We got ready and left about 11 today. We fueled up Erv and got some additional bottled water for the river trip before departing. I stayed busy testing the various GPS software while Jim drove us to Glasgow. The good news is that the Microsoft streets and trips now functions as it should. Having XP has helped apparently.
In Glasgow I bought another loaf of bread and some dehydrated soup, as well as subs for lunch. I am now struggling to type on this tiny keyboard. I can see that a full size keyboard will be brought along next trip!
We set up camp and admired the lovely spot.
The colors of fall are beginning to be apparent.
Later, our friend arrived with his riverboat. He also set up his camp while I fixed a supper of sausage and three-cheese tortellini Alfredo with sautéed squash.
Following supper, we drank a cup of hot tea and retired for the night, with visions of the river on our minds.
Day Two, September 26, 2009 - Some Sheep and a Duck who fishes!
The day broke, bright and sunny and following a hearty breakfast of sausage, eggs, hash browns and toast, we departed for the Judith landing, our river trip’s departure point.
We drove gravel roads (there really wasn’t any other roads to drive unless one wanted to go WAY out of the way) and enjoyed the backcountry scenery. Upon arrival, we loaded the boat with our gear and shoved off.
The river is considered “wild and scenic”, terms it certainly lived up to!
Our first wildlife encounter was of mule deer drinking, just around the corner from the boat dock.
We passed through some shallow, rock gardens that required us to pull the motor and paddle. Although we did hit bottom several times during the course of our trip, none of the collisions were serious.
We had the literature on this section of the river (Thank you, Wayne!) and it portrayed the area we were floating through as being inhabited by bighorn sheep. I was scanning the south bank of the river when I spotted a flock of sheep!
sheep picture here
They paid little, attention to us as they nimbly made their way down the steep adobe side hill, their main concern being getting a drink of water.
sheep picture here
I counted 19 head with one ram. We took many pictures of them while floating by and then turned around and motored upstream for a second look.
A bit farther downstream we spotted a duck, working furiously to swallow a sizeable fish. He (or she) was so intent on swallowing the fish that it didn’t even notice our approach.
When it finally spotted us, it dropped its fish and dove deep, hopefully to return to its meal once we passed.
The river provided much to look at in the way of beautiful and interesting scenery, such as the McClelland ferry, homesteads and the like.
We found a decent spot to camp for the night and the guys pitched our tents while I cooked supper in the boat.
We had sirloins, mashed potatoes and sliced garden veggies, followed by homemade cookies for dessert.
Bedtime soon followed.
Later, I awoke to horrible flapping sounds and noticed that my side of the tent was bowed inward in response to gale force winds. The rain fly support rods were also now missing and the rain fly was flapping crazily. Since the wind continued to howl, I just went back to sleep. Either the tent would blow down or it wouldn’t.
Day Three, September 27, 2009- Elk!
The wind continued to blow so Jim and I rolled up our bedding and set up the stove in our tent, which had made it through the night upright. We fixed fried potatoes, sausage, onions and peppers with scrambled eggs, toast and coffee, which we ate in the tent.
Following our meal, we finished breaking camp and got back on the water, which glistened beautifully on the morning sunlight.
You could clearly see the fact that they river was flowing ever downstream, losing elevation, when viewing it through the binoculars. At times, the river would appear to “disappear”.
Even though the day was windy, the sun warmed us and made river travel pleasant.
We noted the areas where Lewis and Clark had camped and marveled at the sheer manpower that would have been required to get their watercraft up the river, even with sails.
On a sheer cliff face, clung a bald eagle, and near him (or her) were many doves, also clinging to the side. It’s unclear why any of them were there but we did get a picture.
We didn’t see any big game at all but we did see much evidence of beavers.
After arriving safely at Kipp boat dock, I walked up to camp to get the Suzuki; the two Jim’s pulled the boat up and unloaded it.
Back at camp, I made coffee and then took a shower while the guys visited. From there, we loaded up into Whitey to view the elk at Sipary (Slippery) Ann. The crowd was considerably lighter than it had been the past two years and made finding a spot much easier. The elk were amazing to view and we counted well over 100 head in one little grassy area.
Following the elkstravaganza, I cooked the rest of the sirloins and some deer sausage Jim had brought. We turned in, exhausted.
Day Four, Monday, September 28, 2009- Road Trip!
