We came. We saw. We camped.

But let me tell you how this came to pass.

You see, we were on a mission. Debbie, a longtime friend, e-mailed me saying that the dude ranch she used to work out at was not far from Bozeman. She said it was beautiful around there, if I wanted to go check it out. She gave me directions that looked a lot like this:

If you head east on 90, it’s south of big timber. It looks like you could take Swingley Rd just east of Livingston (another awesome town) and then go right when you hit state hiway 298. I never did that, it must be a new cut-through – we always drove all the way to Big Timber and then turned right. If you go, you have to pass the “town” of McLeod and keep going aways, it would be on your left and called the X-A. I don’t know if it’s even a dude ranch any more. It’s a dead end road so you’d eventually reach the mountains and have to turn around.

Missions are good. And it wouldn’t be too far out of my way. So we set out to find Debbie’s Dude Camp.

Before leaving Bozeman, we stocked up at the Community Food Co-Op. It’s a fantastic store which also appears to be a trendy hang-out. Kettle hung outside with the cool people while I shopped.

We also stopped at Lucky Lil’s: Casino & Liquor Store. I just had to see. It was actually quite nice inside. I bought some ice for the cooler. Only a buck for a bag.

We then hit the road. I had lunch in Livingston, about 30 miles east of Bozeman, then found the newly created Swingley Rd. What Debbie hadn’t said, because she didn’t know, was that it was a gravel road. So the 20 or so miles to get to the highway took quite a while.

But that was good, because it was so beautiful. We drove through rolling hills with mountains in the background and ranches along the way.

We reached Hwy 298 and headed up towards the mountains. Even the highway became gravel before not too long. But we kept going, and going. Up into the mountains of the Gallatin National Forest.

We stopped at the historic Boulder Ranger Station. It had something to do with the first attempts at environmental protection.

At this point we were well into the mountains of the Gallatin National Forest – almost certainly out of dude ranch territory. I was about to turn around, when we came across a sign that said Falls Creek Campground. It was late in the day, and it  was a nice spot next to a river.

There was no reason not to camp.

Although we failed in our mission to find Debbie’s Dude Ranch, Kettle and I were successful campers. Everything went smoothly. And I followed the directions and put all our food in the provided bear-safe canister.

I wonder if bears like salads.

I spent the night blogging in the dark. Sitting in the woods, with only the glow of the moon and my laptop, writing about dwarves … it was kinda  spooky.

I retired to my tent, and Kettle retired to his pad outside the tent. Laying on my air mattress, I began to wonder … if a bear does wander through the campsite, what would Kettle do?

Would he be as calm as he was with the chipmunk?

I didn’t like the probable answer, so I tried to get Kettle to come into the tent with me. But after testing the air mattress with one paw, he refused to come in. So I put him in the car with the windows cracked, and he was fine with that.

It was an important day in our journey. We didn’t get too far in terms of mileage, but we turned a corner.

We’re campers now.

Oh, and there was a Spruce Moth in my tent.

Supply Stop

What'd you get me?

2 Vices. And Ice.

Swingley Road 1

Swingley Road 2

Swingley Road 2

Swingley Road 3

Swingley Road 4

Swingley Road 5

Swingley Road 6

Ranger Station

Why not.

Lapping it up

Front Door

Back Porch

Did you hear something?

C'mon, Kettle, I'm trying to take a picture here.

Profiles in Camping

Knock it off, Kettle.


Bozeman – Montana

August 20, 2010

Today was my day off.

I spent it doing the classic combination of fly fishing, yoga, and online Dungeons & Dragons.

A few weeks ago, my roommate Nate spent a week fly fishing in, yes, Bozeman, Montana.

Nate caught lots of fish.

(By the way, Nate, don’t forget to water the plant.)

I caught none.

