Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Montana Revisited

So now I get to do something fun. Write about my second favorite state. Of course, you know
all about me and Minnesota. Big Sky
Country a.k.a. Montana though pulls me away like no other place. With a dead
computer and some annoying medical issues, it’s the getaway where I, Mrs. T and friends Gary and Rosie went camping and hiking a few weeks back. One
of the Top Ten on my list of favorite Montana places is The Sam Billings
Memorial Campground, up the West Fork Rd., from Darby, Montana. The campground can be found about a
quarter of a mile off the blacktop next to Boulder Creek. That creek feeds the
West Fork of the Bitterroot River. The campground is surrounded by huge Ponderosa Pines. The
only thing comparable, in my experience, would be the Norway Pines at the
headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca State Park. The small town of Darby sits in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley, south of Missoula and Hamilton, Montana. Its main
attraction to Mrs. T is a world class ice-cream shop! What's so special
about this place that I like so much? Let me count the ways.
1. The short road into the campground is narrow and winding.
This tends to discourage the riff-raff with their huge rigs. Pop-ups and small
campers do just fine.
2. Potable
water is not available, so you have to bring your own. Of course, a bracing dip in the creek will wash the sweat off, if you don't mind its ice cold temperature (just kidding... sort of)
Three-foot diameter Ponderosa pines are scattered in the campground. It's also worth a hike 4.5 miles up Boulder Creek trail to the falls. My first trip to the falls, was with
my brother, fly rods in hand. It wasn't the distance that did me in. It was the several thousand
feet gain in elevation. Also, being totally out of shape didn't help me either, as
the ancient picture reveals...ugh.
just around the bend," my brother kept looking back and yelling. Finally
convinced, as Redd Fox used to say on Sandford and Son, "It's the Big
One," I said collapsing down on the trail, composing myself for the inevitable, hoping
it was quick and relatively painless. Figuring if it was time to go, I decided to enjoy the mountain view. A few
minutes later as my brother return back down the trail to check on me and having taken some deep breaths, I determined the
problem was not a heart attack but oxygen deprivation. And more imporantly, I
could hear the roar of the falls just around the next bend. Two days later inspired by Mrs. T and my sister in law leading the way I was able to reach the fabled falls. 4.
Trout. Cuthroats and cutbows abound in the creek. Not big ones. Pan sized. Mmmm
Mmmmm Good!
And so some twenty years later Mr. & Mrs Troutbirder along with friends Gary & Rosie set off up the very same mountain trail. I'm sorry to say we didn't quite make itto the falls but came very close. A young couple of returning hikers told of two icy streamscrossings, one of which involved balancing on a wet log. Discretion being the better part of valor, we turned back, remembering it's the journey that counts and not the destination.
Sam Billings Memorial Campground -
one of my favorite places in the mountain west.


  1. Whenever I hear "Montana" I think of Gus and Woodrow and their hands driving that herd north from Texas just to build a ranch.

  2. You're WAY ahead of me, I don't camp, or hike. I'd be afraid the rescue squad wouldn't be able to get to me!

  3. it sounds like a great get-away! and i think you were smart to play it safe rather than push yourself too far onto wet logs. :)

  4. This looks like such a great time and in such a beautiful state. I have been to Montana, but I need to go back!

  5. It looks absolutely beautiful, just as you said. And I'm sorry to hear you didn't make it to the falls again, but maybe it was just as well, considering. Great post!

  6. Thanks for the armchair vacation. I feel like I was along for the trip. But never out of breath! Sounds like it was just wonderful.

  7. We love Montana too and have many great memories of camping trips there! My husband refuses to camp anymore..he says he is too old to sleep in a tent.
    It sounds like a good trip to one of your favorite places! I am glad you got to go.
    What kind of new computer did you get? :)

  8. Montana's at the top of my "someday" list. Great piece of advice about the journey not the destination. Glad you were able to get away and enjoy.

  9. Montana is definitely in my bucket list.
    Had to laugh at your distress (since you were writing this I rationalized that it wasn't "the big one.") It is that darn elevation. When I moved to the Ozarks I found my walking took on a lot of wheezing till I got used to it. My flat lander lungs had to adjust.

  10. I love not just Montana, but particularly southwest Montana. I camped near Hamilton many years ago, and other than two flat tires in two days, it was a terrific few days. Lots of pan-sized trout on a very tiny creek.

    Too long ago to remember which campground without looking back in my notes, but I do remember having a beer in Darby.

    Glad to hear all is well physically.

  11. What great memories. Montana is fabulous, big skies, big trees, big animals....looks like a great place for camping and fishing. I miss camping. Hope me and my husband can get a weekend in here in New Mexico in August or September.

  12. I love Montana, too. That campground sounds perfect - good to hear about the small out of the way locations the big rigs can't get to. Beautiful country. I think I can smell the pines and fresh mountain air.

  13. Lovely area to play, I had a lot of friends go to school out there, with a few staying.I went around billings my last visit.

  14. I'm sorry you've been having medical and computer problems, a double whammy. I can see why you are focusing on better times. I've never been to Montana but your description of the campsite and these photos make me want to go.

  15. You've convinced me that this is an ideal get-away spot. I may even be tempted to face the icy stream crossing to make it to the falls.

  16. Great place, great memories. Hope all is well with you, computer problems fixed, etc.

  17. What a great place to visit! I live in Montana, and have never been there.

  18. It is literally a breathtaking place! Never been to Montana but plan to some day. SAM had to go to Red Lodge for a field camp in college many moons ago. He's been promising to take me there one of these days. It's on my bucket list, and I'll have to make your spot an addendum.

  19. Gorgeous photos, TB, and description that makes me want to get myself there RIGHT NOW. Glad you had such a relaxing, meaningful get-away.

  20. Thanks for sharing! Been a while since I browsed the blogs, fun to see your beautiful adventures!