carocali (carocali) wrote,

A picture's worth a thousand dollars

Please, don't freak out.  I know, two posts in 12 hours!  Ahh!  I gotta get the internet while the internet is good, so I toiled to get this up.

We're heading out the door to see if Bear Tooth Pass might have been plowed overnight and we can make the journey... i'll let you know later.

Hope you're all well!




October 3, 2007


We nuzzled in last night in the hotel room with our store-bought soup and our store-bought salad, but the microwave didn’t work, so no soup.  Then we wanted some tea and the coffee maker didn’t work.  I should have known that this did not bode well…


WARNING!!!! If you speak to either my brother or my father you must swear on (insert name here)’s grave that you will not tell them the following top-secret information.  I mean it – really!  I’ll hunt you down.  (Also, there is some foul language near the end of this entry… be warned!)


So, Kathy and I have been pooling our money so we can share the expenses.  It’s a fabulous idea and I was all for it.  I went to my wallet and pulled out my cash for my contribution.  We each brought $2000 with us so the evil that is the credit card industry wouldn’t get any more of our hard-earned money.  Well, it appears that I’ve lost $1000.  Well, actually, it’s more than appears; it’s actually gone.  I’ve torn through all my stuff, including the undie section, and it’s gone.  The last place I remember having it was on the bed of the cabin when I split it up into two sections so I wouldn’t lose it.  Oh, the irony!  I can remember counting out the bills and seeing the pile on the bed, but I do not remember actually putting it anywhere.  I think I left it on the bed and the maid came that next morning and hit the jackpot. She’s probably on a trip to Hawaii as we speak.  I called the cabin and asked them to look around.  I got a voice mail this afternoon (when we finally got cell reception again) that started out as promising, especially when she said ‘I’ve got good news’ and continued to tell me that they didn’t find anything, so it must be in my luggage.  Oh, she sounded so happy that I had the money with me, when, in fact, it was just the politically correct way of saying ‘even if we did have it, you’ll never see it again.  Have a nice day!’  *&%^& But what can I do?  Kathy says I’ve handled it pretty well, and there will probably come a time when I’ll just break down in hysterics that all the money I saved all summer long is just gone.  In the meantime, I have to make lemonade from lemons, right?  I’m out here, seeing the most incredible things in my life, so I guess the picture is worth $1000.


So, on with the show!


We left from Great Falls this morning and headed out on route 89.  As we migrated further along the Montana highways, we truly got the meaning of their catch phrase “Big Sky.”  The open road was vast and magnificent.  You can literally stand in the middle of the road (but it’s not recommended) and turn a 360 and see every bit of the land and sky.  The plains roll, the wheat sways against the breeze, the cows graze.  Everything. I’ve never seen anything like this.  And the mountains seemed to follow us where we went.  Up a hill, turn to the left – there’s the mountain range.  Down the valley and to the right – there they are again.  It’s unclear at times whether this is the same range or another.  The maps were not specific enough as we traveled to tell us all the places we were hitting.  All I know is that the yellows of the leaves and blue-gray of the skies seemed to blend together like an oil painting.  Drop in a few black specs for cows, and you’ve got Montana.  I tried to catch a couple of the spots along the way, but in my haste to get the pictures uploaded, I think I deleted about four pictures.


The road kept changing and bringing new sights to life, breathing a glow into the amber trees with a sun we weren’t sure existed any longer.  The accents of the fluffy clouds ambling across the azure sky gave the sun the perfect out to hide from us, but she was much kinder this day than the rest of our trip. 


It seemed we stopped about ever ten minutes or so as we said “look at the colors” and promptly pulled over to take several shots and angles of the same thing (sorry about that – I’ll have to edit them down at a later date) hoping to find the perfect picture.  And once a creek (pronounced ‘crick’ here) is part of the equation, forget it!  It’s like the holy trinity if you have sun, water and mountain/trees.  We’re like flies to honey.


