Saturday, July 26, 2014

Montana with Wendell and Jennifer

Arrived Tuesday in Joliet, MT for a visit with our friends from Cherry Log, Wendell and Jennifer.  They spend part of the year in Georgia, and part of the year here.  They are also fellow RVers and have been very helpful to us with advice and counsel as we've moved up to the world of Class A Rving.  They have acreage here in Joliet, which is about 35 miles from Billings, with incredible views of the Bear Tooth Mountains, the Pryor Mountains, the valley, lots of wildlife, amazing sunrises and sunsets.  They've been coming out here for years, and a few years ago got this property, on which they've built an RV barn that also has a space they're turning into an apartment.  In just about a month since they got here this year the two of them have done so much work building out the apartment, and it's going to be so nice.  They also have an RV pad where we are able to park our rig, with full hookups--what a setup!

Anyway, we got hooked up and spent a very relaxing late afternoon sitting on their porch, watching the sun lazily making its way down to the horizon, while their two lovely Brittany spaniels played and Sophie tried to do her best to make like her 7 1/2 lbs. was equal to their size!  At one point we had a wildlife encounter a bit more up close and personal than any of us would have liked--Jennifer came out to close the windows in their truck as the storm clouds were gathering and about to rain.  Well, as she was getting into the truck, she came upon a rattle snake!  Well, Wendell had her back the truck up, and with a couple of well placed shots from his pistol, dispatched our slithering friend to rattlesnake heaven--turns out to have been a little under 2 feet long, with nine rattles.  Not the kind of wildlife encounter any of us wanted, but glad it ended well!!

Wednesday we drove up to the Pryor Mountains, in the Bighorn National Forest, and hiked up Medicine Mountain to the sacred Medicine Wheel, which is in Wyoming, across the line a ways from their place.  This is a structure of stones placed in a circle, approximately 245 feet in circumference, with a cairn in the center and 28 spokes radiating out to the outer circle.  There are six smaller cairns at intervals along the outer circle.  This is a sacred site to many native tribes, reflecting some 10,000 years of Native American culture.  While no one knows exactly which people built it, or the exact date of its construction, , the consensus is that it was built sometime between 1200 and 1700 AD.  It is still used by native peoples as a sacred site for ceremony and prayers, last year some 82 different Indian groups held ceremonies there, and the ranger said just about every day at least one native group comes to offer prayers at the site.  There are many prayer cloths, bundles and other offerings left at the site, and the site is really a powerful place.  You have a mile and a half hike from the parking area up to the Medicine Wheel, with spectacular views of distant mountains and valleys, as well as many beautiful wildflowers.  We also saw several marmot--including a couple that were so big--about twice the size of the ones we had seen at Cedar Breaks in Utah--pretty amazing.  We also encountered some snow banks still along the trail.  Since we had the dogs with us, we took Sophie to the snowbank and put her down on it, but she wasn't quite sure what to make of it--just sort of looked around and wanted to get off.  On the way back down, however, she had figured out that it was a great place to romp around, scuffing up the snow, and she also discovered that she enjoyed eating the snow!  Pretty exciting for her first snow encounter!  Saw lots of other wildlife on the drive home, but, alas, no big horn sheep.  Wendell and Jennifer have seen several since they've been out this year, but they all seem to be avoiding us!

Thursday afternoon we drove into Red Lodge, MT, which is a cool little town.  Lots of interesting shops, as well as history.  We saw a bank building on the main drag, that now houses a dress shop, but was the site of a bank holdup by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid!  Got a funny Tshirt that shows a hiker approaching a bear--the hiker is saying "Mr. Bear, you should know I'm a vegetarian," and the bear is shown with a thought:  "Guess that makes me a humanitarian,"  had to get that one!  We had dinner at their favorite pizza place, and they make a mean veggie pizza!  After supper we strolled down to the ice-cream place where there is a webcam set up.  They always go here when they visit Red Lodge, call their daughter in Omaha, so she can call up the website, wait until the webcam refreshes to see them and she takes a screen shot off the site.  So we all stood out in the street, with Jennifer on the phone with Christian, waiting for Christian to say when we appeared on the computer screen, we all waved and she got a shot--pretty cool.  We had to do a couple of tries and the lighting was such that the picture was fairly dark, but it was fun.  A lot of tourists walking by who weren't aware of the webcam gave us some strange looks, these 4 folks standing out in the street waving up to the sky!

Then for the piece de resistance--pig races at the Bear Creek Saloon!!  Bear Creek, another small town nearby, is home to the Bear Creek Saloon, a local icon where lots of folks go to eat and enjoy their favorite libation.  But between Memorial Day and Labor Day, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights the main attraction are the pig races.  They have a grid when you walk into the bar and you place your bets by putting your name on one of the grid squares, and paying your money.  Then they have a series of races throughout the evening, five little piglets to a race, and randomly select squares from the grid.  That name then goes on as a "sponsor" of one of the pigs, who have names like Porkahontas, Donald Rump, and HamNotSpam, and if your name is drawn as a sponsor and your pig wins, you get $10.  But the biggest winners are local high school students:  through the money raised on the races, they've been awarding $4000 college scholarships each of the last 27 years for local kids in need.  Pretty cool!  It was a hilarious way to end a great day!

Views from their yard--that's their daughter's RV parked there too.
 Beautiful single tree!
 The sound of these wind chimes is really peaceful
 Looking out to the Bear Tooth Mountains

 Looking out to the Pryor Mountains, as the storm clouds begin to gather


On the way to Medicine Mountain, in the Pryors

 Shots as we're hiking up to the Medicine Wheel

 Wendell and Jennifer, with Emmy and Marty

 Still some snow!

