4 September – 12 October 2016

There is something magical about crossing the border into Montana, a feeling that cannot quite be placed. Is the sky actually bigger? Certainly there is something which makes you feel able to breathe deeply, a distinctive calm to the wide open spaces.

Anyway, we were back and the calm didn't last long. Camping at the Bighorn River in Fort Smith, we were rudely awoken at 1 am by Harvey shaking in a violent manner. Earthquake? No. Bear attack! A furry friend had spotted the Walmart bag keeping the saddle dry on Phil's bike and decided it may contain food. Unfortunately the bike was still secured on the bike carrier on Harvey's spare wheel and as he ripped it apart in search of a tasty treat, we were shaken out of bed! He was quickly scared away with a flashing light shone through the bathroom window but alas the bike saddle did not survive the attack!

Bighorn Bear Attack

We floated the river in our inflatable canoe, waiting for the rush hour of guided trips to be over and the temperatures to rise a little. At one of Phil's favourite spots his luck was in and a nice fish was hooked. Christine eagerly leapt out of the canoe with her camera in hand to capture the moment, immediately sinking up to her knees in mud which was apparently not as thick as it appeared and judging by the smell consisted largely of cow excrement!

As she stumbled and fell, she extended a hand to break her fall. Of course this was the hand carrying the camera which immediately took a dunking in thick, gloopy, stinking mud. Fortunately the consistency of the mud was such that when pulled back out, the camera appeared dry and fully functional. However, in her struggle to free herself from the hold of the evil stinking slime, Christine lost a shoe and promptly had to submerge her clean hand to retrieve it. Gallantly struggling on to the scene of the fishing action, the above photo was duly taken before we headed home for a shower.

Next destination the Missouri River at Holter Dam, with a quick stop at Bozeman to purchase a new bike saddle! We were pleased that our only wildlife visitors there were Bighorn sheep. Although we were surprised when a large snake swam right by (rods out of the water please!).

We spent a couple of days at Georgetown lake and then Fish Creek. Here we discovered a secluded camping spot with it's own backyard fishing access.

A spell of bad weather found us heading into Idaho to catch up with the Fricks in Kellogg. Luckily we arrived on Kierra's birthday in time to cook her a birthday curry! We hung around and annoyed them for a few extremely fun days before the fish began to call again.

Fish Creek

Our own patch of river – Fish Creek

Kierra's birthday

We drove via Missoula to Rock Creek, a spot we'd discovered the previous year and set off on Harvey's next challenge. After a day of fishing and a night camping all alone with a whole campground to ourselves, we braved Skalkaho Pass.

Over several years we'd asked locals what they thought of the prospect of Harvey heading over the unpaved pass and had been given conflicting advice. However, the weather was good and surely a road marked so prominently on the road atlas must be in pretty good condition, right?

View from our Rock Creek Campground.

Wrong. It was a wonderful experience with a true wilderness feel to it but we had to weave our way gingerly around pot holes, often driving on the wrong side of the road where the surface was better. Fortunately the traffic was scarce. We probably averaged 15 mph, so the short cut across the mountains to the Bitterroot River turned out to be slower than the 100 mile highway trip around! It was worth the trip but probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Harvey!

Skalkaho Falls

On the downhill stretch finally with less potholes!

Back in our favourite camping spot in the US

Elk on the West Fork of the Bitterroot

Neighbour in Rombo Campground

We spent a lovely three day stretch in our favourite spot, enjoying having the place to ourselves before heading to Ennis for a night out at the Gravel bar listening to live country music.

After painting the town slightly pink, we headed the next day to Raynald's Pass, forty miles out of town on the Madison River for a peaceful week of fishing and mouse hunting.

One of the catches was so big that Phil's rod snapped in two. Never mind it was only 90 miles to Bozeman where a replacement was found, along with a new base for Harvey at a local storage facility, where he would have his very own garage for the winter.

We took the scenic route back to the Madison via a second trip to the Bighorn, where we hoped that the weather might be warmer but were disappointed!

Madison River Sunset

New Rod Smell

A last few days of fishing the Madison (and keeping the mice away) and it was time to head back to Bozeman to ready Harvey for storage. We had allowed a couple of days for cleaning and packing, while we camped at Walmart. A cold snap hit us and we awoke to find Harvey inches deep in snow with icicles for decoration in early October.

This was a good thing as it focussed our minds on winterising him ready for his time in storage. This was a novelty to us and we had to seek advice, as he'd always been down south for winter before. Let's hope we got it right!

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