What Comes Around Goes Around…

My poor wife has come down with the illness that I had last week. I’ll be busy trying to take care of her so there will be no updates this week. Sorry all.



Born in a Town Where I Never Lived

My parents decided to move to Montana while my mom was pregnant with me. They bought a property located ten miles up a dirt road from the highway, and there my dad started building a cabin. One day he had an accident with a chainsaw, cutting his hand badly and needing to go to the doctor.

The doctor lived in a small town about fifteen miles from my parents property, and I will never forget the description I got of him. My dad is not a poetical man, he doesn’t use metaphors and tends not even to exaggerate, rather he calls things as he sees them. The doctor of that town was apparently “a drunken horse doctor”. He was the town veterinarian and medical doctor, and I believe when they arrived he was actually across the road in the mercantile/tavern getting a bit of lunch.

In any case he stitched up the cut on my dads hand, but refused to cut away the damaged skin. This kept the wound from healing, and my dad had to go in again to have the dead skin removed and the hand re-stitched.

I say all this to explain why, when my moms water broke late one night, she insisted that my dad did not drive her to the doctors office fifteen miles away, but instead drive to the one sixty miles away, in the nearest major town. This meant first navigating the ten miles of dirt road to the highway, then following it’s winding course for fifty dark miles. As if this weren’t enough, my parents encountered a road construction crew resurfacing the last ten miles of the highway, literally out burning the midnight oil. Even with all of that my mom arrived in plenty of time, but I’m told that the ride was quiet slow and nerve-wracking.

At the hospital my moms labor lasted for hours, and the doctor passed the time by reading a book in a chair at the side of the room. Needless to say my mother was not impressed with this doctor either, and afterward had all her other children by midwife, at home.

But that’s the tangled story of how I, a backwoods recluse, came to be born in the ritziest little town in Montana.

On the Topic of Calling in Sick

Today I had to call in sick to work, because a stomach flu kept me in the bathroom all night. That’s about as much as I want to say about the sickness itself, but staying home from work was difficult. I don’t usually sleep for long hours, and today I was awoken at two o’clock, after seven hours of sleep, by my sister-in-law asking if I wanted to come help a relative move. I declined.

I couldn’t fall back to sleep after that. My stomach hurt. I was hungry but knew that if I ate anything I would regret it. Eventually I bought and started downloading an audio Bible. Then I made a cup of tea, listened to a podcast, finished reading ‘The Hobbit’, put away laundry- anything to keep me from going insane.

The only thing worse than being too sick to go to work is being just barely too sick to go to work. If I were laying on my deathbed with a pounding headache, running nose, and constant fever I wouldn’t feel bad about calling into work. But because this illness seems to be mild stomach cramps punctuated by waves of sickness, I feel like I should be productive during the hours I’m able to walk.

Instead of going to work or helping with the moving I’m trying to settle for writing a few blog posts and downloading this audio Bible, which is more of a task than you would suppose. On the bright side, if I do loose my mind to boredom I don’t suppose anyone would notice the difference.

Stanley Hot Springs

Sometimes luck turns in your favor, like when the jagged mountain peak you were going to hike thirty miles to climb gets snowed in, and you have to settle for a nice refreshing soak in an idyllic hot spring instead.

This was my luck last weekend. The hot spring in question is Stanley Hot Springs, along Highway 12 in Idaho. The trailhead is at a road/campground complex strangely named “Wilderness Access Point” near mile marker 123. Parking is up the road a bit from the trail to the springs, Trail 211. This trail is quiet easy, it meanders along the side of a valley before crossing a river and backtracking for a short bit to the hot springs. The first mile from the parking lot is the steepest incline of the whole hike, and the river was very easy to cross in late September. Two words of caution, however: the river is said to be dangerous earlier in the year, and if you are carrying a heavy pack going back down that incline can make your ankles very sore.

At the end of the 5.5 mile trail you are literally spit right out onto the hot springs, needing to ford them if you wish to continue. There are at least eight campsites around the four pools of warm water, and we chose one right next to a tiny waterfall in a freshwater stream. It was a Friday night when we got up there, and we were lucky to only have two other campers to share the area with.

The highest pool, being closest to the spring, was warmest and largest, so we spent most of our time in it. However, there’s a small pool directly below it that is well worth trying. The water from the upper pool runs down in a small waterfall, cascading all down your back as you recline in your own private puddle.

Most of the firewood in the area has been used, so I would advise bringing a small camp stove. It also got cold during the night and many of my fellow campers who were bundled up in hammocks felt the chill, while I was quiet warm on the ground with a sleeping bag and down blanket.

If you ever find yourself in central Idaho and ready for an eleven mile round trip hike, stop by the Stanley Hot Springs, they’re well worth it.

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The photo’s on this post may be getting an upgrade, as my sister-in-law who went on the hike is a professional photographer. Until then, I can only say that the pictures don’t do it justice.

For More posts about this trip check out Flying Blind and Flying With the Map in Front of Your Face

Flying With the Map in Front of Your Face

If anyone recalls my post from last week (Flying Blind), they’ll remember that I was to go on a backpacking trip this past weekend. Well, my complaints about the lack of planning ended up being completely unnecessary, because we weren’t able to climb the mountain we had intended to. Wednesday we found out that there was a foot of snow at the base of the mountain, forcing us to make completely new plans in two days.

