update n’ stuff

Greetings family, friends and fans of my books. 

A little update on our wanderings in Montana:

We are in the lovely town of Hamilton, halfway down the Bitterroot Valley, south of Missoula. Here’s where we’re currently staying.

Route 93 runs through Hamilton, and if you only saw the town from the highway, you wouldn’t be too impressed. But get off the highway and go just one block west, and Hamilton oozes small town charm. The downtown area is nice and the neighborhood south and west of downtown is downright tony! Our place isn’t exactly shangri-la but it’s solidly built and the tree-lined street in front is pretty. 


We’re only a 20 minute drive from Lake Como. Last time we came the boys didn’t have licenses or poles. This time they have both. You have a bit better luck on the lakes right now, with the river running swift and high.  

Allen caught a nice little rainbow trout on his fifth cast. 

He cleaned it too. Then I ruined everything when I tried to cook it. Anyway, it got eaten.

The owner of the house had his family up for a night, so we made ourselves scarce. Had our first sit-down restaurant meal in a long time at a pancake house in Missoula, then we camped along a branch of the Bitterroot. There are designated fishing spots with parking all over the state. You’ll see a brown sign from the highway or country road with a fish on it and there will be a nice place to drop your line. This one had a campground too, and if you had a fishing license, it was only $12 a night. Mosquitoes no extra charge. 

Hamilton is about a 35 minute drive from the Terwiligers, between Darby and Sula. We went back down for a visit- I made a taco dinner for us, the T’s, 3 workawayers and a cyclist boarding for the night using the Warm Showers program. Mr. T made his famous chocolate ice cream from goat milk.

The kids are getting bigger. 

Next: Crossing the continental divide. 


no name lake

There was a path at the edge of our campground, that soon became a bushwack through the meadow and forest. Our new campground friends the Stollmeirs knew the way to the Lake of Mystery.



Forgive us our trespasses.

Maybe not the best idea out here in gun country (nightly blasts fill the air from the Bitterroot to the Flathead), but the campground/RV park owners said it was OK.





Flathead Lake

Lake of Mystery. Mr. Stollmeier, alias Pan, had his flute (ocarina) and played enchanting, somewhat haunting melodies while the boys fished and swam. Look closely and you can see all four of them in the water on the far side of the lake.

Kalispell roundup

The road, or stream you could say, running next to our campground. Man, it has rained a ton in the last month, and cold at night.



Boys finally got their fishing gear but still await their licenses. In the meantime, there are plenty of pine cones to cast and time to tinker with the reels.


We got invited to a real nice BBQ on Little Bitterroot Lake. 

I decided to park here. The bumpersticker on the Dodge says, “I identify as a Prius.” 

Summertime and the living is easy (and the weather cool)


Signs of the times. I guess there are lot of Karens in the ad-copy and poster-making world, even in Montana.


I’m not including this as a statement on precautions during the second coming of The Black Plague, just the Karenesque last sentence. 


Curiously, most Montanans don’t want praise for showing up to work. I didn’t say “You’re my hero” to the clerk here, but she was courteous and efficient anyway.

Allen after I explain what a “Karen” is. “Give it a rest, pops.” 

I didn’t take enough pictures in the Flathead Valley region. We took a canoe down to the Western side of Flathead Lake and thought about paddling out to Wild Horse Island, but it was further out than we thought, and a mean thunderstorm with heavy rain came through and nixed the plan anyway. Hopefully we’ll come back for that one later in the summer.

I do have some pics of a nice hike overlooking Flathead Lake, which will be the next entry. 

Happy 4th of July!

Glacier NP

Hurray! GNP is open… well sort of . The Indians First Nation People on the eastern (more beautiful) side of the park have closed off the roads to the entrances for the year, so only the west side is open. The effect is to make the western side parking lots fill up fast, and traffic snarls up. So the rangers then close down two thirds of the west side, and the remaining third that is open gets further jammed. They also have the campgrounds closed, so every state and forest service campground in the vicinity fill up. Social distancing enforced by reduced available space, ewkay.  If only everyone would stay home and play video games, demmit!


There is an upside to the closures, however.

After the Avalanche Lake trailhead parking lot, only walkers and bikers are allowed. It didn’t feel crowded at all!

Word has gotten out and cyclists from all over are enjoying the Going to the Sun road- and enjoying coming back from the sun even more! This was our picnic site along the river that feeds Lake McDonald. 

There’s a beautiful old-growth forest grove as you leave the parking lot on the Av. Lake trail. Note the mossy rock that looks like a T-Rex head.

Spring runoff flooding.


Middle of summer is best for GNP, but I love the rushing waters in June. 



Avalanche Lake might be the most beautiful place on the West side. I can stare at those waterfalls for hours. Owen fidgets, thinking of food.

Better exposure and a little more blue sky on this shot. You can print it and frame it if you like!

U of M

We stayed one night in Missoula, on our way North to the Flathead Valley.



