Camping in Montana

So after enduring heat, rain, lightning and thunder, cold meals and no coffee, you might think I wouldn’t want to camp any more this summer. Well, you’re wrong.

Judy's room in Bozeman, with drying tents

We packed our wet tents and left North Dakota. The sun was shining in Montana and we had a long list of state parks to choose from, but first we spent a night in a motel in Bozeman. Judy’s room turned out to be much larger than ours, so Don and Judy set up both wet tents and hung the wet rain flies there. Don took the stove apart and put it back together again so that we were sure it wouldn’t fail again. Meanwhile I soaked in the hot tub, and in the morning we had a hot breakfast in the hotel lobby.

Next day we had lunch at the Missouri Headwaters State Park, the confluence of the three rivers named by Lewis and Clark–the Gallatin, the Madison, and the Jefferson. It was a pristine park with not a scrap of trash anywhere, and no trash receptacles either. The concept was, you bring it in, you take it out. Montana has so many interesting-sounding state parks to choose from, but we finally picked Lost Creek State Park to camp in. It’s called a “primitive” park because it has pit toilets and water from a pump, so there is no charge to camp there. We like primitive, but we chose it also for its creek, its waterfall, its interesting geological formations, and its hiking.

Our two tents were up, we had walked up to look at the waterfall, and we were enjoying the quiet, when a flotilla of cars drove in and took over two, three, four campsites just below us. The people who got out did not look like campers, the women especially, in glittery bare tops and high heels. Then the music began, and it was a steady stream of rock music, drowning out the sound of the natural stream, until we ate our hot dinner and went to bed. Next morning,  Don and I were the first in the whole camp to wake up. The noisy campers were all gone! The whole campground was still, but it was so cold! Don tried to start our stove for coffee, but his hands were so cold he couldn’t get the stove lit. I looked around to see if anyone was awake with a fire we could join, but everyone else, I guess, had more sense than to get up so early. Judy heard us and crawled out of her tent. “Let’s drive into town,” she said, so once again we left our campsite and drove eight miles into Anaconda, home of the famous smoke stack, and once again we found the only restaurant in town open so early, once again very crowded, but we had a lovely hot breakfast, with a waitress who called us “dearie” and sent us off at eight A.M. with a cheerful, “Good afternoon.”

Judy hiking in Lost Creek State Park, Montana

Back in camp, we locked up the car and went for a hike, following Lost Creek almost to its source, from being a good-sized torrent to a skinny rivulet that I could easily step over. We returned to our quiet campsite for lunch, and there the camp host told us that the loud campers had never intended to stay the night. They were the wedding reception for a marriage that had taken place in Anaconda in the morning. Isn’t that an idea for a wedding reception–a beautiful setting at no charge at all.

We left Montana with good feelings for the state. (Sorry, North Dakota!) There are more interesting sites, more fascinating state parks, than one vacation can cover. We’ll be back!

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