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We So Needed This.....

Posted on July 11, 2012 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)


Barry knows how to treat a gal ~  as we had a steak breakfast then off to work he went and Ursa, Sierra and I headed out to pick up the trail on Ross Gulch Road. I don’t think I really understood just how badly I needed to be out again on the road (dirt – YAY!!) less traveled weaving between trees and creeks! And I probably should have been at least somewhat nervous after Barry’s comment about people getting lost and the fact that my cell didn’t work up there but instead I felt every which way of relaxed. This road was traveled and I met a couple great guys who offered for me to use their internet for posting when I went by their place (problem was I didn’t have the laptop with me) and to feel free to water everyone. They were the 3rd or 4th vehicle to go by as I am sure people were heading to work. I opted to keep Ursa leashed until ridge top road which was only about an hour and a half away. I have also decided that I must really love Sierra as there was a heck of a downhill and an uphill that we had to do and to make it easier on her I walked it …..yep, I must love her because we all sweated up a storm on that one (and realized I probably could be in better shape) The bonus was a nice creek at the bottom that Ursa swam in and Sierra drank from  ~ ahhh, the little things in life!


On Ridge road I took Ursa off her lead and she got to be her doggie self….running, sniffing, chasing and relaxing. This road went through private properties but it was a county road so we were fine as long as we stayed on the road (which believe it or not Ursa actually did too ~ I think it is because she has realized just how much more tired she is when she zigs and zags (don’t get me wrong, because some days she would rather zig and then you know – zag)).  It even brought it through a place that had buffalo – did we see any ?? nope, but evidently they are there…… I had to watch for the forest service road and not take the one prior………let me just say that I love maps. Yes, I am an old fashioned map gal. Give me a map and  am ok. I prefer the maps that have contour lines (they help show the lay of the land, where it is flat, where it is steep, etc.) as  if there is not a good landmark I can use the grades of the hills etc. to help me locate where I am. The bonus to this map (it did not have contour lines)  but it did show the power lines that I was paralleling and a couple gates (not gates that are next to cattle guards, but honest to goodness heavy duty metal (like forest service) gates). I could gauge off the distance from the lines in relationship to which road. Yay, because there were two places where I had to really look at the map to verify continuing straight and not turning yet.  Hot diggity ahead was one that I was looking for and just past that (turns out 2 trails past that) was the one I would go down. It was a beautiful meadow and they had a couple of stock tanks set up I am sure for the local wildlife. We stopped as I promised Sierra she could graze and Ursa got nice and wet. I am pretty sure something was watching us as Sierra started to get a bit unruly as she kept looking at the tree line. It was a fine line for her as she really wanted to graze but was also nervous. I think if I had let her, her stomach would have won out…..imagine that ;).  And of course she had to let me know that she thought it was a bad idea to leave such an amazing salad bar (it can be a challenge when they don’t think they got their monies worth). Then it got a bit interesting as the road (more of a trail then a road) Y’d. Hmmmmmmmm……..eny meny miny mo…….to the left we shall go. It actually looked more traveled and then it didn’t at which point I thought well, as long as we go south we will hit dry creek road so worst case scenario we bush whack……which we did not have to do J. (Evidently the other way popped out a quarter mile west of where we came out of).


Have I mentioned just how amazing Ursa is at finding water? There have been places I would have never even begun to think water would be and then she drags us to it and she comes out wet. Very Handy it is! Now she is off leash and she goes running down to an area with brush and trees. I have noticed that this certain look usually means water…..ok, go get wet little sister. In she runs and the noise that came out of there……..oh crap, all I could think of was that sounds like a bear! Damnit!!! In my head I am doing the great yell debate – do I or don’t I while at the exact same moment I am praying to god that Ursa is smart enough to beat cheeks out of there!! Then it emerges out of the far side………I don’t know who was more surprised: Me, Ursa or the Moose!! Yep, ursa flushed out her very first Moose and Thankfully the big ole Beastie was more interested in snacking elsewhere rather then dealing with those that invaded it’s  snack bar (Another Bonus!) I have to admit, that was a big relief and I had to laugh out loud at our little adventure. Ursa had no problem ignoring the water and heading down toward dry creek road where just below I could see Barry with the rig and his buddy with his.  Sierra got watered, and once again Barry brought lunch – what a treat!! Ursa opted to hitch a ride  (evidently she has a nap scheduled each afternoon ;)) and Big Sis and I continued to enjoy our ride. Mountains on each side of us, wildlife, the absolute quiet that comes with it. I felt like I was ridng in the backcountry again and must say that it totally re-energized me! Barry and his friend had driven off as Barry had taken on the job to locate a place to rest for the next couple of nights. Sierra and I watched another Moose watch us, rode next to Wall Mountain (which I must admit that I thought maybe we might have gotten on the wrong road as it seemed a little too close --- thankfully we were on the right one). I also know I needed to be able to relax the best way I knew how as I had a call saying that Duke (one of my dogs at home) did not seem to be doing well. In the back of my mind I was worried about him, but did not have cell service and had to really pay attention to my surroundings. Yet being out like this was also relaxing for me…..I think it helped balance out my concerns for Duke.  At about 4:00 Barry, Ursa and his friend found me.  We were about 5 miles from a place that was nowhere (actually it was somewhere --- it is an outfitter that I stayed at with cabins for hunters, a beautiful creek and the sounds of country all rolled up in a blanket of peace and relaxation).  They needed to be getting back to Townsend, but Barry really wanted to show me where I would be staying for the evening. So I rode another half mile and loaded Sierra on a mountain top where I would drive to and leave from in the morning.  We got Sierra all settled in and I really wanted to make a call to check on Duke, but still no cell service. The next stop would be Ringling, MT and it was just over 20 miles. I decided it was worth driving to to try to make that call and I could also scout for water and Barry said he had a couple names in town… it really was a get three birds with one stone moment.  