 Overhead picture of the Medicine Wheel; this is on the board by the ranger station as you head up
 Beautiful blue wildflowers!
 Looking down on the valley

 Interesting rock on the way up
 Sophie's about to get her first up close view of snow!

 See the marmot on top of the rock to the right in this pic?
 There's another one, down in the grass, left center, about a quarter of the way up from the bottom of the pic
 And her's a close up of this big dude!
 Think I'll work on my tan for a while!
 What is this stuff, Mom??
 Get me off of here!

 Wanna try again, Sophie?

 this is on the story board up by the Medicine Wheel
 The plexiglas cover is kind of scratched, but enlarge this pic; the words are worth reading

 the path up
 The Medicine Wheel

 Some of the prayer offerings left by the Native Americans who come here to pray and hold ceremonies
 Trisha, Wendell and Sophie
 Jennifer, Emmy and Marty

 And here we all are!

 Sophie revisits the snow bank on the hike back down
 Driving out to the wild horse range, also hunting for big horn sheep sightings
 Couple of wild horses, just roaming free on the range among the sagebrush!
 An old ranch, built in 1883
 The Big Horn River, cutting through the Big Horn Canyon--at one point, the river was at a level just below the butte wall in the left top of this pic, but through millions of years of water current erosion and uplift, the meandering below formed

 Edgar Bar and Grill, in the little town of Edgar, MT.  Wendell said over the years he had run into several people throughout the US who, when he told them he had a place in Joliet, MT, they said "You absolutely HAVE to eat at Edgar Bar and Grill--it's the best food in Montana!"  Well, Wendell said that one day he and Jennifer went there and, while the food was good, by their lights it was hard to say it would rise to the level of the best they'd ever eaten; but an institution nonetheless.  And as much of a hole in the wall place as it is, he said you always have to have reservations to get in.  Edgar is one of many small towns that dot this area of the Montana landscape; many of them have one school, that goes K through 12, with very, very few students.  The Joliet School graduates usually in the single digits; they do have football--6 man football.  Well, the Edgar School was down to so few students they had to close, so they consolidated with nearby Fromberg--a very different experience than what we're used to back home!
Driving into Red Lodge; this was once a beanery, a sort of grain elevator for beans that at one time was a huge crop for this area
 The bank robbed by Butch and Sundance
 Beautiful flowers on the streets of Red Lodge

 Shafts of old, now abandoned, coal mines
 One of the various ethnic lodges that used to be a vibrant locus of Red Lodge activity; this one was Swedish
 Another shot of the bank
 A plaque telling the story of the Sundance Kid's robbery of the bank; they were eventually caught and sent back to jail.

 Funny sign in this little gift shop we saw
 They had some Santa themed "redneck goblets" which I, of course had to photograph!  The shopkeeper came up and asked about my "SantaOnVacation" hat, and when I told her I do Santa, she wanted her pic together to send to her father!

 More beautiful flowers on our way to the pizza restaurant

 Old theater, where they still have some community theater productions
 Driving around Red Lodge, saw these deer, just chillin' in someone's yard
 Little fawn!
 turned out there were two fawns, probably twins; this mama doe had an obvious birth defect--her left rear hoof was deformed, with an extra joint that made it necessary for her to walk on a section of ankle with a very pronounced limp--looked quite painful and if you look closely you can see it a little bit, just in front of the fawn's hind legs--wished we could have done something for her

 Just strolling though a yard
 Buffalo Bill's cabin--now part of a group of rental cabins; Wendell and Jennifer stayed here one season, before they had their RV
 A juniper sculpture place--really unique things they've done

Starting to drive over part of the Meteetse trail, the same trail trod by Wild Bill Hickock, Buffalo Bill Cody, and others of their era

The old Smith Coal Mine, site of a horrific disaster in 1943 when 74 miners were trapped below when an explosion caused the release of methane gas; the second picture is the signboard story; at the bottom is one of the notes that some miners wrote as they knew they were dying--pretty moving

Here we are at the Bear Creek Saloon, home of the pig races!!

Fans lining the rails above the track, eagerly awaiting the next race
After the bugle call, just like at Churchill Downs, here at BearCreek Downs the pigs take off for a lap around the track, sure that their reward of lots of food awaits them at the end of the run!

Sorry that this post is in the way, but ski-joring is a sport where a skier is pulled behind a horse and the skier runs a slalom course with the horse taking the role similar to a tow boat in waterskiing slalom
This company name says it all!
Interesting concept for an assisted living facility to be located on a working farm
Getting the pigs ready for the next race, moving them into the start gates
Going down the straightaway, heading for the last turn!  Go Porkohontas, Go HamNotSpam!!
next race group of pigs getting ready
Some dude had just dropped his beer when the pigs en route to the starting gates couldn't resist a little pick me up before the race!  How funny is that--that the beer was dropped right in front of this sign??!!
Wendell got souvenir Tshirts for Jennifer and Trisha--priceless!!

The ultimate winners of all this fun and frivolity
Across from the Bear Creek Saloon is the Hungry Bear Cafe . . .
. . .home of their self-proclaimed world famous banana cream pie!
Sunset as we drove back through Red Lodge
Bone Daddy's Custom Cycle Shop, HQ for the Bear Tooth Bike Rally


  1. Replies
    1. It really is beautiful here. Don't think I'll ever get enough of it!