Montana Part 2 of 3

Picking up where I left off…

{Thursday night we stayed at Chico Hot Springs in Pray, Montana {just north of Yellowstone} where we met some friends for dinner at the Saloon.}

Friday

Friday morning, we woke up early to get ready for our big hike up to Pine Creek Lake. I took advantage of the morning sun and explored the resort a bit since we didn’t have much daylight the night before. Plus we were warned of a resident bear perusing the premises and I didn’t have much interest in getting mauled on my way to bed. I figured it was safer to do my exploring in the daylight…no bears for me.

I believe Chico has 13 or so different accommodations including the Main Lodge, cabins, cottages, houses and Fisherman’s Lodge where Sheena and I stayed. It is located on the hill above the lower lodge and is a “modern, one-story motel” with its own lawn and a sweet view of the Absaroka Mountain Range.

fisherman's lodge

I left our spacious room to get coffee,

room

but I got totally distracted by a teepee

teepee

and The Gardens

the gardens

on my walk to the Main Lodge.

main lodge

When I finally made it down there, I found Lora chatting it up with some guests still in their pajamas, which I loved. I find something very intriguing about people willing to talk politics in their PJ’s with total strangers…

fireplace

After coffee, we were the first people in line for the delicious breakfast buffet in the dining room.

dining room

I loaded up on eggs topped with salsa, a couple of pieces of bacon, and oatmeal mixed with granola and fruit. Indeed a substantial breakfast for our upcoming ten mile hike.

breakfast

After breakfast, we packed up and made a short drive past beautiful farmland in Paradise Valley

field

to Gallatin National Forest, and eventually to the trailhead located in Pine Creek Campground — where we attempted our first and only selfie of the weekend.

trailhead

{Left to Right: Me, Sheena, Lora, Lindsay}

The trail begins with a wide, flat easy hike into the woods and starts to narrow and climb gradually. About mile into the hike, we reached to Pine Creek Falls and stopped to enjoy the beautiful water.

pine creek falls

I practiced playing with my shutter speed on my camera and caught a cool photo of the water at the bottom of the Falls…

water

The trail changes dramatically after the Falls. It looks like it would be an easy hike from the picture below,

leaves

but over the next 4 miles to Pine Creek Lake elevation increases 3,000 feet. This means lots of switch backs, steep climbs, and straight uphill hiking. After a while, we climbed out of the woods and started on a series of steep switchbacks through the first of several rock fields where we stopped to snap a picture. You can barely see Paradise Valley and the mountains in the background of the below photo, but it was absolutely breathtaking.

me and sheena

The rock fields alternate with stretches of forest on the way to the top, including parts that had burned in a fire in August of 2012. There is something so beautiful about the new green growth contrasting with the blackened trees though…

old and new

Even though it seemed like the trail would never end, weird musky smells were making us a bit weary of lurking black bears, and it just kept getting steeper

higher

and steeper, the allure of a mountain lake and gorgeous views kept our spirits high.

higher

We probably stopped to snack or use the bathroom a total of fifty times before reaching a smaller lake just below Pine Creek Lake that is fed by a waterfall from above.

first lake

Climbing just one more stretch, we finally reached Pine Creek Lake. I don’t know if photos can do this serene 32 acre mountain lake justice. At least mine can’t. It sits in a glacial cirque beneath massive mountain peaks at almost 9,200 feet elevation.

lunch

It was a few degrees cooler at the lake, so we didn’t hang out for too long. The shore line where we sat is mostly bare rock, so it was a perfect spot for us to lounge, eat our bars and peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and do a quick photo shoot.

Lora

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sheena

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lindsay

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me

The trial climbs 1,000 feet per mile, so it took us about four hours to reach the lake and only about two to come back out. We stopped only to nurse Lora’s blistering toes, and then basically ran the rest of the way down.

down

There is just something about conquering a tough hike that is so spiritual to me. It’s not only the views, but being so far removed from society that lets me be a little closer to the people around me, the God of my understanding, and the energy of life. It was a hike WELL worth it. And I’ve never been so excited to see one of those stanky outdoor toilettes in my life. I was not about to “doo-doo in my Lulu.”

It was a {fairly} quiet drive back to Bozeman, where we did just enough last minute shopping to work up another appetite — despite the fact we snacked ALL day. After rinsing off the hike grime, we headed to Ted’s Montana Grill in the heart of downtown Bozeman for dinner.

Located in the lobby of the historic Baxter Hotel, Ted Turner’s restaurant celebrates the American bison and Big Sky Country’s tradition of hearty food. Although I wasn’t in the mood to celebrate Bison, I was indeed in the mood for a hearty meal. I ended up ordering several side items that included a sweet potato with butter and brown sugar, broccoli,

dinner

Ted’s Chopped salad, and squash casserole.

dinner 2

Not pictured were the two pints of ice cream and rosemary shortbread cookies we enjoyed in our rooms right before bed. I think we all slept like babies Friday night at the Lewis and Clark Motel.

That’s a good thing because we had another adventure ahead!

