Saturday, 16 December 2006

Summer in Montana

Well, I had an absolutely wonderful summer. Three weeks in Montana at my church’s conference then a study week then camping in the mountains, catering for a group of about 18 young people at a retreat.

At the end of the study week I borrowed a van so I could move my luggage from the house I was staying in (30 miles away from the church site where the conference etc was) to the camp-site next day. As I was driving late that evening I got a flat tyre (tire). Well I was on a main road about half way between the entrance to Yellowstone park at a town called Gardiner, 25 miles, to the other nearest town called Livingston. I didn’t have a cell (mobile ) phone with me and there were very few cars on the road. Well I couldn’t find where the spare tyre was at all so I was really stuck. Although it was warm during the day it was a bit chilly at night and I was in short sleeves and flip flops (thongs) so I decided to flag down a car for a lift (ride) to where I was staying. Fortunately a family stopped and changed my tyre for me. The tyre was hidden underneath the van.

The mountain where we were camping was beautiful, gorgeous weather, and plenty of wildlife. Beautiful wild flowers, rushing mountain stream and plenty of encounters with the moving kind of wild life - mosquitoes in the mornings and evenings and horse flies during the day but no encounters with bears although they were sited close by. We had to walk up a steep incline to get to the tent area from the main camp and the safest way to move around the place was to make a noise so as to warn any bears that we were coming. However it is hard work climbing and singing at the same time at a high altitude. The young people didn’t seem to have such as much trouble with breathing as I did at that exercise. Ha ha.

The sleeping part of the camp was away from the eating and cooking part for safety reasons – bears. The food and rubbish (trash) was locked away in a steel room (larder) and the toiletries were enclosed in old filing cabinets away from the tents. (bears are attracted to smells). It was a long walk to the showers and toilets so for safety’s sake (bears) we piled into vehicles and drove there. It was a very civilised camp as there was electricity with lights on the pathways, drinking water from taps and gas-fired barbeques for cooking. The food rooms had large refrigerators and freezers in too

said I was catering but I must admit that I didn’t do much cooking from scratch. Breakfast - I made porridge, cooked eggs and sausages but the hardest part was hauling all the food and equipment from the larder to the cooking site on a cart. It was down a gravel incline and over the stream on the bridge then up a steep gravel incline and along a pine needle lined path. Of course I had to be the first one up to do all this. Fortunately a few were up too as I almost lost the cart full of stuff going down an incline. I decided it was not a one-person job unless the one person was a fit young male. Fortunately there were a few of those. After I cleared away breakfast I piled the dirty dishes into a van and drove 6 miles down the mountain to the church kitchen were I washed up the dishes in the industrial sized kitchen and where lunch was waiting for me to load up on the van in insulated boxes. Up the mountain again through a gorge on a narrow windy road alongside a mountain stream for half of the way, then onto a higher more open road around the side of the mountain with wonderful glimpses of neighbouring mountains with trees and meadows in view. Piling all the food onto carts and hauling it onto the food site, serving it, clearing away, down the mountain again to wash the empties, collecting food for the evening meal, taking it back up and preparing it, serving it, we usually had visitors for that meal too, clearing way and locking everything away, getting ready for bed, up the next day and so on. I’m glad I didn’t have to cook lunch as the rest of the stuff was a full time job and then some!

Fortunately the group were invited to have a meal elsewhere one evening which gave me a chance to go into Gardiner – about 12 miles away (very close) to get the tyre fixed. Whilst I was waiting for the tyre, I had a look around. For those of you reading this who have not been to Montana, let me tell you that Gardiner looks just like a film set for those towns that cowboys ride into in the cowboy films. There were even posts to hitch horses to although I saw no horses, just cars, vans and pick-up trucks. The pavement (sidewalk) is made of wood with the roofs of the shops (stores) overhanging it, shading from the hot sun. That roof would also stop the walking surface from being clogged up with snow in the winter. A man said they easily get 8 foot of snow. Whilst there, I stocked up on insect repellent as our supply had nearly run out.

Montana had just come out of a drought period, which meant that we were allowed to have a fire in the specially built fire pit in the evening as long as it was doused with water before we went to bed.