Summer vacation plans

My brother, Jim Stewart, for some reason, has seen fit to indenture himself to the US Navy for an undetermined amount of time beginning at the end of this coming summer. That leaves us with one last chance to get out west for some hiking in the mountains. Since my sister, Sheryl Vine, is now living in Bozeman, Montana, we’ve decide to go to that area rather than return to our customary Wind Rivers in Wyoming.

There are other reasons for going there as well. For one thing, I’ve determined that I’m really no good at backpacking. Staying in that little tiny tent with no warm, comfortable base camp for the night drives me crazy. Seriously crazy. I’ve determined in the past couple weeks that part of the problem is that I’m out of shape, so when I get to the end of a long, hard hike I feel pretty crappy. That combined with the insanity of the emptiness of wilderness and the worrying about bears eating my food doesn’t do me any good.

So I’m been pushing for our trip to be mostly cabin-based this time, with long, hard day hikes tempered by nights spent at a base camp with real food and some sort of enclosed structure other than a tent. We haven’t really done anything like that. The closest I’ve been was backpacking for a couple weeks in Nepal back in 1999. That mainly consisted of going from one tourist lodge to another, and it was a lot of fun and worked well for me.

We found out that the Forest Service rents a bunch of mostly primitive cabins in the Gallatin National Forest surrounding Bozeman. For $30-45 a night, you get at least a place to sleep away from the bears, usually a wood stove and even electricity with some cabins. When they opened up reservations on Thursday of this week, I jumped on the web and attempted to book one. Their site, www.reserveusa.com, was a bit screwed up. But eventually we ended up with a reservation for the cabin at Windy Pass, located on the Gallatin Crest south-east of Big Sky, MT.

Here’s a good description of where we are going to go: http://www.cowboyhvn.com/Gallatin.htm; and here are some of the hiking trails in the area: Here’s a list with descriptions of some of the hiking trails in the area: http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/gallatin/?page=recreation/hiking.

Now, it’s not a wilderness area this time around, which worries us a little. With a wilderness area, you know what you’re going to find. Decently maintained trails, but for foot traffic only. No mechanical noises unless a plane flies over you. Undisturbed nature at its best, generally, other than the few people you will encounter. But these cabins are located in the National Forest, which means ATVs are allowed, for one thing. And it’s more accessible, so day-hikes are more prevalent.

Anyway, it can’t be all bad. During the work week, how many ATV drivers can there be? We’ll be on the edge of a huge petrified forest area, within hiking distance of some tall mountains (tall for Montana, at least), and snug and tight away from the grizzlies at night.

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