It had gotten cold overnight and we had coffee while I fixed hotcakes and sausage. We then loaded up in Whitey and made the scenic drive over lower Two-Calf road, back to Judith Landing, through Winifred, to get Jim’s vehicle and boat trailer.
We had a picnic lunch there before we returned to Kipp for his boat and gear. Jim then left for Wolf Point and Jim Kolden and I returned to view the elkstravaganza. The bulls were quite active and we saw several fighting. At one point, I counted 128 head of elk in the little grassy area with 25 of them being bulls. Only one bull was a spike, the rest were all size-able. From the round, wound on this bull’s hip, I’d say this is Abscess.
When we got back to camp I fixed the left over pancakes and sausage for Jim and a salad for myself. Sleep was soon upon us.
Day Five, Tuesday, September 29, 2009-Prairie dogs and a Red-Eyed Owl
After a 12-hour solid sleep, we rose and had coffee. I was powerfully hungry so I breaded up two chicken fried steaks (with pancake mix-it was good!) and fried them with hash browns and eggs.
Next, I loaded the camping gear back up in Whitey and fixed a cooler full of food and water. We didn’t get going until about noon and decided to drive along the north side of the Missouri. The sky was overcast making the light soft and sweet for photographing scenery.
The road appears to “disappear” into the river here. (I should have gotten out rather than trying to take the shot through the dirty windshield!)
As we came to Sipary (Slippery) Ann, we were not disappointed as a few elk were out grazing.
We traveled parallel to the river for miles and eventually ended up headed down into the UL Bend Wildlife Sanctuary.
We traveled through miles of dog towns where the dogs were scurrying about “cheeping’ furiously.
Although the area was mowed down within an inch of its life, we later came across one of those educational overlooks that informed us that while the area looks brutally overgrazed, that actually it’s good for the prairie. The information stated that the short vegetation that does grow is protein packed and the excrement from the dogs fertilizes the soil. Furthermore, the aeration and subsequent upturning of the soil also enriches the soil.
The list of predators that depend on the dogs for food was also extensive: swift fox, rattlers, badgers, weasels, black footed ferret and many birds of prey including owls, hawks and more. We did see many hawks flying about but no other critters.
In the middle of this miles-long dog town was a camp, complete with campers, and log shack, port-a-potties and horse corral. The sign touted this to be the black-footed ferret research area. The claim was to have 1500 ferrets by 2010. Wonder how that’s shaking out for the ferrets (as there is no shortage of dogs).
We traveled as far down the “U” as we could until we came to the end of road 319, where the UL Bend Wilderness area began. We had hoped to be able to get all the way to the lake but it was not possible.
We turned back to retrace our route over some of the roughest ground of the trip and found a spot to have supper since we knew we’d be quite late getting back to camp. We fixed bacon cheeseburgers and had dessert of peanut M&M’s. A great, All-American meal, wouldn’t you say?
We both thought this scene was worthy of a picture.
On the way back, we saw a few antelope and a few mule deer. Once we hit the highway, the deer were thick in the ditches. Jim said the “grass is always greener beside the road” and he must have been right as we spotted more deer on the highway than we had seen for several days out roaming about.
Back at camp, I saw the low glow of a red eye and suggested Jim drive closer to see what it was. It was quite dark out and as we came abreast of it, I could see that it was a tiny owl. It flew, leaving behind its meal of mouse and we hope it came back to finish dining after we went into the camper.
One final note for the day: We frequently noticed toilet paper scattered about. We came up with several theories on this. Jim suggested that a roll was loose in the back of someone’s pickup and lengths were flying out at random intervals. I surmised that maybe it was a “trail of breadcrumbs”, left for someone to find their way back out with. Jim thought perhaps we were following someone with a bad case of diarrhea. My final guesstimation was that there are a lot of trashy individuals roaming the hills. While this would be a great way to spread disease, I’d like to suggest to all of you to carry a trash bag for the “yellow paper” and a shovel to take care of the “pile” and subsequent brown paper to follow. Let’s all do our part to keep America beautiful. Please pass the word.
Day Six, Wednesday, September 30, 2009-Three Dead Coyotes and one “Sweetheart!”
We were to have rain and high winds last night and we did get the wind. It is still gusting this morning.
