Mmmmm...am winding down from a really wonderful 4th of July. I'm still battling my lung infection, so any thoughts of heavy exercising were out. Some of my friends were up at Flathead Lake, some were in Idaho and just about everyone else went on a big mountain bike ride, so I was left to my own devices for the day. I decided to try and find this scenic loop hike up in the mountains that I heard about. The location is in the Lolo National Forest, near the Forest Service roads that access Schwartz Creek and Upper Miller Creek (for those of you GPS freakers out there...Garrett, you know I'm talking to you). Exhibiting my still novice status as a Montana resident, I didn't bother to take my Lolo Forest map or any other guidebooks, I just got in the car and started driving. As a side note, that is how easy it is to get yourself in trouble out here, because it's easy to think, I've got a car and I'll be on a road, how hard can it be? In reality, you can get yourself in trouble pretty easy because it is...wilderness.
Anyhow, I got sort of lost, as the atlas I do have just isn't detailed enough to give me Forest Service road numbers. I followed the drainage and logging roads out, winding up on the other side of the mountains, about 18 miles east and south of Missoula. Even though I got lost and didn't find the trailhead I was looking for, I still had a fantastic drive and saw many beautiful wildflowers, streams and some amazing nature. Last year a huge forest fire ripped through that part of the forest, so I actually drove through the burn. The contrast of the blackened tree stumps and clusters of burned vegetation against the explosion of green from the new growth, all set off against a blazing July blue sky was really quite remarkable. The other remarkable thing was when I rounded a corner on this little one lane dirt road in the middle of nowhere and came across a full on little temporary village of Hmong people...mushroom hunters. Burned areas are the best for hunting here Morel mushrooms and the Hmong of Missoula are prolific mushroom hunters...they sell them every weekend at the Farmer's Market. I mean it was really surreal, to be lost, in the middle of a huge national forest, on top of a mountain and to see this makeshift place, complete with family tents, a port-a-potty (how the heck they got that up there I still don't understand), an eating tent and other outbuildings. They'd cleared an area and had fire rings and everything.
Anyhow, I made it back into Missoula in time to take advantage of an invitation for a cookout with my friends Karl, Lori and Colin, Amber & little baby Gillian up at Karl and Lori's home (they live up the Grant Creek drainage, about 2 miles out of town and there house was the site of my first bear sighting...two years ago today); I did a quick search on The food Network's website and found a spiced up deviled eggs recipe that I thought might add some pizzazz to the party and so I set about making eggs. It started to rain outside and got pretty cold, but this didn't put a damper on my spirits, which were quite high. My eggs turned out great (thanks Emeril Lagasse)and so I headed off to the party.
Now Gillian Sherrill is just one year old, but of all my friends children I know her the least and we've never really bonded. This probably wouldn't bother anyone else but not everyone else is as crazy about kids and little old people as I am...I just love kids and I take it as a personal problem when I don't get a kid to like me right away. Gillian has never shown much interest in me and she started off the same way tonight. Ahh, but tonight I had my mojo going and before long she was in my arms and we were searching for birds outside. The rain stopped and the sun came out and Gillian giggled. We ended up having a grand time and it gave Colin and Amber a little break. Gillian flirted with me the entire night (not to worry, as I said, she is only one).
The night ended with Karl, Lori and I driving to the top of a "hill" (really it is end of a mountains) that blocks the view of Missoula from those folks and critters in the Grant Creek drainage to view the Missoula fireworks down below. It was a wonderful show and the city looked so pretty from up above like that.
On the way home I got to talk to my folks, who watched the fireworks back home up in Noblesville this year, rather than fighting the crowds in downtown Indianapolis. Annie is sicker than a dog, so I decided to let her sleep and hope she's dreaming of fireworks.