleep.

Camping and Biking

The Essentials

It’s almost 1:30 in the morning and I can’t sleep. The reason I can’t sleep is because I’m still in the transition period between getting off the sleep medication I’ve used for years and evening out so that my body can rest and relax and sleep on its own without involving a third party. However, that subject is for another post entirely, one which I hope to write in the next week or two, assuming I feel like it. That is assuming a lot. Maybe not a lot, but it is making an assumption, something I’ve tried to stay away from as much as possible. If you always make assumptions, you are always missing out on a lot. If you assume the moon is cheese and never question this belief, you are living on the moon compared to everyone else (not literally, because if you were, you’d probably realize pretty quickly that it is a very dusty, rocky, dry piece of cheese you were living on, without any oxygen). If you never make assumptions, however, you probably aren’t reading this because you wouldn’t have assumed that this was an article you could read, or that by clicking the link that got you to the page that showed you the link to this page that supposedly actually linked to this page (why would one make so many assumptions when anything is possible!), or that by using a computer you could read other people’s thoughts and actions and lives through a backlit screen using electricity, or that by using electricity you could charge your batter-powered toothbrush, or… So many assumptions! How could anyone ever feel free when they must make up their minds ahead of time before choosing a decision and seeing where it follows? None of this is making sense now, because I just contradicted myself. Someone who makes no assumptions could very easily be reading this right now, but that would detract from my beautiful, chaotic theory of nothing that is going nowhere. Can you tell that my mind is a little fried tonight?

Sorry. Back on topic.

The real topic of this post is what I will be doing the next few days, and it will not involve sitting in front of a computer and posting exciting new things on here! Instead, I am driving a couple hours away to go camping and biking in the mountains with my mom, her dog, and Buddy, so that I can sit by a fire and write with pen and paper my thoughts and feelings so that once I’m back in civilized country I can transfer said thoughts from paper to computer and then with a click of the mouse transfer them from me to you. Amazing! And not true. Okay, only partially not. Actually, most of it is true. Except for the part of going camping and biking just to sit and write. Although that would be nice to try one of these days. A time dedicated to just sit and write, with no other distractions. I’ve heard about this before but always thought it to be a myth.

Anyways… I am going camping with my mom over the next few days a couple hours west of Bozeman. It’s somewhat last-minute, since I didn’t find out that my mom wanted to go until Saturday. She has the rest of the week off and wanted to take advantage of it by doing something fun. My mom is pretty badass when you think about it. Her idea of fun is to go camping and mountain biking for three days, then come back to Bozeman and spend her weekend either riding her road bike or her mountain bike, kayaking, hiking, or perhaps playing on the Razor in the mountains. If it was wintertime it would be an automatic trip up to Bridger Bowl for some skiing (she kicks her ski-group’s butt, even the guys!)… Wow I am digressing… We are taking our mountain bikes so that we can check out some of the trails over there. Maybe we will like them. Maybe not. That’s the whole point. I’m also looking forward to getting away from everything and being able to focus on relaxing and enjoying. This includes reading, writing (by hand, on Moleskine paper with a beautiful pen given to me by a very special friend), hiking, biking, talking, and sitting by the fire. Beer! That just reminded me. There is no beer being brought, nor wine (although is wine really a thing camping? – I think not, but this is just me, no assumptions!). I suppose this is well enough, since my mom doesn’t drink and I usually only drink wine when I’m home. But beer seems like it’d be nice to have… My hope is that I’m able to write my “About” section that I’ve been thinking about and planning ever since I created this blog. Right now it’s just a picture, and even though a picture says a thousand words, are a thousand words really enough to get to really know a person? Then again, are any words, or pictures, or sounds, ever enough to really know a person? It’s all just symbols of an experience that can never be recreated by anyone, including the person who experienced them in the first place (can’t relive a past life and all). I suppose that’s not the point of writing, or painting, or singing, or any art or other form of sharing. Though it can never be done, we strive to do the best we can, and that is enough for me. It is the experience itself and the ability to share it as best I can with others that excites me so… Along with my “About” section, perhaps I will write some other entries that can be put on here, or perhaps I will finally put to paper one of the many ideas that swim through my head daily for stories that never seem to be done justice once I actually begin writing them. But as I’ve found with any other passion I’ve pursued long enough, it can look like shit in the beginning as long as I continue moving forward and progressing within. It may take a week, a month, a year, or longer, but as long as I continue to work at it, it will progress. It will never be exactly what I envision, but as I’ve said before, isn’t that with everything? Isn’t this where throwing assumptions out the window can help lead to a life of fulfillment and peace? To realize that nothing is how it “must” be, only as it should be or ever could be, because it is at this very moment in time as it is(in this dimension and this universe, for those thinking about many-worlds). I know what I’m trying to say, but it is now coming out gibberish. I am going to spare you any more of it and leave you with a less-glamourous shot of the items I spent tonight packing (minus notebooks and reading material).

Goodnight.

Glamourous – Glamour = This

A Mountain Walk in June

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It had been raining in Bozeman all weekend and I was getting low on the inability to do much outside. Snow had been in the mountains since early Saturday and more had been accumulating today. I was tired of letting the weather stop me so, wanting to get away, Buddy and I drove up to Hyalite Reservoir to hike the Hood Creek trail.

We started from the road and quickly began gaining elevation. Down low there was still no snow and the clouds were so heavy and thick that I could not see the snow line on the surrounding slopes. It grew colder as we climbed and the mixture turned into wet snow drops, the type of snow a coastal city would get and one that usually falls in this part of Montana only during the early fall or late spring. The trail followed through tall forests of dripping pines and firs, enclosing us in a cold, tranquil scene. Because it was a Sunday and because of the weather, only a few campers and fellow explorers had ventured into the area, leaving this piece of the forest to Buddy and I.