UM Forestry. Anyone know what this contraption is for?


The last ten words tell you why you’ve never heard of her.


Every university campus must have a few buildings that remind us of the 20th century period of American architecture dedicated to ugliness. You think this is bad, you should see my old high school, and jr. high. and elementary. 

Right- early 20th century. Center- early 1970s. Left- late 1990s attempt to return to beauty. 


Four years ago I came here with my daughter and older son, and we hiked up to the M. The weather is clearing…maybe I’ll take the twins up too.

Now the sun is shining on Mt. Sentinel!



Looking south down the Bitterroot Valley, where we did the workaways with our 2 nice host families. 

While we’re on the subject of tough women- this lady was made of iron. We were coming back down from the top, still above the M (which is about a third of the way up to the top of the hill), and up comes this mom with her daughter in front, and son on her back. The daughter looked about 7 and the son 9 or 10. He was a cute, smiling kid, who I’m pretty sure had a disability and couldn’t hike himself. This is a steep hill- good workout. It’s hard enough even without a backpack, let alone a big, unwieldy nine year old. She was struggling with the load but super determined. A mother’s love. Good going, lady!

Part of UofM campus, airport and train tracks heading west. 

Next: Flathead

Painted Rocks

Thank you Terwilligers for a fantastic time!

Time to head north to the Flathead Valley, via Missoula!

Gotta say goodbye to Clint, too. 


Clint is a character. I gave him one of my books and he came back again and again until he had the whole set. Only 8 yrs. old but he talk, walks, and drives around his 4-wheeler like an old hand on the ranch. He likes to pop in in the morning at the T’s goat ranch for breakfast. Mr. T has a special place in his heart for Clint. I said, “Pretty young to be driving that 4 wheeler.”  Clint said, “Yep,” nodding “and I’m only 8 yrs. old.” 

Then Mr. T said, “You started driving that thing when you were seven!”

Clint put his elbows on the table, clasped his hands, rested his chin on his hands, looked wistfully out the window, and deep in thought said, “You’re right. I did start driving this when I was seven.”

Can this kid pose or what?

Out at the lake. Some fathers fish with their kids.

Others make them do homework.



Spillway to the west fork of the Bitterroot river. Lots of good ol’ boys float down this river and fish. Beautiful country.

Next: pit stop in Missoula and a nice hike.

wifi connection

…is too slow to upload pictures.

We had a nice hike in Missoula.

We’re at a campground near Flathead Lake.

I’ve been offered a summer job- night shift at the gas-n-go! Free coffee I’m assuming.

Prospects for the lads, too! Minimum working age out here is 14, so O and A are overjoyed.

I’m gonna stop promising future posts. If I get the unlimited wireless package on my smart phone, or miraculously find decent wifi amid the endless shutdown, I’ll post pictures and commentary. People are a little more touchy around here than they were in the Bitterroot. We stopped along the road to admire a beautiful sunset at Flathead Lake. “HEY! WHO ARE YOU GUYS? WHATTYA DOIN’ DOWN THERE!” shouted a guy on a huge porch from his mansion on the bluff. We could only hear each other if we screamed.




Long pause as Homer up on the bluff had to think a bit.



Then the greeter at the Wallmart. “ARE YOU GUYS GOING THROUGH THAT DOOR?!” (the exit door)

“No, we’re headed for the entrance.”


“And then the SWAT team would have emerged?”


“Which door?”


“What? Is there something in that door?”


She had me there. Don’t mess with the Wallmart greeters; they’ll outwit you every time!

Last days at the goat ranch


Allen milks.


Me and Daisy


Allen thinking, do I want to shovel poo or play with the chickens?


…opts to play with the chickens. (Where’s yur jeans and boots, city boy? Note cut on right leg– when he failed to wear his jeans the other day. 14 yr. olds! Yes, he had his tetanus shots.)

If you are planning on going somewhere and your car door or hatchback is open, Daisy will jump in and claim her normal position in the cockpit. She may be a Montana mountain dog, but she’s not picky- she’ll ride shotgun with you, even in a Prius with California plates!


Terwiliger Mess Hall. It is here where I made my taco dinner twice, a Mexican chicken/lime soup, and an unbeatable Waldorf salad (I go for the easy stuff.)


The day before we leave, Allen and Owen finally graduate to the 357 Magnum. The hills and dales echo with a joyful sound.


I think local farmers put up the cash to make a real nice library in downtown Darby. If we’re in the area in winter, I plan on doing a little fireside reading. Something region-appropriate like Zane Grey or Noam Chomsky.


Darby Library


It aint the old West if you don’t have a wanted sign up (dead or alive will be just fine with Wil Wilkins).

Spotty internet for the foreseeable future- sorry! I’ll do my best to find connections (presently at the Arby’s where my two for 6 bucks sandwiches are getting cold).

Next: camping by the lake which feeds the west fork of the Bitterroot river.