Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Motocaching the Top of the Big Sky – Day 4



The next morning I got my usual early start (no breakfast again) and headed east for Wibaux County which borders North Dakota.  The first cache was in the town of Wibaux at a beautiful old Catholic church built in 1895 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  It was a wood structure that was covered in stone by local parishioners at the direction of their priest.  I looked for another cache in town at a boardwalk that I couldn’t find.  I did find another one at a rest stop near the border.

That took care of Wibaux County so I headed south into Fallon County.  I had only two caches lined up in this county so I was a little anxious.  I was considerably more anxious when I couldn’t find the first one at an old water tank on a hill in Baker.  I was very relieved when I found the second one at the little town of Plevna.  Now on to Miles City and Custer County.

The next cache was called “After the Roundup” and was in honor of D.J. O’Malley a cowboy poet who published a poem in the Miles City STOCKMANS JOURNAL in 1893.  Some verse from this poem follows:
 

After the roundup's over, after the shipping's done,
I'm going straight back home, boys, ere all my money's gone.
My mother's heart is breaking, breaking, breaking for me, that's all;
But with God's help I'll see her when the work is done this fall.

The next cache was at the Interstate exit overpass where a County Patrolman was parked.  I fished out a nano cache (smaller than the end of your pinky) that was stuck by a magnet to the top inside of a culvert and went up and showed it to him.  I think I scared him at first maybe thinking I was attaching a small explosive to his car.  He was friendly enough when I explained what it was.  Check off Fallon County.
 
Now I turned north toward Prairie County where I had only two caches lined up.  The little town of Terry sits in the southeast corner of the county and that’s where the caches were.  The first was a travel bug hotel (where trackable items called Travel Bugs are exchanged) located at a local museum.  The coordinates took me to an old caboose and for the life of me I couldn’t find that ammo box cache.  Out of desperation I went into the museum and asked for help.  The museum lady wasn’t sure she was supposed to do that (I told her I was desperate, which was true) and she come out and showed it to me.  It was in plain sight but it was pained yellow the same color as the undercarriage of the caboose and I had army green fixed in my mind and just overlooked it.  I felt like a dummy but what’s new.  There were no Travel Bugs there but I left one I had picked up in Spokane.  I had no trouble finding the other cache there which was on a rural road by a sign that listed all the families in the area.

Next was McCone County and if I didn’t find the one cache on my route I would have to travel a considerable distance out of my way to try to find another.  On the map there was a paved road that went northwest up to Highway 200 where the cache was located but my GPS wanted me to go north on the Interstate almost to Glendive before hitting 200S – about twice the distance.  I stopped at the one gas station in Terry and asked a local about that road.  He said that was it right in front of the station.  I gassed up and had the rest of my Sub sandwich for lunch before taking off.

This one cache was called “B.S. Club” and was on private property.  The hint was “Whoa Stop” (see picture).  Would you believe I could not find that cache?  I was so intent in looking down I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.  Finally I asked the barkeeper/waitress in the B.S. Club and she helped me.  That was kind of embarrassing.   Well, anyway, McCone County was off my to do list.

Next was Garfield County and I had two caches on my list there.  The first one was at a rest stop and not too hard to find.  The other one was “Stage Road” which was a gravel road that made a loop off the highway.  It was out in the woods a little ways hidden under an old weathered log.  It was a neat place but by now it was super hot.

I was really sweating the next cache called “Musselshell River” because it was the only one I had in Petroleum County.  It was a neat cache hidden under the Musselshell River bridge.  The river is the county line so it was just barely in the county.  You can bet I was glad to find that one.

Fergus County was the last for this day and the first one was a few miles east of Lewistown.  I suppose there are lots of these but it’s the first one I’ve seen.  It was a Pet Cemetery with quite a few graves but room for lots more.

I checked into the Super 8 in Lewistown and after unpacking I went out and got a couple more in town caches.  One was at Pacific Recycling like the one in Glasgow.  However, it was much easier to find.