But I had a nice experience with Gary, an elderly gentleman who works at the fly fishing shop where I rented my gear. He is also a local school bus driver. Gary took me onto the lawn in front of the shop and showed me how to cast and what to do, roughly, if a fish bit. He also showed me how to tie a fly onto the line. His recommendation was the Spruce Moth. After I tied on the lure, he walked me over to the window and, sure enough, a real Spruce Moth was sitting there.

From the shop, I followed Gary’s directions: went south 6 miles to a town called Gallatin Gateway (home of the historic Gallatin Gateway Inn), took a right at the only intersection in town, crossed a bridge, parked, and went down to the river.

I walked in and began fly fishing.

Back on the lawn with Gary I was pretty bad at casting. But in the river, I was simply pathetic. I didn’t have a chance in Winnemucca of catching a fish.

And it didn’t help that Kettle was running around in the water.

That’s right – Kettle was in the river!

He wasn’t exactly swimming – his belly was barely getting wet – but man was he having fun! He’d run in the water, then jump up the embankment, then sprint around in the grass. And then do it again.

It didn’t take me long to give up my fly fishing career and just go play with my dog.

We returned to the motel, I dropped off Kettle, and went to yoga class. There are a surprisingly high number of yoga studios in Bozeman. I chose one called “Be the Change Yoga Studio”. It was a nice space, with a wide mix of students, and good instructors … I ended up taking two classes in a row. I came a long way for this, after all.

Back at the motel, I had just enough time to make a salad before my online Dungeons & Dragons game. About once a month, I join John (my brother), Mike, Jeff, and Donna to play a D&D campaign being run by Eric. We use an Internet service called Fantasy Grounds which provides the tools needed to play on computers remotely – such as the ability to show maps, roll dice, track stats, chat, etc.

Our characters are a group of dwarves (mostly) that are trying to … well, it’s complicated and I don’t fully understand it, but we’re trying to do something important. Anyway, we were in underground caverns, and we walked into a room. My brother’s dwarf, named Slash, proceeded to fall through a trapdoor, falling 50′. If that wasn’t bad enough, an iron plate then closed above him, sealing him down at the bottom of the pit. Then poison gas filled the pit above the iron plate, making it highly suicidal for any of Slash’s dwarven brethren, that being us, to drop down into the pit to try to get him out.

Our solution was simple. Jeff’s dwarf, named Hegri, cast a Neutralize Poison spell on himself, then used his Boots of Spider Climbing to climb down the side of the pit until he got to the iron plate, then cast at Transmute Rock spell to create a tunnel around the edge of the iron plate, then went through the tunnel, got Slash, and used a Dimension Door spell to bring them both back to the top.

My dwarf, named Afflack, did very little during this whole process, other than keep some distance between himself and the wisps of poison gas coming up from the trapdoor.

And that was my day in Bozeman.

As you’ve gathered, I didn’t camp.

But I had a reason.

I needed the privacy of a motel room that night.

After all, I was pretending to be a dwarf.

I guess I should have taken it from the other side.

Gary, Lord of the Flies & School Bus Driver

Going In


Going Out

Outside the Gallatin Gateway Inn


Downtown Bozeman

Kettle feeling at home

Yellowstone. The perfect place to camp.

But I had a good reason not to camp.

Thunderstorms were predicted that night.

I’m not much of a camper. In fact I’ve never camped by myself. And as far as I know, Kettle has never camped at all.

I didn’t want my dog’s first camping experience to be getting soaked because my improperly set-up tent blew over in the rain. It could sour Kettle’s taste for camping for years. So I booked a motel in Bozeman, Montana, northwest of the park – faithful that we would make it through.

Making it through the park was quite a treat. (Parks, I should say, because we went through Grand Teton as well). We did what everyone else does – drive, park, look, repeat. The difference between me and the others was that I was more concerned about photographing my dog than the landscape.

Question: To get a picture of your dog next to a wild animal, is it worth risking that your dog pulls you down a 100′ ravine because he decides to chase the chipmunk?

Fortunately Kettle showed more restraint than I did.