We finally ready ourselves for the day and take off, only to discover skuzzy, ominous clouds looming in the West. The only radio station we can catch is Havre and they are calling for rain, high winds and snow possible after midnight!
Jim then made an executive decision and we headed back to camp to get the fuel cans. In light of the fact that we have been driving 150+ miles per day, we’ll need more gas. We start up over the hill, headed west, down Knox ridge road, eventually spotting middle Two-Calf trail. We decided to take it, having never been on it only to spot (through our windshield wet with sprinkling rain) a sign claiming “Steep Hill”, followed by another warning, “Impassable when wet.”
Since it hasn’t been that long ago since our rain- soaked, muddy mishap in Utah, we stopped at the top of the hill to ponder this situation. While glassing the area, we spot a vehicle, snaking down a trail on the other side of the major coulee separating us. Sure enough, he wound his way across the coulee, over a cement slab bridge in the bottom of middle Two-Calf creek and climbed his way up to us.
Having seen this, Jim asks if we should go ahead and “do it”. Thinking what the heck, (and having a lot of groceries along), I agreed, suggesting we quit thinking about it and just go if we are going.
That was all the prodding Jim needed and soon we were zipping along downhill, winding through the pine trees and down to the valley floor. I wish I had stopped and taken a few pictures but we were caught up in the moment.
The valley floor was sliced by a steep and deep wash and we were both impressed when we came to the concrete slab crossing, leading to the other side of the wash.
Soon we were winding our way up the extremely steep trail on the other side. We were again impressed with not only the angle of ascent but also, the length of the climb. We popped out on a large grassy mesa after having left the top on the south side only 8 minutes previous!
The rain continued to spit and we drove on coming across many livestock waterers, one with lovely green lichen on its separator boards. (Yes I did take a picture but thought you may grow tired of looking at lichen-although I never did!)
The rain appeared to have come down a bit heavier as our tires started grabbing and slinging rooster tails of mud. We could also see the tracks of the vehicle we met on middle Two- Calf creek and he’d slung the mud as well.
After many miles, we came to gravel while the rain continued to come down harder and thicker, as “snain” (snow/rain). As we drove along, we spotted a buck antelope with a lone doe. I commented that his “herd” was only a herd of one. Jim then said, in his best red- neck Jeff Foxworthy voice, “Yeeeeaaahhh, but she’s a real sweetheart!” This comment struck me as quite funny and I broke out into hysterical laughter. This prompted laughter all around and we laughed until we cried!
In Winifred Jim bought lunch at a local bar/café. I had a burger that must been half pound of beef with two thick slices of bacon. The fries were nothing to write home about but just the burger would have sufficed! Jim’s Philly steak sandwich was tiny in comparison although he said it was tasty.
Following lunch, we fueled Whitey and the gas cans and headed off down the highway toward camp. I thought Whitey was missing and Jim agreed that it wasn’t running right. Finally he stopped to investigate why we were losing power and blowing black smoke when he discovered the choke stuck on. This required the “sacrificial pen”, which he broke and stuffed into the choke to keep it off. Zoom, zoom, we were back on the road again!
During the course of our “driving about”, we spotted three dead coyotes at various places on the road. It’s unclear if vehicles or bullets struck them. A couple of them were pretty flat and had been there a while but the third appeared quite “fresh”.
After a quick stop back at camp to get my long johns on, we headed back up to the elkstravaganza to discover that the “snain” and howling winds had brought the elk out in force and perhaps intensified the rut. The cows and calves were dashing about and fighting and the bulls were working hard to keep their herds together while running about squealing, urinating on themselves and rubbing their antlers on the ground. The bulls also spent some considerable time “beating up” the trees with their antlers, shining up the ivory tips.
While watching and listening, we timed the bugling and came up with 22 in one minute, much more activity than heard on our last visit.
Just at dark, the largest bull to date came out with his group, bugling and Jim was able to get a shot even though it was quite dark. We both feel that we want a print of this shot on our wall!
Then, as we were leaving, we noticed a vehicle had spooked another herd right near us. The herd milled about nervously between the other vehicle, us and a group of campers. It’s pretty amazing to watch them at that close range!
Next stop was camp and we shared a cantaloupe before drifting off to sleep with visions of elk, dancing in our heads.
Day Seven, Thursday, October 1, 2009-It’s not the Hubble Telescope!
