Months ago, Brenda announced that she wanted to celebrate her next birthday in Montana, with our friends from the wildlife refuge where we first volunteered , and at her favorite pizza place, Kodiak Jax. As a gentlemen and long-time husband, I can’t divulge which birthday it is, but the first number rhymes with “heaven”. So we left Sheridan and headed into beautiful Montana. Interstate 90 through Montana is a great drive – snow-capped mountains, green meadows, and this time of year, rivers swollen from melting snow.
After getting set up at the Square Dance Center and Campground, we were joined by our friends Kirk and Sue who flew in from Tucson for Brenda’s birthday. We took a day to show them the Bitterroot Valley, and our first stop was our favorite place, the Lost Horse Overlook, the site of a Nature Valley Granola Bar commercial. It’s a little known location that takes a nine-mile drive on dirt roads up into the mountains. From the overlook, you can look into two major drainages and the beginning of a six million acre wilderness area. This year we were surprised by the small amount of snow that remained on the distant mountains – a bad sign for the upcoming fire season.
We continued down the valley until crossing over Lost Trail Pass into the Big Hole Valley, most of which is above 6000’. We drove through the small historic town of Wisdom before heading back past the Big Hole National Battlefield. We were too late to tour the visitor center, so we headed back down into the valley, stopping to take this picture of Trapper Peak, at a little over 10,000’, the highest peak in the Bitterroot Range.
On Saturday, we started Brenda’s birthday celebration with Kirk and Sue and a visit to Lolo Pass for lunch at the Lochsa Lodge. We spent the afternoon touring the area, and at 5:30 it was time to enter Kodiak Jax. Entering, we saw our friends all sitting at a table just beyond the entryway of another room. Brenda ran ahead to say hello and hug everyone, and finally I tapped her on the shoulder and said “look behind you”. She turned, and there at a table against the wall, sat our daughter Kim, her husband Bill, and nephew Chris all from California, and her brother Ron, who flew in from Ohio. Her look could best be summed up by the saying “shock and awe” – and that’s probably an understatement. After a moment of realization, it was time for tears and hugs, and as the evening progressed, lots of laughter and smiles. Thanks to Bob, Deb, and Kim from the refuge, good friends Heidi and Jim, and of course Kirk and Sue, Kim and Bill, and Chris and Ron for an evening that Brenda will never forget. All the plotting and skullduggery that started back in February paid off – she was totally caught by surprise. Now, of course, I have to worry about payback. Here are some pictures from the evening:
We’re traveling again, so stay tuned!