I am the father of a seven month old so opportunities to get out into the backcountry are precious these days. I don’t want to miss out on time with my baby and wife but I also don’t want to miss out on nights spent in the mountains either so last evening I threw my leg over the top tube of my bicycle at 18:00 and pedaled from town twelve miles up into the high foothills of the Gallatin Mountain Range arriving around 20:00. I live only about a block from access to our town trail system and I chose a route that consisted of mostly trails and gravel road all the way to my camp requiring only three miles of riding the shoulder of a mid-speed asphalt road.
I hunted deer in this zone thoroughly in the Fall and have explored this timber-cutting road system on skis in the winter as well so I knew generally where I wanted to make camp. I came to a wide, flat pass but pushed on another mile to see if the next switchback would offer better views. I decided it did not and turned around to return to the pass. I left the road and headed to a rocky promontory that made up the Eastern part of the pass and set about making camp… well, more like I cracked a beer and enjoyed the view for a few minutes before making camp.
The view off to the SE through a gunsight set of peaks of the rugged Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness complex was sublime and I couldn’t help but gaze off into it thinking of past trips in that wild set of mountain ranges. Opposite that view the lights from my town of Bozeman and the greater Gallatin Valley were beginning to twinkle. The sun was setting to the West and the silhouette of the Tobacco Root Mountain Range drew my attention heavily.
Camp made I took off my shoes and those diaper-like cycling-specific under shorts and found a comfortable spot on some sun-warmed rocks. The weather was delightful and I sat in my short sleeves until long after dark just taking in the view of the setting sun, the lights of town, and the slowly rising nearly-full moon.
Sleep came slowly as large critters banged through the woods near me. Presumably just an elk or a deer but the notion a bear is hanging out near your camp is a hard one to ignore regardless of the fact I’ve spent hundreds of nights sleeping out in the wild.
I don’t know what time I fell asleep but I lay with the door of my simple shelter open and allowed my gaze to drift to the night sky. The full moon made things very clear and the stars were alight with the twinkle ever-enhanced by being even just a few miles away from the light of the city. I awoke at dawn, climbed out of my bag and scanned the distant hills for wildlife. I will hunt this zone again this fall and seeing even just one critter on a nearby hillside was a pleasant sight.
My trusty Bushbuddy fired up a few cups of water and I had a cup of coffee in hand by 06:30. While it brewed I broke camp and packed my gear back onto my bicycle. I spent the evening leisurely soaking in the surroundings but my plan for the morning was to attempt to make it back home for arrival about the time my wife and daughter were awaking. The beauty of a twelve mile climb on the way in is you know you’ve got a fast, twelve mile descent on the way back out.
I made it home by 08:00 just as my family was waking and my lovely wife had a second cup of coffee at the ready. We made up a proper Saturday morning breakfast of bacon and eggs and now have the whole weekend still lies ahead of us. Make the most of your minutes, hours, and days. Enjoy the company of your family as well as your solitude. I enjoy living in the moment, especially since each and every one of them equates to huge changes in the life of my little girl. But at the same time I look forward with great interest in having the family join me in future micro-adventures.