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Ping > Holed Up In Big Sky Without Wi-Fi

October 26th, 2013 · Tags:Uncategorized


“I totally lucked into this deal … staying in a new barn/house on 1700 acres butted up against a national forest in Montana … in The Big Hole area. The only thing between this place and the mountains is a few hundred head of Angus. I rode a four-wheeler all morning, right up to the lip of Twin Lakes and some other trails where there were 6-8 inches of snow on the ground … what could be more pristine and perfect? … I had the national forest to myself and was enjoying my lunch out of my backpack, shooting a few photos and selfies … sitting at a picnic table, when I’ll be darned … Sasquatch stole my beef jerky!”


— Wi-Fi Guy, as posted on Facebook


Facebook status: sometimes they’re the whole story and sometimes they’re just the lead.


This time … there is so much more to say.  I mean … Montana = Big Sky and it is the home of The Big Hole … a big time had by all. So beautiful and free … and the history:



“At the time Lewis & Clark “discovered” the Big Hole River watershed, it was a buffer zone between several rival Native American tribes including the Nez Percé, Shoshone, Coast Salish, and Blackfeet. Lewis & Clark considered navigating up the Big Hole River, but chose the slower-flowing Beaverhead River instead. Trappers from both the Hudson’s Bay Company, the North West Company and the American Fur Company exploited the region from about 1810 to the 1840s. Miners and homesteaders settled the area between 1864 and the early 1900s.

In 1877 the U.S. troops under John Gibbon fought the Nez Percé Indians along the Big Hole River, during the Nez Perce War in the Battle of the Big Hole. The site of the battle along the North fork of the Big Hole is preserved as the Big Hole National Battlefield.”

– Wikipedia


Big Hole Valley


I am saving the battlefield for another blog.  We will live to ping that another day.  For this blog, it was about fun and photography.  It so deserves a big ol’ wordy effort.  Although anything I write about this place will fall short.


Big Hole Battle


As posted above, I was on private land – a friend’s new weekend getaway home, with a back gate that opens into Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.  The house was so cool … still a work in progress, but very comfortable … designed like a red bard. There were a few hundred Angus cows and calves circling the house and me the whole time … hoping I was putting out hay, I’m sure.  At night I had to take care not to trip over cows or their “markings” as I gazed in awe of the clearest view of The Milky Way … only slightly overpowered by the fullest moon ever.


I think the cows were counting coup on me, throughout the weekend, if you are familiar with the term.



On the first morning, I felt like a king, propping my feet up, looking out several big picture windows, with a mountain in front of each of them … stopping to take a breath, enjoy the silence and ingest the grandeur of the Pioneer Mountains at sunrise.



This mountain “Barn and Breakfast” also came with a sweet four-wheeler, which gave me a fix of riding out in nature, and took me places that otherwise I would have not seen. My host had stocked the shelves, but I didn’t want to overeat my welcome.


So, breakfast consisted of a bag of cheap, chocolate Little Deb donuts and a bottle of milk, but it was one of the best breakfasts … EVER.  I slammed ’em down and mounted up.




I rode the four-wheeler, in four-wheel drive mode for all it was worth up to Twin Lakes, and then tried to conquer the climb to Ajax Lake — a stone’s throw from the Idaho/Montana border. I followed someone else’s track in the snow for a few miles.  When their tracks gave up, turned around and went back downhill, I decided I better do the same.  This flatlander had no business stranded on a Montana mountain in the winter.


The ride to Slag-A-Melt creek was easer, mostly downhill on a small trail through dense forest.  Spent some time on a trail to Big Swamp Creek too … before I got lost-ish.


The park still seemed to have a bit of a hangover from the government shutdown.  I talked to two park rangers who told me to make myself at home, but that the park was still closed.  So I pretty much had the run of the place for a day and a half.


This outing was not the first time in Montana that I thought I should have been carrying bear repellent.  (I think I am afraid to buy that stuff, thinking I will forget and be stripped searched at the airport like a common terrorist later on … if I leave it in my backpack.) BTW, I have heard some of the locals use “terrorist” and “tourists” interchangeably.  Probably with good reason as the hordes cross through on motorcycles or land armed with fly fishing rods and/or hunting rifles each hunting season.


But I didn’t see no bear.  I did see my first bald eagle in the wild.  Magnificent!


Roman Numerals

Roman Numerals


The Big Ol’ weekend was the opposite of my Dirty Gig back on the disaster job.  As mentioned in a previous blog, Bannack State Park has excellent Wi-Fi, but no cellular coverage.  At the Barn & Breakfast, I had cellular, yet no Wi-Fi.  No worries, although I didn’t pack a very good breakfast, I packed a laptop and an iPad … the latter with 3G wireless capability. The iPad kept my tweets twittered and my status updated and my photo albums populated with beef cattle.  In that regard, I was prepared.


What I was not prepared for was my host’s vow of TV celibacy.  What? No tube and my Texas Tech Red Raiders were playing … and continuing their move toward the spotlight on the national stage.  Oh well … It was a little more Tech deprivation and TV withdrawal than I needed … but the majestic real “real world” got me through it.


Small Hole

Small Hole


What a photographer’s dream … If only I were more skilled.  Oh well — no one — “exceptin” Ansel could have done justice for this scenic ranch.  (BTW … have I mentioned that my new friend — the guy I call “Blue Duck” just to be silly, once toted the cameras and tripods and gear for Ansel Adams throughout Yellowstone?  How cool is that!?!  I digress …






I tried and tried to capture the pink/orange glow the mountains took on at sunrise.  I framed mountain tops within the timbers of old cow pens, went in close for shots of fluorescent green moss sprouting from fence rails … and shot from just about every possible angle to focus on the “jack fences” made of timber “Xs” and cross rails … something you don’t see on the ranches of the near treeless High Plains.




No Wi-Fi but 3G that works in a pinch, no Texas Tech, no apparent cojones to continue up the snowy mountains … but even so this Big ol’ weekend in The Big Hole gets a perfect score — 7 snow-covered pings.


Know what I sayin?

Big Sky

Big Sky