Category Archives: MT

Final Weeks of Mission Montana

Winding down our time in Montana was fittingly fantastic.  The wrap up session began with us FINALLY having an opportunity to paddle board from Big Arm to Wild Horse Island which we estimate to be about a 6-8 mile round trip paddle.


Chillin’ on Wild Horse Island

We didn’t plan on making the trek, but when we went down for a casual trip on the lake the weather was perfect and the water was glassed over; we had to give it a go.  The fact that it was spontaneous made the triumph of reaching the island all the better.

Jewel Basin – Mt. Aeneas – 6 Mile round trip elevating 1,700 ft

Our final hike in Montana ended up kicking off at the same trailhead from which we began our outdoor adventures: Camp Misery.  There are a bunch of hikes that begin at this location and along with the various trail options an explosion of autumn colors provided for a completely unique and beautiful experience in the Jewel Basin.

The hike up to Mt. Aeneas elevates quickly and provides for an unbelievable view of the Flathead Valley including the entire 27 mile length of Flathead Lake.

Hike 1

As we continued to climb the visibility became more limited

Hike 2

And by the time we arrived at the summit we were completely surrounded by the clouds.

Hike 3

During our descent the clouds dissipated and the fall colors never ceased to impress.

Hike 4

For the remainder of our final week we lit our last fire on the property enjoying the breathtaking view that NEVER got old


Took our final bike ride down and up the massive hill leading to the house


I was really tired!

Enjoyed a final evening hanging out by the lake

Lake 2

And had a goodbye party with our neighbors.

Hood 5

While the horses were disappointed, they accepted our departure; the cattle on the other hand seemed to be angry.

It was a bit of a downer knowing this would be our final trot down Walking Horse Lane, however our reflection of the journey thus far left us feeling larger than life.

Hood 4

And just like that, a familiar combination of sadness and excitement reared its head as we packed up for the next part of our adventure.

Packing 1

Our final morning was graced by a gorgeous sunrise.

Last Sunrise

And just like that it was time to say goodbye.


Leaving is always tough, but the fun continues.

That sentiment was exemplified when an hour into our drive south to Colorado, we continued the essence of our journey with our exploration of Montana’s Ewam and Garden of One Thousand Buddha’s.

Garden 5

Garden 2

Garden 1

Definitely not what you’d expect to see in middle-of-nowhere Montana, but amazing nonetheless.

Montana, it’s truly been an incredible experience and we fully plan on returning for round two.

Forever Grateful!

Glacier National Park – Elana Visit

After a quiet week to ourselves, Elana came thru to have a look at Montana.  Being the smart woman she is, Elana took our advice and stayed a full week which would give her a chance to really soak in country life.Neighborhood


Tour of the neighborhood

As a bonus, she got to experience the insane weather events that mosey on through Big Arm.


The storm was moving east over Big Arm Bay at an incredible pace, dumping rain on Flathead Lake, and providing for an INSANE experience where it appeared the rainbow led the charge.

Glacier NP

The relaxing first day of the visit was a nice way to ease into the intensity of a Glacier weekend.  For our last foray into the park – for this trip – we decided to head back to Many Glacier and hike Grinnell Glacier Trail.  Since the forecast for Sunday was cloudy, we made sure to take Going-To-The-Sun-Road on the way in so Elana could get the full Glacier NP experience.


She was pretty pumped about it.

Once we arrived at East Glacier we headed to our go-to campground, Chewing Blackbones; it’s 25 minutes from the trail and always has plenty of space.

Camp 1

We chilled by the fire, had a couple drinks and got to sleep early in anticipation of the hike.

Grinnell Glacier Trail – 11 miles round trip, elevating over 2,000 ft

One of the many fantastic aspects of this hike is that the ill sh*t starts 5 minutes in and doesn’t stop.

Hike 1

The trail begins by hugging Switftcurrent Lake which transitions into Lake Josephine providing for a relatively flat walk to start.  Once the trail approaches the back end of Lake Josephine, the climbing begins.

Hike 2.1

YES! We know there are bears roaming around Glacier NP; you don’t have to scare the shit out of us right when we’re getting to the good part of the hike.

Hike 3.1

Just kidding…it’s probably a good thing.

Moving on…the hike starts to really elevate at this point revealing the types of views you only get at high altitude.

Hike 3

The trail was definitely well traveled (which is a good thing in an area where bears frequent) and we took an opportunity to get a picture of all three of us.

Hike 4

Old dude who took it asked if we were European.  We must seem really out of place…

Walking up to Grinnell Lake was amazing.

