Gravelly Range Overland

The name of this blog is “Going Places Quietly” and it’s intent is to highlight my wilderness treks whether they be on foot, splitboard, bicycle, or skis.  That being said my wife, friends, and I do a lot of car camping and the mini-expedition we set out on over Independence Day was so exceptionally beautiful that I felt the need to write about it here even though car travel isn’t normally considered a “quiet sport”.




My wife had told me a tale of a gravel road that traversed the spine of the Gravelly Mountain Range – a seldom visited range in SW Montana – and back in May I pinged a few folks to plan a long loop encompassing the entirety of the range with terrain varying from well-graded gravel to some slightly technical jeep trails.  With the Independence day holiday falling on a Friday the opportunity to hit the road Thursday night, grab a burger on the way and be into the Forest a bit after dark before the weekend really even began was a prime opportunity.


Burgers and beer at the Gravel Bar in Ennis followed by a necessary final fueling of the trucks and our intrepid group of leisure seekers left smooth asphalt for FS roads just as the sun was setting.  Headlights flipped on and our string of four rigs snaked along quality gravel through farmland and the slow climb up to our first camp high atop the gently sloping NE side of the range.  Our posse consisted of three Land Cruisers of various age and a custom Johnny Cash “One Piece at a Time” Jeep our friend Tom has been working on for years that combines a chassis from one year and a cab from another, along with a slew of other parts from other years.



We crossed the forest boundary and began looking for an acceptable camping site for the evening.  I had done much prior research in Google Earth and had a zone generally selected so we followed our GPS track, headlight ablaze on the road and trees alongside.  The lights of the small hamlet of Ennis made for a quaint scene to the NE and the impressive Madison Range to the East loomed in shadow of the twilight.  A tunnel of trees engulfed the road and soon after a small acreage of meadow brimming with Glacier Lilly opened up and I immediately pulled my FJ62 off the road knowing we’d found the perfect first camp.  The rest of our party followed suit and as the hour of 11pm approached we set about making our first camp.  Some were to sleep in their rigs, others put up tents.  I had camp ready first and quickly set about getting a proper campfire going.  Rain sprinkled us once or twice over the course of the next hour but we sat ’round the Ranger TV sipping cold beer and reveling in how great a vacation we were already off to.


Our Friday itinerary was simple; follow the Gravelly Range Road South for about 20 miles to the impressive Black Butte massif, find a camp and then set out to climb the peak.  Coffee was made, a variety of pancakes, bacon, and fruit was consumed at a leisurely pace, and rigs were packed.  We set out on the road through what was to be the first of  three days of supreme scenery.  The north-facing ridges held slithering slices of snow, the meadows were a carpet of wildflowers in a vast array of colors, and the horizon in all directions was a sea of peaks both jagged and smooth.




A friend was riding his dual sport motorcycle to meet us at Camp Two so we scouted around Black Butte to find our next home.  Nothing in the direct vicinity felt perfect so we left the main Gravelly Road and down Standard Creek Road a few miles until another lovely prairie of wildflowers revealed itself.  The Gravelly Range Road doesn’t see a large population of traffic but the Forest Service manages camping and requires motorized camping parties to stay at sites marked with a small sign.  The rules are loose regarding what you can do at the sites so we typically spread our rigs out across an area encompassing about an acre and all the sites we saw and stayed at were very nicely rehabbed and it was clear that those who visit the area respect it greatly.  Only one fire ring was at any of the sites and ruts and tire tracks were basically non existent.




We all opted to simply loaf around most of the day, napping, taking the little Honda Trail 90 (carried on a hitch haul on the back of one of the Cruisers) for quick spins around, and target shooting pistols and rifles at a 50 yd target.  Rain came and went intermittently as is common when camped up near the high alpine so we opted to save a hike to the summit of Black Butte until the following morning.  Two of our party boiled up a massive vat of shrimp, potatoes, and corn on the cob which we ravenously devoured alongside copious cans of beer ’round the fire.


Day three dawned and the coffee flowed freely.  Our dual sport biker had arrived at the end of the previous day and he set out to thank us for carrying much of his gear in the trucks making his bike light and nimble by producing a feast of eggs and fresh veggies wrapped in tortillas.  After all were satiated with breakfast I put together a pound of hamburger patties for our Summit Cheeseburger attempt at Black Butte.  Camp packed up quickly and easily – the group of eight of us all working independently but efficiently at a remarkably similar pace – and we were on the road and to the base of the peak before 11am.







