Canyon Lake

As I mentioned before, the mountains that rise up sharply on the west side of the Bitterroot Valley are a series of steep, craggy hillsides and deep canyons. Each canyon has a beautiful creek and a trail that runs parallel. You can’t go wrong with any of these hikes. We want (OK, I want) to do all of them before we leave Hamilton. Perhaps the closest trailhead to Hamilton is the Canyon Creek/Blodgett Canyon lookout parking lot. We did the short Blodgett Canyon lookout hike back in June, as we were a bit pressed for time. This time we came back for the longer hike- a ten-miler out and back. 

On the way you see some curious things, as you do all over quirky Montana.

I don’t know if this is a sample depiction of Aristotle’s Lyceum or Plato’s Academy, but I do know that David isn’t very happy with his banishment to the far end of the pea patch. Greek Privilege!


trailhead parking lot

I agree, we should all join the quest on our leaders. That shadow looks like one of our leaders (in high heel boots) was strung up as part of said quest. 

Speaking of Greek Privilege, here’s what you do to dismantle the hierarchy if you happen to live in one of our very diverse states where income and social status disparity is most acute:

Slap a sticker on your car and fight the good fight as far away from home as you can, in Montana, the least diverse of states, and engage in the least diverse of pastimes…hiking! 

By the way, regarding that “first in flight” claim, did you know there is some skepticism about those 160 flights that the Wrights claimed to have flown between 1903 and 1905? Look it up if you’re interested in a little myth-busting. Here’s another one, Coca-Cola is not an American invention. Oh well, onto the hike…


Rejsende fra nær og fjern kommer for at se skønheden i den knælende vandnymfe.

Owen and Allen taking a break just before the trail gets steep.

Looking back down the canyon toward Hamilton.


The trees growing on the barren rocks reminds me a little of the high Sierra.


I love hikes that ascend out of the deep woods and brush, into the yodel-worthy alpine zones. 

Canyon Lake


Allen chose to take a dip. Too frigid for me and O!


Next: Group injury report- just for fun. 

birthday at the Hollingsworths

A couple weeks before my birthday I told the Hollingsworths that we were back in the Bitterroot, just down the road from Victor, in Hamilton. We agreed we should get together one of these days. “We’re having a pizza party on the 17th,” said Mr. H

-That’s my birthday!

-Well then, I guess we’re celebrating your birthday.

The special day came and we got ready to head down to Victor (actually it seems like up ’cause you associate North with up if you’re like me, but the Bitterroot River runs South to North, just like the either frozen or bug-infested rivers of Siberia). First let’s just get these pesky homework questions out of the way for Owen. “Give me that science book, O. Let’s figure this out before the party. You know how it is for us Shumways- work before pleasure!” (I’m focusing on inculcating good habits for the lads- with nightly lectures and teach-by-example behavior.)

-Uh. On second thought, how about you call your mom or sister tonight?

The Hollingsworths bought a few goats off the Terwiligers, and the kids were keen to show us the goat zone- area where the boys and I fenced off weeks before. It’s flatter, shadier terrain here in Victor. The goats seem to like it but they miss the steep terrain for climbing. However, the Hollingsworths have a huge pile of logs.

“Do they climb up on those logs?” I asked the kids.

“Yep! They like it up there.”

The kids had to round up the chickens and put them in the coop. The rooster was so stubborn; I figured catching him would be impossible. But they managed. Then the little one picked him up and gave him lots of hugs. 

Here she has a good laugh watching me try to figure out the correct way to hold a chicken.

You city slickers don’t know nuthin’!

I wanted to get a little video of me with Finn, the rowdy Border Collie, German Shepherd, and Newfoundland mix. I signed us up for a pet-sitter website which we’ll hopefully be using in fall, and they encourage you to put up a video.

I figured Finn would be the perfect dog for the video. The viewer would see that this gentle man has such a way with dogs that even the most rambunctious dogs just calm down and behave in his loving presence. Surely after seeing my video, even the Hatfields and McCoys would feel comfortable leaving me with their precious, fighting Rotweilers and Bull Terriers while they go dogless on their yearly Myrtle Beach vacation, where they carry on their feud, battling over best beach plots.

But Finn was in too playful a mood. Finally I got him to come, by doing a little Irish jig. Turn up the sound if you want to hear my tap-dancing skills. 

