Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Get lost in Montana.

Yeah, that’s the state tourism motto. The past few weeks we’ve made it a goal, and now have the bills from fixing flat tires to prove it.

 photo DSC06153.jpg

(Welcoming Saskatchewaners in Havre.)

The Frontier does pretty well in two wheel drive, so when it’s time to switch to four-wheel I usually take that as a hint that it’s time to turn around. The past few weeks, though, it’s had plenty of 4WD mileage bumping around in the Flint Creek and Pintlar mountains – and even 4-lo, which is cool, but which I really don’t care for. (Naturally, the baby cries the whole time we are on the interstate, and then magically sleeps as the truck crawls over rocks, ridges, stumps, and roots, his head forward and being jostled violently for miles on end. Does his neck ache when he wakes up? How do you sleep through that?)

 photo DSC08731.jpg

(Keeping the front hubs lubed.)

 photo DSC08711.jpg

(Exploration burns calories. The breakfast, lunch, and dinner the Corps of Discovery only wish they had.)

We snagged an incredible lakeside camp spot at Storm Lake and got totally skunked in a fruitless morning-long search for Gold Creek Lakes (I think we were one drainage west). We got a miserably flat tire on a dirt path euphemistically called the “Old Stage Road” and rolled into a lovely camp site at a lake I’d never heard of before, Rock Creek Lake. (We had to make an emergency evacuation from that same site when, the next morning, it appeared that a scenic old dead ponderosa pine was actively falling on the truck. In the haste to decamp – no, not haste, it was panic – I ran over the baby’s stainless steel water bottle. Sorry, baby.)

 photo DSC08643.jpg

("Where the hell is my stainless steel water bottle?")

 photo DSC08696.jpg

(The kitchen at Storm Lake.)

 photo DSC08830.jpg

(Awww, how cute. Pretending he cares about what girls want already.)


After a long, hard winter of biking it had become apparent that my old Cannondale needed a serious amount of work to stay functional – and even with that it was still going to be a light, fast bike that was also pretty obsolete. In the late spring I spent a few days test riding new bikes and came to the conclusion that there are a lot of fun, beautiful bikes out there that are not suitable for poor folk like me. Hellgate Cyclery had a lightly-used Specialized Carve Expert on their sale rack – an $1,800 bike marked down to $900 – which I test rode one day and bought the next.

 photo DSC08906.jpg

(Awwwwwwww Yeeeeaaaaahhhhhh.)

The Carve is a nifty bike for the price. At 27.8 pounds it’s much heavier than I wanted, but most bikes that cost less than a Civic are pretty heavy these days. Going into the hunt for the bike I was pretty ambivalent about upping to 29-inch wheels, but after having pedaled about 1,000 miles on this bike, going back to a 26-inch ride feels like you’re sitting in the dirt.

I originally went into the bike search intent on trying the others and then getting a Cannondale, but the Cannondales for sale in town were either too pedestrian or too pimped, and the in-between ride I was hoping for would have had to been purchased sight-unseen. Just a few days after I got the new Specialized, a friend was riding my old Cannondale and one of the pedals suddenly spun off; a quick look showed the crank was stripped, and so the poor thing, which barely brakes and really does not shift any more anyway, is sitting gathering dust in the garage.

I guess I can recycle it? Anyway, here’s a picture of a baby with a headlamp:

 photo DSC08724.jpg

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fata morgana.

Visiting a familiar place with someone who's never been there isn't quite analogous to seeing it through new eyes, but it's interesting nonetheless. Old friends made the long drive from Waynesville to stand atop the Continental Divide, throw snowballs, see grizzlies at close range, and pay too much for potato chips at the only store in a tiny town 38 miles from Canadian customs.

 photo DSC08556.jpg

(Two Medicine)

 photo DSC08214.jpg

(Rattlesnake National Recreation Area)

 photo DSC08313.jpg

(near Choteau)

 photo DSC08174.jpg


 photo DSC08391.jpg

(Logan Pass)

 photo DSC08537.jpg

(Two Medicine)

The park was full. We got reservations for a tent site at St. Mary two months in advance and even by that point more than half the spots were taken. Four adults and three babies ruled out a single-vehicle expedition into the park, so on Saturday we drove back to the St. Mary visitor center and got on the free shuttle bus. I'd been aware of theses buses but had never taken one before, and I have to say they work pretty well, with just a few glitches. One route runs from St. Mary to Logan Pass, connecting to another route that goes from Logan Pass down to Avalanche, connecting to a final route that uses larger buses to go from Avalanche to Apgar. For the most part they run frequently enough, but a few times we had a wait of about a half-hour, and we had a half-hour of uncertainty later in the afternoon at Apgar when the bus stop sign suggested we had missed by 20 minutes the last bus that would allow us to connect and connect and get back to our truck. Blair and I each presented our hitch-hiking resumes to see who would have to thumb it back over the Divide, but then Lauren asked at the backcountry permit office and was told to disregard the sign. Sure enough, a bus pulled up a few minutes later, and by 7.30 we were back at St. Mary, contemplating which expensive beer to buy for dinner.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, here is the chicken salad recipe you have all been waiting for.

I was calling this ‘Spicy Southwestern Chicken Salad” but may change it to “Montana Style Chicken Salad”. There’s not a single thing in here that has anything to do with Montana, but I figure Big Sky Country could use a gastronome boost.

 photo DSC08155.jpg

Cook four pieces of bacon. Set the bacon aside on a paper towel, and when it cools, crumble it up. Pour most of the bacon fat BUT NOT ALL OF IT out and save it for when you make refried beans (AWWWWWWW YEEEAAAAHHHH!). Take four chicken breasts cut into pretty small pieces and cook them in the pan fat. Add a bunch of spices that you have on hand – taco seasoning, salt, pepper, chili powder, blackening seasoning, creole mix, whatever. Toward the end add two or three green peppers cut into small pieces; use something like poblano or pasilla. Also, you can add a chopped onion, but don’t cook it too much. Remove everything to a big bowl, let it cool for a minute, and stir in a cup of mayonnaise, a cup of shredded cheddar cheese, a dozen or so spurts of hot sauce out of a bottle (something like Cholula or Tapatio), and most of a head of finely chopped cilantro. Top with the bacon. Serve.

Here's a picture of a baby with an axe.

 photo DSC07956.jpg

Monday, July 1, 2013

Praise for the mutilated world.

A garden party.

 photo DSC08095.jpg

A hot day.

 photo DSC08057.jpg

Clouds over the Anaconda-Pintler.

 photo DSC08051.jpg

A secret lake.

 photo DSC07955.jpg

A cool morning.

 photo DSC07864-1.jpg

Daylight at 11 pm.

 photo DSC07846.jpg