Sunscreen was applied, the fixins for cheeseburgers, a cold can of beer, rain jacket, and water bottle were in my pack and we set out offtrail toward our mountain.  Surprisingly we ran into a few other hikers out to climb the peak as well but they were a decade or two older than us and moving a bit slower so we said hello and continued up.  The climb was simple and directions were aided by previous climber’s cairns.  Only a small amount of snow covered the route which was easily bypassed and the going was smooth on a well worn social path.  We summited in glorious sunshine with views that ranged for many dozens of miles.  A slight haze, probably from a far-off forest fire clouded the horizon but the peaks of the Madison Range, Snowcrest Range, Greenhorn Range, Pintlar Range, Belts, and Tobacco Roots were striking and awe-inspiring.  We nommed cheeseburgers, posed for a photo, and enjoyed a cold beer, relaxed at 10,542 feet before setting back down to the rigs.







The drive that day was to be a long one and would include finishing the first leg of our trip – the Gravelly Ridge, followed by a slightly higher speed section of wide gravel along the Ruby River – the second leg of the trip, and the start into the technical third leg of the trip – a climb up and over a high pass.  The day was hot, but the breeze from atop the remaining miles of the Gravelly Range Road were heavenly.  The wildflowers were so exquisite that every single twist and turn or up and down section of the road created a new micro ecosystem for a different variety to thrive.  The colors across the landscape were simply alive.




Dropping steeply and quickly off the high ridge and into the dusty and dry Ruby River Valley was a bit shocking.  We sped up to keep the air moving and to get some miles under our tires as we needed to get North to our final camping destination.  We made good time and enjoyed the scenery of the Ruby River.  It provides exceptional Grayling fishing and there were many campsites set up alongside with dozens of fishers wading the cool waters.


We reached the Ruby Reservoir, drove a few miles of required asphalt before turning off the highway, crossing a telltale sign of good things to come – a cattle guard – and then turned our speed back down to more of a crawling pace as we made our way up Barton Gulch.  We had FRS walkie talkie radios with us and communication was back and forth as the rigs spread out aways down the canyon.  The group became separated when one of the rigs decided to overheat and another decided it’s lack of fuel injection on the steep slopes was problematic.  After some radio silence issues and not having the whole group together the leaders backtracked until we were all at the same spot giving the Land Cruiser some time to cool down.  Beers were popped, a box of cookies was passed around, and tunes were turned up for a little backwoods dance party session.  Regardless of some minimal mechanicals, the heat was subsiding as the afternoon turned into evening and everyone was in great spirits.




The next few miles of road were to be the most technical of the trip and everyone dialed the techy parts excellently.  The bike was out ahead followed by the two mechanically-prone rigs and the rear was trailed up by the remaining rigs.  We maintained constant radio comms this time around just to be sure.  Hubs were locked, 4wd was on, and the driving was sublime.  An abandoned mine halfway up provided for a photo op along with a few other hulks of buildings long forgotten.  The highlight of it all came as we crested the top of the pass and were treated to what would be our campsite for the evening – a glorious open area at 8500 ft complete with views to both the East and West with just the right amount of shade for the morning, and enough firewood for myriad evenings of relaxing.







The group fell into the routine of setting up camp.  Dinner and fire-making duties were performed without anyone asking anyone else.  A potluck of grub was laid out on the table and the dwindling beer supply went down can after can.  The alpenglow on the surrounding peaks was stunning and as we watched it fade away into night we were all beside ourselves with how gorgeous the place we live is.  We stayed up around the fire for awhile longer until tiredness overcame each of us at our own pace and then wandered off to our respective places to lay our head.




The morning dawned crisp, clear, and just the right amount of chilly.  We breakfasted on great chow with coffee and orange juice and pondered our maps for the final leg of the journey.  A last minute decision to take a route different than the one I had planned prior to the trip (a decision we would later regret but also made us decide to come back someday) and we set off on a steep jeep trail down into a side canyon toward the main draw of Alder Gulch.  It was a relatively short drive the rest of the way out Alder Gulch to the historic town of Virginia City – home to history’s largest silver placer mining operation.  The town was abuzz with tourists as we pulled our dusty rigs off the dirt for the last time and onto the pavement.





