On our Montana trip Beau and Hayley and I stayed in a cabin we have
been at three times before, but this was Jess’s first time. I brought
along a long strip of vinyl fence to line the property on the county
road side, so my new pup wouldn’t wander across it and have problems. It
did its purpose.
The cabin is a historical structure built for forest service rangers
in the 1930’s. It has no electricity or running water, but connects to
a long stretch of grassland and marshes to the east, and pine and fir
and sagebrush across the road to the West, all the way up to the
One of the highlights for me was again finding blue camas in bloom. This plant has gorgeous chartreuse blue flowers that only last a few days. I have read that it was an important edible for native americans, who would dig up the bulbs, and that anywhere you find fields of blue camas is where natives used to camp.
In the mornings the border collies and I would hike offtrail, making
noise so we didn’t surprise a grizzly. We came across an elk and two
calves one morning. Twice during our trip I took my long tandem kayak
over to Hebgen Lake and all three dogs and I kayaked in a peaceful bay
through the morning. Jess really took to kayaking and was a pro at it
by the second outing.
In the evenings after the dogs were worn out I would feed them dinner
then drive over to Diamond P Ranch a couple of miles away for a trail
ride. I requested a different horse each time, and had some good ones.
I might have made the mistake of asking for some ‘variety’ on the last
day and had a horse that was more of a challenge when I wanted to take
it off trail.
I have been to Diamond P a couple of times before and once again had a
great time riding in the Montana forests and meadows. On one of the evenings I stayed around after the ride to watch the horses being released into the big pasture. I was hoping the sun would poke out from the clouds, and that happened right when the horses were running into the pasture. Check out the video and pics below of this, and other images from my Diamond P adventure.
Trail rides like this are probably a good option at my age (71), since if something
were to happen like I was thrown, there would be people around to
help. I would love to own a horse like I did when I was young but it
can be an expensive proposition to do so. Animals have always been a
huge part of my life. If I were to have one I would ride it out on
trails all of the time. Always riding in a ring or enclosed area just
seemed boring to me. When I had a ¾ Arabian years ago I would take him
down a narrow trail to a canyon, then at the bottom would let him
loose. Oscar would run up and down the canyon and back to me, which is
a pretty nice memory to have of my buddy, who certainly has passed on
a long time ago.
(click on photos below for larger image . . . - Esc or clicking outside of image will close it)
This trip has reminded me of the long history I have visiting the Yellowstone region. It was one of the primary epic vacation destinations for my family when my daughters were young, along with Yosemite, Carpinteria, Big Sur, and Monterey on the California Coast, and Disneyland. It took us five trips to Yellowstone before we saw our first grizzly bear. Once we saw a minutes old bison calf next to it’s mother. We hiked down to Osprey falls on the Gardiner River. In the summer of 1988 we visited in August when fires were burning the dense lodgepole pine.
Later, after the year 2000 I started visiting Yellowstone on my own. I learned that August in the Hayden Valley was the best time to see grizzlies, because during the bison breeding season the big buffalo bulls would fight, and sometimes kill each other. A 2000 pound carcass attracts a lot of predators and scavengers. Once I stopped above the Yellowstone river where several people had scopes set up. They invited me to look, and around a bison carcass were seven grizzly bear, taking turns to eat. I was told there had been eight there. Another time I witnessed a mother grizzly and her cub leave a carcass and head east towards the highway, where there was a line of people watching her. A single ranger got the crowd to separate into a large gap. The mother and cub milled around for a while and then walked right through the gap, then swam across the Yellowstone River. I photographed all this and then went up to the ranger and got his email address, where I sent links to the photos. He was a teacher from Kansas on a summer job and was grateful to be able to share the photos with his students.
On this trip it felt so good to be on the back of a horse again, and my history with them also came back to mind. As I mentioned above I had my own horse, a ¾ arab during my teen years. He and I spent all the time on trails, and had no trouble being alone out there with me. (Some horses get very unsettled going out alone). Selling him when my wife and I were starting out was a very hard thing to do. When I delivered him to his new owners he followed me the length of the corral and watched me get into my truck, trying to figure out why I was leaving him.
My first job was with the Bureau of Land Management, as a botanist out in Western Colorado. I went on a week-long pack trip with other resource specialists in Powderhorn Primitive area near Gunnison, Colorado when it was up for a new resource management plan. I developed a good bond with my horse for the week. In one instance we were all going up a very steep trail, called ‘The Slide Trail.’ Up ahead of me I saw the other riders having a lot of trouble trying to lead their horses up the trail holding the reins. I tied the reins to the saddle horn and let my horse pick his own route up the trail, while running behind him holding on to his trail, and made it up with no problems. Later I found a reference to someone else doing this on a steep trail - see text and link below.
One day everyone was collecting their mounts after we had stopped for lunch and let our horses graze in an alpine area. I stood up and called my horse’s name. He looked up and came walking over to me.
"If you are following another horse that has gone up before you, again, simply allow the horse to go ahead. He’ll be fine. If your horse has been trained to allow this, you can also hold the horse’s tail and allow him to pull you up the slope. Most horses don’t mind this, especially while they are concentrating on getting up the hill"
More Journal Notes:
July 10, 2023
I drove past the Wind River mountains of Wyoming on the way up, then went over to the East Side of the Tetons near Driggs, Tetonia, and Ashton, Idaho and camped. I was scheduled to stay in another cabin on the way up, but high water in a creek prevented me from getting to it. I video taped the water flowing down the road with spring runoff, and sent a link of it to the Forest Service Office that I reserved the cabin with. The response I got was 'I am so sorry, I meant for you to take the other road at the fork'. That certainly did not help me after the fact. I was just following the route they had originally sent me.
So I had to improvise for a couple of nights. I found I could just sleep in the truck by laying the driver's seat all the way down. There was still plenty of room for the dogs, since my truck has a full back seat (crew cab) . Then it was a lot quicker to get going in the morning, compared to sleeping out on the ground. And in all honesty, I felt more comfortable sleeping in the truck rather than outside in grizzly country.
On the way back south from Yellowstone, I was able to see Grizzly 399 for a short while, before she walked into some trees with her two cubs. She is the most famous Grizzly in the world, and may intentionally stay near roads to protect her cubs from male grizzlies.
I was going to return to the truck and set up my large spotting scope, but did not have time. Below is a shot of all the bear watchers on that morning.
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart"