Early Sunday morning we left Missoula heading south on highway 93… a route recommended by Erin as one of the most beautiful drives ever. It didn’t disappoint. We began passing through valleys littered by charming small towns chalk full of antique shops and a peaceful easy feeling. We stopped and let ourselves get lost in one massive antique mall / flea market full of treasures for well over an hour. Unfortunately, our car is so brimmingly full… we had little room to buy anything.
Back underway, the road began to climb and wind it’s way up into the Bitteroots. The autumn colors were magnificent and a perfect frame for the vast valley below. As we reached the Idaho border we turned off on hwy 43 cutting east in Montana passing golden meadows, flowing creeks and tall forests. As the sun began to drop, the forests turned into rolling hills, hay fields, and farm houses. We passed through the quaint town of Wisdom, Montana… which seemed to consist primarily of a general mercantile and a saloon. I think the entire population was at the saloon. Laying amidst Montana’s Big Horn Valley, this town emoted a true essence of traveling back to the old west… to a simpler time. It felt real… contrasting from the tourism targeted replicas common elsewhere. Amid the stunning panoramas and perfect late afternoon lighting, we stopped numerous times for photo opps.
As the sun set and the Montana wide open blue sky was recolored with vibrant oranges and reds, we made our way to a remote forest service campground up in the mountains about 20 miles sw of Butte. It sat at about 6000 ft with significant wind chill and oh soooo cold. We wandered around by the light of our candle lantern, heated up some soup and built a fire. Jake was completely absorbed with chopping up a dead tree with the giant axe he had insisted on bringing. The axe served well. Even by the fire, I was so cold that I wanted to put my beer on the fire and warm it up in order to drink it. We layered up in every piece of warm clothing we had and snuggled up in our sleeping bags for the remainder of the night. I’ve decided that camping in November at these elevations is no joke… and this is just one of many nights to come. The plus side is that we are the only people in every campground. Everything is deserted other than the wind and wildlife, which makes it all so magical.