To be continued…

Montana Part 1 of 3

Happy Fall Friends! I just got back from one amazing trip and had the opportunity to say goodbye to Summer from Montana. I’ve never been out there before and it was other worldly to me. I now understand why they call it “Big Sky Country.” The horizon goes on forever and is interrupted only by the seemingly endless Rocky Mountain ranges. Unless you have hiked your way to a lake, in which case the Rockies seem to surround you as if you were inside a really cool mountain-bowl. It sort of made me feel like Thumbalina…everything was just SO big.

lava lake

I enjoyed every second of my time out there. I went with some great friends who became even greater friends, and had the experience of a lifetime. It was so easy to feel connected to life while surrounded by such natural majesty, and I don’t think I could have planned for the feelings of gratitude Montana and my company shared with me.

girls

{Left to Right: Lora, Lindsay, Me, Sheena}

The women and men I traveled with had very different agendas. I’ll get to ours later, but the guys are some truly amazing athletes traveling out west to run the Yellowstone Teton Running With The Buffalos 50 and 100 Miler. You heard it, 50 and 100 miles. They all finished their respective races, and I can’t describe the pride and emotions I felt for them when we reunited on Sunday in Driggs, Idaho. It was just incredible, and their positive energy after accomplishing a goal so big blew my mind.

Runners

{Left to Right: Gordon, Billy, Phil, John, John – Photo by Blair Speed}

Don’t be fooled by the parallel grizzly statue photos above. We parted ways after dinner the first night and had very different {but equally cool} sets of adventures.

I’m breaking this post into a few separate ones since we did so many equally important things, so here goes Part 1…

Wednesday

We arrived in Bozeman on Wednesday night and went straight meet friends {and fellow ultra runners} who live in Montana year round at Copper, a restaurant downtown.  The entrance to the whiskey bar and grill is down a flight of stairs from the sidewalk, which automatically gave the place five stars in my mind. Inside, there is a “downstairs” vibe almost like an underground secret spot where only the coolest townies are allowed to hang. Separated by a wall, there is a dining area

interior copper

and a neat bar area that started to fill up as the night progressed. Apparently they have over 125 whiskey’s, but our group stayed fairly calm since they were, literally, facing all of those miles ahead of them.

copper bar

After hanging out a bit and getting to know each other, our food arrived. I was so intrigued with the amazing group of people we were with that I almost didn’t want our food to come. Until my salad arrived. Attention, food! To start, Lora and I split a “Roasted Beet Salad” composed of Lamb’s lettuce, green beans, candied pecans, toasted goat cheese, and sherry dijon. We both loved it — the flavors, textures, everything.

I gave Gordon a taste of my beets since there had been so much beet talk on the ride to Montana {Billy had been drinking beet juice while training}. As soon as he was done chewing, he quite accurately described them as “moist succulent dirt that also tastes good.”

beet salad

Our dinner came shortly after our salads. I had their salmon topped with hollandaise and chives, along with a side of green beans and roasted carrots. I liked the salmon and all, but the carrots were my favorite. They were perfectly cooked — not too mushy.

salmon

I was proud of myself for being so good with my eating that day until Blair {one absolutely awesome female living in Montana who ran with the guys} busted out a giant box of heaven. I was able to pass the first time the box came around, but the second time not so much. There were peanut butter cookie sandwiches, lemon cookie sandwiches, double chocolate sea salt cookie sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies, gluten-free cookies, mini pecan pies, and some fruity crumble. You think this cookie monster had a good time?

cookie box

After dinner, we checked into the Lewis and Clark Motel and hit the hay. I didn’t have a chance to snoop around until the next morning, but the motel truly is “A Charming Little Place to Stay.”

Thursday

I got up super early since Montana is two hours behind. While I waited on the sun to rise, I did some reading, writing and yoga/meditation in my room {which was very spacious and comfortable}. Any room furnished with a fridge, has wi-fi, a vanity separate from the toilet, and cool wallpaper is good with me! Plus, I love a room that you can get to from outside instead of having to walk down a boring hallway.

When I stepped out into the crisp mountain air that first morning, I sensed such a rush of excitement about the adventure lying ahead of us. I snapped a quick picture of my room

room

and the fabulous view of the mountains and the throw-back signage from the balcony.

sign

I got my first glimpse of the unique lobby on my way to breakfast, and was completely amused. So much so that I forgot to take a picture of anything but their resident, Butchie.

butchie

We could have had breakfast {breads, fruit, yogurt, granola, coffee} in the lobby, but wanted to walk across the parking lot to the Community Food Co-Op for a real treat. I took a quick peek inside the full service natural foods market which offers fresh organic and local produce, bulk items, gourmet and everyday groceries, a wellness department, and a deli that has hot meals, a salad bar, soups, breads, “good to go” salads, pizzas, sandwiches and wraps, and a wine and spirits department.