Hike 5.2

The sun was hitting it just right as we approached and we decided to plop down and recharge on some jerky.

Hike 5

And of course have a photo shoot of this ridiculous view.

The remainder of the climb brought dropping temperatures accompanied by steep and rocky terrain.  In our experience, the hardest treks provide for the most rewarding experience which could only mean one thing: the Grinnell Glacier is going to be ridiculous.

Hike 6

So it’s more of a melting Glacier…incredible nonetheless; worth every step.

The way back (the mission), as always, provides a totally different perspective making going down as awe inspiring as the way up.

Hike 7

From this viewpoint all three lakes are visible in succession: Grinnell Lake, Lake Josephine, Swiftcurrent Lake

After the hike, Amy and Elana thought it would be a good idea to rinse the day off in really REALLY cold water.

Once they came to their senses and got out we headed back to camp for a relaxing night by the fire.

Camp 2

The next morning it started to hail – yes it was hailing – in Glacier and we hauled ass back to Big Arm.

We spent the last couple days of Elana’s trip working during the day and hanging around Flathead Lake in the evenings.

We paid a visit to the Flathead Lake Brew Pub on the way to dinner in Big Fork

Flathead Brewery

And of course got some paddle boarding in.

Paddle 1

Can you see em?

Chica even managed to get on the water.

Paddle 2

This was the perfect week to precede the “wind down weeks” leading to our departure at the end of September.

Hiking in the Bitterroot National Forest

Being based in Big Arm we are in outdoor recreation heaven, literally surrounded by multiple National Forests (Kootenai, Lolo, Bitterroot, Flathead) and of course to the Northeast the crown jewel, Glacier NP.  Suffice to say our inner-explorer requires us to see as much of all this as possible which left Lolo and Bitterroot on the table.

With the Labor Day Weekend weather forecast in Bitterroot’s favor, we chose to hike Bass Creek Trail which conveniently had a couple of campgrounds close to the trailhead.


We arrived at Charles Waters campground around 4 on Friday afternoon half expecting it to be full when we found two remaining sites available – that never happens!  Luckily we didn’t arrive any later than we did; over the next few hours we witnessed multiple vehicles with optimistic looking occupants circle around looking for sites only to have their hopes dashed as none were available.  Been there.

With our site secure, we settled in and set up shop.


As usual we had an enjoyable evening stargazing by the campfire before calling it a night.


Not sure who was happier about being able to cuddle in bed together, Amy or Chica.

Bass Creek Trail

We slept in a bit the next morning and took our time with breakfast anticipating a relatively easy hike of about 7.5 miles round trip with 1,200 ft of elevation (about a 5 hour hike).


As we started, it became obvious that this would not be a cake walk.  The elevation was continuous and the first obstacle brought back memories of the Kootenai hike where I clumsily fell off a log into the river.


Well, no one fell on this day!

Once we hit the fork in the trail (one leading to the falls and the other to the lake) we decided to stick with the main trail to the lake.


The hike’s jagged topography was gorgeous!


Arriving at our second crossing, the options were to navigate a VERY slim log cross or to simply walk through it.  Remembering again the spill I took last time, we decided to walk across.



The water left our feet frozen by the time we reached the other side, but I must say our feet felt completely rejuvenated – once we could feel them again.

We continued along the trail for awhile longer and realized about 4 miles in that we were somehow only half way to our destination. A 16 mile round trip hike with thousands of extra feet in elevation was not in the cards and we decided to head back.

(After reading reviews on multiple sites, the hike length and elevation guidance on All Trails was grossly underestimated)

We had an enjoyable evening back at camp and headed home Sunday for some homemade Sushi.


Doing Montana Things

A fun filled, action packed couple of weeks wrapped up when Gabe and Alex headed home and Eric went on his own journey into Glacier.  The abrupt change from multiple visitors and back to back activity is always an immediate downer, but getting back to “real life” can be refreshing as well.


Nothing like waking up to a serene morning with a cup of coffee on the porch.


And going for a grueling, yet rewarding, ride down and back up the mountain.

We got our heads back into working that week and on Friday treated ourselves to a yummy meal at a very legit BBQ spot in Polson: Cherries.


Yes that says: “Slow Pig Funeral Ahead”! Love that.

We took it easy the next morning and got revved up for our day on the lake.


Amy had fun driving


And of course lounging!


While the winds were high limiting our ability to completely explore the fickle Flathead Lake, we were able to tour around a bit and found someone repping Temple hard!



