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FALL 2013

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HOLD ON THE UNIVERSE One family’s push to continue a common journey

CONTENTS

ALMOST UNKILLABLE A lifelong quest for carp on a fly

TRUE REALITY TV mtheadwall.com

Behind the scenes of outdoor programming

INSIDE On Belay 6 Wild Things 42 Contributors 8

Night flights

Grub 44

Head Lines 10 Fast and fearless FKTs Yetti vetters The Wilde pack mentality Steady shots

Heart of the matter

Head Out 52 Your fall rec calendar

Head Gear 54

Head Light 22 Panning for gold

A different kind of energy bar

The Crux 62

Head Shots 24 Our readers’ best

Lessons learned

Head Trip 36 I’m gonna get you, chukar Cover photo by Cathrine L. Walters

STAFF

EXECUTIVE EDITOR GENERAL MANAGER ASSOCIATE EDITOR PHOTO EDITOR ADVERTISING SALES MANAGER PRODUCTION DIRECTOR CIRCULATION MANAGER DIRECTOR SPECIAL PROJECTS 317 S. Orange St. • Missoula, MT 59801 406-543-6609 • Fax 406-543-4367 mtheadwall.com

Please recycle this magazine

Montana Headwall (ISSN 2151-1799) is a registered trademark of Independent Publishing, Inc. Copyright 2013 by Independent Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinting in whole or in part is forbidden except by permission of Independent Publishing, Inc. Views expressed herein are those of the author exclusively. And yeah, we’re having fun.

CONTRIBUTORS

Brad Tyer Cathrine L. Walters Carolyn Bartlett Joe Weston Adrian Vatoussis Christie Anderson

Alex Sakariassen, Emily Graslie, Malcolm Brooks, Chris Dombrowski, Ari LeVaux, Nadia White, Matthew Frank, Nick Davis, Hal Herring, Joe Irons, Tyler Pfiffner

COPY EDITOR ART DIRECTOR PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVES FRONT DESK EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Skylar Browning Lynne Foland

Brad Tyer Kou Moua Jenn Stewart, Jonathan Marquis Tami Johnson, Steven Kirst, Alecia Goff, Sasha Perrin Lorie Rustvold Matt Gibson

Cathrine L. Walters


ON BELAY mtheadwall.com

W

hile hiking the Dawson-Pitamakan loop in Glacier National Park during August, my wife Renie and I grazed for huckleberries along the trail. We found them thick in the Dry Creek Valley, perhaps 13 miles into our hike. We were tired and starting to get sore, but the berries inspired new enthusiasm for the home stretch. After seven hours of hot, thirsty trudging across the rocky high country, the fruit signaled pleasure and abundance. Headwall routinely highlights some tremendous mountain athletes and the brutal physical challenges they tackle in their pursuit of adventure. But even for them, visits to the high and wild aren’t about monastic deprivation. All of us who get out there drink in the beautiful scenery, relish the cool of a mountain breeze under a hot sun and hope to rediscover the world the way we might imagine it was always supposed to be. And that, in turn, lends perspective on the rest. In this issue, readers can follow Headwall contributor Chris Dombrowski through the whole

glorious process as he chases carp in Clark Canyon Reservoir while his stubborn grandmother resists death perhaps for the last time. Malcolm Brooks stumbles on a new friend while looking for chukar in Carbon County. Alex Sakariassen explores his family’s Montana roots on Ear Mountain. And television producer Nick Davis recalls a disastrous steelheading episode that ends on such a perfectly strange note, no assignment could possibly touch such depths again. Augusta-based writer Hal Herring brings it all home in this issue’s Crux, revealing his doubts about the future of the wild country he loves, and his children’s relationship with it. Should a responsible parent raise his kids to love something that seems destined to decline and disappear? The answer would seem to be yes. Because those kids need their bodies and souls nourished much like their parents do. And just a handful of wild huckleberries goes a long way. Matt Gibson Editor-in-chief

Cathrine L. Walters


Montana Headwall Page 7 Fall 2013


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CONTRIBUTORS

is a 2011 University of Montana Emily Graslie Emily graduate and was an avid volunteer for the Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum. In 2013, she launched an educational YouTube channel called “The Brain Scoop,” with a focus on biology, zoology and natural history museum collections. She now works for the Chicago Field Museum.

is the author of Chris Dombrowski Chris two books of poetry, most recently Earth Again, published last spring by Wayne State University Press. He lives with his family in Missoula.

carpenter Malcolm Brooks Aforworking 25 years, Malcolm lives, works and writes in Missoula. His novel Painted Horses will be published by Grove/Atlantic in 2014.

is a contributing editor at Field & Hal Herring Hal Stream magazine, where he writes The Conservationist blog for the magazine’s website. He’s covered the environment, guns, mountaineering and conservation for a wide variety of national publications over the past 15 years. A lifelong shooter, hunter, fisherman and general outdoor layabout, he lives with his family in Augusta.

Montana Headwall Page 8 Fall 2013


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FAST AND FEARLESS

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Running down new records When Mike Foote started his stopwatch at 5 a.m., the desert air was chilly and still, and the customary pre-race butterflies had been replaced by calm and resolve. Seven hours, 22 minutes, six seconds and 48 miles later, he and fellow Missoulian Justin Yates had marked a new fastest known time, or FKT, on the Zion Traverse, a twisting stretch of desert singletrack located in Utah’s Zion National Park. “It’s different from racing,” Foote says. “We were just looking for a fun adventure.” Moving fast in the mountains is a far cry from a new phenomenon. Pioneers of the FKT movement have timed and recorded attempts on iconic peaks such as Grand Teton as early as the 1930s. But climbing quickly for the sake of climbing quickly has come into its own over the

last several years. “Trail running is blowing up,” Foote says, “and there’s a lot of ways to get after it.” The beauty of FKT lies in simplicity: Travel from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. Some routes are traveled on foot, others on skis, and still others call for technical rock climbing. There is a set of straightforward guidelines to keep

Bitterroot and Mission mountains, has set a high bar for FKT attempts on established routes throughout the Mountain West. “I think on skis, the movement came from rando racing,” he says. “It just seemed like the logical progression. But for me it’s always been more about big, long days in the mountains.”

FKT records are informally kept all over the Internet, at sites including iRunFar.com, CoastMountainSkiing.com and FastestKnownTime.proboards.com people honest, but the movement is based entirely on the honor system. There are no formal rules and no race support. “You’re out there on your own,” Foote says. “There’s something cool about that.” Brian Story is a backcountry skier who, along with pioneering lines in the

The trend toward speed in the mountains has led FKT critics to wonder if competition is making already dangerous sports even more unsafe. In 2012, trailrunning legend Kilian Jornet and his partner Stéphane Brosse embarked on a highly publicized attempt to ski across

Tom Robertson


the Mont Blanc massif in record time. Halfway through the voyage Brosse died when a cornice collapsed, sending him tumbling 600 meters. “Athletes are pushing it,” Foote acknowledges when asked about the danger of racing through inhospitable terrain. But climbing and skiing are inherently dangerous sports, and Story is less certain that moving quickly equates to increased risk. “Usually,” he says, “the more quickly you move, the less exposed you are to risky terrain. Most of these speed routes are pretty conservative. You want the route to be engaging, but not extreme.” Story also insists that focusing on efficiency and speed doesn’t have to be about setting records. “Most people are not going to start carrying a stopwatch,” he says, “but I like to encourage people to increase their efficiency. Whether it’s lightening your gear or improving transitions, you can go way faster.” Skiing is, after all, about having fun, and when you’re fast and efficient, “whatever kind of skiing you like doing, you can do more of it,” he says. Ben Horan

Mike Foote

Tom Robertson

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YETI VETTER

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HEAD LINES

Matt Moneymaker separates sasquatch myth from reality Local bigfoot believers have plenty to be excited about. The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (bfro.net) vetted three different western Montana sightings within the last year and found all to be credible. A new Spike TV reality show called “10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty” is scheduled to debut in January and features nine teams hunting the alleged species throughout the Pacific Northwest. And Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot” recently filmed an episode outside Bozeman, checking out suspicious footprints and interviewing witnesses who claim to have seen the elusive creature in the area. Matt Moneymaker, the founder of BFRO and host of “Finding Bigfoot,” says this type of increased attention will only help to convince skeptics of what he’s been preaching for decades: “There are bigfoots and they are here to stay.” We caught up with Moneymaker to talk about the bigfoot legend and the probability of finding one in the Rocky Mountain West. BFRO takes great pride in “scientifically investigating” alleged sightings. What’s your process for assessing reports? Matt Moneymaker: If you talk to enough eyewitnesses, it isn’t difficult to figure out which ones are lying and which ones at least believe what they’re telling you. The whole feel of the conversation is different than when you’re talking to

illustration by Kou Moua

seen a bigfoot, you usually want to tell your story as soon as possible.

God and Jesus, and they’re wrong about that too.

A lot of people flat-out don’t believe you or what you’re doing. How do you respond to them? MM: Doubters and skeptics are very uninformed. They’ve been more exposed to the cartoon commercialization of big-

You mention the cartoon commercialization. What are some common misperceptions about bigfoot? MM: The most common is that there’s only one. That’s not what we believe. Also, that they tend to attack or menace people or that they partake in some of the scenarios you see in the Jack Link’s [beef jerky] commercials. Any sort of elaborate interaction between the bigfoot or the witness is unlikely. A real, honest-to-god encounter with a bigfoot doesn’t last very long. It’s just like any other animal. They’re fairly rare, nocturnal, and they don’t want anything at all to do with humans.

The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization lists eight sightings in Missoula County, with the most recent involving a vacationing veterinarian spotting one on Waterworks Hill just north of downtown. someone who’s making something up. I can’t get too much into specifics, though, because I wouldn’t want hoaxsters to know what we’re looking for. What I can tell you is we have various levels of investigating. We talk to the witness on the phone. We meet the witness in person. We talk with the person in the place that [the sighting] happened. By that point we’ve heard the story enough times where you can hear if certain things change. How many investigators does BFRO have? MM: About 250 take on the responsibility of following up on reports. It’s important for us to have enough people to meet demand because once you’ve

foot, and they mistakenly think that that’s what we believe. It’s incorrect. Listen, I’ve stood 15 feet away from a bigfoot. I had one walk up to me, growling, before it turned and left. Until you see something like that and it’s just an abstract thing, you’re going to have doubts. What determines people’s beliefs are the beliefs of their peers and their parents. If all the people around you think that there is no such thing as bigfoot, then you’re going to tend to believe that. Most people are not going to pursue this on their own like I did. Most people think bigfoots don’t exist, and they’re totally wrong. Most people also think there’s such a thing as

Montana Headwall Page 12 Fall 2013

So, do you consider Montana prime sasquatch habitat? MM: Absolutely, and there’s a particular reason: the number of deer and elk and pronghorn in the area. It’s a good environment to provide the hoofed animals that are really the staple of a bigfoot diet. We believe they’re in the Bozeman area, around Yellowstone, and also in and around Missoula. We have the reports. We know they’re there. Skylar Browning


AIM TRUE

How to steady your hunting rifle without a sling or bipod Against a tree

On your backpack

DON’T USE YOUR CAR. It’s illegal to shoot from any state or federal highway or county road. EASY, PARTNER. Beware setting up across your saddle.

During the days of wholesale bison slaughter, hunters often rested their rifles on a stack of buffalo chips. illustration by Kou Moua

Montana Headwall Page 13 Fall 2013


SEW FORTH

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HEAD LINES

The Wilde pack mentality Inside a nondescript warehouse in Missoula, Carson Wilde describes the features of a small, black backpack he’s just sewn together. He calls the prototype an “urban pack designed to wear like a technical pack.” Wilde notes its diamond ripstop, 500-denier, waterproof fabric, its “free-floating” shoulder straps and taped seams. He drops jargon like a seasoned outdoor gear salesperson. But Wilde’s not happy with it. The 21year-old owner of Brothers Wilde Designs, or BWD, a startup specializing in backpacks, is just as quick to point out the pack’s imperfections as its selling points. The “seam allowance,” or inlay, is off by a fraction of an inch in one spot. He’ll go back to the drawing board, literally. He’s standing next to it. On the table are four pieces of cut poster board in the shapes of the pack’s main components. He’ll tweak the patterns and eventually, after several iterations, turn this “initial concept” into a final design that he hopes will make it to store shelves. In talking about BWD, Wilde always refers to “we.” But despite what “Brothers Wilde” implies, the company is a one-man

show. The extent of his brother’s contribution was a small loan to help launch the company a couple of years ago. Ever since, Wilde’s been toiling away at sewing machines, first at a small shop and now in the warehouse he shares with Everest Designs, a knit hat company. “I sat at a machine for long hours every day and just kind of learned the hard way

Cathrine L. Walters

Early on, Wilde only made custom backpacks that he sold online. (Orders can be placed at bwildegear.com.) Now, he has shifted his focus to contracting his prototyping and development skills

Carson Wilde dropped out of the University of Montana music education program two years ago to launch BWD. by doing,” says Wilde, who calls local hang glider Jeff Shapiro, who sews his own harnesses, a mentor. “I didn’t go to school for it or take any classes. It was more taking a bag apart that I had for years and figuring out how they put it together, and then kind of replicating it and changing what I thought could be better.”

to other companies. Wilde says another company is considering buying the design for the small pack he was working on earlier. “There’s a lot of exciting stuff coming, eventually,” Wilde says. “It’s all written and designed and patterned and just a matter of time.” Matthew Frank

HEAD ONLINE

Only at And the winner is… Hamtana, the slickly edited and rollicking film by Eric Neibler, won Headwall’s esteemed ski video contest. The judges unanimously selected Neibler’s film from dozens of entries, calling it “highly skilled and hilarious.” Neibler followed his victory— which earned him a pair of custom skis from Montana Ski Company, by posting a summer montage in the Head Out section of our website.

Eric Neibler

Ritual burial Chris Waltz and his wife waited more than seven years to find the perfect place to bury the placentas from their two daughters’ births. “Burying it properly is a nod of recognition to the relationship between humans and the earth,” Chris writes in an intimate trip report that details how the couple— and their daughters—selected the spot.

PLUS: • Planning a fall trip? Explore Headwall’s exclusive database for more than 600 detailed descriptions and reviews of parks, peaks, resorts and more. • Like Headwall on Facebook to keep track of the latest news, condition reports and Headwall contests. Kathleen Waltz

Montana Headwall Page 14 Fall 2013


Montana Headwall Page 15 Fall 2013


Hold on the Universe


One family’s push to continue a common journey by Alex Sakariassen Gazing up at the clouds spread thick along the Rocky Mountain Front, I can feel my insides twisting into a knot. It’s not fear that’s nagging at me but disappointment. A few short days earlier Ear Mountain had cut the sky like a blade, its crisp outline beckoning us. Now the peak has disappeared behind a vast white curtain that continues to creep across the range, foot by foot. Somewhere up there is my family’s ancestral hold on the universe, a mountain we’ve long admired, and decided we must climb. This hump of jagged rock and jack pine we’re standing on now is as close as we’ll come this summer.

“I’m telling you, that butte to the north has to be this point here,” I say, jabbing a finger at the map. “It’s the only spot that makes any sense.” I’ve been going back and forth with my dad, Erik, for almost half an hour about where on the map we are. We’ve got our bearings: the jeep track we followed up over Yeager Flats, the ridges feeding off the mountains in front of us. Not that our exact location matters much now. There’s no sense trying to bushwhack dense aspen and pine only to get lost in that ever-lowering cloud ceiling. We’re just trying to save face, trying to convince ourselves we could make it if we tried.

“No, I think we’re standing right here,” he says, lining up the compass. “But then what the hell is that tall point in front of us? Thom, what’s our elevation right now?” My cousin, Thom Baustian, visiting from Des Moines, digs through a pack for the GPS. He informs us that we’re around 6,100 feet, far short of Ear Mountain’s 8,580-foot summit. Elevation is the last piece of the puzzle, and we conclude that Dad is in fact right about where we are. Thom’s wife, Beth, and my 15-year-old cousin, Maggie Luthin, from Pennsylvania, snap photos and take in the view of prairie to the east.

Alex Sakariassen


We rummage for granola bars and sit on the rocks, our faces long from fatigue or disappointment, hard to tell which. “Well, the mountain’s beaten us again,” Dad says. We chuckle. We remember our first attempt to summit Ear Mountain with my sister Emily, a few years before, a trip cut short by an impassable cliff face. ºOnly two members of our tangled clan have ever made it to the top: me, and Maggie’s father, Bill Luthin. It’s been a wistful dream to reach the summit as a group to stand, two generations side by side, overlooking our collective home. I’m on another mission today, though. At the bottom of my pack is a small tartan container with the last of my maternal grandmother’s ashes. The summer after she died, in 2004, we spread most of her to the wind from a butte overlooking the Front. My mom, Amy, felt that a part of her should mingle with my grandfather atop Ear Mountain. He lived the bulk of his life in its shadow, and his ashes were spread upon it after his death. Grandma had lived with him in sight of Ear Mountain as well, in a modest home on the Teton River we call The Barn. I spent all my summers as a kid marveling at Ear Mountain’s odd southward slant. In my earliest years I thought it was called Our Mountain. “Nothing to do but go back,” Dad says. The rest of us have been silent, not wanting to admit it. “Sorry guys,” I say. I don’t know why I feel like it’s my fault. “Don’t be sorry,” Beth says, smiling. “You can’t control the weather.” For our sakes, and for Grandma’s, I wish I could. Instead her ashes will return to the Barn and wait, like the rest of us, for another year.

“I doubt the practical sense of claiming kinship to a mountain, but sometimes it seems to me that Ear Mountain and I are on a common journey, made relatives by times and vicissitudes. Of course its life will outlast mine, but I’d rather it missed me than that I grieved for it.” My grandfather A.B. Guthrie Jr.— known to my family as Bud—penned those words in the late 1970s, summing up the feeling that drew his eyes time and again to Ear Mountain. Six months

these days that we have inherited Bud’s connection with Ear Mountain. Thom and Beth were still just high-school sweethearts when they first came to the Barn together. Mom and Bill knew happy childhood days here with Grandma and Bud, and brought the significant others that would become their spouses for visits. My folks were married in the Barn’s sun room, and in the decades that followed, the youngest of us spent summers building forts or fishing the Teton for rainbow and cutthroat. Our lives have unfolded in Ear Mountain’s shadow, making it a part of the family. Ear Mountain lies 30 miles, give or take, west of the small ranching burg of Choteau. Few peaks of the Front Range illustrate more dramatically where the American plains end and the Rockies begin. The cliffs of Ear Mountain rise suddenly from a mass of rolling green foothills and jumbled scree, sparking in the hearts of locals a special attachment to that word Western authors so commonly employ: place. Ear Mountain is perhaps the most widely recognized peak on the Front, and a name not easily forgotten, even if its origins have been. One theory is that mountain men of the 19th century fur trade called the peak Elephant Ear. The story leads one to wonder if those trappers ever laid eyes on an elephant. Ear Mountain bears little resemblance to an elephant’s ear, or any ear for that matter. Ear Mountain is a tipped Alex Sakariassen triangular slab with its topmost vertex pointing almost due north mysteries he composed later in life. The and its low-slung base facing south. The Front was home for him, and Ear shape changes as one cruises through Mountain its hearth. perspectives along the Front, but for my I don’t remember Bud well. I was five family, the truest view is that seen from when he passed away in the spring of the banks of the Teton River four miles ’91, and while we continue to maintain east, by the Barn. the Barn as he and Grandma did, my Uncle Bill was the first of us to reach memories of him there are hazy. One the summit. In 1981 he launched a hapdoes stand out: The sight of Ear hazard trek up Rierdon Gulch on the Mountain through the twin picture winTeton’s South Fork, only to find himself dows in his loft study, where he’d sit me and his crew two drainages too far west. on his lap before a typewriter and let my He made the mountain’s backside by fingers hammer the keys. That view is a dusk and had to bivouac on Ear’s flat, respite I retreat to as often as possible slanted top. Mom remembers seeing now, a place where my connection to their flashlights shining on the summit both my grandfather and his beloved that night, visible from the Barn, miles Front feels strongest. Grandma never away. Her own attempt, years later, up called it Ear Mountain that I can rememand around the mountain’s southern ber. It was always “Buddy’s Mountain.” flank, was halted by one of the sudden Thom, Beth, Maggie, Emily, my parlightning storms all too common along ents—there’s a silent acknowledgment the Front. after his birth, in 1901, Bud came to the Choteau area with his parents and sister. A childhood in Choteau meant long days fishing and hiking on the fringes of the Bob Marshall Wilderness—long before it was named as such—and Bud developed a strong bond to the landscape. It became an inspiration for his writing, sometimes a setting, and the bond brought him back after a journalism career in Lexington, Kentucky. It was a connection that bled onto every page of his work, from The Big Sky to a little-known series of western


Bud made it next, in a way, though he’d never really cared to see the top. He told a reporter with the Helena Independent Record in 1985, “I just want to look at it. I suppose you could call Ear Mountain a kind of a talisman.” After his death in 1991, a family friend flew Grandma and Bill over the peak to spread Bud’s ashes. Bill later delivered a tribute during Bud’s memorial service in Choteau: “To the west are the mountains that were the backbone of his work. In that range, one peak stands out: Ear Mountain. In its shadow he lived his life and wrote his books. He called Ear Mountain his hold on the universe. It holds him now.”

There are a number of ways to summit Ear Mountain, none of which follow clearly defined trails. An approach from the south requires a hike up an old jeep trail, then a steady push through aspen groves and over ridgelines until you reach the base of the lower cliff face. From the north, you have the option of bushwhacking to a fat ridgeline and skirting a scree basin or bushwhacking to a steeper ridge and hooking over the saddle just below Ear’s northern tip. Either way, you end up on a goat path along a precarious scree slope on Ear’s backside. The final push is the same from any direction: a desperate scramble up a single chimney that spits you out on the top. The summer before I started college at the University of Montana, our family friend Jenny Barhaugh phoned the Barn, where we were vacationing, to ask if I’d be interested in climbing Ear Mountain. Grandma had passed away in May, and I felt a particular yearning to connect with the family spirits. For Jenny and the three others in our proposed party, it was a refreshing jaunt in familiar surroundings. For me, it felt like a pilgrimage. I said I’d go, and Jenny cautioned me to bring leather gloves. The scree could be unforgiving on hands. “This is exhausting.” I uttered the phrase repeatedly as Jenny led us, like a mountain goat, straight up a steep ridge. We’d crossed Yeager Flats and turned off-trail at some point that made sense only to Jenny, fighting our way through dense growth until the pines thinned out. Navigating

vertex removed any hope of proceeding. We’d climbed too high, or too low. With no obvious path to follow, we couldn’t tell which. “End of the line, folks,” Dad said as we returned to Emily, Maggie and the rest. They were snacking on the last of the bread, cheese and salami we’d packed. Those over 21 were passing around a bottle of Pinot grigio. A glance at the map told us we’d made it to about 8,200 feet— 380 feet short of the summit. After an online review of several suggested routes, we’d decided to try the southern approach. All morning we’d trudged methodically uphill, each step steeper than the last. What we found below Ear’s southern cliffs was breathtaking: a boulder-strewn basin speckled with jack pine that offered a thrilling view of the Deep Creek drainage and Chute Mountain beyond. As demoralizing as it was to reach a dead-end, the hike was worth it. The trip down, however, proved terrifying. We somehow misjudged the layout of drainages and wound up farther south than we’d intended. We hoofed it over first one ridge and then another, bushwhacking dense streamside growth that seemed like prime habitat for grizzlies. I kept one hand over my bear spray, imagining the tongue-lashing I’d get Alex Sakariassen from Bill and my aunt Kay if something took a bite out of Maggie. By the time we Survey marker puts the elevation at 8,580. reached the base of the third ridge, our water had run low. The temperature rose I dared to peer over the side. The world as the afternoon wore on. Beth started to fell away for a few hundred feet and was feel light-headed, a clear indication that swallowed by a slope of scree and bouldehydration was setting in. ders. “Well, this is a lot of fun,” Thom said as Standing there, I began to understand we climbed over a log next to a stream. Ear Mountain’s place in the universe. It “Anyone know where we are?” felt like standing on the spindle of some “Ho, bear,” I shouted, not wanting to giant record player—a metaphor Bill loved to apply to our favorite fishing hole admit I was lost. “Hey, bear. Go away, bear.” on the Teton. The world seemed to Maggie picked up the chant. Emily revolve around Ear. But something was followed suit. With little else to lift our missing. When I returned to the Barn spirits, we put the words to music. later that afternoon, I knew that only Bill “Okay, this looks pretty familiar,” I could relate to what I’d seen. said as we crested a particularly tiring rise. A trail appeared around a bend. We passed a wide clearing. The jeep trail materialized before us. By the time we Years later, in 2011, Dad and I found reached the car, we’d overshot dinner by ourselves staring across a cliff face at the an hour. We vowed that next time we’d backside of Ear Mountain, cut off from the final approach by a drop of hundreds ask for better directions. That’s the task I was charged with of feet. We could see the tan ribbon of a early this summer, as we discussed on trail along the valley floor below. Above, Facebook what Fourth of July weekday the spires of Ear Mountain’s southwest cliffy outcroppings and balancing across fields of sharp rock, we finally reached a skinny goat path. Precambrian spires rose above us to Ear’s final elevation. “Watch your footing here,” Jenny told us when we reached the base of the chimney. I took two steps up the scree, sank back one step, and took two more. I steadied myself against the rock face to my left and watched Jenny’s progress for hints. When I finally hauled myself onto the flat top of Ear, I let out a sigh. The plains stretched so far I imagined I could see the North Dakota line in the distance, and my hometown of Bismarck just beyond. Looking north, south and west, the Rockies lifted toward the sky like the prows of so many ships in a storm. We relaxed for a while with our backs against a pile of rock, then wandered to the true summit. The U.S. Geological


Alex Sakariassen

would work best for another try. I’d hoped to line up an actual guide to take us, ideally someone like Jenny who knew the route well. I had to settle for directions and tips from several sources. On July 5, the night before our trek, I dug out the old quadrangle map and drove to a neighbor’s house up the road. Several of us bent over the map, tracing the jeep track across Yeager Flats to a stream crossing. There, I was told, the route peeled off through the aspen and up one of the ridgelines. “Where exactly do we turn west?” I asked. “Oh, you just follow your intuition,” said Dave Carr, a longtime friend of Grandma and Bud. “It’ll just feel right.” I’d gotten similar directions from Jenny over the phone a little earlier. She’d said to leave the jeep track “when it makes sense to” and simply go up. “When you cross the fence going northsouth,” she added, “you’ll know you’re going the right way.” None of this instilled much confidence. Still, I’d been told the northern approach was easier, and I felt that with a map, compass and clear line of sight up each ridge, I could get us to our destination. The next morning, we awoke to clouds on the horizon.

“Amy, we’re heading back down.” Thom is holding his phone above his head. My mom, seated comfortably back at the Barn, is on the other end. Apparently cell reception has finally come to the Front, a fact I’m regarding as a travesty. Thom puts Mom on speaker.