After another good Subway meal I gassed up and lubed my chain to be ready for the next morning.  I didn’t get rained on this day but my bike did that night.  I traveled 440 miles this day.  [To be continued] M/W


Monday, July 29, 2013

Motocaching the Top of the Big Sky – Day 3



I got my usual pre 6:30 am start this morning but I skipped breakfast.  I always carry snacks such as trail mix so I’m not totally without.  I headed towards Glasgow where I would turn north toward the Canadian border.  I picked up a cache at a rest stop before Glasgow and then had a DNF (did not find) at a Case dealership.  I had already had an unsuccessful attempt at a Pacific Recycling center in town but I went back and tried again.  Even though the description said it was outside the fence the coordinates took me well inside the grounds.  I finally asked one of the employees and he showed it to me in an old tire hanging on the fence.  The coordinates were off about 100 feet.

I left Glasgow and turned north toward the tiny town of Opheim and that’s where the fun began.  I hit rain and this wasn’t a thunderstorm but a gray sky all around long term wetting.  I was cold and wet but there was nothing to do but press on.  Geocaching in the rain is particularly troublesome because it’s nearly impossible to keep the logs from getting wet.

I was eager to find one in Daniels County so I could make time out of that part of the state.  I did find a neat cache hidden at someone’s house in the very small community of Richland with a café and nothing much else.  While I was stopped one of the locals in a pickup apparently felt sorry for me because he stopped and invited me in to the café for coffee.  I thanked him but declined because I didn’t want to prolong my misery.

The next real town I encountered was Scobey.  I found a couple of caches there and I was so cold and wet that I did go into a café for a $3 small cup on hot chocolate.  It seemed like those Montanans jabbed it to me every chance they got.

From Scobey I continued a little farther east into Sheridan County before turning south.  My next stop was at a little ghost town called Redstone.  It was the kind of place that would bring back memories.  The cache was in what had been tiny Redstone Park.  The next town

was Plentywood and I found a couple of caches there.  I found a couple more caches in Culbertson and that took care of Roosevelt County.  Now the rain had quit and the sun finally came out.  It got hot quickly but I’m not about to complain after all the cold and rain.

Just out of Culbertson I crossed the Missouri River and that put me in Richland County.  There was a cache a short ways off the highway on the bank of the river.  I found another one hidden in a bottle just a little ways down the road.  I had to use my knife to get the log out of the bottle neck.  That took care of Richland County.

I was now getting close to Glendive where I had reservations at the Riverside Inn.  Just out of Glendive I found “Glendisaurus” which was a big plaster Stegosaurus located at a little public pond.  Before checking into the motel I tried for another one but I’m sure it was gone.

I don’t know why my motel was called the “Riverside” Inn because I didn’t see a river anywhere near.  After settling in at the motel I ventured out and got a couple more caches for Dawson County.  Then I got a decent meal at a Subway and had a bit left over for lunch the next day.  I had covered 376 miles (my shortest mileage day) and believe me, that was plenty for this day.  [To be continued]  M/W



Sunday, July 28, 2013

Motocaching the Top of the Big Sky – Day 2



I was on the road again before 6:30 am eagerly anticipating riding through Glacier National Park.  I had been to Glacier on a bicycle tour many years ago but it was in June and the “Going to the Sun” highway wasn’t yet open so I really hadn’t seen much of the park. 

I thought I’d better gas up before entering the park so I stopped at a station at Hungry Horse.  That’s when I made the panic inducing discovery that my Visa card was not in my wallet.  I had last used it at the restaurant and figured I must have left it in the little folder they give you to pay by card.  No excuse, but I had been busy studying my maps for my next day trip and I guess I wasn’t paying enough attention to the business at hand.  I used my Discover card and went inside to borrow a phone book.  Of course, the restaurant wasn’t open yet but I did get their number.  Motel 6 did not have a number in the book.  Another little efficiency I suppose.  At least I remembered the name of the restaurant so I’m not a complete dunce.  Nothing to do now but press on and try to contact the restaurant after they opened.