After an 11-hour sleep, we woke to coffee, sausages, eggs and hash browns. We also looked at the pictures from the past two days and then prepared for what lied ahead!
We took off on Knox Ridge road and turned north along the river only to discover the trail we wanted to be on was quite short, ending at the river. Back out onto Knox ridge road, we took the second right turn toward the river and follow the trail down through the pine trees to a beautiful old homestead.
I was enamored of the yard gate and the various lichen covered fence posts.
I was also tickled to see this “four-holer” for both adults and children! I’d never seen an outhouse with seats for kids, let alone two! The whole family can use the facility at one time here!
Notice the fancy lichen covered yard gate leading to the “four-holer”.
Jim spotted this partial skeleton belonging to a once curious cat. Just proof that “curiosity DOES kill the cat!” Apparently the cat stuck its head into the tight space, perhaps in chasing a packrat nesting in the shack roof. The rest is history. This is the second time we’ve seen a cat skeleton with its head stuck.
After taking many pictures, we proceeded on the roughest road to date, toward the river. We encountered an antique corn binder and other ancient pieces and parts, reminiscent of the beginning of the mechanized age of farming.
Our next tour was on the north side of the river and we again came upon a shack with a decorative front door. It’s hard to imagine living in a one-room shack of that size.
Our third tour was also on the north side and we came across a lovely little stock dam, complete with lily pads- a sight not often seen in Northeastern Montana.
I spotted a tree riddled with woodpecker holes and in an attempt to photograph it, had Jim back the rig up a bit. While watching me Jim commented that the camera was “Not the Hubble Telescope!” This prompted another round of hysterics and now we refer to taking a zoom shot as “Hubbling it”!
Pictured here is the woodpecker house, followed by the woodpecker family condo.
We saw little game the entire day until we went back to Sipary Ann to view the elk. We got closer than ever (or should I say the elk got closer than ever to us)! We now have some of the bulls named. There is Abscess (right hip injury), Mr. Majestic (grand to look at), Mr. Wonderful (has an attitude and thinks he’s gods gift to cow elk), Muddy sides (either knocked down into the mud or just liked the spa-like feel of laying in the mud) and Grandpa (kind of skinny bodied but heavy, heavy antlers). It’s amazing how distinguishable they are if one really looks.
Back at home, we had tea and went to bed.
Day Eight, Friday, October 2, 2009 – Spider and Snakes
After another 12 hour sleep, we made hotcakes and sausage before readying ourselves for an overnight stay in the hills.
We glassed Sipary Ann from the south side of the river from several high spots along the river and managed to see elk. We also spotted our only elk seen outside of the preserve climbing the hill below us.
We drove along the river, investigating another amazing old homestead complete with chicken house, horse barn, milking barn and corrals. Although the roof was falling in on the west end, parts of the eight- horse barn would still be usable today. Notice the “windows” cut to pass hay through. They could also be closed to keep heat in.
The workmanship was splendid although the winters must have been quite long as far from civilization as they were, combined with the fact that travel was either by foot, horse or rowboat. The entire place was littered with elk droppings, and I envisioned them gardening and killing elk to supplement their beef and chicken diet.
The milking barn also had signs of master craftsmanship and was also in pretty good shape considering it’s age.
The corral fence outside the milking barn was fascinating to me as it was completely covered in orange lichen.
The “facility” was only a one-holer.
I was also amazed at the root cellar. Note the huge, twisted cedar log over the doorway.
Here is Jim in the bunkhouse window. Note how “new” this building is with asphalt siding and shingles.
After leaving the homestead, Jim spotted this large spider on the road. We had run it over and ripped off one of his legs-poor thing). The spider just sat there for a time, I suppose in shock, until his later recovery and hasty departure.
We also saw this snake that cooperated nicely when having his picture taken.
We saw another snake, probably a bull snake, moving so quickly that we couldn’t get a shot of him. I had thought we’d see some rattlers but we never ran across any.
Our last trail of the day led to the river and several hunting camps complete with boats and camouflaged hunters. Most of the day, we came across camps of hunters searching for elk. There are a lot of folks out here in the woods and so far, we’ve seen no evidence of dead elk.
We found a cozy camp spot and I fixed fajitas. Hot tea enjoyed by a crackling campfire while watching the sunset completed the perfect evening.
I got this shot by accident and I think it’s one of the best I took on the trip! I love the soft pink of the sunset in the background.