“Did you make it already?” she asks. There’s a teasing tone to her voice. We’ve only been gone three hours, and it takes at least four to reach the summit. “No. The clouds are too thick. We’re heading back.” “Yeah, we figured. We can’t even see the mountains from here.” It’s my sister’s

David Spear

voice now. They’re clearly having a bit of a laugh at our expense. “How about we meet you back at the car for lunch?” “See you there.” Thom hangs up and tosses his phone back in his bag. I continue munching on a granola bar, fuming a little. The hike back down proves largely uneventful aside from the cloud ceiling’s continuing descent. If we continued to climb, lack of visibility would merely add to the danger. I’ve flirted with foggy mountaintops before. I reassure the group

with some authority that we’re making the right call. “Next year,” Thom says, “why don’t we hire a helicopter to take us up?” I can’t help thinking, as we plod back down the jeep track, that Bud had more sense than us in ignoring the call of Ear Mountain’s summit. Somehow the family’s common journey with that peak has gone from looking up to climbing up. Perhaps it’s how we seek to console the mountain in whatever grief it might feel for Bud and Grandma’s passing. Perhaps it’s how we’ve decided to deal with our own grief, to gaze down on the world with our ghosts instead of gazing powerlessly up at them. In 1986, the year I was born, Bud wrote a final poetic ode to Ear Mountain. It became the title piece in his single chapbook of poetry, Four Miles From Ear Mountain. It goes like this: Ear Mountain stands four miles away, crow-flight, from our house. No day passes but I gaze on it as my father did when I was young. I see him looking out the window west, his eyes fixed and his body still. Restive, he found peace there perhaps, or in it some continuation of himself, some promise of foreverness. I did not know his thoughts, nor am I clear about my own as its lift invites my eye, and somehow I am part of it, a mortal partner to eternity.

I only wish I’d brought a copy to read in the shadow of those clouds.


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by Cathrine L. Walters

HEAD LIGHT


W

hen soaring downhill on a mountain bike, your eyes harden, focusing on the trail ahead and the obstacles you’ll have to pop over, maneuver around or pedal through. Trees, bushes and flowers stream by in colorful lines akin to star trails seen at hyper-speed. Capturing that motion and energy with your camera is challenging but possible with a technique called panning. It allows you to capture an object as it whizzes past, creating a blurred background while the subject stays in focus. Panning is easy, but it often takes a few tries to achieve the desired results. The basic idea calls for the shooter to stand still and, as the subject enters the frame, track

along with them at the same speed and snap away. Most modern cameras allow you to adjust the shutter speed and aperture manually. To pan, select a slightly slower shutter speed than necessary for the available light. To help with focusing, find a location where your subject will be traveling a path next to you. For instance, in the picture here, I set up next to the trail and, while looking through the viewfinder, practiced sweeping the mountain biker’s route from side to side to make sure my view wouldn’t be obstructed. As the racer approached, I tracked him down the path, pressing the shutter release button halfway to focus. After I got the shot, I continued to pan with him even after hearing the

shutter click, just to ensure the effect worked from start to finish. Chances are the first shot will fail. If there’s not enough blur in the background, try a slower shutter speed. Make sure to adjust the aperture to compensate. If you have a hard time focusing, try pre-focusing on the spot where you want to release the shutter. Panning experiments can be frustrating, but when the technique works it can add welcome variety to your photo cache. I recommend practicing at an event like a bike race, where dozens of riders fly past at regular intervals. You’ll have plenty of chances to try different exposures and modes to get the shot you want.

Cathrine L. Walters


HEAD SHOTS mtheadwall.com

Todd Spangler

A lone angler casts along the North Fork of the Flathead River. Ashton Howard

Montana Headwall Page 24 Fall 2013

ÂľSony, 5.2mm, 1/320, f/4.3, ISO 100.


David Sain

Three hikers work their way across a meadow on Little Rock Creek Trail in the Bitterroot National Forest. µCanon EOS 50D, 28mm, 1/40, f/11, ISO 250.

Michael Roessmann

Bigfork’s Dave Myers competes in the Whitewater Festival held on the Swan River in his hometown. µCanon EOS 5D Mark II, 120mm, 1/640, f/2.8, ISO 125.

Montana Montana Headwall HeadwallPage Page 2525Spring Fall 2013 2012


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Watching the clouds roll by at Bowman Lake, Glacier National Park.

ÂľCanon PowerShot SX260 HS, 4.5mm, 1/1250, f/4, ISO 100.


Frank Previch

Arrowleaf balsamroot on top of Mount Sentinel, with the Rattlesnake Wilderness in the background. µCanon PowerShot SX210 IS, 35mm, 1/400, f/5, ISO 80.

know you’re out there, having epics and W esnapping photos. Instead of condemning them to anonymity in hard-drive purgatory, go for the glory and send your best images to us at hweditor@mtheadwall.com. Include the location, your name, the names of all people shown and any information you think is useful. We’ll take it from there.


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Corrynn Cochran

The waterfalls of Avalanche Creek Gorge at Glacier National Park. Montana Headwall Page 28 Fall 2013

ÂľCanon EOS 5D, 47 mm, 1/3, f/10, ISO 1600.


Montana Headwall Page 29 Fall 2013


t 16 years of age, beneath a roller coaster named The Gemini at Cedar Point amusement park near Cleveland, Ohio, I vowed to catch a carp on a fly rod. How a dozen rough fish milling about a cement pond rising to pretzel chunks tossed in by sunburnt kids caught the fancy of a recently converted dry-fly purist I’ll never know. Perhaps it was the large-mouthed fish’s apparent gluttony, or their sheer size compared to the minnow-like brook trout I was used to. Regardless of the reason, 21 years later, anchored off the shore of Clark Canyon Reservoir south of Dillon, I was finding the pursuit of my first carp on a fly far more challenging than I’d ever imagined. A modest school of huge, pre-spawn fish sloshed through the shallows near the mouth of the feebly flowing Horse Prairie Creek. Their gold-orange, halfway-out-of-thewater backs glinted in the sun, but every cast I threw spooked them wildly, causing the ankle-deep water to tremble like a train-shook house. My friend and former boss, Tim Tollett, owner of Dillon’s Frontier Anglers and southwest Montana’s resident carp expert, levied swift judgment on my casts: “Too hard. That fly is landing way too hard.” “How can they be this spooky?” I asked, explaining to Tim that a week before launching the drift boat on Clark Canyon, I’d been walking the shores of Lake Michigan and encountered a school of spawning carp in the bay where angling legend Dave Whitlock popularized carp fishing with a fly in 1998. Since my fly rod was then nearly 2,000 miles away back in

Montana, I had walked barefoot, heron-like, through the warm shallows, sneaked to within an arm’s length of a 20-pound fish, and thrust my hand at its tail. I’d nearly grasped it before the fish shot off with alarming speed, leaving a trail of stirred silt in its wake. “Shit, if I could get within an inch of that fish without any gear, how can these fish possibly be so spooky?” Tim pointed behind us at two boats whose presence I hadn’t noticed. “Carp-chers,” he said, nodding at the boats loaded down with several archers, their bowstrings drawn tight and arrows aimed at the shallow water. “These fish have more predators than elk.”