There was traffic in Glacier but it wasn’t all that bad.  The “Going to the Sun” highway is a spectacular drive.  Unfortunately, since I don’t have a helmet cam I wasn’t able to take pictures until I reached the summit at Logan Pass.  I’ve seen a lot of spectacular scenery throughout the West but what struck me about Glacier was the enormity of the mountains with rock faces and almost sheer drops of thousands of feet.  It was truly unique and awesome.  It took a long time getting through the park because the traffic moves at about 25 or 30 mph.  The road is very twisty with about three foot square rock blocks on the outside edge.

I was very concerned about finding a cache in Glacier County because there were only two anywhere near my route.  The first opportunity was a ways out of St. Mary on a long grade with a beautiful view.  It was located about 100 yards off the highway so required a short hike.  To my relief I had no trouble finding it.



By now it was after 11:00 am so I called the Mexican restaurant and to my relief they did have my Visa card.  I gave them my address and they said they would send it to me.

I had to turn south to pick up Pondera, Teton and Chouteau counties.  Not far down this route I ran into road construction and it was terrible.  It was a mixture of mud and gravel and my motorcycle was a mess.  Later in the day I noticed that when I was stopped my radiator fan would come on which is unusual for this bike.  I inspected the radiator and found that cement-like mud had hardened on part of the radiator and it was so hard I couldn’t chip it off.  Since the bike would cool down when I was moving I didn’t worry too much about it.



I found a couple of caches in Pondera County but I was really worried about Teton County because there was only one cache on my route.  I had a couple of alternatives but it would mean a detour on my return route.  To my immense relief I located the “Lonesome Pine” cache which was really neat.  Pictured is the old cabin there in the middle of nowhere along with the cache hidden in the leg bone of a cow.

Shortly thereafter I hit the Interstate and headed north toward Shelby.  In spite of the zero per cent chance of rain forecast the sky began darkening and I could tell I was heading directly into a thunderstorm.  Because of the forecast I had considered not even packing my rain gear.  Luckily I rejected that thought.  I stopped and donned my rain gear just before the storm hit.  Another piece of good luck was the underpass I spied not far up ahead.  Now it was raining hard.  I pulled over under it to find a half dozen other bikers already there and another pulled up right behind me.  We huddled together on the incline at the side of the underpass.  They were all Harley riders (mostly couples) and for some reason not particularly friendly.  I guess they didn’t think much of the hot shot on the Triumph sport bike trying to tour.  The rain let up in 20 minutes or so and I resumed my travel but kept the rain gear on because there was still a little drizzle.

I got off the Interstate and onto Highway 2 at Shelby.  I could see the big thunderstorm right behind me to the west which caused me to go a little faster than the law allows.  I would stop and pick up a cache or two and the storm would catch me.  Then off I would race and get back ahead of it.  That little tag match went on most of the afternoon.  I picked up caches in Liberty, Hill, Blaine and Phillips counties along the way.  When I got into Blaine County the gnats began.  On every stop thereafter I was plagued with gnats.  If it hadn’t been so hot I would have left my helmet on.

I arrived in Malta late in the afternoon and checked into the Maltana Motel where I had reservations.  My most urgent concern was getting my bike cleaned up.  The motel owner was very accommodating and gave me a rag and directions to the car wash.  The car wash took one of my dollars without returning change but it did have enough pressure to get my bike reasonably clean.
I like staying in these little towns because they are interesting and the people are friendly.  However, sometimes it’s tough to find a good place to eat.  I ended up dining at the Great Northern Hotel.  It was expensive and the porterhouse pork chop was so bad I didn’t eat much of it.

The Maltana Motel didn’t look like much on the outside but it was very clean and modern on the inside.  I liked it better than any place I stayed on the trip.  I traveled 411 sometimes very hectic miles this day [to be continued].   M/W 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Motocaching the Top of the Big Sky – Day 1



As you may know, one of my goals is to get a geocache on my motorcycle (motocaching) in each county in Idaho and the contiguous states.  So far, in addition to Idaho I’ve done Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Wyoming.  Son, Yancey, did Wyoming with me last summer and we plan to attack Utah next month.  Meanwhile I’ve been working on Montana a chunk at a time.  It’s a big state with 56 counties.  Last year I did the northwest corner and my latest foray was the northern top half of the state.