As the snow grew heavier and I grew both wetter and colder, a small opening by the side of the trail appeared where I was able to look out across Hyalite Reservoir and see the bottoms of the mountain slopes on the other side. Above these slopes was nothing but an endless sky of grey that hung over the valley, clinging to the mountainsides. I gazed out across this expanse, taking it all in before capturing some pictures and continuing on my way.

We had been hiking for a half hour or so and I was still filled with the uneasiness, the edge and anxiety, that plagues me so often. I began our walk through the woods in order to work through this tension and I hadn’t been able shake it. I still had it in my mind that I was doing the wrong thing, that I was in the wrong place. I was thinking of all the productive things I could have been accomplishing if I had just stayed home or had made an entirely different decision long ago.

This was all present as I trekked up the trail and made my way to Wild Horse Creek. We continued climbing and the snow grew heavier and began to stick to the trees and grass. Another half mile and we were walking in several inches of snow, with even more on the grass and fallen logs that littered the trail. Along the way there were several clearings that allowed views out over the valley and even some mountaintops that were able to break through the clouds.

We reached Wild Horse Creek and stopped. The creek appeared through the heavy forest into a clearing that led to some beautiful steps, then down under the trail, and out again on the other side where it disappeared back into the forest. The snow had stopped for the most part and the clouds had begun to lift. With this peaceful stream flowing through the forest and the clearing, my spirits were lifted and I rejoiced at all there is in this life. For a moment I was able to forget all thoughts of worry, all my musts and shoulds, all my insecurity regarding life, and just let go and take the moment in. I was free, I was alive, and I was exactly where I needed to be. There was no judgment, no thought, no action, only the pure form of being. Then, as quickly as it had come, the moment passed and we made our way forward again, this time down the other side of the loop that led us back to the trailhead.

On the way down I began to grow tired and cold. Even though the snow stopped and the clouds lifted, I was expending less energy and was having to keep the circulation in my fingers going by putting on gloves and swinging my arms in rhythm to my walking. My mood was fluctuating as well. The nagging feeling that I was in the wrong place doing the wrong thing wouldn’t go away. When I realized that I was almost finished with the hike and still hadn’t gotten any closer to the peace I was seeking, I began focusing hard on my thoughts, on what I was telling myself in order to react this way. Rather than let them run rampant on their own and have them continue subverting my enjoyment of the moment, I began countering them with other thoughts, positive thoughts, thoughts that helped me understand why my self-talk was not only defeating, but altogether wrong. I was in control of my choices.

As I neared the end of this self-talk session, I found the clearing I had stopped at earlier to take some photos of the trail. Before, the clouds were so low that I was unable see beyond the trees at the edge of the slope. Now, I could see across the entire valley, up into the canyon I had hiked last summer that led to Hyalite Peak in the far distance. Once more, the beauty lay before me in all its wonderful glory, letting me take it all in as before, letting me take it with me back to Bozeman and into my life.

Reminiscing Paris

I was sorting through old photographs and decided to post my favorites from Paris. I was there two years ago on the backend of a ten-week backpacking trip through western Europe. The wonder and fulfillment I experienced there, combined with all the others throughout, are a big reason why I am planning another European adventure for later this summer. Enjoy!

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Hello World!

Dieses Bier ist sehr gut!

It’s after 2 a.m. on a Friday night and it seems I can’t come up with a better title for my first post. In fact, I’m so worn out that I don’t have much to come up with for anything right now. I just want to have something available so that when I wake up later this morning and log back in to look at my new creation, I won’t be faced with a blank page. There’s something to say about a blank page, and not being faced with it. There’s something to say about a lot of things, which I hope to accomplish throughout my posts on this blog, although I probably won’t cover all of them, since who has that much time to devote to saying something about everything? Zeus, perhaps. Or another of the immortals. Anyways, I digress (which happens more often than you might think). I am starting this new blog because I was unhappy with where my old one was going. I had little control over the design, it was not being read by the engines and so no one was finding it, and I was beginning to take it in a direction that I’ve been working tirelessly to move away from. In the end, I just didn’t feel like I had much control over my own blog. I wanted a fresh start with something more dynamic, more stabile, and that gave me the ability to control every aspect of content and design. I’ve never used WordPress before, so it’s taken me several hours throughout the day today to do some research and begin understanding what I can do and what I want to do with its capabilities. I’m excited by the endless possibilities and the growing community. I’m also excited about being more proactive with my posts, focusing them on actual topics and ideas rather than the constant rambling journal entries my old blog had become. I want to post pictures on here. I want to share stories and writings that I’ve done in the past and plan on continuing to do going forward. I want to share my ideas and my experiences, past, present, and future. Ever since I left USC to move back to Montana and figure out where my place in life is, I’ve been drifting along with my wandering, and a lot of it hasn’t been good. I’m working on changing this, and the last two months have been huge strides forward for me. But even in all that drifting and searching for meaning, there have been some amazing experiences. I am a wayward drifter. I like to see the world and understand it and experience it for what it is and for what my mind makes it out to be. I am good at many things but master at none. I have an imagination that sometimes drives me to wonder if I’m walking on the wrong side of genius. I like to combine the analytical with the creative, the dark with the light, the good with the evil, and turn it into something beautiful and real and me. I have felt so alone and isolated and foreign to myself and those around me that I rarely am able to achieve any of this. But I am always working towards this goal, this bliss of mine. It will never truly happen as I have imagined it. I will never be able to be all things at once. And I will never understand where it is I am going to be next week, next month, or next year. But there is one thing that I will always be so long as I push myself to follow the thing I’ve wanted to do since I was eight years old and living out of a barn in the mountains of Montana. As long as I write, as long as I don’t give up on myself, I will always be the writing wanderer.