I Heart Montana. On Thursday evening Shelley (family friend, generous car lender and weekend benefactor, music teacher extraordinaire) drove up from Salt Lake City to spend the weekend with me, and we kicked it off with dinner at the Cinnamon Lodge, which had been recommended to me by both newspaper and personage as "the best Mexican food in Big Sky". Huh. I can't say that my vegetarian fajita or margarita were even in the top, oh, 70% of those I've eaten...but Shelley's lemonade, cheeseburger, waffle fries, and raspberry rhubarb pie were spectacular! (I tasted all but the cheeseburger and concurred) So...I guess what they *really* meant was that the Cinnamon Lodge has "the best non-Mexican food at a Mexican restaurant in Big Sky"...
Not sure whether it was the margarita, the too-many-times-refried beans, or just the large late dinner, but Thursday night I had restless sleep with very weird dreams. I'll spare you most of the details, but needless to say, they were of the "anxiety" variety, and featured a cameo by Barak Obama, a fudge sale, and my attempt at placating angry Israeli vendors with my decidedly non-fluent Hebrew skills. It's been many moons since I last dreamed that I was speaking Hebrew, and I mention this dream at all because Friday marked the end of my first week at the clinic, and was otherwise unremarkable and slow...until my last patient, a guy who decided for still inexplicable reasons that he was going to stop by, without an appointment, for his yearly physical...at 4pm on a Friday afternoon! It would have been annoying...except that he was Israeli! And I got to speak Hebrew with him! In Big Sky, Montana! The day after I had a dream that I was speaking Hebrew! Weird...
Ok, maybe you had to be there. But I'll tell you where else you had to be: John Bozeman's Bistro
, where Shelley and I had dinner Friday night, in - you guessed it - Bozeman, MT, which was named after - right again! - John Bozeman himself! We not only had the most unbelievably delicious meal (the kind of meal one wouldn't believe was possible to obtain in Montana after our Mexican fiasco the previous night; the kind of meal one remembers in great detail months, even years after consuming; and the kind of meal one can only afford, both financially and waist-bandedly, to have on *very* special occasions)...we also found out about the history of Bozeman, and its founder, JB himself. JB was, our menu informed us, a visionary. He came out here mid-19th-century with the rest of the gold-grubbers, but unlike them, realized that nothing gold can stay...so he looked for another source of income that might actually be realistically sustainable. And he found a great little piece of land that looked agriculturally promising, and started convincing prairie-crosser after prairie-crosser to settle down with him...and within 4 years, the town of Bozeman was official. Sadly, just 3 years later, JB was mysteriously killed during a routine trip to Billings for flour, but I would argue that his untimely death is just further evidence that one person (yes, like you!) can make an enormous, lasting difference in the world in just a short time, just by developing a passion, a conviction, or any unique self-expression that they are determined to share with the world.
That night, we camped out at a cute little campground east of Bozeman, where I did some laundry (the "Wash" portion of this post's title). The sunset view was breathtaking - both in its beauty, and in the fact that all of the beautiful sunsets out here these days are in large part due to the particulate matter suspended in the sky from all of the forest fires burning throughout the area. The native Montanans staying in the next tent over told me that it's only in the last 7-8 years that there have been such bad fires and drought every single summer - probably due to global warming; it was pretty sobering to realize how much climate change is already affecting not just theoretical weather patterns, but actual people's lives, health, and experience.
Saturday morning we each had the pleasure of experiencing the campground's amazing showers, which basically had the same qualities as the ideal man: clean, hot, and strong. (just kidding - I'm actually looking for a guy who's more like an expensive new suit: smart, looks and smells good, makes me feel great, a perfect fit) Then it was off to Livingston, MT: the ORIGINAL gateway to Yellowstone! (so the sign said) Upon entering this sleepy little town (see speed limit)
in the apparent middle of nowhere, we didn't have high hopes for breakfast - but we found the best diner-like establishment ("voted best in Livingston" says the sign, and you can see from the pic that we weren't the only ones to agree) that had yummy biscuits, great eggs with fresh spinach, and...you'll never believe this...soy sausage!
Unfortunately, they were all out of it, but I was thrilled just knowing that it was on the menu. Here's Shelley excited about her upcoming eggs Florentine.
Well, I guess I assumed too much about Livingston - turns out it's really quite a hip hop happenin' place
(filming homebase for A River Runs Through It, etc.) It's also the place where the Yellowstone River
(translated from the French Roche Jaune),
the longest free-flowing/undammed river in the country, has its Big Bend, and where Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea (whose statue we found in the park after much searching - but it was worth it!) came through on their historic river trip.
I napped the rest of the way to Yellowstone - except for a brief break to snap a picture of my recently discovered midwestern fetish
(I don't know why, I just love 'em!): cylindrical hay bales - but was wide awake when we passed through the Roosevelt Arch Entrance and were greeted by our first park wildlife!
We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon driving around the northern loop of the park, enjoying the animal magmatism (pun intended - did you know that Yellowstone is on top of the largest currently active volcano in the world? So the land is, as they say, very magmatic), waterfalls, and stunning vistas.
We took one scenic road that didn't seem to be trafficked by anyone official, so I spent those 6 miles snapping shots from my "safari viewpoint": sitting on top of the car with my legs dangling down through the open sunroof! (don't try this at home)
Finally, as we were thinking of leaving, we came upon the trailhead for the 3.0 mile, 1300 ft rise trip up to the top of Mt. Washburn, elevation 10,000 ft and change. I decided to start hiking up and promised Shelley that I'd turn around after an hour; the sign estimated that it would take 4-5 hrs roundtrip, so I assumed I'd make it about halfway up. I therefore also assumed that I wouldn't need more than my one 20 oz bottle of water, or any food, or any protection other than my hat, sweatshirt, and trusty can of bear spray.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I really hauled up the side of the mountain, and found myself nearing the peak after just an hour of determined hiking! The view was worth it -
I could see the billows of smoke emanating from the big southeastern park fire, and the swath of resulting smokey sky that seemed more than anything to have been smudged by a giant godly thumb. I could also just make out the Grant Teton peaks, 75 miles away!
After a brief stop to document my achievement, I headed back down, thinking that I'd try to jog part of the trail and get back in a total of just 2 hours. My knee started throbbing, and a fuzzy antlered deer grabbed my attention for a bit, but I made it, to my and Shelley's surprise.
The thrill and satisfaction faded, however, when we headed back on the road and my body revolted at my slightly foolish endeavor (you traveled 6 miles over 2600 ft of total elevation in August and gave me how much water? and wore how little sunscreen? and had eaten how much in the last 4 hours? you idiot!), and I thought for a moment that I might have to self-diagnose heat exhaustion and go find the nearest Urgent Clinic. Fortunately, I recovered, and Shelley's insistence that we stop in the town of West Yellowstone for a big salad and pasta dinner, with much water and lemonade rehydration, proved to be the best medicine.
In short, Shelley and I had a fantastic weekend; and I washed (my clothes), I burned (my nose and shoulders a tad, but not as bad as I'd expected), and I scaled Mt. Washburn!