I set out a little after 6:00 am heading north towards Coeur d’Alene.  It was a little chilly and the heated grips I had installed on my Triumph was a welcome addition.  My first stop was the Mineral Mountain Rest Stop in northern Latah County, Idaho, just to take a break and warm up as well as logging the geocache there.  I continued north to Sandpoint, ID, and then turned east around beautiful Pend Oreille Lake.  I stopped for a cache along the lake shore but couldn’t find it.  By now it had warmed up and was very pleasant.  My first Montana cache was in Lincoln County along the Clark Fork River at the Big Eddy Campground.  It had now become downright hot and the shade was nice.

I stopped down the road for another quick cache but by now it had REALLY become hot so I stripped off some clothes layers.  I stopped in the shade of a lonesome pine for lunch and tried to call Kathy but had no service.  I went a long ways after lunch before turning north toward Kalispell a ways past Thompson Falls.  My next stop was at a park on Flathead Lake where I found one cache and decided to not go after another which would have required a hike.  It’s a beautiful lake. 

About 12 miles south of Kalispell I found a cache at a shady little park in a little community.  My geocaching handle is my brand (M/W) and I have a stamp which I use to sign the cache logs.  I have it tied to a pen with about a foot and a half of fly fishing line.  I believe when I was leaving this cache which was in a bushy little tree that line caught on a branch and flipped out of my pocket.  Of course, I didn’t discover it until I had unpacked at the motel and was about to go after a local cache in Kalispell.  I did not want to lose that stamp so back I went to the previous cache.  Luckily it was there but off to the side of where I was which is why I think it flipped out of my pocket.

So back to town I went and picked up a local cache before going to dinner at a Mexican restaurant next to the motel.  It was okay but nothing extra.  I had traveled 394 miles for the day.

I stayed at a Motel 6 which was satisfactory but I was really impressed with their business acumen.  You pay extra for WiFi and it is contracted out to a third party that you call if you have problems (and I did).  Ice machines are set up to just give a very limited amount of ice, shower heads give a very controlled flow and they serve coffee only rather than a Super 8 type continental breakfast.  The rooms were nice and clean but not fancy.  I set my alarm for about 5:30 am and had a good nights rest.  M/W

Friday, July 26, 2013

WAITING FOR MIKE

Mike left the town house on Sunday, July 23, on his Triumph to geocache the two northern tiers of Montana counties, a well-planned four-day trip. We agreed that I could probably manage the dogs better at the farm. So, after he left I loaded the Dakota with provisions, loaded Bess and Nellie, and we came to the farm.

It was a good time with my two friends here at the farm. I'm not sure Nellie realized that Mike had left on his motorcycle. He did not make a point of telling her good-bye. She did know that we had come to the farm without him, of course. Perhaps the fact that we traveled helped her accept the situation. At any rate, she seemed happy enough. Both dogs ate well and exercised. But yesterday I sensed that Nellie was wondering a little about this arrangement that didn't include Mike.

"Mike is coming tomorrow," I told her.. She looked at me and went upstairs to check out the bedrooms for anyone that might have escaped her notice -- maybe Jack, maybe Hallie or maybe Mike.

The three of us -- Bess, Nellie, and me -- were up early this morning and out for our walk. It's smoky all around us -- typical of summer. I don't know the location of the fire(s).

And at 8:20 Mike called from the town house to say he would be leaving shortly (on his Yamaha 250XT). So, I calculated the earliest he could be here and went out on the kitchen porch to wait. I wasn't going to chance missing Nellie's reaction.



"Mike will be here soon," I told her. She perked up her ears and stood beside my chair.



Bess slept on.

Nellie stood beside me. We were both listening. We heard bees and hummingbirds but no motorcycle.

Bess changed positions and slept on.



Nellie became impatient with the wait and dropped to her position of passive complaint with a heavy sigh . . .





while sleepy Bess slept on.