That evening, Eric arrived back in Big Arm after his backpacking adventure.  We had an easy night at home and were well rested for our horseback ride the following day  in Glacier on the Lake McDonald horse trail.


NO WAY we leave Montana without getting on a horse!

After an enjoyable trot on horseback, we stopped at Tamarack Brewery for some pizza and beer before heading home to Big Arm.


Yup, life is good!

Glacier & More w/ Gabe, Alex & Eric!

WARNING: This blog post will absolutely compel you to visit Northwestern Montana.

The weekend started with a bit of a hiccup as we were expecting three guests and received two; Eric had a bit too much pre-vacation fun the night before his flight and, well, he didn’t make it.  Spoiler alert:  he met up in Glacier the following day.

Glacier NP

After scooping Gabe and Alex up from the airport we headed straight for Glacier NP; no time to waste too much ill s**t to see.

Hidden 1

We decided to drive Going-To-The-Sun-Road across the park to our campsite at Chewing Blackbones and took a warm-up hike to Hidden Lake.

Hidden 2

Amazing start to the trip!

From there we headed to camp and started setting up shop.

Camp 1.1

Once set-up was complete, we got down with dinner and a warm fire.

Camp 1.2

The following morning we woke up to the most pristine day we’ve experienced in Glacier thus far; not one cloud in the sky.  Perfect day for our 6 mile, 1,200 ft elevation hike out to Cracker Lake.

Cracker 1

Cracker 2

After countless switchbacks we hit an elevation point that provided for absolutely insane views.

Cracker 3

A bit further down, we could tell we were close; time to pick up the pace ladies.

Cracker 4

As if it was meticulously planned, the final stretch takes the explorer to a small crest that reveals Cracker Lake.

Cracker 5

Words and pictures don’t do it justice…so go there yourself.

We continued on a bit scoping out a place to post up for some lunch.  Yup, that’ll do.

Cracker 6

Following this fairly intense hike there was no time to waste in getting into our meal.

Cracker 7

After thoroughly munching out, we lounged awhile taking in the stunning backdrop and decided to dip our feet in this magnificent lake before heading back.

Cracker 9

Look what we found IN the water!

From there it was time to go, so we laced up our boots and braced for the mission home.

Cracker 9.1

While we were not completely thrilled to walk all the way back – a ski lift would have been cool – the views compensated and we enjoyed every minute.

6 miles later and mission complete!

Cracker 9.2

Back to our site we started cooking, and as if we rang the dinner bell, Eric rolled through and set up shop at the site attached to ours.

Camp 2.2

We wrapped up the day with full bellies…

Camp 2.3

…and yoga.

Our last morning in Glacier we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and headed back west on Going-To-The-Sun-Road.

GTS 2.1

GTS 2.2

Nothing like seeing this ride from both directions.

Big Arm

Back in Big Arm that evening, family dinner was proper

BA 1

And a campfire was lit in our front yard.

BA 2

Our plans to rent a boat the following day were hampered by wildfire smoke and high winds so we got our water toys and headed south to Polson to escape the smoke.

BA 3


BA 4

From there we headed north to the Tamarack Brewery in Lakeside for some beers and dinner.

BA 5

We arrived home to an incredible sunset and took our guests for a tour of the neighborhood.

BA 6

Amy and Alex of course were doing their thing.

BA 7

And out of nowhere the horses occupying the field we were passing galloped towards us to say hey.

BA 8

This was truly incredible!

We strolled back to the house as the sun disappeared behind the hills

BA 9


Man Weekend w/ Josh

With the new addition to the family, Amy planned to go lay eyes on little Ryder and help her sister in OR.  Seemed liked a perfect opportunity for Josh to come through and get a guys weekend in.

So Amy departed to OR and Josh arrived in MT

Flathead Lake

We kicked off Josh’s arrival with a visit to Flathead Lake.  While Paddle Boarding is awesome, it doesn’t beat riding speed boats.  So, with that fact established we rented a 190 horse power watercraft and dominated the lake.

B - 1

After riding about 20+ miles from the Lakeside rental spot to Polson we meandered back and chilled on the home-front – Big Arm Bay – before making our way back to Lakeside.

B - 2

Not many better ways to spend a day.

After relaxing and taking in the view from our porch that evening we headed out early the next morning, dropped Chica at the kennel and rolled up to Glacier NP.

Medicine Grizzly Trail

Finding a campground wasn’t easy and we just missed the last site at our backup: Cut Bank.  True to manly form, we cut our losses, decided to figure it out later and started on a hike to Medicine Grizzly Lake.