Day Nine, Saturday, October 3, 2009 – Coyotes, hell bent for election!
The moon was so bright last night that it was like sleeping under a yard light! I once read that you should never let the moonlight touch your face when sleeping but last night it was unavoidable.
We slumbered warm and cozy and woke to a light frost blanketing the mess kit and coolers. We had laid out the coffee makings the night before and soon had water boiling for a hot cup. We decided that the morning was too lovely to waste and we broke camp and started out.
First thing I spotted; was a coyote, “hell bent for election”, running along a ridge. I later spotted another wary coyote also tearing along like a “striped-assed ape”. (That’s a saying my dad used. I’m not entirely sure about the whole meaning of it but I do know it means “very fast”.)
We drove ridge tops and grasslands in and out of pine trees, both burnt and alive. We decided to fix steak and eggs atop Chain Butte trail, a very scenic viewpoint overlooking the entire area in all directions.
I found this blooming sagebrush of interest.
This homestead shack was a beautiful place to live in its day.
After crossing Crooked Creek, we continued climbing and winding through the pine tree dotted ridges. We eventually arrived at Crooked Creek recreation area where we discovered cabins for rent and corrals for horses.
Just kidding! The cabin is not really the one for rent. Jay, we think it may be the one you built at Crooked Creek. We do have pictures of it if you are interested, as well as the 4 little tiny cabins that are all alike.
It was also here that we saw the only evidence of a successful elk hunt: a part of an elk leg.
It’s still quite a ways to the lake/water from the boat ramp but with the lake on the rise it shouldn’t be too many more years until the lake returns.
Pictured here is the view from across the lake/river from the infamous cat fishing hole.
I’ve carried last night’s campfire memory with me all day - in the smell of pine smoke permeating my clothes and hair. Lovely! (I do like a fire occasionally but we don’t build them for fear of burning down the countryside.)
Back on the trail, we spotted some big game. Jim caught sight of a small herd of antelope after we noticed a bow hunter stalking about the prairie. We are so used to seeing game at home on a daily basis that we feel like there just aren’t many animals out and about out here! Of course, the exception being the elk herd, which we’ll be heading out to see shortly, for the last time this year.
Back at the elkstravaganza, the crowds are thick. We stay on the west end after having spotted Mr. Majestic through with woods. After watching the elk, we discover Grandpa and Abscess back in the woods with herds of cows. Poor Abscess now limps from the front shoulder area as well as suffering from what I imagine to be a broad head imbedded in his right hip. The wound is perfectly round and protrudes like a mini volcanic eruption yet he continues to herd his cows and battle other bulls, I imagine to the death – if necessary. Jim mentions that Abscess may become fevered with infection, spoiling his meat. A harsh reality of life, I’d say. The horns on Abscess are very desirable so he may get “put out of his misery” this hunting season yet.
I spotted a calf nursing its mama. As the large bull approached her, she darted away from him, leaving the calf behind. The calf must not have noticed that mama had been replaced by the large bull elk and made an attempt at nursing! I was surprised that the bull didn’t kick or gore the calf. He only looked back, as if to say, “Whatcha’ think you’re doin’, kid?”
Back at camp, we loaded up and ready ourselves for an early morning departure. After tomorrow it’s all over. We go back to work and “the real world” with its modern conveniences.
Last Day, October 4, 2009, Sunday – Things I have learned
We must all do our part to clean up the existing litter as well as preventing future litter. This is a beautiful planet we live on and we should all take pride in that fact rather than acting as if it’s our own private bathroom or garbage can! Teach your children and grandchildren not to litter. Set a positive example by picking up litter when you come across it. Show them how to “poop in the woods”!
It’s wise to pack your long underwear, even if it’s 90 degrees outside. In a few days, it could be 25 above and the long johns will feel pretty good!
When camping in freezing temperatures, sleep with a thin hooded sweatshirt on, with the hood up. You will be warm and toasty come morning, provided you have a good sleeping bag.
Our ancestors and those who lived in or traveled through this harsh land were made of tough stuff!
If you run over a large spider’s leg –tearing one of them off, he has others that he can and will use to get around with.
It’s amazing what you can see if you really look.
Home sounds like a good place to be after you’ve been “roughing it” for 9 days! I don’t mean that we would have done anything differently, its just time to go home.