Let me just say --- no cell service in Ringling……….the call would have to wait and I had the faith that maybe I was supposed to not know what was going on, so try to push the concerns to the back burner and pay attention to what you are doing now……..

People who live here get lost back there......

Posted on July 10, 2012 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Barry was kind enough to host me a couple of nights. I rode out from his place with Ursa …….yeah and about a block out, well people can have their dogs untied in the back of their rigs here in Montana (kind of woild to get used to as in Wa they have to be tied in and so you do not see many dogs in the back of pick ups there. These dogs barked at us as they approached to which Ursa in her infinite wisdom thought she should be able to retort…….and of course this happened when I was on the phone with Rhonda who was letting me know that Duke (one of my dogs) was not doing well. Multi tasking to my best ability I braced in the saddle waiting for Ursa to hit the end of her leash while dropping the phone into my front pocket while saying hold on to Rhonda and yelling stop to Ursa (I really hope it wasn’t the other way around) and shortening the reins on Sierra in the event she decided to blow.  And from all of it came a good hard yank as Ursa hit the end of the leash…….a few choice words to Ursa as I grabbed the phone and apologized to Rhonda with a keep me posted end to the call. The road was great as there were not many vehicles and it was still cool. Around 1:00 Barry drove by with water for Sierra and lunch for me – WOW!!!! It is funny because I didn’t even know I was hungry…..but I ate 2 pieces of chicken J. He asked if I wanted him to take Ursa with him as it was getting hot and I thought, …and as I was thinking  - Ursa ran to his truck and jumped in……guess that answered the question! And Barry said that the pass was doable, but he wouldn’t bring a dog on it…Sierra was on a roll and I hate breaking a good moving streak so on we went with the idea of riding all of hwy 12. He was going to hot me a second night so we decided I would ride as far as I could until 4:30 ish and where he picks us up at is where I would continue from the next day. Plan in place off we went. I knew Ursa was in good hands so no worries there, it was beautiful out which was driven home as Sierra and I passed a home where they were tacking up for a ride too. Then came hwy 12 and the little pass we needed to get over. It was at Deep Creek……..about a half mile up I thought there is no way I am doing this if I have another option. Maybe if it had been a mile or two, but when I saw the sign saying 12 miles…….Oh HECK NO!  The hwy had all of 6 inches of shoulder (literally) and dropped straight down to the creek (literally) and had cars, trucks and semi’s blowing by (not literally, but when you feel them move within 2 feet (literally) of you, it feels as if they are blowing by!  I have done some crazy stuff, but stupid…..I would like to think not (but then again who knows)….


I turned Sierra around, walked that half mile back down, tied her where there was a fair amount of grass, sat down with my phone and started looking at the maps on my phone.  I sat for just over an hour rethinking all of it and was sure I could get around this and maybe without many more miles (although more miles and still alive felt better to me, just sayin’). Now I had to let Barry know there was a change in plans……another back track of a good half mile put me back in cell range. I called to let him know I was going another way. He got quiet and said: “people that live here get lost back there”. My response: “At least lost I will have a sporting chance……and I am ok with being lost”. Ok then – up Ross Gulch Road I went. Barry would meet me in about an hour……and he did. At the top of the hill where it was beautiful I marked the trail to pick up the next day!


When we returned to Barry’s he made a couple of calls about the new route. It was great that he did as I would have to take 1 of 3 possible ‘roads’ down to dry creek road off of ridge road. A friend of his came over and as we looked at the map he showed us which road would be open as the other two were gated and locked. HELPFUL!!  Okay a plan in place, now just follow through. Barry was working the next day, but said he would help move the rig. We decided to flag the forest service road so he would know if I popped out before him and it also served as a safety thing – if something happened people would know which road I went down (in my mind anyway). I was also looking forward to being able to ride with Ursa off leash –and I am sure she was thinking the same thing!

Who Knew?

Posted on June 16, 2012 at 9:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Sierra, Ursa and I made our way out of East Helena. The break did wonders for Sierra as she was back to her big sassy self! We had a little bit of street riding to do, but found a nice ‘trail’ off the road for the bulk of it. A few dogs had to bark at the big red dog, and of all dogs, Ursa had to make a statement to a cute pittie (behind a fence) who was also trying to make a statement (it sucks when that happens and you are on top of a horse – it is just hard pulling on the leash that much and I have to really did into the saddle as Ursa is pretty strong) and this only lasted for less than a minute. We made our way to the hwy where a couple people stopped me to ask what we were doing and where we were headed. It was already warm and I decided to tie up and get an extra bottle of water for Ursa and I before we headed onto the interstate. I had Sierra tied on one pole and Ursa tied to another. When I went in and paid the fellow behind the counter said: “Pretty horse, but we really like your dog!” Ursa was sporting her saddle bags – gotta love red on a black dog ;).