The last of the mountains seemed behind us as we approached Lewis and Clark National Forest.  We honestly had no idea what to expect – and didn’t even mark it on the map as a ‘site.’  Well, it was certainly a sight!  The lush greens protruding from the ground on the rolling hills was awesome.  Layer after layer of conifers up the hills, and along the bottom, dots of yellow here and there.  They seemed to build the road next to the fast-paced streams just to taunt the tourists into stopping and taking pictures.  There are pull-offs every time ‘someone’ thought there was a pretty place.  (We stopped counting the pull-offs).


Outside the realm of the Aspen kingdom in the glaciers, the colors vary a tad more.  We are granted some reds and oranges, along with the standard green and yellow.  It’s a draw, once you see the new flecks of tint, whether you’ll make it out of the area without a pause.  We were spellbound by the majesty of the trees and beauty, especially coming from Glacier.


How can you go from glaciers to plains to forest in a few hundred miles?  It boggles the mind.


Both of us needed a break and decided the next ‘town’ we saw that we would stop.  (I’d like to note here that towns in Montana really don’t exist along route 89.  I’m sure that through the rest of this infinite state, there are plenty of places that have more than say, a house with a dog as a town, but 89 is a little scarce.  And it’s usually about 30-45 miles between ‘towns’ so you have to plan your beverage allowance accordingly) That place happened to be Monarch, Montana – population 40 or so, according to the waitress.


This was actually a sweet little area out of a Norman Rockwell painting.  We pulled into the Motel that had a little diner attached.  As we turned off the car, we saw the one gas pump at the end of the drive.  Probably the only one for miles and miles and miles, and it looked like something from 1975.  The cute bar area was desolate except for the owner and the waitress.  She told us to seat ourselves, which I said I would be happy to do as soon as I made a rest stop.  Kathy beat me out and ordered me a diet Pepsi (another note – Montana ROCKS for soft drinks!  We’ve had Pepsi at every restaurant we’ve hit!  Woohoo!) and found us a view out the back way.  The watering hole/town was at the base of one of the hills we’d been climbing through, and the rocky cliffs added a lovely background.


The waitress brought our drinks.  One thing led to another and she’d mentioned that she’d just moved back to the area.  Twenty years prior, she’d left to explore the states living from Tennessee to California.  Nowhere felt like home, and that’s why she came back.  She just uprooted her family and took them on the road with nowhere to stay and no job, just to get back to Montana.  They camped along the river and finally ended up at this motel/restaurant.  She said she was currently paying $100 a month to stay where she’s at, and her hopes were to move to the three bedroom house behind the restaurant for $400 a month.  It’s such a different lifestyle and bless them for embracing it and loving it for what it is.


After lunch, we’d spied a fire truck and I had to have a picture of it.  I mean, how many fires do they actually have?  (knock on wood) The rest of the ‘town’ was little ticky tacky places and a Catholic church that holds mass on Saturdays at 5pm.  It almost looks deserted in places, then you see a cute little log cabin nestled along the creek (remember, crick!) and you know there is civilization.


Our last stop before heading out was the scattered cemetery across the way.  It’s built on the hill and I was sure I’d tumble right on down it.  The earliest grave Kathy saw was birth in1805.  The Nebel family had much tragedy as they’d lost several small children in the early 1900’s.  Sad, but a true fact of that time.  I also saw the Tolliver, English and Whitaker families that must have put roots down long ago in the area.  It would be interesting to try and find any history on them.


Off again, stopping for more creek/forest pictures.  You’re probably sick of seeing the repeats of the same things, but as Kathy says, when the sun is out, it brings a whole new light to the picture (or something like that) so I’ve tried many angles and settings to get it better.  After our last run, I happened to look behind me where I saw the beautiful bluish mountains and the road leading from whence we came.  We had to stop, and as we got back into the car, a gentle doe was standing on the side of the road.  She glanced at us, and I tried to grab my camera.  Bambi started moving (oh wait, Bambi was a boy, wasn’t she?  Well, you get the picture) and I could actually hear the clip-clop of her on hoofs on the pavement and she glided to the forest.  I tried to follow her into the woods and couldn’t get a clear shot with my camera.  Then, at the last second, I found her and snapped the picture, knowing I’d been too late.  I shuffled back to the car and hit review on the camera to find I’d shot her dead on in mid-hop as she disappeared into the forest. We were so excited, and we decided that was the rainbow for the day.