Anyway, the variety of stuff in Yellowstone was incredible: rivers that Kettle wouldn’t go in, water falls, lily pad ponds, geysers, and an amazing canyon.

The only disconcerting part was Old Faithful. Not Old Faithful herself, but the fact that there is a cafeteria the size of an air hangar and a parking lot that probably can be seen from space. (I may just be bitter because we got there right after it went off, so we had to wait there for 90 minutes.)

Oh, and let it be known that at 3:20 pm, August 18th, Kettle and I crossed the Ontinental Divide.

So we didn’t camp in Yellowstone, but we did eat there. On the way out of the park it was getting late, so I pulled off at one of the vista turn-outs and made a salad on the Mini.

Two and a half hours of driving in the dark later, we finally got to the Royal 7 Budget Motel (they probably added the “Budget” part later because I’m sure it was nice 60 years ago), and we spent the night.

No, it never rained.

The Teton Range behind some dog.

Check out this grass.

You can lead a dog to water, but ...

Kettle looking for a prince.

Continental Divide

It's all downhill from here.

Why do you keep looking at that thing?

Staring Contest

Kettle wins!

Dinner at Chez Yogi et Boo Boo.

Jackson Hole – Wyoming

August 18, 2010

I had three good intentions going into this trip:

– Drive slowly
– Feed myself
– Camp

I’ve been doing quite well on the first two. But as you know, the camping thing hasn’t happened.

I was thinking that near Jackson Hole, on the way to Yellowstone, would be a good time to start camping. But a good reason came up as to why I didn’t.

I had a date.

A mutual friend set us up. She was driving across the country, coming back to San Francisco after spending the summer back east. Our paths were crossing on the evening of August 17th, in Jackson Hole.

We had a very nice dinner at, of all places, the Rendez-Vous Bistro.

Going into it, I had a traveler’s inferiority complex because she’s been driving twice as much as me each day and her blog posts have been twice as long. Even worse, I was 30 minutes late because I messed up the navigation on my iPhone and was trying to find a dot located on the wrong side of town.

It’s amazing I’ve made it this far. (Less amazing that I’m still single.)

Anyway, aside from that dinner, I can’t say I’m a big fan of Jackson Hole. It’s more like a fancy Frontierland than a real place. Of course I chose to stay at the Pony Express motel, so I’m not exactly helping.

The landscape is remarkable, though. I had never known why it was called “Hole”, but when you’re there, you do have the sensation of being in a hole surrounded by mountains.

I will end by pointing out that taking pictures was not initially one of my good intentions. It is now, but I haven’t completely gotten used to it.

Idaho Falls – Idaho

August 17, 2010

The road to Idaho Falls was a good one.

At one point we pulled over to admire a vista and to stretch our 6 legs. I was about to let Kettle back into the car, but instead he walked to the back of the Mini and laid down in the car’s shade. I joined him, sitting against the back bumper, and we watched the cars drive by.

It was nice change of pace. It’s good to listen to your dog.

The big treat, though, was visiting the Craters of the Moon which, in the words of President Calvin Coolidge, is “a weird and scenic landscape peculiar to itself.”

What does “peculiar to itself” mean exactly? Peculiarly peculiar?

It’s indeed a weird, scenic, and peculiarly peculiar place. It was formed by lava flowing up from a long fissure, creating vast fields of lava rocks. If you ever wanted to climb a volcano without having to climb a volcano, this is the place for you.

My hope was that I could get a picture of Kettle pooping in a the Craters of the Moon, so that I could say something to that effect in the caption, but it didn’t happen.

Our brief stay in the Idaho Falls Motel 6 was quite pleasant. Charlie Rose was on the TV, and I made a salad from the the Boise Co-Op bounty. The faucet in the sink produced barely any water – so I washed the lettuce in the shower.

Before leaving the next day, Kettle and I paid a quick visit to the falls of Idaho Falls. Kettle didn’t go in the water, but this time I didn’t blame him.

Tonto and Silver

Watching cars

Where did you take me?

One small step

One small step ...

