At last the time has come for one final journey into the wilderness of Montana. The team consists of four: Patrick Coyne, Stefan Isaly-Johns, Brian Birch, and myself. At first light we slept in and had a breakfast at the Roosevelt Lodge to energize the day. Most of the rangers knew I was leaving, but the few that didn’t talked highly with uncomfortable compliments and overall cheer about the wonderful summer. After submitting my travel plan to the communication center and listening to Kevin Dooley give advice and requests to count down trees along the way we set out from the Hellroaring Trailhead en route to Buffalo Plateau Patrol Cabin. The plan would take us to and through Montana and on back around Bull Mountain the next day for a total of about 35 miles with risk of bears and river fording. The elevation change varies from 6000 to almost 10000 feet and hopefully the weather will be perfect and the bugs few. We are all is good shape but still taking all of the precautions to ensure a return in good form. This will be our greatest adventure yet and ultimately we’ll see how it turns out.
As we walked into the Pleasant Valley entrance of the trailhead we saw many other hikers but within no time our route took us away and we saw no other human for the rest of the hike. A bear was following us at a distance and the increased elevation combined got the heart pumping. A storm was following with thunder and lightening also so we increased our pace and continued up to a tree line for shelter as we waited for the hail and madness to pass. Once the sun came shining through the lodgepole pines we continued on up toward the cabin. On a few of our rest stops Patrick played some tunes and we had some water and food. It was a beautiful day once the weather passed. We were making good time but it still took almost 6 hours to complete the 9 mile hike. It was a climb so the return around Bull Mountain should be of a higher pace. Once we reached the cabin and came across some elk, we filtered some water from a ground spring and prepared dinner. A grizzly had broken into the cabin a few years back but we were ready for whatever would happen. Our fashioned spears, axes, and bear spray should take care of any problem. As long as we stayed bear aware. I was sitting outside the cabin with a drink and felt some dripping on my head. Some damn rat spit on me and it really was offensive although my following language probably was worse. After finishing dinner and bear proofing the cabin we retreated inside for drink, music, and conversation. We sang, wrote song lyrics, and laughed about the times to come. Brian almost burned down the cabin, I almost blew it up. Good thing Stefan knew his stuff. As long as the rat did not get in we kept the door open to get the smoke out. And the final moments consisted of crazy thoughts of how things must have been in the days of home in the back country and living amongst the wildlife trying the coexist. Today though we are at comfort with drunken cell phone conversations. We ate again and retired. At last we were able to relax and think of tomorrow. We’ll see what happens.