Josh was really hoping to fight a bear that day.

The hike from Cut Bank trailhead to the lake is about 6 miles through the alpine meadows below Triple Divide Pass.


As we approached the lake, the waterfalls that feed it from the mountaintops took shape motivating us to complete the journey.


Yup, the lake was spectacular.  We sat down, enjoyed our lunch and took in the scene.

Once we completed the hike, it kind of sucked to have to figure out where we were going to post up for the night, but everything happens for a reason.  We ended up finding a beautiful site at Chewing Blackbones Campground which was awesome to know about for the following weeks’ plans.


We wrapped up the trip with a ride back through Going-To-The-Sun-Road to give Josh the full Glacier experience.


Of course we stopped at the beautiful & iconic Wild Goose Island


And skipped rocks on Lake McDonald

After leaving the park, we picked up Chica, and headed back to Big Arm where we’d get a fire going in the front yard and drink lots and lots of bourbon.

Successful weekend!

Kootenai National Forest’s Cabinet Range – Granite Lake

After thorough research and a wave of ambition we decided to hike the 13 miles round trip and elevate over 2,000ft to see what Granite Lake was all about.

Being a 2.5 hour drive to the trailhead, we decided to camp on the trail road the night before so we could get an early start the following day.  Just under 2 miles from where the dirt road starts on Granite Lake Road we found a money camp spot with an existing fire ring and posted up.

K 1

Prior to the hike, we cooked a solid breakfast and headed out.

k 2

We read the trail would be tough to navigate due to the fires in 2015, but the first few miles weren’t too bad and we arrived at the falls (almost midway through the trail) without breaking a sweat.

k 3

Then it got real.

We came across a river crossing and I took a spill into the river while trying to cross a very slippery felled tree.  Fortunately all that was hurt was my pride and even Chica was wondering why there was no bridge.

k 4.2

Me being completely soaked and Amy’s boots full of water we decided to continue.

While the trail remained dicey and difficult to navigate, there was always a saving grace the pointed us in the right direction and willed us to keep going.

k 4

Candidly, the poorly maintained trail, wet feet, and thick thorny brush made it a rough go.  And once again, when the will to finish began to fade, Snowshoe Peak appeared in all its glory and we knew we had to continue.

k 5

We slogged it out for a few more miles and were richly rewarded.

k 6

Granite Lake is heaven on earth.  We took off our boots, freed our wrinkled feet, and enjoyed a solid hour soaking it all in.

k 7

Recharged with rest, full bellies and dry feet it was time to head back.

k 8

Knowing the route and the challenges of the trail to come made the return trip easier.  We had a great time crossing through the overgrown meadows and over the dicey river crossings.

k 9

While the trek to the top wasn’t all rosy it was certainly a memorable adventure that was rewarded with an hour of solitude at Granite Lake.

Local Fun in Lake County, MT

The plan was to keep it easy our last week of July, but Montana ensured an eventful close to an amazing first month.

With the last hump day of the month coming to a close, we were on the home stretch to the weekend and were treated to a truly spectacular display of nature.

WE 1.1

Seeing this in person was amazing.  To the North it was as if the sky was on fire.  Facing East over the lake we saw a massive storm with incredible bursts of lightning.  Towards the South a beautiful rainbow appeared.  And this was happening simultaneously!

The storm cleared and a pristine day followed.  The sun was shining without a cloud in the sky and we were determined to take advantage.  With hours of daylight left after work we got the paddle boards together and enjoyed some lake time.

WE 2

Best purchase ever!

Friday brought a crazy twist of fate full circle.  During our trip to the Caribbean Chica stayed with an awesome couple, Taylor & Liza, in Seattle who just happened to be getting married on Flathead Lake where Taylor has family.  And we just happened to be a 15 minute drive from where this was taking place.  So after the nuptials the newlywed couple invited us to hang out with their amazing family, took us out on their pontoon boat, and we ended a great day at a fun dive bar in Lakeside.


Our plan to spend Saturday on Flathead Lake paddle boarding to Wild Horse Island turned out to be kind of a disaster – enough said – and we wrapped up the weekend exploring Buffalo Bridge Road which led us to a portion of the Flathead River.

WE 3

And BONUS, an awesome wheeling track!

WE 4

We went back to work Monday completely fulfilled and received yet another awesome surprise visit from the Gower girls on Tuesday.  Sari just happened to be driving right by our house to get from Glacier NP to Yellowstone and we all hung out for a while.


Chica was thoroughly exhausted after the kids were done with her.