I guess I’ll leave that out of my Trusted Homesitters profile. In any case, Thank You Hollingsworths for a fantastic pizza party! Mr. H must have made 6 or 7 great home-made pizzas, wonderful thin-crust style, and Mrs. H made the most scrumptious strawberry-rhubarb pie, with candles for me!


Next: Beautiful Canyon Lake

Lake Como, take 3

Nothing special here, just another outing at Lake Como. It’s only 20 minutes down the road from Hamilton. The hot Montana summer is finally starting to kick in so swimming in this lake should be a regular thing for us (the Bitterroot River is still chilly.) This time we brought the canoe.

Route 1

Why did I get right to Butte and fail to report from Bozeman?  Bozeman’s surrounding mountains are beautiful; it’s a college town; it’s the nearest major city to Yellowstone; it’s supposedly highly desirable, with a great standard of living and one of the fastest growing cities in the country- ahh… that’s the rub, my friends. There are just too many cars clogging too few streets. And how do you rate a place high on the livability scale when you can’t get from point A to B without the %#@! traffic? I’m outta here. 

Anyway, leaving Butte, there are two ways to return to Home on the Range in the Bitterroot Valley. You can cruise up Interstate 90 at a brisk and legal 80mph (but best not in the Prius, on a climb no less) and turn South on 93 at Missoula, or you can head SW toward the BigHole and connect to the 93 at X pass that borders Idaho and MT. Well, we’ve seen the BigHole and definitely plan to return, but today let’s have some new terrain. We’ll take the Missoula route and start on the 90, but detour right away and take a hard left and head west into Anaconda, home of the Acaconda Smelter Stack. I don’t know why I didn’t take any pictures of this behemoth, but it’s pretty impressive. It’s the tallest surviving masonry structure in the world, built in 1918. Starting in the 50s, it was used to smelt much of the ore obtained from the Berkeley Pit. 

Continuing up route 1 you come to beautiful Georgetown Lake. We found another of the ubiquitous Montana roadside fishing areas, this one off the highway a mile or two and with a campground. 


Who remembers these old Sears aluminum Jon Boats?


No pics of the campground, but it was nice, with the trees protecting us from the wind coming off the lake in the evening. That night it was coooooold! Coldest night of our trip, I’d say. It was so cold I had to get up and out of my summer sleeping bag and go for a run while the sun came up. The temperature got down to 38! (-13C). 

The boys needed warming up too, so we decamped and headed into historic Philipsburg. 

The bakery was closedvid, but we found a little coffee house with all the fancy drinks for the tourist crowd that usually floods this town. Usually we get by with home-brewed coffee and Swiss Miss, or gas-n-go swill along the highway, but today I splurged on the best.

“This is the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had,” said Owen. 

“A bit sweet,” said Ach. Well, you could have refused the whipped cream on top.

We took a walk around town. Stopped to finish our drinks outside the library. 

“I miss legos at the library and playing there.” Reading was also an occasional pastime at those quaint institutions, circa NE (normal era). 

The charming innocence of youth. Don’t you know kids- the ‘new normal’ wasn’t meant to be temporary. Don’t take my word for it…

The Granite County Board of Health sets the record straight. 


Well, they were also serving breakfast at the little coffee house, but we already had food in the sack, so we found a nice green space to picnic. I like the Tuscan estate tower in the distance.


Goofball Allen. Note cut on middle finger- result of ignoring father’s command to wear gloves while working.

These folks were playing doubles! I wanted to tell them to use the open court next to them to space out and play singles, but Owen stopped me, anticipating confrontation.


Well, we don’t have rackets, but we can always fungo!


This town is growing on me. Maybe there are jobs here to hold us through the trip, till our return to Japan. 

No thanks. A guy I met the other day said he ran the Census people off his property, and threatened them with buckshot next time they dared!


Route 1 ends and reconnects with I-90 in Drummond. Not much here except for a nice park. I lied down for a nap on the soft grass and shade of a tree, making up for lost sleep at polar bear campground.


Then I played a little more fungo with Owen. Seems every small Montana town has its field of dreams, with an outfield kept carefully cut and an infield looking like the South Dakota Badlands. 

Note the rodeo stadium on the right. 

Thanks for the pleasant pit stop, Drummond. Off to Missoula and back to the blessed Bitterroot!