Carp are a native delicacy in Asia, and considered an upper-echelon sportfish in Europe, but listed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks as “non-native, incidental” (read: trash fish). Nonetheless, they attract quite a crowd at Clark Canyon Reservoir. An idling speedboat drifted toward us. In the bow stood a tall, thin woman wearing camouflage crop pants and a bikini top. Holding her bow at the ready, she looked the picture of refinement to me, but then I strive for ecumenism in these overly judgmental times. From not too far across the glassy water, a hefty man in a second boat, a pontoon, could be heard talking to his partner, presumably about us: “Don’t get too close to them—they’re fishing.” “So am I,” said the man standing at the steering wheel. Tim had brought his bow as well, a longbow, and a quiver sheathed in a fox skin, but who were we to argue with carp-chers? “Do they actually hit these things?” I asked. Before Tim could answer, the bikini-clad woman released an arrow. It shot through the water’s surface with a sound I have only encountered while watching Legolas dispatch orcs in The Lord of the Rings. “Missed!” she said, and began to crank a fishing reel handle on the side of the bow, which gathered the line to which the arrow was attached. Some recently hatched midges whirred above our heads with an eerie apocalyptic whine, and I recalled my aging grandmother’s longtime assertion: that three species of creature, due to their nonpareil adaptability, will remain at the end of times: coyotes, cockroaches, and carp. She called them “the three C’s.”

“These

My indomitable grandmother was presently slouching through her 92nd humid Michigan summer, hospitalized with another bladder infection, her third in as many weeks. Following a major brain aneurism in 1995, she had survived the better part of the past two decades almost solely on Heath bar ice cream, Cutty Sark and Benson & Hedges cigarettes, and from her hospital bed had recently middle-fingered the doctor who suggested that an alteration in diet would be prudent. “I’m a survivor, honey, a carp,” she’d scoffed to me a week earlier from her antiseptic room. “Now go find me a belt of Cutty.”

By the time we reached Tim’s favorite bay in the shadow of the Tendoy range, I’d exhausted my paltry supply of bemusing carp puns (“Even if the fishing’s slow, I’m not going to carp about it,” etc.), which Tim ignored while scanning the water for signs of fish. We were looking for another school of carp, but until we found it, we were looking for evidence that the fish had been using the underwater country: wide puffs of mud, loosened weeds or other disturbances along the bottom. “It won’t look like a pig trough,” Tim said, “but you’ll be able to tell when they’ve been around. I’ve seen schools in this bay wide enough to walk across. It looks like the lake bottom is moving.” One of my early angling mentors once described to me the evolutionary

fish have more predators than elk.”

stages of a fly fisherman as follows: At first, the angler just wants to catch a fish. Then he wants to catch lots of fish. Then he wants to catch big fish. And finally, he wants to catch big, selective fish. Where catching so-called trash fish with refined high-end tackle fits into this evolution (or devolution) I wasn’t sure. Nor was I sure that the thin light cutting into the water revealed a carpstirred batch of mud, but I offered to Tim: “Do you think that’s mud over there? I think I see tails.” “I’ve seen them here before,” Tim said, “but that could be just glare.” It’s the tailing carp—water flicking off the sunlit dorsal and tailfin—that most fly-anglers covet. This pursuit is a far cheaper drug—less travel, less gear —than a tailing bonefish or permit, both of which reside chiefly in the Caribbean. But decades before carp-on-a-fly became the piscatorial equivalent of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer (shit swill everywhere but the hippest of Western watering holes), Tim was already pursuing these bruisers with trout gear. Over a century after the common carp was imported to California from Germany, but a full three decades before Orvis released its Guide to Fly Fishing for Carp, Tim knew that catching carp on a 10-foot 5-weight would be a challenge, but not to what extent. Most of the anglers who fish the Beaverhead, the trophy-trout-hungry clients to whom Tim caters, care nothing for the fish that flyfishing pioneer Izaak Walton centuries ago called “the queen of waters, a stately fish.” Tim, however, has nothing but respect for them.


“These are some of the spookiest fish on the planet,” Tim said, “but try to lead the fish by a foot or two at most. Their eyesight isn’t great in this water.” I did as told and stripped the fly, a wine-colored woolly bugger, briskly across the bottom. The fish tore off toward Leadore, Idaho, leaving a wake and a line of stirred muck. “You’ve gotta strip slower,” Tim said. “They’ll find the fly.” Over the next several minutes I botched the job three more times. “Do you think this is the right fly?” I asked. “It ain’t the arrow,” Tim said, “it’s the archer. Let me have a shot.” My face reddened with embarrassment as I heard a line I’ve used for 17 years—the arrow line—boomerang back at me. But when Tim laced out a cast, landed the fly with all the plop of a pea, tightened the line, and bent the rod full with the weight of the day’s first carp, I was ready to slink into the bottom of the boat. Mercifully, the fish popped Tim’s tippet, halving the amount of crow I had to swallow. “You’re just stripping the fly too fast,” he said. “Just curl the line around your left hand like this”—he made a motion as if he were twisting his wrist to check his watch—“and keep the line tight.” Tim clipped the woolly bugger from the leader with his teeth. “Let’s go with something smaller, too,” he said. “These fish are moving into shallow water for the warmth, and we want something that will land a little lighter.” He knotted a #14 Callibaetis nymph to the 4x fluorocarbon tippet and promised the fly would hit the water lighter


than a popcorn fart. I couldn’t fathom what these huge fish wanted with an earwig-size nymph, but I stripped some line from the reel and started to scan the shallows for nervous water. Beneath the water’s dappled surface, a few stray leafless sage bushes anchored themselves amid the milfoil. Other than that, the bottom seemed as desolate as the surrounding hills. Before construction of the earth-fill dam was completed in 1964 at the northern end of the valley, three bodies of moving water—Horse Prairie and Maurer creeks, and the Red Rock River— met here and made their way north. Today, the beds of these dead streams contour the bottom of this 5,000-acre impoundment

underneath the boardwalk and tilted its barbeled mouth up toward the sky before rolling on the filter, frothing the water. A similar disturbance frothed and shocked the shallows on Clark Canyon when I pulled tight on my first carp. As the big male felt the sting of the hook and fled south in the general direction of Monida Pass—a hundred or so yards in a matter of seconds—a dozen of its spawning mates split in the opposite direction. “That tippet is stronger than you think,” Tim said. “Put the screws to him.” I tightened the drag, turned the rod into a long bow at full draw, and after one more thwarted run the fish was lagging beside the boat. Tim scooped him

Quick as I could, I cleared the coils of line from the bottom of the boat and threw a cast—frankly, one of my best in the past decade—about 90 feet, the fly landing within a foot of a 15-pounder’s whiskers. Before I could strip the line the fish was tight, thrashing at the surface before initiating its run. “You fed him on that one,” Tim said. “Straight on. They don’t have much patience for anything they don’t come on themselves. I’ve never seen a single fish eat something stripped across their path of travel.” “Do you think they’re eating these little nymphs all day?” I asked, cranking

known mostly for its fat rainbow trout, lingcod and speedboating. Downstream of the dam, one of the country’s most productive tailwater fisheries—the Beaverhead River, which boasts more than 3,000 trout per mile—begins, and, sustained by the reservoir’s cold, bottom-draw flows, courses over the heads of the fat trout that draw tourists to the otherwise sleepy Montana cow town of Dillon.

