Exploring 101

Recently, an acquaintance requested that I take her with me on a typical exploration trip. An admirer of my photography and stories, she wanted to witness a day-in-the-life-of me on an adventure. I was, and am, flattered.

Heading north out of the greater Spokane area, we chose a random paved road neither of us had ever been on. We chatted as we drove along with no destination in mind, just admiring the natural landscape of Washington state, but not really seeing anything photo worthy.

As we drove along about 65 mph, I was being proactive in my search for something rare, unique, and beautiful. dsc_8959A foreign shape back in the woods caught my attention. As a child learning to hunt from my father, my brain was shaped to take notice when something in my vision was out-of-place. Skinny legs in a forest of thick tree trunks. A dark mass standing out green bushes. So a granite tombstone in an overgrown field of apple trees, bushes, and tall grasses was worth turning around for.

Let the real adventure begin! Wonderment, excitement, and the thrill of finding something so unusual filled our hearts with joy! Strapping on our camera’s, we began to slowly explore the area discovering additional tombstones in this old and overrun cemetery.

Most of epitaphs were dated in the 1800’s with a only a few in the early 1900’s. Considering most of the population during this time were poor farmers, the beautiful granite headstones are a tribute to the honor of the family. Many, like the one pictured above, marked several family members buried together in a family plot.

dsc_8966

These are graves not visited nor maintained, by the generations since. Perhaps the families have moved away as small farms were no longer sustainable and people moved into the cities for occupation. Smaller trees and shrubs planted nearby a plot over 100 years ago, have now overtaken the cemetery, turning it into a forest.

Apple trees, wild roses, chokecherries, and weeds have buried, hidden, and adorn the cemetery with color, texture, and beauty.

Even though it was early September, we were amazed to find this fresh Lupine wildflower. Typically a late spring bloom, it graced the floor of this forgotten place with the reminder that life goes on.

We enjoyed several hours on this wonderful adventure, while pausing to read each headstone. We’d often stop to question, then surmise the stories of the deceased buried there. So many had died in 1889. Was there a disease that caused so many of various ages to lose their lives at the same time? So many young children. So many young mothers. The grief and tears of those who had stood upon that land so long ago, as the final words were spoken over the freshly turned earth were felt by us.

We honored. We respected. We valued that afternoon in what we later learned was the Mica Cemetery.

My story could end here, but as part of the continuing education, let me add that once home, the computer searches began. Wanting to know the history behind the photos we now possessed as mementos and memory sparkers. Several more hours of sharing our finds with one another only added to the delight of this adventure, off the beaten path.

We could have gone shopping and out to lunch. We chose the path less traveled and were the better for it.

Advertisements

The Holt Ranch Heritage Museum

DSC_8118Meet Bill and Romana at the Holt Ranch, and you’ll have met friends for life!

 

With a career behind them in the Rodeo circuit as host announcer and contestant, this dynamic couple have an unexpected wonderful collection of Cowboy and Indian memorabilia in Lolo Montana. Bill describes it as “Cowboys and Indians – Rodeos and Powwows”. Rubbing shoulders with many celebrities, Bill and Ramona have been collecting artifacts of the Wild West with the help of their friends, for a lifetime.

The collection tells the story of cowboys, their equipment, and the evolution of different types of saddles and tack. No aspect of life on the frontier has been excluded. Nez Perce, Salish/Kootenai and Crow Indian memorabilia are included. The museum is on the famous Lolo Trail or the Nez Perce (Nee-me-poo) Trail, which was used by Lewis and Clark in 1805 and 1806.

Before you visit the museum, stop by to enjoy their small herd of Longhorn cattle across the road. These world famous animals are all that remains of the once large herd the Holt’s raised on their ranch. 

DSC_8084

With two authentic teepees and a wonderful life size welded sculpture of an Indian mounted on his horse by Montana native artist Harry Koyama greeting you, your visit begins with the Holt’s wagon collection. Restored stage-coach, chuck wagon, buggy, and so forth.