Next- Como, con Canoa

The Lake of Doom and City Preserved in Amber

Butte, Montana: A small city in Montana, between Bozeman and Missoula, hilly and surrounded by the Rocky Mountains in every direction.
But what is that? That giant yellow blob in the distance, dwarfing the town.


It’s the Berkeley Pit. And for 3 bucks you can get right up close and take it all in.

Right this way please. 

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

The sun is shining, the sky is blue and there is a cool wind blowing in your face, but all you see is the landscape of death. Nothing lives in the lake, and nothing lives on the scarred terrain. 

With not not a tree, bush, fish, bird or human in sight, the enormity and calm of the place was fascinating. It was a thrill to just stand and stare, the only sound being the wind blowing through the dark observation deck and tunnel to the other side. Finally, a couple entered the viewing platform and pushed the button with the recorded soundtrack, and the eerie silence was broken. A cheerful, young woman’s voice came on and gave you all the facts about the Berkeley Pit. All the facts except for how exactly they were going to clean this thing before the water reached critical stage. She acknowledged the downsides of strip mining and the fact that many harmful waste products would have to be cleaned, but the owners of the pit and the state were certainly on top of things and one needn’t worry much whether things would be solved before the water reached critical level and seeped into the surrounding, outflowing groundwater in “2023”. There’s even a processing plant across the lake that extracts copper from the water. See now, we still have 2 1/2 years to clean this up- no problem! 


Zoom-in shot of some kind of maintenance building, for perspective and appreciation of size.

Leaving the hellscape of the pit, we went back through the tunnel and information center. The two attendants were students at Montana Tech- Harvard on the Hill. The specialty of this school is, you guessed it: mining. Most other majors are also in STEM areas. The guy was studying chem-E and the girl radiometry. They didn’t try to paint a pleasant picture of the problem that the Pit presented. When I asked what the eerie noise was that sometimes echoed across the sepulchral landscape, they said, “It’s to scare the birds away. A little while back a family of geese flew in and landed on the water. They were dead in minutes.”

OK, so they have a good school, a pretty good location in Montana, and an amazing old town, but man, to have to look at that big, dead pit every day. Ugh!

Anyway, onto the old town: 

Before the days of the Berkeley Pit, shaft mining was what put Butte on the map, and made it very rich.

There was no shortage of moolah to build wonderful, stately building across many blocks of downtown Butte, up near the crest of the hill. 

Lots of American cities had grand old buildings, but they were mostly replaced during modernization (often for the worse- case and point, the loss of Penn Station in Manhattan). Butte looks like it never modernized. It looks like the town just turned off, everybody left and the buildings remained as a memory of better times when the local economy boomed. 











So what were the people like back between the Gay 90s and Roaring 20s when these building went up? 

I don’t know for sure, but here’s what they looked like during the depression: 

The smiles say, “Yeah, we know it’s contraband. And this is Montana. Gotta problem?”



1933. Everybody wore a cap and a coat, and despite the Depression people still had an air of confidence, or so you’d surmise from this photo.


Look closely boys…They’re talking to you….What are they saying?…. come closer boys. Listen…..

Caaaaaarpe. Caaaaaaaaarrrrrrpeee Diem Boys!

Lewistown 2 and points south

George took us to one of his favorite fishing spots, on the Big Spring Creek. There is another tributary, beside the spring, but it’s much smaller than the spring-fed creek, so the water level (and temperature near the source) is pretty consistent year round.

If we could stay longer, George would have the boys tying flies and taking them here.

There’s a hatchery at the spring. They only stock lakes in Montana, not streams. The fly-fisherman of Montana’s lakes and creeks would revolt if they were catching stocked trout.

The font on the sign, the gumball machine coin insert, and the price say that this was put here in 1974, with no changes since then. 

This big, long quonset-hut style roof was right next to the spring, but I don’t know what it was for; maybe it was part of the hatchery and meant to keep fish warm in the brutal Montana winter.


George brought us to this pasture to show us his horse.



Time to say goodbye to Lewistown and head south to Bozeman. We’ll take the long way so we can see a ghost town and hopefully find a spot at a forest service campground just north of Bozeman.


Castle Town didn’t last long- a drop in silver prices made everything go from boom to bust in a few short years.