with an old net he saved for carp, and we admired the creature’s huge keen eyes before removing the tiny nymph from the corner of its mouth. “Go forth and multiply,” I told the fish. The fish’s schooling mates had fled in the direction of the carp-chers, and now the still air was abuzz with the whistle of arrows piercing the water. “What do they do with them if they connect?” I asked Tim. “I don’t know, but I’ve always wanted to eat one,” he said. “Gotta be decent. They eat the same food as the trout and ling in here, and they’re fantastic.” “If you arrow one,” I said, “I’ll eat it.” “Deal,” Tim said. “I’ll keep the bow at the ready. But see if you can get one of these big ones to eat that nymph.”

down on the fish. “I mean, how do they get so big? I’ve heard they eat berries, weeds, all kinds of strange stuff.” Just then, without warning, Tim stood up in the back of the boat and, in one fluid motion, drew the string on his bow and released an arrow into the clear water. “Oh-for-one,” he said. “Or it would have been carp sandwich for you.” An hour or so later, back at the boat launch, the other carp-chers were nursing their failures with Natural Light. I asked if anyone had struck scale. “I stuck one,” the pontoon boss said, “but he swam off.” “With the arrow?” “Yeah, right in the dorsal,” he said. “But he was fine. I’ve seen those guys swimming around for weeks with the

Once, while walking along the Detroit River, I saw a carp eat a cigarette butt my grandmother had flicked into the water. The fish rose like an orange zeppelin from

Montana Headwall Page 34 Fall 2013


fletching sticking out of the water. You can’t hardly kill em.” Apparently not.

I had showered Tim with gratitude for his expertise, purchased a few dozen of his unmatched hopper patterns at Frontier Anglers, and was headed homeward up I-15 when the cellphone rang. It was my mom bearing more not-so-great news about my grandmother. “But she’ll probably prove the doctors wrong again,” she said. “Outlive us all.” I pulled over to talk but couldn’t muster much, so I hung up and watched the high evening sun illuminate plumes of water sprayed from irrigation pivots— tiny, long-traveled filaments of the reservoir falling across the expansive, greenas-it-gets Beaverhead Valley. I kept quiet and let my eyes well. What’s a tear, I wondered, but more evidence of how we end up, like water, a long way from what we thought was home.

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F

or most of two decades, a single line in the Montana Upland Bird regs has annually piqued my curiosity: “Chukar partridge occur primarily in Carbon County.” I’d moved to Montana in my twenties, and amid the embarrassment of autumn’s outdoor riches I never did get around to trying for chukar. But every year I encountered that line in the regs and knew it was something I would eventually do. I think the temptation involved the rush of discovery and wanting to sample every facet of the Treasure State’s trove. I knew the species thrives on a rimrock terrain I’d never hunted upon, and I knew as well that a near-cult exists around chukar hunting in Idaho and Oregon. A certain type of fairly far-gone bird hunter considers it the pinnacle of the upland hunting experience. I thought of that cult status when I set out last October for an Absarokee-area antelope hunt. I called the regional FWP desk to see if it might be worth my while to add a bird-hunting day along the Wyoming border. The biologist in that office, Shawn Stuart, turned out to be a dedicated chukar hunter, but he hadn’t been out for them that season—at least not yet. “Snakes,” he explained. “They’re everywhere. Even if you don’t step on one, your dog will.” He said it’d be better to wait until later in the season, after the Montana Headwall Page 36 Fall 2013

rattlers went into hibernation. He added that if I really wanted to get into chukar, I should head west into Idaho, where they abound in the canyons along the Salmon River. I was aware of this, but something about that line in the regs had its fangs in me. “Believe me, I get it,” Stuart said. “You have to experience Montana too.” He went on to tell me that the year before, he’d managed to kill just two chukar partridges. As I headed to Absarokee, I kept hoping the weather would turn in time to drive the snakes to ground, but it didn’t. I made the long drive ahead of the pronghorn opener on an Indiansummer day, the sun yellowing the world through the glass of the pickup. An hour from my destination the sky began to darken, at first with nightfall, then with the black descent of a storm. The state’s lower tier had been choked by drought for months, so the irony of cranking the top on my rickety 1983 pop-up in a sudden whiteout felt less like an answer to local prayers than some kind of personal jab from Mother Nature. But I found myself on this seemingly luckless night camped beside what might be termed a godsend—a retired utilities lineman who towered not unlike a power pole himself. He introduced himself as Huck Hutson, a name the writer in me could only take as a sign that things were figuratively looking up as well.


“You brought it with you,” he chuckled, in an understated drawl that betrayed a Texas childhood. “We haven’t had a drop since Memorial Day.” By coincidence, or maybe synchronicity, the ranch I’d signed on to hunt for antelope the next day belonged to Huck’s son. He invited me to his fifth-wheel for a visit. We talked bird dogs and guns, archaeology and books. And Larry McMurtry. I’d guessed correctly on Texas—Huck was born and raised there, in the same region as McMurtry. I told him I had a bird dog named Gus, after the hero in Lonesome Dove. Huck laughed and said his son’s saddle horse had the same namesake. The talk eventually turned to chukar. Huck told me he’d spent 40 years in Carbon County and had nearly foresworn pheasants altogether to chase chukar around the desert south of Belfry. He told me chasing the masked bombers was a young man’s game, that a working life climbing power poles had ruined his knees for the canyons. He told me he missed chukar hunting. By the end of my stay that weekend, I’d made a friend. I knew I’d be back, not least because Huck offered to meet me in December in his old haunts and point me into the hills after his birds. ••• Two months passed. I hauled two hunting dogs and the popup to Bridger on an oddly balmy December evening. Midway through the night the wind roared in like a Mongol horde, filling the canvas like a bellows and disrupting my sleep, finally driving me early out of the sleeping bag. Huck couldn’t meet that first day so I set out alone, the wind bending the sage along the highway, trash flapping like prayer

flags from the barbed-wire fences. The analogy struck me as apt. The chukar has a native range from Nepal and the Himalayas, across India and on to Afghanistan. Early British adventurers shot the species for sport on its home turf. American game offices planted the bird here in the 1930s, establishing a hard-flying quarry in the rock canyons of the West. South out of Belfry the country turned to desert, rough-andtumble BLM ground dedicated to well pads and scorched-earth grazing. A ribbon of creek wound through a canal along the roadway—otherwise the land rose out of the basin in boulders and reefs and stone palisades. I popped the door and a gust wrenched it to its hinges. I looked across the flattened sage at the brittle quivering salt cedar along the wash and actually had second thoughts. But the dogs whimpered in their crates; I’d brought them a long way. I pulled my vest and gun out of the truck. I’d left my old veteran bird dog, Gus, back home in order to work two very young dogs, French Brittany brothers named Chief and Hubert (the latter, after the patron saint of hunting, rhymes with au pair). I wanted to give these rookies one last crack in their inaugural year. We worked through the salt cedar along the creek, a noman’s-land of scratch and scrape and prod, then back up into the wind’s slap to an endless view of limestone jumbles and sand. The terrain was all violent pitch and broken contour. After three hours the gale blew all three of us back to the pickup. I hadn’t seen a sign of game birds and I owed the dogs at least some chance. I trucked back toward Bridger to public ground with the unmistakable look of pheasant habitat.