Our next destination was back to the town of Ennis and a visit to the local hamburger joint owned and operated by the area school teachers called the Sugar High.  We pulled in a couple minutes before they opened, got in line for cheeseburgers, fries, and malts which we leisurely ate in the shade alongside the restaurant.  The return trip back to Bozeman was leisurely and my wife and I even treated ourselves to the air conditioner in our FJ.  The drive is one we’ve made many times but is beautiful each and every and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  There was a bikini hatch happening on the Madison along the popular “booze cruise” stretch and in the heat of the afternoon a refreshing dip seemed pretty good but we kept on along and were hope at a reasonable hour to do some cleaning up and prepping for re-entry back into society on Monday.




This region is very vast and I expect we’ll return to visit some of it’s nooks and crannies on foot and on bicycle someday but as a primer, driving this large, primarily gravel loop was a stunning way to see the country.  Very few others were out and about and the camping was exquisite and plentiful.  My recommendation to follow our route or one similar is very high.  Big sky country indeed.




The GPS route of this trip can be found on the page, Gravelly Range Backcountry Drive – Montana.




Mount Theodore Roosevelt, Lawrence County, South Dakota

After a strenuous multi-mile drive and an imposing walk of hundreds of feet we climbed the thirty-one foot summit “Friendship Tower” with ten cheeseburgers and a backpack full of beer.  Celebrating our buddy Adam’s bachelorhood before he marries this summer made for a great opportunity to explore some of the “mountain” tops of the beautiful Black Hills in South Dakota.

Derrick, Jerry, Nick, Adam, Jason, Matt, Mike (wotboy), Jon, Ben, Jason, Steve, and Sam (samh)

Splitboarding and Backpacking in July

Friday, July 9th, 2010 I walked out of the office at 17:00, was home and had a lightweight gear set-up for both backpacking and splitboarding packed and in the trunk of my Subaru by 18:40.  My destination was the Pine Creek trailhead in the Northwest corner of the Absaroka Mountain Range and I arrived by 19:40.  I knew daylight would leave me sometime between 21:30 and 22:00 so I shouldered my load and high-tailed it onto the five mi. (eight km) Pine Creek Lake trail.

Being an ultralight backpacker it was strange to have the added weight of snowboard, boots, avalanche safety tools, and ice axe.  The moving was a bit slower but it felt good to be moving as day slowly turned to night, temperatures dropped, and I got further and further into the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness.

I hiked until 21:30 and stopped to make use of the last bits of daylight to set up my minimal camp consisting of an eVent bivy sack, synthetic sleeping quilt, and torso-length sleeping pad.  I strung my bear rope, set up my alcohol stove and prepared some instant mashed potatoes as the sun set over the Gallatin Mountain Range and Paradise Valley to the West.  Sleep came to me by 22:00. 

I awoke at 06:00 and was hiking within twenty minutes, chomping on an energy bar and sipping water from my hydration system.  About 30 minutes of hiking brought me to the end of the trail and into the snowy bowl that is Pine Creek Lake.  A large iceberg was still floating in the lake and the cirque held a fair amount of snow – – a soothing site for me as I had lugged many pounds of snowboard gear into terrain of which I knew little about the snow conditions other than my previous trip two years before.

By 09:30 I had summited Black Mountain (read Summit Post profile) using methods of walking, skinning, and ski crampons.  I was slightly undernourished having had only one energy bar and one GU but I made decent time and was in great spirits.  I spent a few minutes on the relatively snow-free summit and then descended to the large snow bowl that I planned to ride.

The snowboarding was quite delicious and I was able to get approximately 1,000 vertical feet (304 m) of riding in.  The top 800′ (244 m) was wonderful corn snow that didn’t grab the board in the least and allowed for me to arc some nice, large GS turns.

Proceeding past a flat spot at the bottom of the large bowl and sliding over a little roll put me onto a different aspect that consisted of some fun slaloming through large boulders in snow of a slushy quality for about 200′ (61 m) vertical.

I swapped out the snowboard gear for shorts, trailrunners, sunscreen, took a few swigs of the refreshing snowmelt water that was all around me and headed down the trail.  Arrival back at my Subaru was around 13:30 leaving me plenty of time to return home and shower before heading into downtown Bozeman for the bicycle sprints portion of the Tour of Bozeman race series.

Summit Cheeseburger – Buck Hill, North Dakota

Mom and Dad chillin' by the grill at the "trailhead".
June 25th, 2010 – Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
My parents were celebrating their 38th wedding anniversary with a camping trip to Medora, North Dakota. They asked me a few months in advance if I'd like to drive out to see them since it's much much more convenient to drive 400 miles to see them than 1000.