We were going to ride the burrow pit next to the interstate, but I noticed a nice little road way on the far side of the rail tracks which paralleled the hwy, so we took that. It made for a nice ride. You could barely hear the road as the railroad sat higher then we did and as a result you could not see the interstate as well. A couple trains went by and Sierra only balked at the small one. I do think Ursa helps Sierra at moments like that….well when Sierra doesn’t try to turn and run anyway…… We took a short break at a couple of roads that intersected our path and it looked like they were replacing the wood that you drive across when you go over rail track. Sure enough another couple of miles that was exactly what they were doing. Sierra really was not a fan of the train that carried the equipment so when I saw it up ahead I thought dang, this could get interesting! I rode up and the guys said hi. I thought about crossing right there, but did not want to get in the guys’ way and like I said there was large pieces of equipment there. I think one cut out the old wood, and it looked like another would cut and fit the wood – pretty amazing actually. Up ahead it looked like I could keep going although the ‘road’ came to an end. So we stayed on the off side. I jumped off Sierra before the equipment and we walked past and into my make shift trail. The grass looked like water grass, so I liked that – what I was not expecting was the bog we ended up in. Ursa sunk to her belly, I tried to stay on higher ground and Sierra sunk about a foot which meant she wanted to jump through it – that always makes it interesting. Then some horses appeared….never saw a horse jump from surprise before then –lol! Then we went a bit further and it got worse….well dang! So we sloshed back the way we had come and I ended up letting Ursa rest and Sierra graze as more equipment got moved up and down the track. I think we waited for about a half an hour (although it did feel like it was a lot longer then that). We popped out of the ‘brush’ and asked if we could cross – sure they said. You know it is a weird feeling walking past a bunch of workers like this…just sayin’.  Then we had to ride next to hwy. There was a good wide shoulder of it, but Sierra was a bit high strung from the day of trains and bogs which makes it a bit more interesting for riding esp. next to vehicles that travel on average 80 mph and who on occasion choose to hit their horn in a form of encouragement (at least I hope).  I found a little path that looked like a good idea that would allow us to ride a bit further away from the hwy. Which it did…..then there was fencing that seemed to appear from nowhere, which meant we had to ride around a couple of buildings to get back down to where we needed to be. So back onto the hwy…..ridin’, ridin, holy dog out of nowhere -----thank dog it was on the other side of some chain link and Ursa was too tired to give it a good what for! (The owner came a runnin to get it too – yay). We were able to cross the hwy and at the turn to get to Kyles there was a car with a flat tire…yes, I was glad I was on a horse J. (I also would have stopped to help if a guy hadn’t already just seconds before done that exact thing.  Down the road and around the bend we were at our next stop. And shortly after  came Kathy S. with my rig! Lasagna for dinner, Ursa got to come into the house after she took a good roll in actual grass.

The next day after breakfast of liver sausage (never would have tried it if I had known what it was , but I must admit it was good). We were on our way. It was all hwy to Townsend with no water that we knew of, so ursa got another break. Sierra cantered for her first time on this section. We came up to a bridge that we had to cross and there was not a lot of notice before a rig would be on top of you . I pulled her in, then when the coast was clear onto the hwy we went. Kicked her into a trot, a little more then WOW – what a nice canter (don’t tend to canter in the mountains). We got across that bridge just before aa big rig arrived……YAY Sis! We took a short break in the small town of Winston. Take a bathroom where you can is what I now say! A candy bar and soda later, to Townsend we were headed. (Isn’t it funny how when you use a bathroom, you feel like you should buy something???). It was a pleasant ride as the burrow was really wide, it was just getting hot. Not far out of Townsend a car pulled off to the side of the road. I have a tendency to use caution in this situations and evidently it showed as the driver said “I am a friend” (ok, do you think someone would say they are a foe – justy wonderin’).  It turns out it was Barry, the fellow who would be hosting me next. We talked a bit and I said I was going to try to get some water for Sierra at the building up ahead which turned out to be a bar. Barry went ahead and got a bucket and met us with water as I approached. He watered Sierra as I went in to use a bathroom and the bartender gifted me with a soda. Then it was up and off  went. There was another bridge we were going to have to cross and Barry had decided that he would use his vehicle to help me get across ( I will take all the help I can get),  A while later here comes Barry with Kyle and Kathy. My rig was parked on the far side of the bridge and they all were waiting for me. Across the bridge at a trot and we were there.. I rode Sierra a few more blocks to Barry’s place and after we were all there and everyone where they were supposed to be, Dinner was the plan………, magnificent food……yep, I am eating like I am in my 20’s again!