DSC_8088DSC_8096

Step inside to lifesize dioramas of a dentist office, saloon, county registry, and all things rodeo, just to mention a few. Bill and Ramona enjoy the ‘show and tell’ as they walk with you, describing in greater detail with entertaining stories surrounding each item. Their collection is obviously a work of love and respect to Montana history.

If you’re a fan of entertaining greats like Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Ronald Reagan, and so forth, you’ll be delighted by the fun memorabilia of these icons, in the various displays within the museum.

Here’s Sam Elliott’s boot, doing a little toe-to-toe dancing with me!

DSC_8106

6800 Lewis And Clark Trail Lolo Montana 59847  Open by appointment only.

 

Buffalo Gals are out tonight!

I’m basically a cowgirl at heart. I love the combined experience of nature with a western lifestyle. So camping really makes me happy! It’s like living on a ranch without the ranch house. {or hard work!}DSC_8241

Several years ago, I started a women’s adventure group and named it Buffalo Gals Travelers and Campers. Like minded women meet together for a few days–and nights–of western themed camping. DSC_8249

My little sister gave me this wonderful wool carpet bag and glitzy purse jewelry for my birthday–so appropriate for the leader, right? I love its big size, because there’s even room for my camera!

Buffalo Gals Camp was last week here in Montana.  It involved a lot of work but I enjoy event planning so it was fulfilling to see it come off without a snag or hitch.

DSC_8163

Every detail was attended to for these Western ‘cowgirl caravan’ campers who pulled into camp throughout the day. They found snacks, cool water, a vintage wash IMG_5591station, and some sweet little swag bags waiting for them as they arrived.

Imagine my excitement when I found sterling silver earrings that matched this year’s camp theme “Kick Up Yer Heels and Have a Good Time”, to add to all the local cowgirl boutique coupons in their swag bags!

Thanks to Cowgirl Corner, Crazy Horse, B.E. at Home, and Antiqueology shops for your support of Buffalo Gals Camp!

 

DSC_8069

Don’t my Sam Edleman boots make awesome centerpieces? I’ve stuffed them with a narrow canning jar, water, and fresh roadside wildflowers!

 

Four EZ up canopies gave us plenty of shade! I added some of my cotton bandanas for color, and bug control. (I did not realize I had so many — 27 in all — until I started gathering them from my two trailers, backpack, fishing gear, etc.

DSC_8064

My Buffalo Gals enjoyed a lovely, inviting venue for their four night stay in Western Montana. There were many options to fill our time, but most of us chose to stay in camp, chatting while cooling off in nearby Lolo Creek, reading in the shade, or dozing in one of the hammocks.

DSC_8193

Living life laid back. Oh, and maybe a couple of us danced by the light of the moon as the Pistorius Meteor Shower danced overhead through the night sky.

 

 

 

Vintage Trailers 101

Vintage Trailer SF Shots-7

Ask any Pinterest enthusiast about Vintage Trailers and their eyes will immediately light up! Hot trending vintage combined with the Tiny Home trend equals a passionate following for the 1940’s, ‘50’s and 60’s ‘canned ham’ travel trailers. This was an era when America was prospering, the National Park movement was growing, and highways were going more places. American’s responded heartily by making family recreation a priority. Travel trailer manufacturers—literally hundreds of them–met the need by producing hundreds of thousands of camping trailers.

Collected by men and women alike, these relics of the past are most commonly found in an overgrown weed patch out behind the barn. Unfortunately, most are ruined beyond repair short of a complete rebuild.