Fully impressed and jealous {that we don’t have a Co-Op up and running yet}, I headed upstairs to the Flying C, a full service coffee and organic juice bar with convenient grab and go baked goods, breakfast sandwiches and hot scrambled eggs and bacon.

co-op

 

coop

I’m not really a juicer, but I got a small juice with carrots, beets and ginger to have with my eggs and coffee and I loved it. It tasted mostly like beets, with a tiny bit of ginger zing.

breakfast 1

We sat and talked for a while before heading to Pure Barre Bozeman for a quick workout before lunch. It was great, but I’m so out of the loop on PB terms that I had to keep looking around the room to see what everyone was doing. I was most impressed with the way they have their studio decorated! It has a creative urban vibe with oversized industrial lights hanging from the ceiling.

After Pure Barre, we packed an overnight bag and drove about 30 minutes to Livingston, Montana — the “Original Gateway City to Yellowstone National Park.”  Fact: it became the Gateway City to America’s very first National Park in 1883. Pretend the roads are dirt and cars are horse and buggies and you’ll be transported back in time to the days of prohibition. Maybe I’ve been watching too much Boardwalk Empire…

It is now an eclectic little town with shops, restaurants, galleries and unique restaurants {and I’m sure a lot more that we didn’t have time to explore} situated on the banks of the Yellowstone River.

livingston

We ate lunch at Wheatgrass Saloon, a {mostly} raw vegan juice bar offering daily quinoa and kelp noodle bowls.

wheatgrass

It is situated in the middle of a bookstore called Elk River Books.

bookstore

Literally, the small kitchen is situated in the middle section of the long building.

wheatgrass

Too hungry for raw juice, we all opted for one of the daily bowls. With a side of raw juice. I had quite a lot of beet juice that day for someone who doesn’t juice…

The bowls of the day were called “Dragon Bowls” because of the Dragon Sauce they came with {I’m assuming}. The sauce was made with tahini, tamari, nutritional yeast, flax oil and agave and I will be trying to recreate it at home. Its one of those sauces you want to drink from the bowl once you finish all the other stuff.

lunch 1

All of our bowls came with shredded carrots, beets, black beans, purple cabbage, cherry tomatoes, avocado and spinach. We had the option to choose quinoa or kelp noodles, and I chose the noodles out of sheer curiosity. Honestly, they didn’t have much taste at all so I really don’t have an opinion about them on their own. Doused in Dragon Sauce, they were delicious.

kelp noodles

We walked around after lunch and wandered into a neat gallery that had these quirky “Animal’abras” that caught my eye.

animalabras

We also ran into Ruby the Vizsla, who I wanted to take home with me.

ruby

We wandered into a neat antique store and an AWESOME Native American jewelry store before getting back in the car to head to see the Boiling River in Yellowstone National Park. We barely beat the storm on the way.

carride

It finally ended up dumping on us for about 10 minutes and just as soon as it started, it was gone.

got worse

We could see the sun shining at the end of the ominous clouds, right where we were going. It was so cool.

cleared

I didn’t snap a photo of the entrance into Yellowstone, but there is something special about driving underneath the giant Roosevelt Arch knowing that only natural wonder lies ahead. We were specifically going to sit in the Boiling River, a space where a large hot spring enters Gardner River. The hot and cool waters mix so you are able to bathe in the water and take in the beautiful scenery. There was a once-in-a-lifetime surprise waiting for us when we arrived.

After a short drive past a sign that says ,“45th Parallel of Latitude Halfway Between Equator and North Pole,” we stopped at a parking area and walked upstream about a half-mile to the Boiling River.

hike to boiling river

Along the way, we met a very fuzzy caterpillar. I thought he was cute. In a nondescript kind of way.

caterpillar

As we approached the Boiling River, we spotted a male elk moving at an uncomfortably fast pace toward the Gardner River where there were five additional female {or baby} elk crossing to the other side.

elk

Once the male made it into the river, we felt safe enough to plop in the Boiling River, take in the view,

view

and watch the elk family. I was in a state of wonder being with these beautiful animals in their natural habitat. I never thought I would be able to say that I sat in a river with a family of elk…

in river

Our next adventure was a drive through Mountain Sky Guest Ranch to see if we could spot a resident moose. We didn’t see him, but we did get to take in the beauty of the property.

river

After our Moose expedition, we had a short drive to our final destination of the day — Chico Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa in Paradise Valley. Now, I’m not sure how they get away with calling an indoor heated pool a hot spring, but that’s neither here nor there. The place is great, and we arrived just in time to see the sunset behind the Rockies from our room.

view from room

We met some of Lindsay’s girl friends for a late dinner, and we had a really great time with them. They are all down to earth girls working at Mountain Sky Guest Ranch in various roles, and were super easy to get to know.

We went to bed after that, so I’ll stop here and talk more about Chico Hot Springs and our hike to Pine Creek Lake in Part 2.

Labor Day and Myrtle Beach

Hey Friends! I can’t believe it’s already been a week since I shared the Shrimp “Ceviche” recipe with y’all. It felt good to focus on food and not “what I’ve done lately,” but for some reason I still feel the need to catch you up on the past two weekends.

My goal for now is to do at least one post per week, but if I do a recipe post it leaves little room for a weekend update. Now I’ve got another double whammy on my hands with a lot of fun stuff to tell you about! I guess it’s not a bad thing…

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