You shall not pass!

Went on a lovely hike with Kristin this morning, but it ended at an odd point because apparently we were on private land (or so a sign said…) and turned around so as not to raise a ruckus/be shot at (yeah that’s a thing in the Wild West of Montana).

Life has been…choatic, to say the last. It’s been a whirlwind of me staying out far too late, loathing my horrendous job more than ever, getting excited to move to Victoria in August, and other little things that seem to always add up.

I’m so sorry I haven’t been posting regularly, I swear this is something I am going to improve upon! I’ve been still getting used to my DSLR and I’m trying to get it to do what I want…we’re working on it.

Anyway, I need to shower and get my life together this Sunday, which most likely involves me really just taking a nap. OOPS. Have a great rest of your weekends everybody!

 

 

Hiking and meandering and enjoying the world

Yesterday Meghan and I drove high up into the hills to find the Gipsy Lake trail on the Helena National Forest and never found that trail.

But we did find another trail! It was very steep for the first mile at least. We managed to get up the hills without too much difficulty, but it was definitely a stretch to call the first part relaxing in any way.

We walked for a long time, down and up and more down and more up. We eventually found the end of the trail we were supposed to originally  hike, and continued down the way for a while.

We have no idea how long we  hiked for but from about 10:00 am to 4:30 we hiked, with a few breaks in between for eating and drinking water. It was an awesome day to spend outside.

Escapism

I’ve been slowly scanning in film and getting familiar with my monster of a scanner.

Getting the colors right in the scan is definitely probably my biggest challenge! I know that certain films highlight different tones than others, and seeing as I use a mix of Fuji, Kodak, and whatever else, I definitely just scan it in and sometimes it’s pretty obvious that it’s not…quite right.

For now, that’s alright.

I’m learning and I’m  happy seeing images I’ve captured. I had such a beautiful weekend up North in my favorite National Park. Summer is winding down, and it’s currently raining outside. I’m wearing a grey angora sweater and cashmere socks and I can now drink hot tea and I am in love with this weather. I like taking walks just after the rain stops, when it’s slightly misty out and people aren’t wandering around because it’s still not right.

Nature has the perfect sort of silence

This morning I woke up and it was pouring rain at 7 am.

So I slept some more.

Waking at 8, the rain was gone. I got up, filled my Nalgene, packed a rain jacket, and ate some breakfast.

Then I drove into Hyalite Canyon.

I am ashamed to say that after having spent 3 years in Bozeman I had never explored Hyalite properly. Last fall Chris and I went up there a few times and camped out but this time I was determined to drive all over the roads and walk up quite a few trails.

It was chilly and damp, and everything was full of water- dew drops hanging off of plant edges, pine needles raining water on you when you moved a branch. Driving I had the windows down because it was so beautiful and cool outside.

I didn’t know where to start hiking, and I started at the easiest “hike” to Palisade Falls. It’s paved the whole way but the falls were pretty. The whole morning I barely saw a soul, and that was the best part. I drove where I wanted, as slow as I pleased, and paused a lot to take pictures or photograph a plant (that post coming soon!)

Overall it was the most refreshing and beautiful morning. I ended up getting pretty wet at the end of the Falls hike because it started pouring rain and even a bit of snow. It was entirely worth it though- I got to drive and see all the beautiful things I’d been missing.

Now I need to go back to discover more. I think next time I’ll bring my kayak.

You and me and the frog makes three




Dilapidated, slanted barns and old homesteads marked our distance. We went past Norris, past Harrison, and to Pony. The beautiful brick school house sat neatly on the hill, and as we went a small ways up a little muddy hill road, a graveyard stood there. Broken and and tilted gravestones sat grey and tan, some limestone, some sandstone, some granite.

We drove on through deep puddles and past large granite hills. The trees were green and dusted with snow. The creek below was swollen and clear, looking incredibly cold. Enormous boulders sat creating deep pools. Chris wondered aloud if they held fish, although most of the pools and eddies looked too shallow to hold any sort of sizable aquatic creature.

After driving right through the stream and parking in a small clearing, we found the trail buried under a little snow. I wore Chris’s flannel-lined Carhartt’s and some winter boots guaranteed to keep my feet warm to -20 Fahrenheit- standard issue Montana gear. Although it was mid-May we knew we’d most likely need it. We hiked through the damp snow and some mud, admiring the beautiful trees and lamenting the fact that once again we forgot the bear spray (a recurring theme in our adventures.)