24 hours of pig in cow country

Posted on June 16, 2012 at 9:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Cut out 2-3 miles of detour (there could have been a fence I didn’t see, but may have been worth the attempt).  Kathy S gave me a call to see where I was and said the news woman and she were on their way. They met up with Sis and I about a half an hour later, and Kathy had an ice cold ice tea for me – How Nice!! They hooked me up with a mic and did the interview (I don’t think it was one of my better moments, as I was tired and hot – this combination = brain melt ) I am really hoping I didn’t sound like a complete idiot. Evidently they ran it at 6 and 10 and were going to send it to their affiliate stations in Montana so people knew I was coming through (AMAZING!) Then I mounted up and rode away….onward toward west Helena and kathy’s place where we would be taking a couple days off. Kathy came back and told me she clocked an alternative route and it would take a mile off (I’ll take it!) as it just got hotter out. It is funny how you can be surrounded with people and places and still need water. We happened on a sprinkler and I have no inhibitions at this point. I bring Sierra over, take my hat off and let it fill up (that is one of the reasons I were a felt hat – this particular one is a 5x, meaning the more x’x the more water proof it is). Sierra got 4-5 hat fulls and I got dang wet (which dried pretty darn quick!) and we continued on our way. Another mile down was a convience mart wher I tied up and went in for some Gatorade. There are some beverages which are nice to have, but something like tea does not do a good job of hydrating you (and honestly, I do not tend to like tea, but dang it was cold and that made it great). Now back down another road (it felt like we did a fair bit of zig then zag) and then more of a country road to east Helena. Chuck and Carmie passed us after moving the rig to Kathy’s and stopped so I got to say my Thank Yous and goodbye – always nice to do! Then the ride became….are we there yet? Are we there yet? Dang this was definitely further then we had thought……..Kathy came to check on us (we were still a couple miles away and her sister had made dinner and there were waiting on us (her twin sister who is also named Kathy also drove passed us and said hi). The last mile I pretty much had to drag Sierra in. Yep, this will be a two day off stop and Thank goodness the Kathy’s were willing. Sierra got to spend her day time hours down a couple of houses in a large pasture where on the first day off she pretty much slept. She got a massage and body work done by Kathy S.  and got to experience a magnetic sheet for the first time. I can honestly say I am sold on those. Kathy S sent it with me and said I could give it back when we are done with the ride. Kathy even worked on me a bit and what was interesting was that Sierra and I were tight in the same places.  Ursa got to be a farm/city dog for a bit. And I got to restock, go online, meet the whole family and take part in some amazing meals and feel like a part of the family. Kathy (first Kathy ran errands with me one day and I got to meet a good friend of hers and then meet up with Pam as well and we all had a drink. Ok, so I had pigs ass beer ( a damn good beer too, when I realized that I had 24 hours of pig in cow country! And now we had a running joke. Pork loin, bacon, pigs ass ……….and I hadn’t even seen a pig yet ;) Kathy S talked to the manager of Murdocks when we were in ther and Murdocks donated a couple bags of feed and a bag of salt to Sierra! And there is a really cool Conoco truck stop where there is a giant metal raring horse called and they made a donation as well….woo hoo , we got gas (lol, you know the kind ;). The second day Kathy B(second Kathy) ran around with me.  And they set me up for my stops to Townsend and helped move the rig! I am forever grateful for having met them and for all they have done! Amazing people, both cancer survivors and Wonderful!! 

Over Mullen Pass

Posted on June 16, 2012 at 9:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Bill and Becky own the Lawdogs Saloon in Elliston. When I left in the morning I said I just might stop by if it was ok with them and use their restroom and refill Ursa’s pack with water. I hadn’t anticipated a lunch!  I had Sierra tied up outside and Ursa got to come in and hang out in a cool saloon. She even got a bowl of water (who says a dog can’t drink in a saloon??? ;) ).  It was a nice day that was slowly warming up and today I would be riding over Mullen Pass and dropping in just west of Helena --- this would be my last pass to cross. What I was looking forward to was the gravel road. We only had a few miles on the hwy then I could let Ursa off of her flexi leash and she could be the trail dog she would prefer to be. The hard part about the flexi is that she is held back. She has to pace Sierra and I and is unable to run ahead and lay down and rest while we catch up. So it is a really big deal for her to be off leash. Honestly, I think if flexi would put about 3 more feet on their 23’ lead it would help too, not sure why I think that, but 26’ seems like the best distance…..anyway……


We left Lawdogs after a few photo ops and were to catch Mullen road about two miles down.  There was the big historic marker before we started going up the hill and there was a road right there. I thought that must be it so crossed over, we went about a quarter of a mile and nope, this can’t be right…..the bonus was we were now right next to a large creek and Ursa got to dunk and Sierra got to drink. About the time we got around the bend heading back to the hwy I saw my rig go by………ok, definitely not it. My biggest fear is passing the spot and then having to backtrack, so checking it out while we were there – always seems like a good idea to me. Another half a mile up – there it is, cattle guard, gate and all.  Blessed dirt roads J . I waited until we were another quarter mile out before I let her off leash (as Ursa thinks all cars are there to see her).  The other nice thing about dirt roads – it is easier for me to hear a rig coming and you can typically see the dust cloud in their wake. For a back road it was pretty busy, we saw 3 quads run by both directions and there was some work being done on the railroad as well as what looked like fiber optic cable being put in. The con to a dirt road with workers on it – they figure nobody else will be out there so hall ass to get to where they need to be. It was a beautiful ride through here, and a long ride. We had some ground to cover today. Another bonus for Ursa off leash.  Another bonus, there was much in the way of water.