"Maybe I don't understand," Nellie said and moved off the porch.

Bess was clueless.




And then we heard it -- oh joy! Someone was coming -- a motorcycle -- and we know it's Mike. Bess sat up, wondering what all the commotion was about while Nellie raced to the lane.




Such a happy homecoming!

Little Bess has yet to learn the significance. Just wait 'til she figures out she's really Mike's dog. KW

Thursday, July 25, 2013

MORNING WALKS





We were awakened out of an almost sound sleep at 2:30. Bess was barking at Nellie. I acted as referee. Nellie moved off to her “corner” in the woodshed while Bess was gently pushed into hers – her crate – and locked in. It’s night. The rule is that everyone sleeps or thoughtfully stays quiet. (Coyotes seem to think the rule doesn’t apply to them.)

I reasoned that if dogs have energy to argue in the middle of the night, perhaps more exercise is in order. I resolved to get them out earlier for the two-mile (round trip) walk to the mailbox. It should be doable for all three of us. Nellie needs the sense of routine, and Bess needs to expend energy.

So, once I’m up and around, I offer breakfast to my friends, which feels like a dance at the kitchen door:

“Nellie, you come in. No, not you Bess - you stay out. Nellie, come back in here.” Once Nellie is in and Bess is out, Nellie gets a small portion of senior food while Bess gets a cup of puppy chow. Unless we separate them at chow time, they eat one another’s food and we don’t know which dog ate what, who might be hungry, and who's getting fat. Finally I wised up. Give Bess her food, then take Nellie in the house for hers.
Once I'm dressed, we head out. In the morning cool, Bess doesn’t balk. I carry my cell phone and a camera. See that thimbleberry patch over there? That’s on the backside of the north field near the draw. Nick and Hallie will be here this weekend. Perhaps we’ll check it out and maybe we’ll pick along Gilbert Grade.

Nellie has taken to exploring in the trees above the road at the draw, so I walk on. One morning I surprised Mr. and Mrs. “Hun” Partridge and their large brood of ten or so. I was really grateful the dogs were occupied behind me, giving the parents time to settle the family some distance off. But, when Nellie caught their scent, she immediately went on point. These pictures show a beautiful "classic point" as performed by Nellie. (Note clueless Bess.) 
Bess, now 12 weeks old, travels right along with us to the mailbox but doesn’t half take it seriously. Nellie has come to revere this walk as a sacred privilege, but this young upstart of a Bess thinks it's a lark.

Nellie, a creature of habit, still thinks we should take a walk before supper, so I have indulged her even though late afternoon temps are above 90. Bess opts out, having no interest in walking in the heat. Nellie and I have agreed, though, that a walk down the lane and back is just enough.

Below is a picture of the old barn out at the corner, a little more dilapidated every year. I predict it will be gone one of these days. KW

Monday, July 22, 2013

GARDEN TALK -- NATURE WALK



We went to town Friday but didn’t stay long. We came back yesterday (Sunday, July 21). Even though the high was 95 here, it’s still cooler than town – more comfortable for man and dogs. We often have a nice breeze, and ordinarily evenings and mornings are cool.
 
The hummingbirds had totally drained the two feeders while we were gone. I quickly made more nectar and re-filled, but they were slow to visit. The bees are here, so I thought the hummingbirds might have moved on. But in the evening coolness, they began to visit the feeders again.

It is hot, though, and my friends with fur coats notice it, so we have to exercise in the morning. In fact, Nellie insists on it. So this morning I put on my visor, gathered my phone, the camera, and a small shovel, and off we went. We invited Bess, but she had to think about it. At the top of the lane, I looked back and she was stretched out in the yard. The next time I looked back, she was coming.

Midway the lane, Nellie went on point in the ditch on June’s side. A beautiful rooster pheasant then silently moved up the bank, through the tall grass and disappeared into the garbs. I saw him, Nellie didn’t, but she continued to scent his presence down to the corner.

