I did not leave Bozeman until two-thirty. It may have been closer to three. My good host--I want to call him Karl--at Jackpot East spotted me lunch, so I don't think it would hurt to give them another plug. Their burgers are tasty and their cola's ice cold. They've got liquor too if you want it. And you can gamble to your heart's delight. Stop in and spend some money.
I headed down the road carrying mountains of food and nearly two gallons of water. That put my pack at something like fifty pounds, but I was not complaining. I was a bit underrested but I felt strong. It wasn't too awfully warm. I followed my frontage road until it conked out, a few miles down the road. I climbed into the shade of a freeway bridge and sat down to check out my options.
*You have none," said my friends at Google Maps. "You've got to do the next eleven miles on I-90."
I checked and double-checked then took them at their word. I was up to the challenge. I made my way across the cattle guard and up the ramp and out onto the interstate.
It ain't all bad, the interstate. It does have a very nice shoulder. It is just that you feel so exposed out there, and the passing drivers, rather than waving at you, just look at you like you're some kind of idiot. I did pass a couple of cyclists. Neither of them said hi.
The road cut down through a very narrow gap in the mountains and went down, down. The rock cliffs were pretty but I had to keep my eyes on the traffic. You can drive fast in Montana if you want to. Most people feel they do.
After three or four miles there was an off ramp, so I stopped to bank up some shade. I didn't need it but every little bit helps. It is good to rest when you can. I checked to see what Google had to say. It seems they had changed their mind.
"We were wrong," they said. "There is a back road. You can jump on it here."
So I did. It would mean an extra couple of miles. Small price to pay, I thought. But it led me into the middle of nowhere, up some very steep hills. After some long long miles I got the joke, but by then it was too late. My pack was heavy and my muscles were unspeakably sore. I sat down on my pack and began to weep.
When down this little travelled road came Jeff and Jackie, walking their two friendly dogs. And their one mean one. I wiped away my tears before they could see them and asked them just where I was.
"Lost, horribly lost." But not beyond help. There is a way out of here. It means long extra miles and a whole lot of hills. "But at least you're not on the interstate!"
Which is a blessing, in its way. It is just that I am so blasted sore. But the country is pretty, ranches and hills and high mountains not far ahead. Western Montana has long beem a favorite place of mine. It is like parts of Washington, only bigger. But it is this area around Yellowstone that is Montana at its best. I am told Jeff Bridges and Dennis Quaid have places near here. Two of my favorite actors. For all I know I might be trespassing on their land, right this very minute. Cool!
There is some evidence of that pesky pine beetle at work again. There are lots of dead red trees. I csme across a whole mountain covered with them. It was shaggy and in the setting sun looked like an orangutan, if not Chewbacca himself.
There are a lot of houses here, too, in addition to the larger ranches. Vacation places, I guess. Not all of them appear to be lived in. But they've got gates and No Trespassing signs. I had to walk down half the hills I spent all day walking up in order to find a quiet place for my tent.
I am again in bear and rattlesnake country. Place your bets as to which gets me first.
SOMETHING HUGE and snorty rumbled past my tent. It may have been a cow. Or a buffalo. Or a really fat deer. Or a grizzly. I covered my soft underbelly with my backpack and sang to let it know I was here. I began with an original tune I call "Hello, Bear! Please Don't Eat Me!" and did "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" as an encore. The bear fled in disgust.
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