Week 5-  September 26 Week: Montana Mountains

This week, we started to really feel like we are getting into a groove.  It helped that we were settled in one place, at the Garrigans for five nights in a row.  I have known Jim and Beccy Garrigan for over 20 years through our church.  When I first moved to MN, I was a small group discipleship leader for high school kids at the church, and their oldest son was in my group.  Also, Jim is a pilot who flew most of his career with Pillsbury, and for a short time flew for General Mills after the acquisition. 

 The Garrigans recently moved to Montana after designing and building their retirement dream house in the highlands outside of Bozeman.  We were generously given free reign of the bottom level of the house.  This worked out well for taking Harvey in for some routine maintenance and was a wonderful change of pace to be in a home that is attached to the ground!  The week started with a special dinner and nighttime star gazing after our arrival.

 I love Sundays.  I am enjoying visiting different churches on the trip, but it was especially nice to go with some friends.  After lunch we took a Sunday walk with the Garrigans, one of my favorite family activities.  Their property was once a huge ranch and is now twenty acre parcels with strict planning codes that basically make it feel like yours is the only home on mountain.  From their backyard you can walk for miles on state land to the top of the mountain!  During our walk, we got to see the community horse barn (The kids liked Chubby the best.) and Jim gave us fly casting lessons at a pond at the base of the mountain.

 Waking to the sound of coyotes in the morning was a treat for me, and a source of angst for the kids.  Garrigan’s home was perfect for spreading out to do our schooling each day.  One recess, Nate and I took bikes up into the mountain… It sure beat the Chapel Hill Academy playground for him! 

Staying put helped us keep a great balance between experiencing the area and having down time.  The Garrigans were dog-sitting their son’s Springer spaniel, Belle.  The kids played with Belle every spare minute.  Also, if you know Leah, as a night owl you know that she does not wake easily in the morning.  Even she would wake up easily when Belle bounded in to lick her face!

As we had headed into Bozeman, Brenda had been feeling disappointed that we had to make choices in the past few weeks that meant we would miss some things that she really wanted to do.  One of those was whitewater rafting.  The water levels were too low in Colorado, and with the weather cooling off, it seemed like that dream would not be realized. 

Well, on the drive down the Gallatin river valley from Yellowstone: 

-We just happened to stop at the right spot on the river driving to Bozeman.
-We just happened to watch the river long enough for a rafting group to come around the corner.
-We just happened to catch the driver of the van that drove along with them at our stop and found out that their company was the only one still leading raft trips.
-We just happened to have a perfect sunny, warm day while we stayed in Bozeman to take the family down the river!

God is good, even in the little things.

Wednesday was our last full day in Bozeman.  After schooling, it was nice to have some time on yet another perfectly sunny day to wash Harvey while the kids played.  The front end of an RV keeps you busy.  The bug carnage gets to be a bit of a burden, and Jenna has even been keeping track of the different colors of bug guts we get to see.  Purple has been her favorite! 

In the afternoon we went to the Bozeman airport because Jim had had to fly the day before and was coming back into town.  It was a great opportunity for the kids to see the inside of a corporate jet and see their new friend (they loved joking with Mr. Garrigan) “at his work”.  One the way home from the airport, we stopped for dinner at a restaurant, and had a chance to try a regional favorite, huckleberry pie.  I had always heard of them but couldn’t tell you what they looked or tasted like.  (the pie tastes like tart blueberry…)  Between the people of Montana and bears, huckleberries are sought after. 

We considered giving up the rest of our trip and living with the Garrigans as we were packing up to head on Thursday.  It would be a travel day to Kalispell, MT just outside of Glacier National Park.  On the way we drove by Flathead Lake, a glacial lake miles long.  At the north end, the kids’ day was made when we came across a baby bear at the park that had lost its mother.  (Don’t worry, we still stayed back.)

 We arrived late afternoon where we stayed at the mountain home of Curt and Mary Ann Lund, another family from our church who moved to Montana after their kids were grown.  (We’re seeing a pattern here...)  Over the years, we have had the opportunity to get to know their kids through different functions at church.  We certainly appreciated their hospitality and beautiful home.  We have gotten spoiled.

 After schooling Friday, we went into Glacier, driving up to Logan Pass where we took a hike to Hidden Lake.  As the kids were grousing a bit about the walk, Brenda and I realized that we would have to come back to some of our favorite places from this adventure as a couple, as there is a different flavor when three kids are along… 

On the trail, we bumped into a ranger who let us know that a week before, the trail had been closed because grizzlies were hanging out around there.  We would like to have seen one, but not that close.  The ranger also told us that this pass would be closed for the winter any week now as it gets tons of snow, in drifts up to eighty feet! 

After a prayer sendoff from the Lunds, we headed off toward Washington State.  We will have a complete change of pace helping with the grape harvest at a vineyard of some friend of ours from Chapel Hill Academy for a couple of days!