At the corner, I paused to inspect the black hawthorn and serviceberry trees. I made a batch of serviceberry jelly last year -- really quite tasty. Some prefer it to elderberry. I’ve never made jelly with the “haws,” which evidently don’t have a lot of flavor. These trees attract birds, bees and other wildlife.

Coming out of my reverie, I looked up the road and saw the dogs waiting for me – obviously wondering if I was coming or would order them “back.” Nellie enjoys walking to the mailbox but apparently that's too far for Bess. I decided the top of Plank’s Pitch would be far enough. Then we went back. It was 8:45 when we arrived at the house – already 75 outside and time to close windows.
 
I picked six cups of raspberries yesterday and another two cups or so this morning. The produce ripens so quickly in this heat, but the raspberries will soon be finsihed, and that’s a good thing. Our day-neutral strawberries are coming on again. I’m still picking peas – two varieties – and the beans planted two weeks ago are up and growing. This morning I picked a lot of leaf lettuce and two beets. We’ll have the beets for supper. KW

[Photos: 1) A view of Central Ridge and the Camas Prairie with garbanzos in the foreground. 2) Close-up of garbs. 3) Nellie knows about the pheasant even though she didn't see it. 4) Hawthorn berries. 5) The house from the lane.]


Friday, July 19, 2013

THE COLORS OF SUMMER -- OR, LITTLE LOST BESS



It’s inevitable, you know -- losing the pup. Does anything strike terror to our hearts like a missing puppy? Okay – it's not as bad as losing a kid. However, I no longer have a kid I need to worry about – at least not in that way. But I do have a young but independent pup.

Mike left at 7:30 Thursday morning (July 18), riding off into the sunrise on his dirt bike for another wonderful wilderness adventure. The cache he placed two years ago at Indian Post Office Lake was reported missing, and he wanted to tend to it. I stayed behind with a map of his route – and two dogs.


Nellie knows that when Mike leaves, he doesn’t necessarily come right back. Our habit has been to take a distracting walk and then settle down to wait. So I picked up the camera, my cell phone (in case I fall and can’t get up), and called to the two dogs. We headed off down the lane, little Bess running at Nellie’s side.

At this time of year the bright colors of spring turn a strange shade of dull. The vibrant, fluorescent yellow of the rapeseed fields fades to common yellow. The green of wheat and barley slowly dries to something nondescript until the rich amber sets in. The garbanzo beans give us plenty of green but it lacks the dramatic effects of grain slowly ripening in the hot sun. Colors are further muted by the smoky haze caused by regional wildfires.

I was pondering all this as I walked along. I thought of Chris exercising every morning and enjoying the benefits, and I walked all the harder up the steep pitches. (Puff, puff, pant.) At the top, I doubled back into the neighbor’s property for some different views of the land. It makes the walk more interesting – and I think it makes the pictures more interesting, too. Just a few feet higher or lower, to the left or right, makes an old subject new. The dogs were right there at the drive playing around some stacked hay bales. Then I was aware of “them” as “they” explored the edge of the field. I swear I was absorbed in taking pictures for just a minute and the two of them were together, but when I turned around to leave, only Nellie was there. No Bess.

“Here Bess,” I called. Useless. She still responds to “Bess” with a look that says, “Who? Me?” I listened for rustling grass. Nothing. Nellie was more or less disinterested in my plight. I thought she knew something she wasn’t saying and I couldn’t blame her. She was enjoying these moments of freedom without that pesky Bess, but she stayed with me.

We made a tour of the neighbor’s shop area, just in case, and then I tried to think like Bess. Bess doesn’t really like these walks, I reasoned. And though she’s independent, she’s not ventured much beyond familiar territory. While I could envision her tumbling through the scrub brush and running into the trees on the other side of the gully and then lying down to take a nap under a distant pine, that scenario really was unlikely. But if she got tired and thirsty, chances were she would just go home. So, I decided that Nellie and I should do that, too – go home and start from there. It’s been a long time since I walked up the lane that fast! 
 
I didn’t see her at first and my heart sank. But there she was – curled up in the dogloo on the porch, looking back at me with sleepy eyes. KW