Seriously, where would I go?

Peculiar to itself

It Didn't Happen

The Lone Mini

Leaving the Craters. Heading for the Falls.

Quick rinse

Power wash

Power wash

Dinner at Chez Motel

Ho Hum

No thanks.

Boise – Idaho

August 16, 2010

I’ve never been good at geography.

So imagine my reaction when, on my way from Nevada to Idaho, I saw a “Welcome to Oregon” sign.

I almost turned around and went back.

But I recovered, and we made it to Boise where we stayed at a Shilo Inn. I had never heard of Shilo Inns before, but in Boise you can’t throw a potato without hitting one.

This one, although pretty run-down, was right on the Boise River. A trail along the river was only 20 yards from our room. So Kettle and I went for a couple nice walks. He didn’t go in the water, though. He doesn’t like to get wet. If he ever does go for a swim during the trip, it will be big news, and you’ll be sure to hear from me about it.

From the motel I set up my Google Latitude account so that curious onlookers such as yourselves can see exactly where I am. I assure you that my not turning that on until after Nevada was completely coincidental.

I also searched to see if there was an Apple Store in Boise so I could see about getting the pictures off my old iPhone. Alas, there was not.

By the time I was ready to leave Boise, I was also ready for lunch. Boise has a nice downtown, and I took Kettle to “The Falcon Tavern” where we ate outside. It was the first time this trip that someone cooked for me – I’ve been eating motel breakfasts, snacking on fruit and nuts for lunch, and making a salad for dinner.

I had a Turkey and Shitake Mushroom melt. It was good – probably almost as good as the burger I didn’t order because the waitress didn’t know if the beef was from happy (grass fed) cows. That was the first time I’d ever asked this question at a restaurant. But when you travel, you often do things differently. And I was feeling so fortunate to be traveling around the country that the thought of making a cow suffer a miserable life just so I can have a cheaper hamburger was too hard to swallow.

After lunch I went to the Boise Co-Op and bought more fruit and vegetables – locally grown (they looked weird) tomatoes, purple bell peppers, avocados, green onions, yellow squash, and pluots.

With my cooler now full of color, I was ready to leave Boise. And so we drove off.

But we had only gone a few blocks when, in the corner of my eye, I saw I sign that said “Apple Specialists”.

The only reason the car behind me did not smash into me when I hit the brakes was that there was no car behind me.

I parked, threw an iPhone into each pocket, and went in.

There was a geeky looking guy with a goatee, dressed all in black. Perfect. I asked him for help.

He pointed me to the cute girl at the register.

Three things immediately went through my head:

1) This cute girl is not going to know the answer.
2) I’m going to look stupid in front of this cute girl.
3) I get to talk to this cute girl.

I explained my problem. It stumped her for maybe 10 seconds, but then she figured out what to do. I went back to my car, brought in my laptop, connected it to the old iPhone with a cable, then we imported the pictures with iPhoto. Easy.

Well, at least I was right about 2 and 3.

Oregon makes Kettle look small.

Local Color


Claire. Hero.

Winnemucca – Nevada

August 15, 2010

Aside from it’s name, Winnemucca doesn’t have much going for it.

But I’m probably not the best judge, since my short time there was spent almost entirely in the motel room beating my head against a wall.

I had taken two great pictures in Reno: one of Kevin and his girls (the girls are SO cute), and one of the two poodles in rainbow attire (more noteworthy than cute). I really wanted to show them to you.

But I suffered technical difficulties. I had taken the pictures on my iPhone. The old iPhone. The old iPhone that I failed to sync with iTunes before I purchased the new iPhone. And purchasing the new iPhone meant deactivating the old iPhone, then updating the new iPhone by syncing it with iTunes. Which is why I really should have synced my old iPhone with iTunes before switching to the new one. As hard as I tried, and tried, and tried, I could not get the new photos off the old, deactivated phone.

And my day had started so well in Reno.

Okay, I’ll say it … things went a muck in Winnemucca.