Category Archives: Truck and trailer

What’s in a Name?

Dunkirk, Zurich, Malta, Glasgow, Cleveland, Devon, Rudyard, Harlem, Jordan, Belgrade, Amsterdam-Churchill, Havre, and Manhattan. These are names of places all over the world, but they are also names of places in Montana.

On our way home we stopped for the night in Zurich. Not Zurich, Switzerland, but Zurich, Montana. It’s a tiny farming community where the people drive their ATVs down the middle of  the road if they’re taking their trash to the local garbage dump. You just have to slow down and wait until they make their turn into the dumping station up ahead on the left.

Then you can continue on to the little gem of a community park where they kindly allow campers to stay the night for a mere  ten-dollar fee for electricity. Such a peaceful location.

The community hall was not in use the day we were there, camped in the corner.

The view from my trailer window is of black cottonwoods that whisper as they drop their last golden leaves. The only notably loud sound was made by the pheasant who cackled enthusiastically before taking wing out of the creek bed beside our trailer.

I thought it odd that Montana has so many names that duplicate other places in the world, but on looking more closely at the map, I saw names of a completely different sort:  Poplar, Wolf Point, Plentywood, Buffalo, Cat Creek, Musselshell, Rattlesnake, Lodgepole, Sleeping Buffalo, Whitewater, Crow Rock, Grass Range, Forest Grove, Roundup, Deer Lodge, Cut Bank, Sunburst, Sweetgrass, Fox Crossing, Chinook, Gold Butte.

Montana names are such fun!

 

Passing By

Leaving the dreary, rainy west coast behind took a few hours longer than expected, as the wet weather stretched eastward for more than 100 miles.

But on the highway between Hope and Princeton (in BC),  the clouds lifted and the day became quite pleasant. Ruby and Emma were happy to get out of their traveling crates to have a quick swim and a dash along the banks of the Similkameen River.

At Osoyoos we crossed the Canada/US border and headed for Omak and then eastern Washington. The sun played games on the fields, turning them golden when it peeked out over cloud banks.

The pullout after reaching the summit at Mullan Pass in Montana allowed time for a five-minute break and the snapping of a photo.

Winding our way along the Clark Fork and the Missouri Rivers, we ooh-ed and ah-ed at the scenery. Rocky formations on one side, and gorgeous river on the other.

As we got closer to our destination in eastern Montana and the hills were not so pronounced, we saw more coyotes, hawks, and several groups of pronghorn antelope. This bunch allowed me a quick drive-by shooting if I promised not to hurt them as we whizzed past.

Having arrived, I will post eastern Montana photos for the next while. Had to laugh as I wrote that “I have arrived.”

Dorothy in Kansas?

Four years ago we camped in Montana and I learned how close it was to Dorothy and Toto’s Kansas. We parked our 19-foot trailer in a clean, new RV Park. The Captain decided to do a reconnaissance trip while I settled in to catch up with my email.

“Perfect,” I thought, “I’m going to enjoy my little bit of alone time.” Twenty minutes later, disaster struck.

When we first arrived, the Captain put up the trailer awning. You would think he knew about raising sails…. I made the mistake of suggesting that this was not a good idea because northeastern Montana is prairie-like and the wind whistles  unimpeded across the land. Of course, as soon as I  said “Don’t,” he did. Why don’t I learn?

“If it’s too windy, I’ll take it down,” he’d said.

He left. I settled in,  enjoying my laptop and connecting with friends by email. Moments later, the whole trailer began to shake. A big gust of wind buffeted it. Visions went through my head –  the trailer with me inside, bouncing across the prairie like a giant vinyl tumbleweed. I pulled the curtains aside and looked out the window. The canvas was billowing high, and the aluminum support on one side had collapsed so the awning hung onto the trailer at an odd twisted angle.

53More gusts. I had to do something or we might roll over. Outside, I stood wondering what to do. If I did the wrong thing, a big wind gust  could rip the awning or the aluminum supports out of my hands and smash them into the trailer. One support was higher than the other. I tried to lower it one notch at a time by opening the lever and un-telescoping the support. You would think that was the sensible and easy thing to do, except that the pin that holds the telescoped part in place is no longer responding to the lever action when I try to release it. The pin is either broken off or hanging by a thread. I muscled the thing to push it up and used needle-nosed pliers to poke the metal pin back through the slots that held the support in place, but all it did was slide into the next slot down and the struggle began all over again. The old whiplash injury in my neck began to scream in pain at the effort and I had to give up for a while. More gusts of wind. I tried again. More neck pain. I gave up and resigned myself to becoming a tumbleweed.