The guys in the trucks had taken notice that we were riding and I got in the habit of jumping down when I saw a rig coming and grab Ursa’s collar. A truck came over a small hill and stopped, when I got up to him he said he wanted to let me know that another quarter mile there were some big equipment and they had guys working and I may want to walk through there – how nice/polite was that?!  I said Thanks, hopped off, hooked Ursa up and off we went. Around the bend and there they were……I think we only had to walk about a mile and a half and we came to a bend in the road that looked like what Chuck said I should go forward through, although it was posted as rail property……..dang, decisions to make. There was a fellow working there and I asked him about it and he said to follow the road around.  I had looked at 2 maps and also have a map on my cell. The funny thing about the cell map was that it put Mullen Pass before Priest Pass and I knew from looking at the others that this was wrong (Priest was before Mullen) and I had already passed Priest Pass. Chuck had said to go forward I thought here, but that would put me through a train tunnel and onto  (what I later saw) a Very long trestle bridge) …..well around the road I went. It is funny that I can think of where I second guess myself and then that stays with me …… like ok, did I make the right turn, crap….is this then right…….now is this right. ….All I can say is that I am really glad I am so comfortable in the woods/outdoors. Onward we went. Ursa was now getting tired and hot, looking for shade under each cattle guard we had to pass while I messed with ther gates (there were surprisingly a lot of gates on this road too!!) and as I get tired my patience wanes with those damn things……it didn’t help that one bit me too (right through the finger nail and drew blood – I noticed the blood as I really did not feel anything).  We finally came to a cross road with a forest service type sign……, about the time a car rolled up to ask me for directions. I had to laugh and say, “well I really don’t know as I am not from around here” (now that does give you a double take ;) ). It was getting later in the day as I came to a sign that pointed to the Continental Divide Trail – WOW, how cool is that?! Now I had crossed the Pacific Crest Trail and now the Continental Divide Trail! As I came up to what I thought was the Mullen Pass Road my phone beeped that I actually had service again. I decided to call Chuck and let them know I was headed down the pass so they would not worry (it was around 5:00 pm now) and I still was not certain I was on the right road. My message went something like : “hey Chuck, this is tracy. I want  to let you know I am headed down your side of the pass and I am pretty sure I have the right road,  if not let me know and I will find it J ). Then no service…….as we walked through the last of a snow drift on the top. Down the road we went….and downhill is always a bit faster then up;) .  I had their house number and when I came to the first house on the downhill side I thought, crap…… this is a whole nother set of numbers! Ok…….hmmmm…….worst case scenario, you stop and ask to put Sierra in a pen and use a landline to find out if they are another road out from here……. So downhill we kept going. I knew I was heading to Helena, so all was still good J. Another hour or more we were further down and the numbers started to make more sense as to where I needed to be. A little more road traffic …Oh, and then there was the kid on a motorcycle that hauled right past us. I think I freaked him out. I have a good amount of patience, but when you are on a motorcycle, etiquite is that you slow and stop, remove the helmet and let the horse go by. There were horses on this road and so…….well I am sure I sounded like a crazy lady as I yelled slow down next to a horse! (I was already down holding Ursa and Sierra  -- bonus for the kid as it is a dangerous for the motorcyclist as it is for the rider…..well, in my book anyway.  A bit further here comes another rig, I hop off and the truck stops…….”you must be Tracy” Ha – it was Chuck to come and check on me. Before he could finish asking if maybe my pup would want to ride the rest of the way Ursa was at his door ready to jump in! Evidently she onlyt wants to spend a certain amount of time with us! Sis and I only had another mile or so to go and as we rode up Chuck, Carmie and Kathy came out to greet us. And before I knew it everyone was helping to untack.  I had not kown that they had planned dinner – and oh what a dinner! I am not a fan of salmon, I just never have been. I do eat whatever is put in front of me though. And I will tell you – this was the best Salmon I have ever eaten! I even went for seconds – not because I was still hungry, but because it really was that good (and for me to eat seconds on fish – well that means it is a master piece!)


I Hope That's All You Saw

Posted on June 16, 2012 at 9:15 PM Comments comments (0)

It is amazing to me just how much room there is on the off side (the side vehicles do not drive on) of a guard rail! Pam and Jim made a big ole breakfast before I had left and in our conversation they mentioned how tight  the road was in addition to the curves. It was kind of nice as Pam said she was going to worry about me until I got to Avon. Having this discussion had me ask as to whether they thought Ursa and Sierra  would fit and it was their thought it would be tight…and they were right. I was glad they brought it up as it helped me to decide to give Ursa a day off. Jim was going to move the rig for me and Ursa would be in the trailer for the day.  When I left their place I was even happier I left Ursa as within a half a mile it appeared that I had another dog with me. A cute Springer Spaniel, wet as a dish rag that never got rinsed out after a good soaking. That poor pup was shaking. I jumped down and thank dog it had a name and number, unfortunately there was no answer but I left a message anyway. Ok, not just a name and number but an address as well, and wouldn’t you know it, it was the same street as Pam and Jim! I gave Pam a call and she said she would give them a holler (I am not sure how many people will answer the phone when they see a number they do not recognize) and before I could bond with the dog I got a text that the owner was on her way. ….Whew ;) (And the dog even got to ride a quad home J


So yes, the road was a bit tight and the railroad ran on the north side of the hwy. I was more cognizant of it as Sierra seems to go in and out of liking the big rattling caterpillar (ok, I actually think the key is the distance from the rail car and the sound of the load it is carrying). But the part I become cautious of when I saw it were the guard rails…….until I got close and could see just how wide they were on the off side! WOW!! In Washington it is not abnormal to see it right at the ledge……like I wouldn’t even want to walk it on foot without a horse close. As a matter of fact there were a couple of places where I remember starting to slide a wee bit in Washington…..Well, let me just say, that was the start of a beautiful relationship!  I think we pretty much texted until I got to my hosts place in Elliston. It was nice for me as I had spent a lot of time talking to Sierra and Ursa. I think Sierra liked it because then I wasn’t talking to her. (yes, I so now understand why the ole cowboys talked to their horses).   It was great that we were texting too because as we were ‘talking’ Pam asked what mile marker I was at. Well mile markers on this section , I did not see many…….and I told her I had not seen one in a while , but I was next to a power ‘company’. To which I found out was right where the house was that I wouod be staying at! Whoa, that was handy because we  would have kept going (and it would have totally sucked to have backtracked).  I was told they would be gone and to make myself at home. And I was so ready to use a bathroom. Yes, they are certain times being a woman is not an advantage, and one of those times is when you have to pee and you are next to a well traveled hwy. So to the drive I ride and what do you think they had there? …….A cattle guard….ok, look a gate J ….crud,,….horses and steers ……..and here is one to greet use. Dang, if I open the gate, there is a very good chance their horse will get by me and get on the hwy – a very poor way to meet your hosts I might think. Oh, and then there was a Very Big white dog that had decided to make its way toward us …..hmmmm, hope she’s friendly……..that question I did text to Pam and she did not know. But it became clear that although this is a breed used to protect a herd of say sheep from wolves, she was very friendly with people…..did  I mention just how big she was (and on my gauge that is VERY BIG as I have a 100lb dog at home). She did tell me that Jim was heading back from Drummond and would then head over with the rig. Well, problem 2 solved – just wait for Jim and one person can shoe off animals while the other brings a horse through the gate. Now for problem 1………There just hits a point where a gal has to do what a gal has to do. I started gauging the traffic patterns. And took note that I was down low enough on one side that cars on the far lane would not be able to see anything. Ok, no the close side……hmmmm put Sierra between oncoming traffic and myself and listen hard for cars (some days it would be nice to have better hearing ;) ).  Then express pee, stand, pull up pants, pull up chinks (don’t worry yet about buttoning) and look like you are fixing tack on the horse. Yep, this could become an art form……..and ohhh the relief. So now sit down and wait for Jim. I had an apple, so sat on the bank until Jim pulled up. He opened the gate (which was tight for him so am pretty sure I would have had a real hell of a time getting it closed (another reason to be happy about the decision I made). After everyone was tucked into where they needed to be, Jim and Pam took me to dinner down at the Lawdogs saloon. We were sitting there and they knew a few of the folks there. They told them what I was doing and one fellow said – “Yea – I saw you down there eating an apple” and I thought, dang, I hope that was all you saw ;)!


