Posts of stories detailing our trip will come later. I’ve got a lot of things to do to get caught up around here since getting home less than 48 hours ago, so here are the Cliff’s Notes version for those who may be interested:
* Our first destination was Charlo, Montana for the express purpose of visiting a San Diego friend in the process of restoring his grandfather’s homestead. We stayed for one night after visiting a local bar and grill best described by telling about our experience there. The bar had one large flat screen TV and two smaller box models. One of the smaller TVs televised the final presidential debate and the other offered the seventh and final game of the National League Championship Series. The big screen featured Bull Riding. After settling in front of the smaller box dedicated to baseball, we surveyed the room. An Indian (native American) couple sat at a table facing but not watching the big screen and two men who were not together – one in a cowboy hat – sat at the bar with no apparent interest in any of the televisions.
We asked the couple if we could have the baseball game switched to the big screen and they didn’t care since they were leaving anyway. The bartender replied “sure” to our request to have the channel changed, only to come back and explain that he couldn’t make the change since the guy in the cowboy hat was watching the bull riding. Unless he had eyes in the back of his head or a mirror, that was impossible. The only time he’d turned around was to size us up and down when we arrived. Bull riding, even if it is just listening to it is big Big Sky country.
* An almost white knuckle drive over McDonald Pass through a pretty good snowstorm landed us in Helena, our last stop before the long drive to Plentywood in Montana’s extreme northeast corner. We stayed with a friend of a friend and received a welcoming dinner of the best steaks we had on the trip. We were there for four nights and the hospitality could not have been better. Our driving distance from San Diego via the detour to Charlo – 2.042 miles.
* While in Plentywood, we were fortunate to be joined by our host’s son for our excursions. On our first day of hunting, the wind howled 25 to 30 mph, hardly ideal for a dog trying to pick up the scent of a rooster or the rusty reactions of a hunter trying to hit a rooster with a major tailwind. In the following days the wind gradually subsided to a standstill leaving us with much better hunting conditions and results. Along the way we learned that it is more comfortable to hunt in 20 degree weather with no wind than 40 degree weather with wind.
* Despite the temptation to stay longer, we did not want to overstay or welcome and hit the road for the journey to Reeder, North Dakota via the Little Missouri Grasslands where we became hopelessly lost and would still be wandering had we not found a cowboy and a remote and isolated ranch house.
* We arrived in Reeder where we had reservations to stay at a school converted into a way station for travelers. Beds replaced desks in the various classrooms and school offices, and each morning volunteers from the community came in to prepare hearty breakfasts for us. Reeder is an old farming and coal mining community with a weak pulse since the mine closed. A handful of residents volunteer their time in an effort to provide much needed CPR and relevancy to the town they love. The story of the Reeder Prairie Resource Community Center is worth Googling if you want to know more or find a bed for $35 per night.
* Folks in Reeder and the other nearby farm communities like Bowman and Hettinger are friendly and pretty much roll out the welcome mat for visitors whose commerce they clearly appreciate, and there are plenty of pheasants to keep hunters coming back.
* After four nights and four days of hunting we began the journey home via Yellowstone following a night spent in Cody, Wyoming. If you are ever in that region, check out Red Lodge, Montana – nice town.
* The final numbers are in and they look like this: We spent 94.54 hours driving, used 284 gallons of gas and covered 4,683 miles over 14 days. We averaged 16.4 miles to the gallon en route to Reeder and 17.4 coming home. For the first 4,658 miles we witnessed one accident, a minor pileup in Salt Lake City which has the worst traffic and ongoing freeway construction closures I have ever seen. In the last 25 miles, from Escondido to home we observed one minor accident on northbound I-15, a major injury accident less than a mile away on southbound I-15 and a rollover on southbound 163.
* My new Ford F-150 King Ranch model was comfortable and performed flawlessly throughout the trip with the exception of its Sony Synch system which includes a very faulty GPS system. In one instance it led us into a residential neighborhood when we were in search of a cup of coffee and a warehouse district where we were supposed to find a Mexican restaurant.
Overall, this was a great trip. We found and shot as many pheasants as we’d hoped to along with a sharptail grouse. I found very nice antler sheds from a whitetail buck and Gus performed quite well for us and extraordinarily so in a couple of instances.
I’m glad we got home in time to unpack, shower, eat and watch our Aztecs knock off a ranked Boise State team with a performance that was as gritty as you will ever see.
And now, it’s just nice to be home!