Taking The Long Way Home

Matt loves to drive.  I do not.  I used to, but somewhere along the lines I lost my spark for it.  So, thank goodness for Matt who drives us all over tarnation.  He has driven from Montana to California all by himself....or rather I was there, sleeping in the passenger seat, or trying not to.  He is also one of the best drivers I've had the pleasure of traveling with (and ask my sister Sarah, I am the most nervous passenger ever so it takes quite a lot for me to be able to relax in the car).  He doesn't speed and he's never caused an accident.  I am so lucky to have him as my driver.  Otherwise, I'd probably never go anywhere! 

So, when we went to Missoula for the free River City Roots Festival a few weekends ago Matt decided he didn't want to take the boring ol' interstate back home like every other time.  He wanted to drive new roads.  See new scenery.  Visit new places.  So we did. We headed south out of Missoula instead of east and did a little exploring of the southwestern part of Montana. 
We found an awesome old fashioned style candy store in Darby, much like the one I so love in Red Lodge
The dashboard make a great place to warm up Abba-zaba bars.  But, be warned that they will liquefy if left too long.
I dunked my feet in the water at the Missouri Headwaters State Park and learned quite a bit about the area.  They had some very interesting interpretive signs there. 

This sign was very helpful, compare to the photo below.

Isn't it cool how they are growing plants on top of the roof? 

There was this small fenced off area at the park that was final resting place for several pioneer children who died of black diphtheria in the 1870's.  Sad, but interesting.  I was really curious as to how they knew who was in those graves and when and why they died.  I wonder if there are journal records or what exactly.   At least we know and those children didn't completely vanish from history.
Speaking of old graves, I spotted a small, old cemetery along the roadside and so we stopped to explore, something I love to do as I've mentioned.  We had ambitions to stop in Virginia City and some ghost towns, but we ran out of time.  That will just have to be a journey for another Let's-Go-Exploring kind of day.
There were quite a number of these headstones.  At least a dozen or more.
"Alone."  Hmmm, well that sounds like a bummer.
This fellow fought in the Civil War!  There are always lots of military headstones, but I'd never seen one dating back to that conflict.  Very interesting! 
But, even the Civil War veteran couldn't take the title of oldest grave in the cemetery.  Mary L. Page in 1889 was the oldest we found.
I thought the lamb on top was a quite sweet top to a child's headstone.  I also thought it was remarkably well preserved considering how weathered and unreadable some newer headstones are.
I am also quite lucky in that both Matt and I love historical points and interpretive signs.  We stop at almost every one we see during our travels about the region.  There is just so much neat history all around us here, and everywhere I imagine, if we take the time to stop and learn about it.

