Monday, October 5, 2009

Last Campout of Summer

The summer that would never end.

That's what some Montanans are now calling Summer 2009. Warm weather came earlier than usual last spring...and right up until the end of September, afternoon temperatures regularly soared well into the 80s. In fact, here in Missoula, our average daily high temperature last month was basically what the area gets in July.

My gal Christy and I love to camp, and through summer we get out and head somewhere at least every other weekend. One of our favorite areas is close to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area - a camping spot we can drive right to, adjacent to an excellent trout stream, with great trails for taking the dogs on a long hike. The area is teaming with wildlife - lots of white-tailed deer, a few mulies, elk, black bear, and moose. There's also a healthy population of mountain lions, wolves and a few grizzlies. So, for security purposes, we keep a Ruger .44 Magnum revolver close at hand at all times.

Whenever possible, we love to share the enjoyment of getting out with friends and neighbors, inviting folks to join us just about every time we go. At first, few took us up on it. Now, we have company just about every time we head out on a 3 or 4 day camping trip - and we think that's great. We love the company, and the conversation around the campfire at night.

But, most of all, we love the silence of the night as the fire dies down and everyone turns in. When the soft chit chat ends, all you can hear is the water of the creek babbling through the rocks, and maybe the occasional howl of a coyote.

The "endless summer" of 2009 let us crowd in a few extra camping trips. But, snow is now returning to the high country, and freezing temperatures at night are even putting the chill of winter in the air in the lower valleys. Summer has ended, and a short fall follows. By the time I pull out for deer and elk camp in about two weeks, chances are there will already be some snow on the ground, and at night I know I'll be sitting a lot closer to that campfire - and there will be an extra blanket over the top of my sleeping bag.

It's the beginning of another wonderful season here in the Northern Rockies.

Toby Bridges

About the photo: Christy is greeted by our lab Bob as she "walks the plank" into another of our favorite camping spots - high in the Bitterroots. Just 50 yards down from camp is a several hundred acre lake - where later this same day we watched a huge Shiras bull moose feeding on aquatic grasses. Out neighbors, Patrick, Lisa and Laynie (barely visible, peeking out of a chair), joined us on this late summer campout. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

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