What a gorgeous morning. It was 43 degrees when we got up this morning. Mayn knows I love a morning fire, and when I got up coffee and a fire were waiting. Hummmm, what a way to start a day. We currently are in Henry’s Lake State Park located a few miles south of West Yellowstone, MT, and I will write about our Journey in this area in the next blog.
Today’s entertainment will, however, be about our stay at Seeley Lake, Montana. We stayed at Salmon Lake State Park; a very pleasant place with lovely people and nice sites. While we were there, a visit to the premier ghost town in the United States (according to the people at the state park) was in order. So, we hitched up our buggy, and started out. Garnet Ghost Town was quite the treat. It is a preservation site (not restoration), and the volunteers there were quite knowledgable about the town and area. Established in 1898, and under the care of the BLM, the town sees about 500 visitors a day.
Overview of Garnet Ghost Town
The ranger in charge, told us it is hard to get volunteers, because they are way, way, back in the forest. We told him we had done volunteer work before, and he was kind enough to show us a couple of the old cabins (not on public display) where, although very, very rustic, volunteers are housed. If being without electricity, carrying your own water, and using the “privy” are your thing, this is a really good deal. They even pay!! A fun thing to do. I asked one of the volunteers if he had ever seen a ghost, and he said yes. Ok , I’m ready to go — let’s move on.
Another day, while at Seeley Lake, Mayn decides to go the National Forest Ranger Station, and get an area map, in search of jeep trails to traverse. He comes out with a big smile, and says there is an old forest fire road not too far away, and that might be fun. OK, so we start out. About seven miles deep (did I mention DEEP) into the forest, we come to a fork in the road. A sign said up and to the left, nine more miles, was the lookout. Up we go. We got higher, and the road got narrower, and started with the switchbacks, so I closed my eyes. Eventually, we got to the top. By now, I am turning green, and a little wobbly, so I watched Mayn toddle off, headed to talk to the ranger in the lookout tower (which was still out of sight).
Fire watchtower at Morrell Mountain, MT
Ridge at Morrell Mountain
As I’m sitting in the jeep, trying to get my stomach back in proper alignment, I hear a swooshing noise. Opening my eyes, I see steam rolling out from under the radiator. Now normally this would have panicked me, but I had experienced this same phenomena before with another car. I thought, “Oh great, we’ve broken a radiator hose. Oh well, Mayn used to sell the things, he can fix it when he gets back”. After two hours, he opens the door, sits down and tells me what a lovely talk he has had with the ranger. Finally, as he inserts the key, still talking, and I interrupt to tell him what happened. He looks, and says, it probably overheated. We have enough water and fluid to get us down the mountain though.
OK, you’re the expert. Off we go.
our narrow pathway downward
This time faster down the narrow roads and switchbacks. Eyes closed, with the dry heaves, crying hysterically, we finally get back to the fork in the road. Mayn stops the car. Seeing I am on the verge of “shock” comes around, gets my feet out , and says kind and gentle words while I get myself together. Now the steam is pouring out from under the hood, and Mayn declares we have a cracked radiator. He takes his cell phone, and starts to walk down the road looking for a signal. NO SIGNAL So he goes the other way. NO SIGNAL. Alone, with an incapacitated vehicle in the middle of towering pine trees, DEEP in the forest, Mayn says somebody will eventually come along. And, they did. About an hour later (4:00pm) a very nice lady stops and offers to take Mayn back to town for a tow truck.
Off they go — wait what about me?? Oh yeah, you stay with the jeep. Got your bear spray? Yes. OK now off they go. As I stood there, in the middle of the forest, watching Mayn drive off in a car without me, I looked down, and was standing in front of bear skat. It was now starting to be about the time of day animals come to the creeks and rivers for water. (which was right behind me) No way of communicating with anyone, flies and mosquitoes abuzzing, and I’m thinking about crying again. BUT, I decide to try and be positive. So, I find some shade, get my water out of the car, put my bear spray in my pocket, and open a candy bar, since it had been about 7 hours since we ate. OOOOOPS — not a smart thing to do. Bears have great noses. What am I going to do with the wrapper?? About this time, someone comes along and stops. I walk to their car, and tell them we have had car trouble, and Mayn has gone for a tow truck. “Got bear spray?” It was the only thing said, and when I replied showing the man the canister, he left. About thirty minutes later, a second vehicle approaches. They stop and say, “Got bear spray”? After assuring them, not only do I have it, but I can use it, they proceed on their way as well. As I am still contemplating where to put the candy wrapper, here comes the tow truck. I am so relieved we didn’t have to spend the night in the forest hungry and thirsty, that a silent tear fell, and a prayer of thanks went up.
On the way back to town, I asked the tow truck driver if there were really bear in the area. Oh yeah he says. They are all over: grizzly and black abound.
The moral of this story — When your child asks you what you want for Christmas this year, say bear spray. When you go into the national forest, or a deserted location, check your car first, and tell someone, (even a gate attendant) where you are going. Eat regular meals. Haul your garbage out when you go. Take water with you at all times. Say a prayer of thanks when you get out.