Potosi Hot Springs was our destination. A warm, silty spring about 15 feet in each direction, it sits on a small hill after about a mile of easy hiking. After we encountered no bears, only a weasel and multiple pesky prairie dogs, we found the pool completely empty! Enthralled by our good luck we quickly undressed and got into the pool, which was a pleasant bathtub temperature. We found a lovely little grotto-like corner and squeezed into it. There were delicate spider webs and we saw a beautiful spider test the lines. Dew drops hung from every clover and leaf that surrounded the pool.

That’s when I spotted the frog.

A frog! A frog! My mind rushed excitedly, nostalgia washing over me, remembering how I caught frogs in upstate New York and in various rivers whenever we went camping and how the last time I saw a frog like this was on a hellish Father-Daughter backpacking trip through Yellowstone and the worst mosquitoes they’d seen in 40 years.

I didn’t catch it with my hands but rather with my lens- it seemed decent, because we were sharing this small warm pool with the frog, and I didn’t want to be rude. Actually, it was because I couldn’t catch him! He was very calm and I put my hands behind and around him gently and touched him- then he leaped into the silty water where I wouldn’t be able to find him. He made several more lovely cameos during our visit! I later found out that he was a Columbia Spotted Frog, a type of frog I’d never seen before! How neat!

Immediately after the frog-neighbor made an appearance  a mother and two blond children joined us with their very nervous dog. The dog mowed down grass more efficiently than any herbivore ungulate I’d seen and barked anxiously at nothing whatsoever. A couple joined us for about 20 minutes then left. Chris and I stayed in our warm section- we knew we had the best spot in the pool.

Chad, a Coors-drinking hotspringing veteran, showed up later. By then we had prune hands and were thoroughly relaxed. Chad told funny stories and we all admired our luck at being here in this little pool of warm water on such a nice day.

After almost five hours of intense soaking in the silty, mineral-rich water, we got out and headed back. The whole way I had the luxury of thinking how lucky we were to do this, and as Chris drove us back down the muddy and hole-filled dirt road I felt extremely balanced and happy.

Also, as a side note: the mineral water did something crazy to my  hair to the point that it ended up curling in perfect spirals instead of descending into it’s normal frizzy mess. I wish I could re-do the effects.

Montana, I love you, but this is ridiculous (I want greenery)!

02480002 018515-R1-04-21 - Copy 018512-R1-19-6 - Copy 018512-R1-03-22 - Copy 02500016 02500009 06950002 06950014 02500004While ice lingers on the INSIDE of my windows, creating a chill that resonates in my bones, I think about things that make me happy: Being outside.

I may wear SPF 70 and fall a lot, but I love being outdoors. I’ve been camping since I was a week old (one of the first questions my parents asked the doctor was how young was okay) and even though I don’t camp as avidly and often as I did in my youth (my youth being like 14 and younger, I’m not ancient at 21), I still love hiking and getting outside.

Montana is a gorgeous place, even when there is a foot of snow on the ground with 5 degrees F outside, but this is how I like to remember it. Enjoy.

 

A quiet source of inspiration.

I forget that there’s a mountain in the middle of my home town. It sits in a corner of the city, rather rotund, not ominous in the least- just there. Mount Helena is an omnipresent part of the landscape, a token rise in elevation, a constant in my view of the city. Apparently, it has so much presence I take it for granted and forget to reconnect.

While I spent a good deal of the summer running on the lower trails, many of them unmarked social trails, I had not actually made it to the top of Mount Helena in years. Literally. I can count the number of times I’ve made it to the top on one of my hands. Feel free to send me mental waves of shame.

Well, it just increased by one more. After a casual suggestion that I didn’t take seriously enough, AK and I set off walking towards the mountain, through downtown, past locked doors and dark stores. While he was wearing entirely appropriate clothing- Goretex shoes with treads, waterproof gloves, two layers of practical jackets, and pants- I wore leather boots with no treads, a red wool pea coat (another possible post- why is it called a pea coat?!), cashmere/wool gloves with a few holes and no waterproofing capabilities, and a leather bag to hold my camera. I looked, quite frankly, like a moron. Or somebody from out of town. (To be fair, I hadn’t packed boots, actual pants, gloves, or any sort of practical coat for the weekend.)