Before leaving I did the mandatory "I'm going on a trip so I'd best look up local summit cheeseburger opportunities" and found Buck Hill and it's location along the scenic drive through Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The opportunity to pack the Weber, some ground beef, cheese, and potato salad into the back of the truck was too juicy to pass up. Mom, Dad, and I grilled burgers at the trailhead and then carried them along with some Cokes up to the Summit, took a photo and then relaxed and enjoyed the view.

Sam, Mike and Ann conquering Buck Hill in Theordore Roosevelt National Park

Summit Cheeseburger – Drinking Horse Mtn; Bozeman, MT

Drinking Horse Mountain - View from the Car

Drinking Horse Mountain - View from the road

Drinking Horse Mountain - 93 Subaru Legacy at trailhead

Drinking Horse Mountain - Info Kiosk

Drinking Horse Mountain - Sam Self Portrait atop Summit

Drinking Horse Mountain - A rudimentary shelter

Drinking Horse Mountain - View of Bozeman

First I drove from my house in Bozeman, Montana to the Drinking Horse Mountain trailhead. It is located on Bridger Canyon road.

On the way to the trailhead I took some pictures of Drinking Horse Mountain. It is about 629 feet tall.

I parked my 1993 Subaru Legacy in the roadside parking lot. As you can see, my car is almost as tall as the mountain.

Like any good city trail there is a nice informational kiosk with a map and some little handouts. I stopped and took a picture for you to see.

Suddenly I was at the top of Drinking Horse Mountain consuming a double cheeseburger. I kept the cheeseburger wrapped in a knitted hat inside a stuff sack while I hiked. It was warm and delicious.

Near the summit of Drinking Horse Mountain someone has constructed a nifty fort out of dead tree branches. It was neat.

The proper summit of Drinking Horse Mountain doesn’t provide too amazing of views, but slightly to the North a quality view of Bozeman is there for all to see.

I made a thirty-five second video of the hike to the summit.

Bissel’s Mound – Summit Cheeseburger Project

When he proposed the idea he had a glint in his eye usually reserved for those in the industry of taking fingers. The heavy silence that followed did little to ease the sudden tension that often settled in whenever he had an “idea”.
“Are you in?” Sam inquired after a long silent stare at his comrades.
“In on what?” Matt and Jon asked with a puzzled look on their faces.
“Yes or no?” Sam stated with a simple insistence.
“You still haven’t told us…”
“The details are unimportant. There is only one certainty – – we will need to get cheeseburgers.”
Silence overcame the room as Matt and Jon looked at one another in bewilderment.
“Are you in?” Sam reclined in the car seat and and folded his arms across his chest.
“I’m in.” Matt said, similarly leaning back and folding his arms moments before he remembered he was driving.
“Okay, how about you, Jon?”
“Yes or a no. Are you in?”
“Oh all right. I’m in,” Jon said with a tone of nonchalance.
Ten hours, twenty-four beers, and a hastily constructed and detonated firework later found the intrepid trio driving the seven miles deep into the heart of farmland in Washington County, Minnesota with a Tupperware container full of microwaved White Castle cheeseburgers. It was not until then that Sam finally revealed his plan.
“So, we go out to this spot in Washington County that’s supposedly the highest point?” Jon asked from his position in the back seat.
“That my friend is correct,” Sam nodded enthusiastically.
“And we climb up it?”
“Then eat a cheeseburger?”
“That’s silly.”
“Well, let’s do it,” Jon shrugged. “It’s as good as any place to have breakfast I suppose.
As the Toyota began easing over to the side of the rural road, Sam took a worried look around. “We just have to watch out for the neurotic Nazi ninja monkey who, by a staggering coincidence are all named Mr. Tinkles.”