The journey continued, and we realized that we were never going to make the ‘schedule’ we had for Bryce canyon on the 6th.  After mulling over the map, we decided we’d hit Red Lodge, MT so we could get an early start on Bear Tooth Highway – supposedly the most scenic bylaw in the United States.  It’s one of our side trips along the way.


No kidding, every ten to fifteen minutes, we’d see deer.  They are everywhere and flit with ease over the fences to keep the cows and horses at bay (another side note:  we learned that cows get out all the time.  There are cow warning signs everywhere.  The incredible fact about this is that if YOU hit the farmer’s cow (that he let go because of improper maintenance of his fence) YOU have to pay a fine of $2500 to the farmer!  Now, being down a thousand already, this was not on my ‘to do’ list.)  We tried to be careful and we knew we’d just make it to Red Lodge with enough daylight to give us a bolster.  The fences are a joke to the deer who high-jump them like they’re pebbles in the road.  Thank God, too, because if they couldn’t get over, there would be so many more accidents.


The GPS said we were about 8 miles from our destination outside of Red Lodge.  Deer were everywhere and I had my hawk-eyes peeled.  Brake, brake, turn the beamers up, brake.  It was unending. 


Then, I saw it.


At first, I thought it was a cow, and that I’d be done in, owing $3500 on this trip only four days in.  But I was wrong.


“Holy shit! Kathy, it’s a bear!  It’s a fucking bear!”


Kathy looked at me like a had grown a horn until we saw our black bear friend 20-30 feet away from us in the ditch. 


“Where’s my camera.  Holy shit!  Where’s my camera.  Stop the car!”


I obeyed and we both looked frantically for our cameras.  I tried to maneuver myself out of her way as I tried to figure out where the hell mine was, feeling around like Helen Keller in the back seat.  I was doing backbends in the car, twisting in ways I didn’t know to let her get the shot.  I suppose we could have just gotten out of the car, but I didn’t make that suggestion as my mouth kept running off that there was a fucking bear in front of us!  And… I really didn’t want to get eaten.  If he would’ve got a sniff of the arsenal of food we had in the back seat, he would’ve tipped the car over and had a picnic.


“Back up!  He’s going in the woods”


I finally found my camera and took my first shot.  Black.  Shit.  I readjusted my options and got a little more.  If you look at the two pictures I uploaded, you’ll see two glowing irises looking at you.  I call it ‘Black Bear at Night; the companion piece to Polar Bear in a Snow Storm.’  It was beyond twilight and there was nothing there to capture.  I hope that Kathy’s camera was able to get something.  We’ll try and develop those tomorrow and I’ll make her get a disk of the images.  If so, I’ll see if I can upload those.


The funniest thing was that this little old couple pulled along side us and asked if we were alright. 


“We’re fine, thanks!  There’s a bear!”


“Oh, we thought you’d hit a deer.”  They rolled up their window and drove away.  Apparently, this is no big deal to them.




So, we saw a bear; a real live bear!  In the wild!  I’d been joking the whole time about a bear coming to eat us and I told Kathy I’d be happy to see one if it was really far away.  Everywhere we went, there were warning signs about ‘Bear Country’ and here we see one on the outskirts of town. 


Well, this was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.  Well, it ranks up there – I’ve certainly seen a lot of cool things over the last few days, and Hawaii was nothing to scoff at.  But for a day that started off in the shitter with losing a thousand dollars, ‘BBaN;CPtPBiaSS’ may just be worth it.


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