Well, that week couldn’t have turned out any better…on to the next one!

Glacier National Park – Staci Visit

3 Days, 21 Miles, 3,710 Feet of Elevation

We had a good reason to get back to Glacier the next weekend with Staci rolling through as she added us on to her own crazy travel adventure.


Although she didn’t arrive until the evening the late Montana summer days allowed us to enjoy Flathead Lake for a couple of hours.


The following day we headed directly to the airport to drop off Janet, drove to Whitefish to board Chica, and did a quick food shop for a weekend of camping and hiking; we were ready for some Glacier.

We arrived at Cut Bank Campground after 2 and all the sites were full so we posted up at a fire ring just outside the park boundaries and were off to our warm up hike.


Aster Park Overlook (South Shore Trailhead – Two Medicine) 4 miles round trip, elevating just under 800 ft.

The weather was crazy and we were almost rained out, but the clouds broke and we got to experience a gorgeous hike.


Following the trek, we arrived back at camp, settled in and were about to call it a night when we were not-so-warmly told: “You’re on Blackfoot Tribal Land and can’t stay the night.

At this point it’s 9PM and we knew with certainty that Cut Bank Campground was full, but being less than two miles from the camp we decided to make sure.  Well it was full.  BUT Staci made some friends and they allowed us to share their site – WIN!

We quickly set up shop and dug in for the monster hike to come the following day.

Medicine Grizzly Lake – Triple Divide Pass (Cut Bank Trailhead) 14 miles round trip, 2,380 ft. elevation

Just from the beginning of the hike, we knew it would be outstanding.


It started with an imperceptible climb through gorgeous meadows full of wild flowers and into thick forest.


From there the elevation gained quickly and we were treated to a truly epic view of Medicine Grizzly Lake.


As we continued to climb we approached the Triple Divide vista point from which snow melt flows South to the Gulf and into the Atlantic Ocean, Northwest through Alaska and into the Pacific Ocean and Northeast to the Hudson Bay in Canada.


Staci bravely snapping away on the edge of a huge mountain!

The descent – as always – provided for a different perspective and was just as much of a treat as the climb.


While it seemed Staci had enough gas in the tank to do the whole thing again, Amy and I hit our threshold by the end of the hike and we were all excited to lounge out back at camp.


An official meal was cooked and we enjoyed a few drinks before crashing.


Hidden Lake (Logan Pass Trailhead) 3 miles round trip, 550 ft. elevation

On our final day we drove West on Going-To-The-Sun-Road and stopped for a short hike along the Continental Divide.


Normally this would have been an easy hike, but after the prior day it was pretty rough.  The sheer beauty insisted we keep going though.


As we approached the lake we were welcomed by this guy.


Yup, glad we did this hike!


Loving us some Glacier and so happy to have our friends to share the experience with!

Glacier National Park – Janet Visit

Janet (Amy’s mom) rolls through to check out the situation in Montana and is determined to get it in.  So in what’s becoming true Sasson fashion, we oblige and plan an eventful week starting with a trip to Glacier National Park.


Lake McDonald

The plan was to enter through West Glacier and drive Going-To-The-Sun-Road across the park where we would set up shop at Cut Bank Primitive Campground south of the St. Mary East Entrance.

The beginning of the drive takes you past Lake McDonald (above) and parallel to McDonald Falls.


From there the road elevates pretty fast and the views are incredible.


Chica was into it…


Nearing the end of the road Janet lobbied for one last pull off for pictures and it was good she did!  We ended up staring at one of the more iconic views in Glacier:


Wild Goose Island on St. Mary Lake

After a gorgeous ride, we arrived at the entrance of Cut Bank Campground and knew we found the right spot to camp out.


We found a money spot and started setting up shop.


Good we got there when we did, July is Glacier’s busiest month and sites fill up by noon – crazy!

We had a fun night camping, ate a breakfast of champions the next morning and decided to drive back through Going-To-The-Sun-Road to get home – did not regret that decision!

After a long ride back we unpacked and were treated to a beautiful site on our porch to wrap up our day.


Little did we know the rainbow was a sign of the surprise to come…


Literally, surprise! Baby Ryder Rayboy came early.  Welcome to the word little lady!

Becoming a grandmother didn’t reduce Janet’s ambitions to get as much Montana as possible so we got her out on Flathead Lake for SUP Boarding.


Jan Jan stayed with us and relaxed for the week, enjoying the beautiful property before flying out to the Rayboy’s.


Good she got rest in cause she’s headed for three weeks of baby world.