Back to the Lookout

The sunsets and sunrises were pretty dazzling, some days more than others.

Matt and I intended to visit Joshua Tree National Park this month, but things weren't going according to plan.  We secured the time off work and Matt found a sweet little rental house that was perfect, but the flights were crazy--the prices, sure, but more problematic were the delays and drastic shifts in flight schedules.  I guess the pandemic and labor crunch continue to influence the general function of things.  Matt and I were not confident planning the trip.  We didn't want to have our whole thing hinge on our flights leaving/arriving as scheduled.  Rather than risk frustration or disappointment we came up with a totally new idea and returned to a fire lookout in SE Montana instead.   We have rented it twice previously, both times (here and here) in May.   It was lovely to be back and to see it so early in the spring.  We had a glorious and restorative four nights there.

Interior view of the lookout as seen from the door.

It is so quiet with only the wind, coyotes, and birds to break up the stillness.  We didn't lay eyes on another person the whole time.  The stars and the moon were magnificent.  The lookout is spectacularly "in the middle of nowhere."   On one of our hikes we sat on a rise overlooking a small lake and marveled at how a place like this can still exist in such an overpopulated world.  So quiet, so clean, so open.

A view towards the southeast from the wraparound deck.
Matt enjoying a sip of whisky and the sunshine on the deck.
Oddly enough, we did have cell service out there.  I turned off all notifications and we unplugged from the wider world (except for Friday night when, to our delight, we were able to tune in for the Grateful Dead hour on our local public radio).  We grounded ourselves in the place and the time.  The world could go on and we would certainly catch up with it when we returned.  (I finished our taxes, say.)  It was grand.  Simply marvelous.

It is such beautiful country.  A view toward the east/southeast.
We enjoyed antelope and crows for company.  Sharp-tailed Grouse were scratching around like the adorable little prairie chickens that they are.  The meadowlarks were singing through the sagebrush.  I never saw them, just heard their liquid melody.  We heard a Great Horned Owl hooting in the night, too, and some of the wildest coyote yipping I've ever heard. 

Matt taking a nap on the futon.  Note that his cap is pulled over his eyes because it is so bright in there, four glass walls and all.

We read.  We played board games.  We completed two 750 piece puzzles featuring cats.  We listened to music. Matt took a couple of naps.  I wrote in my journal and did some crosswords.  We enjoyed good conversation.  We daydreamed.   We laughed a lot.

Looking up the butte where Matt is flying the Nantucket kite.

Matt took this picture of me and my kite.  I think the shadow in the foreground is a cool touch.  

We flew our kites in the blinding sun.  I finally tried out the single-string cloth kite from The Nantucket Kiteman N' Lady which Matt bought me for Christmas in 2019.  I don't know what took so long.  I've certainly flown other kites in the timespan.  It was a swell kite spot since, not only is almost always breezy, we were up on the highest spot around.  The gusts swept up the butte and filled our sails.

Black pepper stir-fry with asparagus and tofu--and noodles!

We painted every single day--rocks, bones, canvases.  We made so much art!  It was fabulous.  Matt thoroughly blew me away with his creations.  He's always claimed to lack art skills, but I don't think he can say that any longer.  He's really come into his own with a paintbrush, not just tie-dye.  At Matt's suggestion I painted a canvas to leave at the lookout, tacking it up on the wall with a few other photos, drawings, and poems.  I liked it so well I painted a second one for myself.

It was a very inspiring little art studio.  The light was amazing.

The Fire Lookout Art Exhibition.  Matt was justifiably pleased with the Brush-and-Floss jaw bone set and we have them on display over the sink in the bathroom now.  He also did the lookout that is painted on the flat rock at center.  Out of the pieces painted by me, I think my favorites are the slices of pizza at the bottom left and the two hamsas, both along the bottom row.  The pronghorn skull turned out pretty great too though.  Honestly, I am pleasantly surprised.  We're pretty new to painting and almost always follow along with someone else on video.  This is the first time we've tried to wing it, so to speak.

Meandering rambles across the prairie were taken daily, aside from the one day where the wind was so relentless that we didn't venture far from the lookout.  That day would have broken our kites it was so fierce.  There are no proper trails out there, just the ones made by the cows and the antelope, so we just wandered as the spirit moved us.  It would be just about impossible to get lost because the lookout is so prominently situated on the highest point around.  A beacon to guide us back home.  Of course, the last leg of any hike there is always quite uphill!

Me in the foreground, the lookout in the background.

I thought the shattered look of these rocks was crazy cool.  So much texture!

The landscape feels half prairie, half badlands and rolls on and on and on.  There are trees and mountains visible, but they don't dominate the landscape.  It is wide open.  A definite example of the fact we live in Big Sky Country.  The earth was littered with groovy rocks, most notably selenite and petrified wood.  The first green shoots were peeking above ground, especially down in the bottoms where there was more moisture.  Spring will is on the way!

There are three cool rocks in this picture (and Matt's hand).  His hand is on a piece that shows a botryoidal crystal form, probably quartz.  I had to ask one of my geology pals from the college because I had never seen such a thing.  It looked like peas made from cement all stuck together.   At the bottom is a hunk of petrified wood splattered with quartz crystals.  Above it is a light and airy chunk of crystals that strongly brought to mind the boxwork formations at Wind Cave...though for all I know about geology they're not related.  Regardless, it was eye-catching.

Selenite crystals scattered around on the soil.

We ate decadently, taking advantage of the novelty of having a fridge and stove while "camping."  I think the multiple batches of fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies were the highlight, but that biscuit bake was pretty special, too.  Matt is an excellent camp chef, but he really outdid himself at the lookout since it was so easy to be indulgent.  We prepped a lot of it at home so it would be a snap to eat so good.  

Biscuit Bake is delicious... are chocolate chip cookies!

It wasn't the Joshua Trees, but it was an opportunity to soak in the goodness of nature with my favorite person in the whole wide world.  So, it was pretty incredible to say the least. 

Life is good.


  1. WOW Beth,
    ...this is the most awesome little vacation I've read about in a long time...I wish I could go there...who knew you could rent a lookout sounds like so much fun!
    ~Have a lovely day!

    1. Thanks, Teresa. It was a truly outstanding trip. I had no idea you could rent a lookout until Matt stumbled upon it in 2017 when we were looking up Forest Service cabins for rent. This lookout is only available from October to May, basically, because it is still used as an actual fire lookout the rest of the time. I think that's neat, too. The 360 degree view is a real special treat.


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