I went first. It was probably best- I didn’t have to match a pace, but was rather able to set it. A hobbled pace, to be sure- the boots were very good at keeping away water, but terrible at making me feel like I could stand up and stay on the trail. I slipped, slid, and had to engage in all manner of balancing moves that made me feel more like an amateur trapeze artist than a walker of mountain trails. (Note to self: Toss hiking boots in the car, you may need them in the future). I led us down a trail that was entirely erroneous (my apologies!) for a bit, too, to add to the utter ridiculousness.

The top was rocky and icy. A 360 degree vista of trees, valleys, faraway hills and mountains made my breath catch in my throat for a few moments. I have resented this landscape, felt violated by the isolation, and have loathed Helena as a backwater town of little to offer. Little by little I forgive this town, realizing that these feelings of hate are ill-placed. When I can see for miles on the top of a long-neglected mountain with a worthwhile human being and breath the crisp air and feel more vital than I have in a long time, things are clarified, life is simplified, and my caustic feelings turn less acidic.

As we descended, AK led us through drifts where the wind erased the trail for some yards, led us back down the mountain, and occasionally turned around to wait for me when my shrieks and curses for fear of falling grew too common. In the end, we hopped a fence and got hot food, a good afternoon spent outside in my own little-traveled backyard.

Here’s the path we walked, courtesy of AK’s smart phone:  https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=208866538666354606641.0004ce418d59a12300060

I hate gin! Or, Hanging Valley, the hike that ended up being ridiculously hard.

First, let me preface this by saying that I’m in decent shape. Not GREAT shape, but I hike and walk and run and all that healthy stuff.

Ahem. Anyway, Kristin and I had been wanting to hike Hanging Valley for awhile- since about June, in fact. We got up there at about 9:30 this morning after getting bagels, and we promptly found a trail that wasn’t really a trail. Eventually finding the RIGHT trail, we marched. Uphill. A lot.

Hanging Valley is a round trip of 12 miles through dry timber. There is not a lot of gorgeous scenery, and the trail is mostly steeply uphill for the first two miles. For us, it was also really hot- we were literally dripping sweat after about 15 minutes because of the temperature.

Basically, the combination of steep grade, temperature, and our lack of enthusiasm for the less-than-spectacular scenery led to us only making 6 of those 12 miles. The end of Hanging Valley supposedly leads to a 300 foot drop off with views that are breathtaking, but we didn’t hold our breath to find out.

So, if you are in the mood for some serious 12 miles of hiking, go for it!  If you’re like us, you might just reconsider…after all, 200 meters down the road is the Trout Creek Trail. Our code phrase for turning around was, “I HATE GIN!”, which we both exclaimed after reaching a point that was dry and depressing.

Refrigerator Canyon hike

Kristin and I decided that a hike was much needed in our blood, and decided upon one of the most interesting hikes in our area. After an 85 minute drive, some hairy switchback turns, and getting sunscreen on, we began the hike.

The canyon funnels all the wind into it, so it actually is about 5 to 10 degrees cooler for the first 1/2 mile or so of the hike- the canyon reaches up to 200 feet tall in some places. Kristin and I scrambled over rocks, around trees, jumped over the meandering stream running through the canyon, and made our way through the breezy nature-made wind tunnel.

Montana hikes are often not the greenest. We’ve got fierce heat, not a lot of moisture that hangs out, and wind that takes off top soil like nobody’s business. Refrigerator Canyon’s hike is almost the exact opposite- the humidity is high, every surface is lush and fertile, and greenery takes over. We hiked for about 6 miles through the trail, and admired Western Tanagers, scouted elk prints, and found the leg of a deer. We ate a quick snack at the overlook, where you can see the surrounding hills, and continued on our way.

Overall, the hike was easy, and we went at a good pace. It was a perfect hike for a couple of hours of fun in a gorgeous setting. I need to  hike more around my area, seriously!

I hope you all had an awesome weekend! Now I’m making Cocoa Pebbles marshmallow treats and cleaning my house. Tschüß!