A "beaver slide."  This was an invention from the Big Hole Valley that is still used in some parts of Montana.  Matt and I had seen them in the fields and had been speculating as to what exactly they did.  We were in the ballpark as we figured it had something to do with hay stacks.  These contraptions made it possible for ranchers to create giant haystacks much faster than they had previously.  A Big Hole rancher named Dade Stephens and his brother-in-law Herb Armitage are credited with coming up with the device which was patented in 1910.  Though mechanized baling has now become more popular because it is faster the large stack method maximizes the long-term nutritional value of the grasses much better.  Things like this is why I am such a fan of interpretive signs.  We did see at least a couple giant hay piles along the route.
We've gone to River City Roots annually for several years, but this one was the best year yet yet because we really made the most of our time away from Billings.  We really made a vacation out of it instead of just merely a trip to see a concert.  But, don't get me wrong Leftover Salmon was completely amazing.  They really played some incredible music and the fact that it was all free is even more incredible.
Since we were going to miss our local farmer's market we took in the Missoula farmer's market.  I must confess to strong pangs of jealousy.  Their market sort of blew ours away.  It was bigger and nearly every other booth was either pesticide free or organic.  I was in local produce heaven.  We snagged some succulent no-spray Flathead cherries, freshly baked organic English muffins, eggplants sold under a new term "Orgasmic" which was both organically grown and orgasmically delicious.  Having eaten them I am inclined to agree with the terminology. 
Breakfast:  Tea, English Muffin and an English book!  Pen Wilcock's In Celebration of Simplicity has been a truly enjoyable read for me so far.  I am nearly finished with it.  It is written using a metaphor of bread making that I find quite neat.  It is also filled with quotes that are so amazing that I keep having to read them all to Matt.  I did that while we drove.
We made sure to stop at one of our favorite bird watching locales, the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge.  We even saw a new species, a Sora, but I didn't really get any great photos of it.  After birdwatching for years it is still an utter thrill to spot and ID a new species.  It might even be more of thrill now that it doesn't happen all the time like it did at the beginning.  In any case, it doesn't matter if the rest of the day birding is a total bust at that point because I am well satisfied.  We also saw a coyote, a much rarer sighting for us than the birds.
We actually saw two new species of birds on this journey because this Gray Jay (aka The Camp Robber) came swooping down to our picnic table when we were having lunch.   It quite startled me.  They are called camp robbers because they will just come right up to you and steal your food if given even the slightest opportunity.  We've heard all about them, but this was our first live encounter.  The little thief didn't get anything from us though!
And I will close with a fun little snapshot of Missoula itself.  Missoula is Montana's hipster, progressive town and darn proud of it.  There are "Keep Missoula Weird" bumper stickers circulating the state just as there are for other "weird" towns such as Portland.  Thus, it is a pretty fun place for Matt and I to visit.  With our tie-dye and long hair and treehuggery natures we fit right in.  Many people have told us we should move there (or Portland for that matter), but we are really not interested.  But, I digress, after Leftover Salmon was finished and we were walking down the street we spotted this...mobile home... of sorts.  We had to stop (along with several others) to check it out.  It was really a work of art.  I can't believe how well stacked it was.  Only the driver's seat was unfilled.  Yup, keep Missoula weird alright.  It sure makes things interesting.


  1. Looks like they couldn't decided what to take so they packed up the entire house. LOL! Your trip sounds AMAZING! I would LOVE to get West one day but until Scott gets some employment we will be staying close to home. HAPPY TRAVELS!

  2. I, too, like to check out cemeteries. You need to go out east to see that part of the country if you have not. I find it interesting how you can see they different types of religious sects have different sorts of head stones. I also love to look at the houses and buildings at different parts of the USA. I have tons of pictures of PA homes from this summer!!

  3. We took a trip to Missoula last month and I agree. Their farmers' market was incredible. The vegetables were far more spectacular than we see at the Great Falls farmers' market. My daughter and husband and I got some great craft ideas as well. Your photos are great!............Denise

  4. So many great things about this post. I had to swing over to Amazon to check out the book you are reading. I may have to buy it. I generally enjoy books recommended by you.

    My husband likes to drive, too. I used to like to drive more than I do now, and I have lost my spark for it, too. :)

  5. You seem to have a lot of time to travel! Do you mostly go on weekends, or do you have flexible work schedules?

  6. Becky - Well, of course I hope Scott's dream job comes along for a variety of reasons, but now also so that you can come see the west! I really need to come see some more of the east myself. I was talking about you this morning (the blue tailed skink) and wishing I could see one.

    Verna - I would love to look through your PA photos with you some time. I bet your trip narrative would be just as wonderful as all the cool houses and things. PA is a part of the country I'd really like to visit. I've only been east of the Mississippi for one week of my life. That, obviously, isn't enough time. Matt and I will have to make a journey sometime.

    Denise - Do they sell crafts at your market in Great Falls? It is not allowed at ours here, but there were crafts everywhere in Missoula. It really was a wonderful market. We will get to go back on another trip here in a few weeks. I am already looking forward to it.

    Cristy - I finished In Celebration of Simplicity yesterday and it was quite wonderful. I love Pen's gentle voice which shines through in the text. At times I related so well to what she said that felt she could have been talking to me specifically!

    TLC- During the spring and summer we travel almost every weekend (selling tie-dye and camping and family and music festivals and concerts). It is an exhausting good time. By this time of year I am quite ready for the slowing down time of year that is fall and winter so that I can stay home for a change!! But, we do have flexible jobs as well. We take off at least one full week a year for a trip. This year I took a week by myself AND will get the week with Matt too. We are quite blessed in this regard.


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