Matt and Jon, normally allowing such nonsensical tripe to pass without comment, both gave Sam a puzzled look and began subliminally calculating how long until the car was traveling at a low enough velocity to jump out.
“What the hell are you talking about, moron?!?” Matt demanded before his silence reflex could kick in.
“I’m just saying, this is neurotic Nazi ninja monkey country, and it’s been warm enough that they’re probably done hibernating. I just hope we don’t stumble on to one of their group hugs. A neurotic Nazi ninja monkey is most dangerous when he’s hugging.”
Simultaneously Matt and Jon’s mental calculations turned to how much damage would be incurred if Sam were to be pushed from the moving vehicle while accelerating. Both arrived at the conclusion that apart from a little hippie-splatter the car would probably be fine.
Just as Matt’s hand was slowly snaking towards Sam’s seatbelt release button Sam’s arm shot out causing both Matt and Jon to jump.
“That’s it!” He announced enthusiastically. “Pull over here.”
Jon and Matt exchanged one more glance of unease as Matt pulled the Toyota toward the side of the road next to a large empty farm field.
“So where is it?” Jon said, squinting out the window.
“There!” Sam pointed.
“I can’t see it, is it near that dirt-mound?”
“It IS the dirt mound.”
“You what?!” Matt and Jon both turned towards a smug-looking Sam.
“That, my friends, is Bissell’s Mound, the highest geological point in Washington County. And we, my friends are going to climb it. Oh yes, we will climb it and eat cheesburgers atop it while we take in the glorious view of…” Sam was interrupted by Matt clicking the release on his seatbelt and kicking with all his strength while Jon leaned over and opened his door causing Sam to tumble from the car in an indignant heap of profanity and lightweight hiking boots.
“Thank god for that,” Jon said flopping back down in his seat.
“That might have worked better,” Sam’s head suddenly popped back up, “if the car was actually moving.”

“Damn,” Matt said as he looked at the keys in his hand.
“Double damn,” Jon said as he realized they would never get another chance.
“Ok, let’s go – and don’t forget the cheeseburgers,” Sam said as he gestured towards the tupperware container cooling on the seat.
“Damn,” muttered Matt, the parking brake catching his foot and preventing him from kicking himself. “Now what?”
“Looks like we scale a mound,” Jon sighed.
“Ok, what if we were to break an ankle getting out of the car?”
“I if you were to cut your foot off completely he’d still make you climb.”
“It wasn’t MY ankle I was thinking of.”
“It won’t help.”
“I know.”
Thirty seconds later, after convincing Matt to leave the aluminum bat behind, the three adventurers began trudging along the edge of a muddy farm field towards what appeared to be a gigantic earthen pimple on the otherwise flat expanse of landscape.
“Hey, are we trespassing?” Matt observed the wooden fence that ran the perimiter of the field.
“Hey, yeah! We should probably get the permission of the landowners before we do this!” Jon chirped, “I bet that’s their house right there.” He pointed at the house with conspicuous satellite dish in the front yard.
“That’s a good idea!” Matt nodded a little too enthusiastically. “I bet they have ESPN.”
“Oh for God’s sake, you guys!” Sam suddenly halted and spun on the pair. “It’s maybe a hundred feet of walking up an incline, it’s not like I’m asking you to crawl across a field of broken glass with your pants fly unzipped!”

“That’s a good point,” Jon mused. “But on the other hand it’s a hundred feet of walking up an incline.”
“He’s right,” Matt patted his shoulder. “It had to happen sooner or later but he’s actually…”
“Just walk, you spaghetti-spined whiners,” Sam said as he turned and continued on towards the dirt-heap.
“I think he was talking about you,” Matt whispered to Jon as they followed along.
It wasn’t long before the mound loomed before them in all its vertical glory. Surrounded by a perimeter of trees it sloped steeply upwards to, as was mentioned, the highest point in the county.
“I think if we circle to the left a little where the trees are thinner, we could easily get through,” Sam said, pondereding the potential routes upward.
“Or, we could just set fire to this side and wait a few days. The way would be clear then,” Jon stated, stroking his chin in what he hoped was a thoughtful way.
“Don’t be stupid,” Matt poked him in the ribs. “The cheeseburgers would be cold by that time. Does your chin itch or something?”
Jon stopped stroking his chin and returned to moping.
“Or, if we could get through the underbrush here it would be an easy ascent. Did either one of you bring a machete?” Sam stoked his chin in what was indeed a thoughtful way.
Matt and Jon stopped giving each other threatening looks and turned to Sam in unison with bewildered look on their faces.
“No, sorry,” Jon answered. “I left it back at my apartment next to the weed whip and the barrel of agent orange.”
“And I don’t believe in defoliation,” Matt said, folding his arms defiantly. “It’s against my religion.”
“Right, this way then,” Sam led on, completely missing the sarcasm that was oozing out of every pore of his traveling companions.
“Hey, look! There’s a beaten path through the trees right over there! This is going to be easy.” Matt began towards the opening but Sam’s arm shot out and stopped him.
“No!” A wide-eyed Sam half whispered, half shouted. “That’s a neurotic Nazi ninja monkey trail! If they’re nearby they’ll sense our disruption and come running armed with pointy sticks and self-doubt.” He studied the path intently. “It looks like they just got it the way they like it, so you don’t want to disturb a single blade of grass there. Believe me, they’ll know.”