I bet he wishes he had a horse

Posted on June 9, 2012 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

It is amazing the things I come across as I am riding off the beaten path. Today my leg was between Gold Creek and Garrison. The railroad runs parallel to the hwy and Sheila was certain the service road went all the way through ~ so gravel service road or hwy??? Hmmmm… ok, no brainer -  go the less traveled way (or so I thought). Having made the decision to go the rail service road seemed like an even better idea when I saw that there were cattle guards and no gate to bypass the guard on the hwy on ramp. About ½ - 1 mile up the railroad service road was a good size marker saying that this marked the spot where the first gold was discovered in Montana. The only way anyone would know about it is if they knew it was there…and now I know why they call it Gold Creek.

I also knew that this was an active railroad. So far the activity across Montana really varied. And I am very Thankful for the conversations I had with RJ. I always thought of trains as loud beasts, but the newer ones are really pretty quiet. Knowing this kept me from becoming complacent. The other thing I have going for me is that I enjoy recognizing patterns. So I pay attention to how often trains/cars move past in what capacity. I also pay close attention to the lights on the track so I can anticipate which direction a train is coming from. We had a few go by and I was able to get Sierra down a little ways from the service road as you are never really sure how she might respond. Knowing that I was next to an active rail I also gave Ursa a day off (this gives me 2 hands for Sierra if need be). Well that service road came to an end about 2 miles before we had hoped. It would not have been a big deal if there was an exit for us if we needed to take it. Our only exit the vast majority of the way would have been down a steep slope into the river. Dangit….so here are my options……backtrack 6 miles (2-3 hours) and then take the hwy or risk it………….I thought about when the last train went through (luckily only about 10 minutes before) and how often they were running……..I think we can make it if we hurry. I jumped off and lead Sierra right next to that rail – I didn’t run….it was more like a people trot pace. Every so often I would stop and touch the rail to see if there was any vibration. Then the home stretch ---- you could see the bridge we wanted to take (which T’d into the tracks) and sitting there just on the other side was a big ole train, engine running. There was another smaller bridge off to our left which I thought about taking, but didn’t know where it might lead and it was for trains – to get stuck on that with a train coming ----ok, bad idea…forward it was! Another quarter of a mile and we were standing on the bridge as that big ole train blew her whistle and started moving down the track. I will always wonder if the conductor saw us and waited or if we just had plan ole dumb luck. Over the bridge and under the hwy to a stop sign where I tied up Sierra and I sat for a bit to let my racing heart get back to normal. 


Then came the cattle guards……..holy ho hos, I think I went through at least 6 gates on only a couple miles of road. More than anything hopping on and off to open and close gates, well if that was the biggest of my problems – I had no problems at all. For me the gates can be difficult because they are so tight and I have not had the practice with them – if it keeps up like this I should be an expert by the time I hit South Dakota! It is interesting though, because I can say that yes, not a big deal, but dealing with high intensity situations also seems to lessen your patience for other things. I think it is fair to say thaty by the 4th gate I was saying out loud as I saw another one : “You have got to be kidding me!” To which Sierra would just snicker. For her the gates meant being tied up which meant grass she could snack on (let’s just say Sierra LOVES gates).  This road brought me into what I think may be the back side of Garrison…..hard to ell as I never really saw a town. I did however see a few houses side by side next to the rail. The area I rode by had sort of a shanty town feel to it……