52I didn’t get much emailing done, or enjoy my “alone time.” I fretted until the Captain came back.

What I had struggled with for two hours took him less than five minutes to fix.

“Huh!” he said, “I didn’t think it was going to be that windy.”

I was dying to say “I told you so,” but what would have been the point?

All Up in the Hills

With apologies to my oldest followers, I’m reblogging this post from four years ago.

Pictures were taken with my tiny Olympus camera before the days of my Nikon. Only this first photo is different, taken by my friend, Ken Johnston.

grizzly

A few years ago, the Captain and I went on a camping trip west of Williams Lake in BC with another couple to fish the highly esteemed Chilko River.

Chilko River

I knew it was grizzly country but in spite of my ursaphobia I didn’t want to miss out on this adventure.

Choelquoit Lake with the Chilko River Valley at the base of the mountains.

Chilko Lake ahead with Chilko River flowing out of it.

The Chilcotin Plateau on our way to Chilko Lake and the Tatlayoko Lake area was scenic and spectacular. Real cowboy country. Near the horse corrals of Chilko Lake Lodge we parked our trailers side by side in a designated camping area.

 

Perfect camping spot

Anonymous checks out “A Room With a View”

I kicked aside hoof trimmings with sharp tacks still sticking out of them. Didn’t want to step on them later.

Horses live here.

We fished some of the many smaller lakes in the area, as well as the Chilko River, for which we needed a special licence (and a promise that we wouldn’t sue if we got frostbite on the river). It was June, and sunny, but the temperature was cool at this altitude.  Chilly and cold.

“Hey! Maybe that’s why it’s called Chilko Lake—‘chilly cold lake.’” I thought I was being witty, but all I got was eye rolls from my shivering companions.

I’m not petite, but with many layers of coats, sweaters, and life jacket on, I’ve doubled in size.

All those layers of clothes and still chilly and cold on the Chilko.

“We should try to find a better spot to launch the skiff,” the Captain said. “There’s a good place right around here.  Saw it last year. The main road runs parallel to the river. Somewhere, there’s a trail between the two.” Moments later he spotted it. A narrow road had been pushed through the dense woods. It might have been passable with our four-wheel-drive truck except that large boulders had been strategically placed to prevent vehicle access. We got out and walked through the woods.

Hiking time

“I don’t mind a hike, but what about grizzlies?”

“Oh, you don’t need to worry about them. They’re all up in the hills this time of year.”

Why didn’t that reassure me? “And you know this, how?”

“I just know.”

I shrugged my shoulders and strapped on my bear spray. “Okay, let’s go.”

“The river’s got to be just around the bend,” the Captain said. In the next twenty minutes he would repeat this phrase many times.

My neck felt rubbery from swiveling to check behind me. “Are you sure about the grizzlies?”

“No grizzlies this time of year. I told you, they’re all up in the hills.”

This sounded very familiar. It was the same thing he had said when we were stranded in grizzly country on the coast the day we got cut off by the tide.  “You always say that.”

“No really, they are,” he said.  “It’s too early for grizzlies.”

The launching spot we eventually found was nowhere near where we hiked that day through “non-grizzly country.” We fished the river and were amazed at the huge fish that remained, for the most part, elusive. Three things stood out for me on those days on the river:

1. The scenery was spectacular.

2. It was cold enough to freeze your goosebumps.

3. Blessedly, there were no grizzlies on the river (which is why I liked being in the boat).

Pretty cool trip

After several days at the horse ranch, the forecast of heavy rain marked the end of our stay.

We packed up and started for home. Outfitted with walkie-talkies in each truck, we led the way, chatting occasionally to our friends who followed behind in their rig.

Time to leave

The roads were turning ugly in places as the downpour dampened the clay gumbo under the gravel topping. We were getting out just in time.

For sure it was time to leave!

That’s when it happened.

“Did you see that?” I pointed to the road in front of us, then turned to see where the two grizzlies disappeared into the trees. We pulled over to the side to peer through the woods. The trees were so close together I wondered how a grizzly could fit between them, especially at a gallop.

“Two grizzlies just ran across the road in front of us,” the Captain said into the walkie-talkie.