This ghostly-looking calf wouldn’t let us leave Castle Town. Every time we moved forward he’d move forward a bit and stop us again. This place was pretty deserted. Was he lonely or sending us a message?


Mountains on the alternate route to Bozeman. Just south of here is Bridger Bowl ski area, which looks like it has some good, very steep terrain.


Unfortunately, the Forest Service campground was full and there was no more camping between there and Bozeman. We got a room in a motor-inn. A quirky place without the corporate feeling. Beds were firm but they’d forgotten to vacuum the floor. The nice front desk guy, a college student likely, came in to do the job. “I’ve been doing odd jobs all day, covering for the cleaning staff.”

-Why do you have to do it?

-Because just today we fired four people and hired four new ones. 

-Why’s that?

-New manager. Stricter. No messing around now. One of them got the boot because of drugs. Anyway, there’s no guarantee that the new ones will be much better. It’s hard to get good cleaning work. People come and go as they please. 

This reminded me of a couple construction contractors I met in Kalispell who said they both worked on their own because “you couldn’t find anyone that would stick with the job. They all know they can get a job anywhere tomorrow if they want.”

They’re hiring in Montana! Apparently jobs don’t pay better than unemployment plus stimulus, however. 

Next, Lake of Doom and a city preserved in amber.


Hi everyone, and Happy Birthday, me and Fumie!


correction on yesterday’s post. The continental divide runs SSE from the Canadian border at GNP, not SSW. Apologies to geography nerds. 


The last damn and falls in Great Falls before we head out on the lonesome prairie toward Lewistown. “Hey Allen, come over here and strike a nice pose, will ya?”

It’s called Big Sky Country, and there is something special about the sky here.

In my home state, a common drive is from Seattle to Spokane or Pullman and WSU. After you cross the Cascades you feel like you’ve hit the east side of the state and you have a few more hours til your destination, which will put you close to Idaho. When you cross the Rockies coming from Missoula or Kalispell, you likewise see the change in terrain and you’ll have a few more hours before getting to Lewistown, but then you’re barely in the middle of Montana; it will be another drive of similar length to get to the eastern border with North Dakota. Montana is yuuuuge!


The county courthouse in Lewistown.


side view of courthouse with Kipling poem


On the other side of the street is the Carnegie Library. While we were waiting for my friend George, our host in this town, I admired the architecture around me and took a couple photos.

A pickup pulls up in front of us. Local old guy dropping off some books at the library. He sees our car, comes up and says, “Out of towners?”

-Yep, just admiring your buildings. 

-You like the library?


-Can you read the sign on it?


-What does it say?

-The big words right there at the entrance?

-Yeah, how do you pronounce that?

Actually I wasn’t sure how to pronounce Carnegie, but I know how it’s usually pronounced and I figured his angle pretty quick so I said, “Car NAY gee?” (instead of CAR nu gee)

-That’s right.

-I gather you’re half Scottish and don’t like the way most people pronounce the name.

-That’s right! I hate it when people say CAR nu gee! And I’m almost all Scottish!

I told him I used to say it the wrong way like everyone else (two minutes ago, heh), and that I was also guilty of pronouncing the G in Edinburgh, instead of ‘Edinburra’. He laughed and wished us a good day. You find tons of friendly locals in Montana, most of them ready to take a moment and chat you up. 


George picked us up and took us to his spread a couple miles out of town.

view to the SE


The valley directly South. Big Spring Creek.

Lots of bird out here. Red-winged blackbird.

Sorry, the Canon Powershot is a great little camera, but doesn’t have much of a zoom, and the picture quality goes down after you upload to the blog. Look closely and you can see a Lazuli Bunting next to the feeder on the left.


George has two friendly, energetic dogs.

The pointer is the perfect hunting dog- fast and full of energy and always on the lookout. The american bulldog has even more energy (and power), and you had better give her attention, or else! The boys were a little cautious, and the dogs were a little wary of the strangers at first, but everyone got on great after rambunctious introductions. 

In central Montana, you have to start the day with a homestyle southern breakfast. Farm-fresh eggs, homemade sausage and biscuits and gravy. Now you’ve got energy enough for a full day- just make sure you lay down a while with that anvil in your stomach. Delish! (sorry for the photo- the wordpress editor won’t save the rotate edit.)