Here’s a quick primer on what to look for if you’re in the market;

  • Don’t trust the seller. Like any hot commodity, shysters come out of the woodwork to make a fast buck. It’s totally up to you to do your own homework and research.
  • Approach the For Sale trailer equipped with the necessary tools to help you make an educated decision. A ladder for looking at the roof, a flashlight for crawling underneath, an extension cord for checking electricity, etc.
  • Educate yourself. There are plenty of blogs, groups, and vintage trailer clubs with members willing to help you learn. Read. Listen. Learn.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away. Even though these are scarce, there are many more potentials for you to buy so don’t be desperate.
  • Don’t be taken in by cute décor. This often hides telltale signs of abuse. Look behind everything! Open everything! Have a check list and stick with it.
  • Most importantly, is it road ready? Will it at least make it to the nearest tire dealership? Does it have a clean title? Do the lights all work?
  • This list is far from complete so be prepared to learn the tricks of the trade

I found my little jewel in WA State, while on vacation. It had been under a carport, somewhat protected from the elements, but still had a few leaks from the brittle seams coming apart as it swayed, bumped, and rattled down the road. Lets face it—anything built primarily of 60-50-even 40 year old wood, is going to have some rot. What you don’t want is something that is falling apart and will literally separate from the chassis while you’re hauling it home. The only way to tell is to look carefully at all seams.

A huge rebuild project was not in my budget or interest level. So I settled on doing all I could to stop further rot damage, repair all the seals, and paint with a good mold inhibitor, stain cover, and primer.

My 1967 Aristocrat Lo-Liner has a small potty room, closet, and all the luxuries available in the mere 13’ interior. Her name is La Belle Vie (The Beautiful Life) and reflects my love of French Country décor. She’s ideal for me, but would be a tight squeeze for the smallest of families. These canned hams come in all prices, sizes, and conditions. Be sensible about what will work for you, be patient, and you, like me, may just find a new passion!

 

 

 

PCT Preparedness

I am not a backpacker. I am not an avid hiker. And I have no aspirations to be either.

DSC_2479
My happy friend, Mig

Mig (aka Happy Trail Girl) is both. And I deeply admire her for her goal and commitment (along with sacrifices) as she prepares for her PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) 2017 hike. From Canada to Mexico, 2654 miles. Hundreds of thousands of steps. Months and months of sleeping on the ground.

I’ve been fascinated to be a spectator in her journey that is still 13 months from beginning, with the realization that even though her feet won’t hit the PCT for a long time, she’s already well into her hike. Research, development, classes, and so forth, the amount of time invested is noteworthy. No one will ever be able to say she made this decision on some cockeyed whim or fantasy. She really knows her stuff.

I plan to participate further with Mig, as the time comes for my active involvement. We’ll find some level ground where I can walk a few miles with her. Or some evenings where I can be there to welcome her into camp with a great home cooked meal as I re-provision her food supplies, listen to her amazing stories, and enjoy the company of one of the happiest human beings ever.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to tell my grand-children a story or two of my thousand steps along the PCT with my dear friend Mig. While Mig will no doubt be off backpacking on another rugged adventure, that I will live vicariously through.

 

 

Winter Interlude

The other night I drove home through freshly fallen snow with the full moon reflecting and bouncing light shadows off the snow banks along the roadside. My thoughts took me back to college days of moon lit cross-country ski trips into the backcountry of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness here in Montana.

The snow was so cold it crunched with each slide of our feet across the frozen ground. The only other sounds were of our own breathing as we strained arms, legs, and lungs against the nap of nature’s carpeted pathway.

 

IMG_2313
Snow covered fields along the riverbanks as day turns to night across this Montana landscape

Trees cast long shadows across the trail with eerie forms of snow-laden branches requiring a check to our imaginations lest we tense up in fear at the wild things hiding in the woods. We were insignificant in our feeble attempt to gain safety through numbers.

Miles into the wilderness, removing our ski’s we would gather dead limbs from trees, and protected needles scooped out from under large tree roots, to start a campfire. The moonlit landscape so peaceful and still. The soon crackling of the wood burning. The cheerful conversation of friends warming hands and sipping hot toddies as the clocks we left behind pushed on.

I’m so grateful for memories and the easy path, when allowed, to re-capture the sights, sounds, and feelings of past experiences, of youthful adventures.