We succeeded in doing that, I found a hot spring in Idaho that made a nice back up excursion. However, the hot springs were only a five-and-a-half mile trek in, so my ambitious in-laws wanted to try visiting some other hot springs or trails as well. My wife found several others that we could do on our second and third days in Idaho.

Our first day went great: we drove over to Stanley Hot Springs, backpacked in, made camp, and soaked in mineral water under the countless stars. The next morning, however, we didn’t really know what we were doing. We slept in. We made two rounds of breakfast. Some people decided to take another dip in the springs. By the time we hit the trail again it was noon, and we still didn’t really know what we were going to do for the rest of the weekend.

I suggested food, with the hope that we could figure out our next step over a cafe table, but not much planning actually happened. There wasn’t much to do around Lowell, Idaho, and no-one really felt like driving for hours, especially because it was already five o’clock by the time we finished eating.

Lowell, Idaho
A small town, and getting smaller.

Eventually we decided to look at the costs of renting a cabin, which were too high. Then our plan changed to trying to visit one of the nearest hot springs before driving home because there wasn’t enough time to both set up a camp and do something fun that night. The first hot spring we tried, Weir, had a nearly full parking lot, so we decided it wasn’t worth the walk if there was no room to soak.

The second was called Jerry-Johnson Hot Springs, and we did walk back to them. However, the main spring was very shallow and smelled like a swamp, while the other gushed into the side of a river, making it hard to enjoy. We voted instead to walk out and go to our respective homes a day early, without another soak.

Jerry Johnson Hot Springs- Who wants to jump in first?

The moral of the story? I guess too many plans can be just as bad as a lack of planning.

In all fairness to Jerry-Johnson, I later learned that there might be a third pool farther down the trail which is much nicer and which we never saw. If you would prefer a story where the weary travelers come upon an idyllic oasis in the middle of the wilderness, I’ll be writing about the Stanley Hot Springs in a separate post.

Mass Hysteria Strikes Montana

This last week all of the schools in Flathead County, elementary through college, closed down due to bomb threats. It’s a fairly big story here in Montana, but I think it’s worth sharing with the rest of the world as well.

It all started Wednesday night, when a single school received a threat. The night progressed and the school decided not to open Thursday morning, as more threats poured in. These threats apparently mentioned other schools in the area, and a cascading effect was started until all but a few preschools were closed down.

Thursday morning people opened their email or turned on the news to find the schools closed, and everyone went to work apprehensive and tense. Around noon someone at the counties largest mall reported four teenagers “threatening people with knives.” By 12:30 there was a story circulating on Facebook that someone had been shot at the mall, by 1:00 there were reports of another shooting at a nearby gas station.

By 3:00 I had a break at work, and was able to find a police statement saying that the whole narrative amounted to nothing. The initial report had been false, the teenagers were just walking through the stores with knives in their belts (a very common thing in Montana), and an emergency services “trauma seminar” happened to be going on at the other end of the mall, accounting for the many police cars and ambulances. The rest had just been made up.

By 3:30 there were reports that the military jets which had landed at the airport were there to set up a containment perimeter, and that the police were setting up death camps that people would soon be ushered into…

As much as I’m upset at the people making the false reports and inflating rumors, I have to ask: How much can we really blame them?

It came out today, after three days of school closures and canceled sporting events all across the Flathead County, that the threats had been texted in from outside United States by a hacker group, hoping to get a ransom for personal information. They apparently only got into the first schools computer and just referenced other area schools. I would just like to ask the question, and I haven’t seen the texts, maybe they were very convincing, but were the people on Facebook the only ones suffering from mass hysteria?

According to a completely unreliable and vague source, the schools of Beaverhead County are now getting the same threats. Sigh………

Flying Blind

This weekend I’ll be going on my last outdoor excursion for the summer. Fall has come quickly this year, with the temperature dropping from 60 degrees in the morning a week ago to 37 degrees at the same time Saturday, but my wife and I are not letting that deter us from the plans we made to go backpacking this weekend.

When I say that we made plans, let me clarify a little. We planned to take time off work and go on this trip, but everything else has been planned out by my brother-in-law. Now I love my brother-in-law dearly and trust his judgement over that of most people, but it still makes me uncomfortable to leave the planning of any trip up to somebody else. A three-day backpacking trip especially.

My wife asked me yesterday “What’s so important that you want to know? We’re going to Eagle Cap Mountain, making a base camp then hiking to the summit, hiking out and possibly staying in a hotel Sunday night. What else do you need to know?”

It was fairly easy to make a list of what else we needed to know. What roads were we taking down there? What trail were we hiking in to the base of the mountain (which is in the center of a National Park)? Where will the nearest source of water be? What will the terrain be like? How sketchy of a hotel will we be staying at on the way back?

In my defense, I just want to be ready for whatever is coming. Even if we sleep on rocky ground, have to walk a mile for water, or take the longest trail into the park I probably wouldn’t ask to change it. I’m up for the adventure, I just want to know if this will be the kind of excursion I love as it’s happening, or the kind I love to tell stories about afterwards.

Speaking of which, I am going to be gone half of this week, so I cannot guarantee that I’ll have posts out on time. However, I should have some good stories to post.