Get a cup of coffee and join me on my first trip to Montana:
Lowell and I have been friends for many many years. We met at work and the chemistry was immediate. I didn't know, however, that we would become such good friends for so many years over two different states. When Lowell retired, he and his lovely wife Marcia moved to Victor, Montana (If you'd like to see this area, rent "Disorganized Crime" with Lou Diamond Phillips and Reuben Blades, it was filmed there). My best friend, Debbie and I drove out to visit the summer after they moved. Remember that trip, Lowell? Debbie was a mall baby, suffering withdrawal big time and Lowell and Marcia lived on ten acres in the Bitterroot Valley in a gorgeous A-frame home many miles from the nearest shopping. The big news story while we were there was a cougar in the neighborhood. When Debbie found they could climb (the A-frame had a balcony), she didn't sleep a wink. While we were visiting, Lowell and Marcia took us to Glacier National Park which was decorated with signs announcing grizzly bears. The signs had big slashes in them as if they were swiped by bear paws. The ranger lecture was about bears and we were told that if you make noise, bears will get out of your way. Singing was especially effective and the best song to sing was Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" because everyone knows bears don't like country music. On our hike the next day, Debbie never shut up. I'll bet every bear in Glacier had moved down to lower altitudes to get away from the constant chatter.
That same trip started the money war. Marcia booked a room somewhere in the park (I've thankfully forgotten where). To her credit, it was all she could get, but it was awful. It smelled like the bears spent long winters there. Musty, moldy, icky. I opted to sleep in the van under the stars. I'll bet you can guess where Debbie slept. When we checked out, we tried to pay Marcia for our portion but she would have none of it. It was just the first of many fights over money that hasn't really ended - and Marcia is winning so far.
Another bright spot in the ranger lecture was 'bear bells'. Those are large jingle bells attached to a walking stick. Opinions are mixed about them. Some say bears are curious and wonder what they are, others say they cause bears to leave the area. But the ranger did say that the difference between black bear poop (called 'scat' in Ranger speak) and grizzly bear poop is that grizzly bear poop has 'bear bells' in it. Another note about that lecture was the ranger himself. His name was (and is) Rick McIntyre. He was a grizzly ranger in Denali National Park when he wrote a book about a bear called Stoney. We attended his lecture in Glacier National Park when he worked there. He is now the wolf expert in Yellowstone National Park and we often see him when we're looking for the wolf dens.
Lowell and Marcia also took us to the Skalkaho Pass for a picnic. The water there comes from the top of the world and Marcia, (I've never understood how she can do this) peeled off shoes and socks and went walking in the stream at the picnic area. I'm up for a challenge, so I do the same. The water was 32.2 degrees and after placing one foot half way in the water, my brain went numb. I have never in my life been so thoroughly cold and I've never walked in glacier water again although Marcia continues to do it and I continue to be amazed.
If you ever get the chance to visit this area, I highly recommend it. It's gorgeous. But (and there's always a but, right?) take lots and lots of bug spray. While we were eating the deer flies found us. They don't just bite, they take chunks of flesh with them to feed the kids. Debbie and I did the Mexican Hat Dance all the way to the van. The flies didn't seem to bother Lowell and Marcia, it seems tourists are on the menu, locals aren't. And, we didn't leave them at the picnic area. Every time we stopped so I could take pictures, they found us again, so obviously, they were following us which denotes intelligence.
But, I digress. On the way home from visiting Montana, Debbie and I stopped at the Crow Reservation to see the Little Bighorn battleground where Custer and the 7th Calvary lost their lives. When Debbie saw the pictures of rattlesnakes curling up in the wheels of cars, she decided not to walk up to the monument with me and, needless to say, Deb never went to Montana with me again. But, I've been back many times, once with a friend (?) and many times with my husband. I'll tell you about those trips in later posts.