“Uh-huh,” Matt nodded. “Yeah, I can see how that would be a problem. Say, on a completely different subject, have you eaten any strange-looking mushrooms in the last few days?”
“No, why?”
“Have you had any severe blows to the head?” Jon asked.
“Do you want one?”
“Shut up.”
“You got it.”
Quietly the group wound they’re way around the base of the mound until they found a spot where the trees didn’t quite form an impassible wall. Sam, being the more experienced hiker, deftly wove his way through them while Matt and Jon simply plowed through with clumsy determination. Halfway in Matt whispered to Jon.
“Are you getting thistles in your underwear too?”
“Yeah!” Jon grinned goofily.
When they finally emerged from the dense undergrowth the three were startled to find themselves half way up the hill. Jon looked back as the last traces of their path disappeared, reabsorbed into the thick foliage.
“Let’s do that again!” He almost sang.
“NO!” Both Sam and Matt shouted back.
“And take that raspberry vine out of your pants!” Matt added.

“Oh please yourself, then. Just be aware that raspberry stains are even harder to explain to the girlfriend than they are to wash out,” Sam shouted over his shoulder as he continued up the steep incline.
“I’ll take my chances,” Jon muttered as he followed after.
“Just don’t drop the cheeseburgers.”
“Are we there yet?” Matt sighed.
“Actually… yes.” Sam suddenly noticed that the slope had become far less vertical and only sky presented itself when he looked upward.
“We are?” Jon said stopped and realized the only change in altitude that he could make was now downwards. “We are!”
“We made it?” Matt looked around startled.
“We are officially at the top of Bissell’s Mound, gentlemen,” Sam said as he smiled broadly. “Time to break out some burgers.”
“Right, then.” Jon set the Tupperware container on the ground and popped the lid off letting the smell of soggy microwaved White Castle cheeseburgers waft out. Each man took one of the small sandwiches and stood looking out over the landscape.
“Cheers!” Sam held up his burger as if it were a fine wine in an expensive crystal glass. Matt and Jon each held theirs up as well and “clinked” them together causing a few onions to crumble to the ground. The only conversation that followed was the unmistakable sound of chewing and savoring.
When the first three burgers had been devoured the three adventurers allowed a moment to pass as they gazed at the landscape stretched out before them. It was mostly farm land, with a few brushy clusters of trees dotting the areas where it was impossible to drive a tractor. Far beyond was the faint sound of the highway, muted by distance and a lingering humidity that wasn’t quite fog. Jon was the first to speak.
“Wow. From up here everything looks so…”
“Majestic?” Sam ventured.
“Awe-inspiring?” Matt guessed.
“Remind me not to talk to you later, will you?” Matt sighed.

“Who’s ready for seconds?” Sam rubbed his hands together, eager to end the conversation.
As each one reached down to pick up another cheeseburger a sudden cracking of twigs could be heard behind a clump of dead trees. A few whining wails could be heard drifting on the light breeze and the overpowering smell of sauerkraut and wasabi wafted past the three friends.
Matt squinted in the direction of the sounds and smells. “What the hell is-“
“SHHHH!” Sam, now wide-eyed, motioned for everyone to crouch down. “Keep down, and whatever you do don’t say anything supportive in Japanese or they’ll come running!”
“Who?!” Jon demanded in a harsh whisper.
“What do you mean who?! I’ve only been talking about them all day. It’s the neurotic Nazi ninja monkeys! If they catch us they’ll force us to listen to all their problems in haiku form and then try to annex Poland!”
“Well, that doesn’t sound so bad,” Matt shrugged.
“Yeah, it might actually be kind of funny,” Jon began to stand but Sam pulled him back down.
“And they’ll also beat us up and throw feces at us. Did I mention that part?”
“Are you seriously saying there are actually a bunch of monkeys over there who are not only ninjas, but who also have severe personality hang-ups?” Matt whispered incredulously.
“And throw their poo, yes,” Sam hissed.
“That is wholly unbelievable,” Matt countered.
At that moment a small furry hand appeared above the level of the undergrowth. It was held ridged at an angle with the palm down as if it were…
“Holy crap, is that thing giving a nazi salute?” Jon gasped.
“Yes! They hate anything that isn’t their own race, and that means us!” Said Sam.
“We should probably get out of here,” Matt said nervously.
“Wait!” Sam held up his hand.