“Oh yeah? Well, you’ve got a flat tire,” our friend said.

“Ha, ha! Very funny,” we answered into the mike.

“No, I’m serious. Your back right trailer tire is flat. I’m parked right behind you and believe me, it’s flat.”

“Is he messing with our heads?” I asked. “Right where the grizzlies went into the woods?”

Only flat on the bottom

“I’ll check it out.” The expression on his face when he came back to the cab told me it was bad news. “We must have driven over one of those hoof clippings with the tacks. You take the shotgun and stand right there while I change the tire.”

My neck felt prickly but I couldn’t wimp out and leave the Captain to be grizzly bait all alone, so I stood there with the shotgun. Our friend stood guard with his rifle — brave soul –, and his wife stayed in their truck — smart woman.

After a while, I got bored. The gravel on the roadside looked soft, and the grizzlies—a mother and a teenage cub I would guess—were really moving, so they should have left some tracks. I wandered a bit, looking up and down the ditch for the tracks.

“Here!” the Captain called. “Just stand there with that shotgun. I don’t trust those buggers.” No more pooh-poohing my ursaphobia now. I should have felt some “I-told-you-so” satisfaction but all I felt was jumpy nerves.

At last the spare tire was on and tools put away. I did a quick check for overlooked tire irons and such. And that’s when I found it—the grizzly track I’d been looking for—right behind the newly changed tire.

Either a grizzly or Bigfoot

“Oh my God! It’s exactly right here that they went into the woods!”

As we drove away, the Captain scrunched his face up. “Ahem … I didn’t want to tell you earlier,” he said, “but a rancher near Tatlayoko Lake lost some livestock to grizzlies last week.”

“All up in the hills. Hah!”

Thar’s Snow in Them Thar Montana Hills

This past October 4, when we started our annual Montana trip, it seemed that the snow came early – at least, up in the hills it did. Driving toward eastern Montana, we wondered if we would be in for more snow and whether our little trailer was going to keep us warm enough. Should we maybe have brought our skis?

The stretch between Helena and Great Falls is always a beautiful drive along the Missouri River. Sometimes we’ve seen snow on the hilltops on our way home in later October, but this was the beginning of the trip and the weather was worrying the wimp in me.

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The temperature was a chilly 4 degrees C. (or about  39 degrees, for those using Fahrenheit) and I tried to keep my trepidation in check. Would I enjoy this wintery trip when I had expected summer temperatures, at least in the daytime?

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This herd of mule deer gawked at us as we drove by. I’m sure they were shaking their heads and thinking, “Tourists! What a time of year to come to Montana!”  But they didn’t know how much we love this state.

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Goodbye Montana

Soon it will be time to leave this sunny place and head home to the wet West Coast. It will be good to get home but I’ll miss the beautiful, sparsely populated state of Montana.

The night air is getting cool enough that one day soon it may snow. It’s time to think of taking our travel trailer home again. For us, adding a month of sunshine and warmth has been a welcome extension of the fall, with almost summery conditions. When we get back to the coast it will make the winter seem not quite as long.

The signs are there, telling us it’s time to go. The white-fronted geese cackled high above us yesterday, flying along the Missouri River, eventually ending up in warmer climes … and probably we should be thinking of doing the same soon too.

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Even the leaves on the tree below are wanting to blow away. See how they’re all leaning away from the wind? Like the leaves, we won’t be able to cling to this paradise much longer. It’s time for us to ride off into the sunset.

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A Stop in Missoula

This year we took more time on the drive to and from eastern Montana.

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On the way home, we stopped to visit friends in Missoula. What a pleasant surprise this city held for us.

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Our friends gave us the tour of their old established neighbourhood near the hospital and the university. It was like a trip back in time. Mature trees lined the streets where houses of a certain age stood, proudly declaring their old-style designs.

It was already cold enough to keep us walking briskly in order to stay warm. We asked what happens to all the leaves – there were so many  with nowhere for them to go.

Apparently there is a day set aside when there is no parking allowed on these streets to permit the machine to come through and sweep up the leaves and take them away.

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The old style of houses and the mature trees along the street reminded me of long ago days when I walked home from school along a street just like this.

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It has been a refreshing break to visit civilized Missoula, but the sky is telling us it’s time to move on before the clouds release those snowflakes they’re holding. Snow would be pretty to look at but I’d rather not drive in it, and there was no doubt it was coming.

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