Fishing on the Big Spring Creek. After Allen’s quick success at Lake Como, the boys’ luck has gone south. They are quite skilled at loosing lures, however. Here Allen retrieves Owen’s lure he got stuck on a cast over to the far side of the creek (they say ‘crick’ out here).


Later I went over to search for Allen’s lost lure, after yet another cast into the far bank. He had tried himself but didn’t want to test the deeper, swift current in front of the bank, so he walked up around the hillside next to the big bush jutting out into the stream. He stepped into a hill of fire ants and then I took over. I spent a good 20 minutes, waist deep in cold water, searching the brambles and never located that lucky yellow spinner with red dots, but I found someone else’s plain golden and gave it to Ach.

Next: Lewistown, part 2, and points south.

crossing the divide

Here’s Allen fishing the Bitterroot. 

A raft went by. A woman and a man were fishing, and the guy in back was a pro guide. “How you guys doing?!” he yelled at us, with a big smile.

-Pretty good!

-Great! Fantastic day, huh!?

-Yes, it is!

Well, it was good, but I don’t know about fantastic. For us, the fish weren’t biting. The guide said they were having pretty good luck, under the circumstances. The river was still high and swift. I asked if it was dangerous, as they passed a sweeper (dangerous logs stretching into the channel). “Not too dangerous if you know where to go,” he answered. “Pretty easy and safe, actually.”

Well, he can’t scare the clientele, and he was doing his best to present an average summer day in the Bitterroot, with high water no less, as something pretty spectacular, to give the guests a bang for the buck. They looked happy. 

And why are we getting all this high water, when it’s already mid-July almost?


Because it keeps on raining!

I say it’s time to search for dryer surroundings out east. A friend in Lewistown (make sure you say “town” not “ton” like “Lewiston, Idaho”-I’ve been making this mistake for a while) has invited us for a visit. Perfect timing as our host is having his family from Colorado come up for a while, and we have to leave the roost for a bit.

We’ll take the northern route going out, and the southern coming back. 

You cross the divide about halfway between Missoula and Great Falls. When they were creating Montana out of a huge section of Idaho Territory, they debated setting the border at the Continental Divide, which cuts from Glacier Park up on the Canadian border, and runs SSW, all deep into Montana. Had they done that the Idaho panhandle would have been a whole another pan.


The terrain between Missoula and the  divide is gorgeous ranch country, reminiscent of central Oregon.


Fraternal twins can be different. I’m still trying to decide which one more resembles me in character, and which resembles his mother more. 

From trees everywhere, to prairie everywhere. We could be back in SW Oregon, on that stretch that connects Winnemuca and Boise. 

I thought I took some pictures of Great Falls on our first night, but I must be mistaken. Suffice to say the downtown area is a little sad. Like all country towns of its size and age in the west, there is a district where the old buildings still stand. Our hotel was right in the heart of the old downtown area. It should be spruced up and pretty, like Pioneer Square or the Gaslight, but it’s pretty worn out. The front desk lady was effusive in her praise of her home city, however. “I lived in Colorado for 8 years, and for most of the time, couldn’t wait to get back here. The people are nice and I love it.”

It rained yet again that night. I’m glad we found the good deal on the Travelodge. 

The next day was crystal clear and beautiful. 

Dam and falls on the Missouri River, just NE of town. 

We’ve seen so much Lewis and Clark stuff on this trip. Town names, river names, county names, lake names, restaurant names, bar names, school names…you name it. There will be lots of naming-work to do and elementary school thematic unit replacements when they cancel-culture these guys!


Was it Lewis or Clark…I’m thinking Lewis, who saw the first falls at Great Falls and said, “Hey fellas, let me and Sacajeweya (‘OK Charbonneau, you can come too, whatever’) just go up this side trail and make sure the vast prarie continues on the up side of the falls.”

Heh, right. There were 5 huge falls to portage around. It was a daunting task. Clark almost gave up and returned to his car dealership in St. Louis. 


Footwear wore out, ropes snapped, wheels busted. 


By the time they got to Fort Clatsop on the Pacific Coast, they’d almost run out of anything tradeable. So they spent four sad and soggy months in Oregon- only a week without rain, and the Indians had little interest in stopping by, trade being the main incentive to visit these interlopers. 

Next, Lewistown.