Now I was told that when I get to Garrison to stop at the ma and pa store and ask Jerry where Pam and Jeff live. This is a cute little store (little store) that seems to be a hub. Hwy 12 and I-90 intersect here and this place is right on an exit. I tied Sierra up and went in to ask for some directions. (ok, so I couldn’t help myself – I had to walk through it and see what they had to). Jerry is a man of few words and he sports a zz top look (I think I just dated myself…hmmmm). As I was in there a fellow came in and asked “do you not sell gas?” (there are a couple old pumps outside – but looked worn). Jerry “Nope” Man: “how far to the next town” Jerry “that would be Drummond”. Man : I don’t think I can make it……..can you call AAA?” (I missed the rest of the conversation after that --- I was busy thinking I wanted a hotdog) The fellow left…I went up to ask for a hot dog and Jerry looked at me and said “I bet he wishes he had a horse about now” I so had to laugh! Oh, and no hotdogs – the machine has been broken for a few months. So I settled with a small soda and a sausage stick.  People are fascinated when they see a horse tied somewhere unusual (which seems to be about everywhere unless you are at a horse event or in the woods). And inevitably someone wants to touch Sierra. This was no different here. Sierra is becoming a really good ambassador.  Oh, when I asked Jerry where Pam and Jim live – “ go down 12, you will cross a really big bridge that got put in…….its a shame, there was no reason………………….” Yep, politics country style. I ended up calling Pam to get a better idea of where to turn etc. and found out the Jim and a friend of his was moving the rig for me!  A few miles down the road (actually just a bit before the big bridge I watched the rig go by. And a bit further a truck pulled over and I met Jim J.  He told me a way to cut off a ¼ mile (very helpful), where I could put Sierra and my tack and to be careful on the bridge. I would see Jim and Pam a little later in the evening.


When I rode up on that bridge – well I’ll be, it is big. I thought – “it would be so cool if there was another bridge just below it that I could ride across…….then of course I had to check. And holy mother of all cows – there was one! I had gotten off and Sierra and I walked down a ways, unfortunately at a closer inspection, this was a trestle bridge – nope, we will be crossing up above. An interesting thing about this new bridge --- it sounded different then other bridges we have been under. Way different – it kind of had a high whine to it, which of course Sierra hated…. Cool, now she was a little amped upfor the crossing. The far side of the road had a bend to it, so cars/semis would come sooner then I would know they were there. The side we were on, well we had to come up a hill to get to it…….ok, so we need to do this fast (A rabbit Sierra is not). The bonus was that there was no real wind to speak of so could hear better if something was coming…….YAY ----- Made it across, then the cars came!! Down and around , then up the road to Jim and Pams! I got Sierra tucked in and went up to the rig. They said I could stay in the little cabin behind their place and the rig would be parked by it. I let Ursa out and we did our greeting ritual, grabbed my gear and into the cabin I went. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!! It was like a Hotel!!!!!!! The wood stove was ready to be lit (yes, they had set that up for me so all I had to do was light a match! Put some beverages in the fridge, treats on the counter – Holy Ho Hos!!! All I can say is that it was AMAZING!!!! And after the day I had, a little pampering sure goes a Long Way!!

I would have never believed you

Posted on June 6, 2012 at 8:55 PM Comments comments (0)

The night before I still did not know where I would be staying the next night, let alone a couple more down the road. I was so hungry and eating something warm and filling (like a burger) sounded so good. I passed 3 restaurants as I rode through Drummond and noticed one had wifi. That would do just great and I could get a couple things done while I ate. Well Drummond goes to bed early and come 8:30 ish all were closed down. But no worries…look a bar with food! In I walked and had my burger ordered when a woman approached me and asked if I was Tracy. I have to admit my mind was racing …..did I do something wrong? How do you know that? Etc. I even hesitated before I said yes (embarrassing to admit, but admit it I will). Turns out she had heard about me from RJ (back before Missoula) and was hoping to run into me. Next thing I knew she was on the phone trying to find me a place to stay and boy did she! She contacted the owners of the bar and I spoke with Pam for a bit. Pam said I was welcome to stay at their place (yay! Night after next taken care of!), but I still needed a place for the next night…..and she said Sheila lived between them , who happened to be bartending that night! After I hung up I asked Sheila if she might let a horse stay at her place and a yes it was! WOW – good food and places to stay! Now all I had to do was figure out how to get my rig there.  When I got off the phone I was introduced to the woman’s son (whom she said wanted to meet me) and his friend. We chatted a bit and they asked about logistics, etc. I told them how it had been working and that I needed to move my rig and they volunteered! Now if you had ever told me I would hand my keys to a complete stranger in a bar, let alone to someone in their 20’s I would have never believed it. But that is exactly what I did and I knew everything would be ok.  And sure enough when I rode into Sheila’s there it was.  Then let’s compound this with the fact I am now at someone’s home who just met me the night before in a bar and left their house wide open for me to make myself at home! This ride has re emphasized for me that faith in one another is priceless and I have much gratitude for that….

The things you can learn

Posted on June 6, 2012 at 8:50 PM Comments comments (0)

After yesterday events, this day seemed a little mundane. Actually, I don’t think mundane is the right word.  It was a relaxing day for the most part. Not riding the interstate allowed Ursa to come along and all I had to do was to get Ursa and Sierra synced up again, but that only took about a half an hour (getting where they will both respond to the commands without a big fight with me). And it was a great road to ride ~ I saw all of 5 vehicles. Ok, then there were the 2 bicyclists and of course when they were coming down the road there was a mail truck behind them and Ursa was barking (she really does not like bikes)….pretty much the perfect storm. Let me just say, that if a dog is barking there is a good chance they would like to get a hold of you …just sayin’. Oh, and if you ride a bike and see a person on a horse, maybe it would be good to not assume that horses are ok with bikes. You are moving fast, not making sound and wearing a helmet --- think about what that might appear to look like to someone who does not know what it is.  It really is a treat when only one blows a cork rather than both of them     The two riders decided to hug us rather than the other side of the road and I saw that one coming, so the big brace was being instilled. I stop, lock my legs and lean opposite of Ursa with my arm slightly bent to absorb the impact of her pulling. There have been a few times where she has actually managed to move Sierra and I, this was one of them. Honestly, I still have a hard time believing that they thought coming close to us was the better idea……all said and done there was maybe 6 inches between them and Ursa – Thank Dog, Sierra didn’t freak out…..  This was really our only event of the day (Whoo Hoo!!!!).