“We haven’t finished our cheeseburgers!” Sam exclaimed, holding aloft his precious meal.
“He’s right!” Jon looked in horror at the burger in his hand.
“Ok,” Matt, obviously conflicted between his love of grilled meat and his love of being able to walk under his own power, finally came up with a solution. “Eat fast!”
Without a moment’s hesitation all three simultaneously began stuffing the small cheeseburgers into their mouths and frantically chewing.
“Oh mahh aahhth guuuhhd,” Jon mumbled through a mouthful of processed meat and cheese.
“Lethh go,” Sam said, swallowing.
The three began creeping on hands and knees back the way they came as quietly as possible through the dried weeds. Every now and then they could hear a high pitch howl of emotional pain and confusion behind them. Just as the group reached the tree line the howls built in volume and frequency until they hit a crescendo of animalistic wailing.
“Oh, God! I think they’re hugging!” Sam’s face paled. “We’ve got to get out of here. Now.”
“I don’t think they know we’re here,” Jon whispered back. As if in answer to this statement a small silver object flew past his face and buried itself in the trunk of a tree.
Jon blinked. “Was that a-“
“Throwing star!” Matt screamed.
“RUN!” Sam stood and made a break for the trees.
Matt and Jon needed no more encouragement as the clamor of screeching simians was beginning to quickly close in. As they ran Jon hazarded a glance over his shoulder and immediately snapped his head back.
“Is it just me,” He panted as tree branches and other assorted bracken whipped past him. “Or do they all look a little like Woody Allen in tiny black jumpsuits?”
Matt looked back for a moment and nodded the best he could with a squirrel’s nest narrowly missing his face. “They do bear an uncanny resemblance.”
Without warning the three suddenly broke through the tree line and found themselves running across an open field. “There’s the car!” Sam shouted.
“I think they’re getting closer!” Matt realized their pursuers would overtake them long before they made it to the car. “I also think we’re screwed.”

“Wait! I have an idea.” Sam stopped and turned to face the howling throng of angry monkeys.
“What the hell are you doing?!” Jon called to him as he ran past a few steps and stopped.
“You’re insane! They’re going to bore you to death!” Matt stopped slightly behind Jon.
Ignoring both of them Sam raised his finger, pointing to a spot somewhere behind the horde of simian supremacists.
“Hey, Mr. Tinkles, look!” He hollered at the top of is lungs, “It’s Ben Stiller in drag!” To everyone’s amazement the monkeys stopped and looked around.
“And I think he’s got Prozac in his pocket!” Matt added, catching on.
“And he’s signing another movie deal in which he plays a guy living in New York but has to cope with something outside his element!” Jon shouted. “And they’re paying him twenty million to do it!” He added for good measure.
This seemed to instantly enrage the spandex-clad primates and they ran off in random directions, screeching angrily and clawing at their eyes.
“That was close,” Jon said. As he turned around he was greeted by two fists that introduced themselves to his face at high speed, knocking him to the ground.
“OW! What was that for?!” Jon rolled around on the ground cradling his jaw.
“Don’t even joke about that!” Matt kicked him in the side.
“I’d rather face the monkeys naked and covered in banana paste than even think about another Ben Stiller movie!” Sam stomped his foot down on Jon’s gut.
“All right, all right, I’m sorry! I panicked!,” Jon coughed and wheezed. As he began to catch his breath both Matt and Sam grabbed an arm and helped him back to his feet.
As the three walked back to the car Matt turned to Sam. “So, is it always like this?”
“Nah,” Sam shook his head. “Sometimes it’s actually exciting.”
“But it’s always cheeseburgers?” Jon asked.
“Ever since Sir William Weber scaled Mount Sirloin with a Hibachi strapped to his back.”
The crew walked on in silence for a while until they finally reached the car. The sound of angry neurotic Nazi ninja monkey nazis tearing the mound apart in their fruitless search echoed across the landscape as Matt unlocked the doors.
“So,” Sam said as he stretched out. “What are you guys doing for lunch?”