What was interesting about today was the way we met people. Maybe 3 miles from Drummond  we walked past a woman and her dog doing what appeared to be pulling weeds. We waved at one another and a little further on, she was driving home and stopped to ask what journey we were on. When I told her she teared up and said she was a breast cancer survivor. She had asked where I was staying the night and then asked about further on…..she brought out a pamphlet/magazine with the Rocky mountain Horse people listing and said I might find it helpful with different horse people listed in different towns as potential hosts (you simply cannot go wrong with that!). After some directions to my next stop we hugged and said our goodbyes…….after about 45 minutes I saw her again on her way home. She gifted Sierra with some grain this time J (and you can’t say Sierra does not appreciate her grain!). 


Under the interstate and into Drummond I rode, past the businesses, children and homes. At the far end of town as I was heading back under the interstate a young man asked if his daughters might pet my horse. He said one of his girls just got done saying she wanted to be a cowgirl when she grew up….how does one resist that?! Oh, have I mentioned that I am pretty sure that many people think I am from Montana??? Sierra loves her attention – she was even a great baby kisser when the train went by (you can’t say I wasn’t concerned about that when I saw the train and gave the young father a heads up – esp. since one of the girls was barefoot. Parting ways I made my way to my hosts place where they were right smack dab in the middle of shearing sheep! I have never seen this done and found it fascinating. The sheep really were under no duress (which actually surprised me) and seemed to feel better with their wool gone. They sorted the wool into black face, white face and smut face. Oh and I learned that if you wear wool that itches it does not necessarily mean that you are allergic to it, but that you are wearing a low grade wool (wool where the hay never came out of the wool. Fascinating……(I love learning new things, and this ride sure has put me in that position more than once…..



Sometimes you just have to face what you would like to avoid....

Posted on June 6, 2012 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (0)

At one time or another there are things which we really do not want to do, and do our darndest to avoid doing them…. Sooner or later we still have to do what it was that we would give our eye teeth to circumnavigate. This was the day I had to face up to the fact that I would have to ride the hwy. It really was inevitable, I just had done my best at avoiding it and now had to face up to the fact I had run out of options and the only way forward was sucking it up and facing my anxiety. I had looked at the option of riding the rail service road, but then would have to hop on the rail to go through 2 tunnels and then 1 bridge which was a trestle bridge…yea, no real option. If it had been 1 tunnel I may have given it a go, but there were 3 ( a magic number for me) hiccups (ok, the trestle is more than a hiccup – it is a downright train wreck (no pun intended)).

The bonus to the hwy here was the wide shoulder, so I was a ways from any vehicles. The con is that once you are on the hwys out here, you are fenced in. They actually have fencing along the entire length of the hwy. Oh, and then there are the cattle guards. At Rock Creek I was able to ride right down the off ramp ( I like to face traffic when I ride ~ I figure if someone is going to take me out, they are going to be looking me in the eyes if it happens). So down the hwy we go hugging the fence line as much as possible. And then there are the bridges we need to go over. We came up on the first one and I saw an on and off ramp – perfect we will just use them……WRONG. Cattle Guards and fencing with no gates. Gates are what tend to exist next to a cattle guard which enable a person/horse to get past. Dang….back up onto the hwy…..wait until it is clear….cool, plenty of time…….Wrong! I was reminded at this point that the speed limit is higher here in Montana than in Washington or Idaho. I had gotten really pretty good at gauging distance and time at 65 -70 mph……..that extra 10 -15 mph really makes a difference!! Note to self, never forget that again! There was a bit of a learning curve (imagine that;) ), but I was taking a bit more time judging spped/distance after that…..

Then my phone rings. It was RJ letting me know a storm was heading my way – he already had an inch of snow on the ground……. Seriously?! I turned and looked behind us and sure enough off in the distance were some dark clouds heading our way. Within a half an hour we were being snowed on! Ok, when this happened my first thought was really, it is snowing on the day that I had to actually ride on the hwy?! It lasted maybe an hour then back to clear warmish weather.  All was good…

Then there was the giant horse eating caterpillar that made noise as it came out of its hole (a train out of a tunnel).  Now keep in mind we have been next to traqins for a long time, but this……this is a whole new beastie! What can I say? She saw this and started acting out…mostly backing this way and that until her rump started to head toward the hwy. I can tell you that I saw a Safeway Semi coming down the road……that is pretty much when I baled off of her and drug her toward the fence where we could both stand and watch the multi colored caterpillar wander a whole other direction then where we were headed……..Sierra is safe from such a monster- whew!

Then came the exit…….cattle guards – BOOGERS!! Hmmmmmm, there was a road that came off the hwy that we could take. The problem –fencing running into the rock/shale. Now let me just say that I am really glad I have my mountain horse. The options: cut the fencing and go through then repair it or….. yep, I think she can do this…..ride up the shale and over the fence and then down the other side……. Yep,  I like that one better……so why not try it?  The only moment I had was when we were even with the barb wire and above it……if something had gone wrong then it could have gne horribly wrong – Thankfully we had four on the floor within a couple of minutes J ….Mountain Horses Rock!!  And now it felt like we were on vacation – side road quiet! And another couple of miles and we could relax even more so. What a great place – Sierra got to stay in her first barn (complete with 2 momma cows and their babies).  I was invited to stay up on the hill in their log home --- complete with shower and bed (never underestimate the power of a shower, a meal and a bed)!