Montana Headwall Page 37 Fall 2013


Here the wind blew in fits and starts. The bank along the river showed signs of habitat restoration, scores of Russian olives bulldozed into mountains of slash, green fruit strewn across the ground. In the dust was also the unmistakable dinosaur-stamp of pheasant prints. The dogs got a blast of scent and began to work like veteran chasseurs. We worked the trees along the water. With the dogs birdy I tried to ready myself, and as always was only partly successful, only partly collected when a rooster blasted not from ground cover but out of a tree, sailing for safety across the river. The gun bucked. The bird came down in the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone. I watched it drift and bemoaned the absence of Gus, an old hand at water retrieves. As it was, three minutes of goading the pups into a winter swim got me nowhere. Finally I tore at bootlaces and socks and, ignoring thoughts of broken glass and fishhooks, started wading. The water stabbed at my legs like an icepick. I tried both to balance and to keep my Carhartts above my knees and quickly jettisoned the latter goal, wincing ahead across the cobble. Hubert powered by me with the easy glide of a muskrat. He flinched to encounter the pheasant. “Fetch,” I wheezed, and beat feet for shore the second he seized the prize. Saint Hubert was evidently on my side. My pants dried in the wind within an hour. The boys put up a second rooster, which I shot and knocked askew over a cattail slough, shot again and marked down near a cluster of downy heads. The needle is of course relative to the haystack.

This particularly dense area stretched acres each way. I locked my eyes on that specific cluster of cattails and crashed forward, checking the safety by feel, fumbling blind in my shell bag for rounds. I got to the markers and shoved dead stalks aside, saying, “Dead bird, dead bird,” like a skipping record, hoping to teach my young etudiants something they might carry forward. Chief was beside me, Hubert rustling invisibly a few feet away. Then the rustling quit. I gave it five seconds and pushed ahead. He’d frozen on point above the dead bird. I made sure Chief got a good noseful of his brother’s trophy and told him he’d better look alive. And he did. With the breeze in his face he worked the tall grass, nose to the ground, tail like a metronome cranked to some speed-metal setting. In no time Hubert got into the act as well. Both dogs engaged in that crisscrossing charge usually reserved for galloping pheasant. I jogged to keep up and huffed onto a knapweed-corrupted rise. The dogs kept on, running rings around each other. They climbed another bench and disappeared from sight. I heard Chief’s unmistakable barking frenzy and was thinking Either he’s put up the bird or he’s jumped a deer, when a mature rooster shot over like a Chinese rocket and removed all doubt. I was stupidly congratulating myself on shooting a limit when the pin clanked on the most deafening empty chamber in the world. Disaster. The rocket shrank. Evidently I’d never reloaded after dropping the first bird in the river, which left me with two shells in the magazine and none in the barrel. The dogs charged back off the shelf after the bird and it was my turn to feel like an amateur. Then again, maybe that’s what this trip was about.


••• I woke the next morning to utter calm and drove to a pump station chosen by Huck Hutson as our meeting place. I knew he’d be another hour, and knew as well how to kill the time: I’d cut the motor and listen for a sound like barbed wire stretching and scraping through a rusting staple. The sound wouldn’t come from barbed wire, of course, and not from a chukar either, but from Montana’s other imported partridge: Huns. I turned both dogs loose along that same no-man’s salt cedar along the creek. They busted the covey in minutes, the birds invisible through the warren save one, streaking like a comet through a clearing. I swung and missed with the first barrel, swung harder and connected with the second. There was a drift of feathers where all the furious momentum had just been. Both dogs looped back. Hubert again fetched the bird and I tried, really tried, not to revel. Five minutes out of the truck and the first bird fetched to hand. It had the makings of a jinx. A little later I saw dust roil off the roadway and heard the pop of gravel under truck tires. By the time I’d made my way out of the creek bottom, Huck had already uncased his shotgun and uncrated his Labrador. He towered over the salt cedar, or “rabbit brush,” as he called it. “I shot my first chukar partridge at the head of that little wash, right about 42 years ago,” he said, pointing to the gash in the earth I’d just clambered from. Forty-two years ago, I’d barely clambered into the world at all. He’d warned me already the drought had things even more parched than usual. “It’s dry ground anyway, only five inches of moisture in a normal year,” he said. This, he allowed, was as wrung-out as he’d seen it. He pointed to an acre of bare ground, a blank bowl in the sage. It once held cheatgrass, Huck said, a vestige of the herders who used to trail sheep across the desert, camping on the same sites year after year. The patch was grazed now to the nub, but in better years such an area will predictably hold birds. Likewise the shade of an escarpment in the noon sun, or a creek bottom in morning and evening. We hunted for hours with Huck down in the lower terrain with his vintage Winchester and white-muzzled Lab and me scrambling uphill after my crazy dogs into the Limber pines, or way up around the treacherous rim of a box canyon. Today none of those places held birds, but they all held Huck’s stories. Here is where he and his field cocker broke a covey and hunted the

singles to a limit. Here is where he felt a thump on his lower leg and realized a rattler had just struck. “Only thing kept me from getting bit was my 16-inch lineman boots,” he drawled. By lunchtime I’d begun to wonder about the likelihood of snakes even today. The temperature had climbed to the mid-60s, and Christmas felt months rather than weeks away. “I wonder if your best bet’s not the creek bottom,” Huck mused. “Dry as it is, the birds may be near water all day.” The theory made sense. Warm day or not, the sun had that low December slant, the hours limited by the looming solstice. So I spent my afternoon crisscrossing the creek and did indeed find chukar, in coveys 10 or a dozen birds strong, three separate times as the daylight listed and finally plummeted toward dark. I never killed one, never even mounted the gun because I was never near enough to see more than the strobe of wings flashing. I never heard the birds’ panic and the dogs never came close enough to catch a breath of scent. Anyone who spends any time chasing game birds knows the reality of wild flushers, their flight instinct honed to a hair-trigger by hunting pressure, or by predators like hawks and owls. They’re tuned always to something like existential dread. They’re birds that “get up out of range.” A biologist told me this is especially typical of chukar in used-up cover, where the birds perceive threats from what seems like miles away. By this point I was encouraged simply to glimpse them at all. I knew the dogs were whipped from two long days, but figured after a solid sleep I could get another morning’s effort from them. December weather dictated otherwise—the wind roared again out of the night, buffeting the rickety camper. It felt like I was in a half-yurt, half-tin can, and the situation was wholly inadequate for rest. By first light a storm front glowered in the north. Chips of ice sailed like Hail Mary birdshot when I collapsed the pop-up. I checked the forecast in a nearby café. Days of snow and gale ahead. I drove out with coffee and no regrets. I had pheasants and a partridge. Another long hunt had mostly come together. I knew I’d be back the following autumn, and I hoped Huck would too. I’d barely scratched the surface of his stories, and I was certain he’d have more. I’d listen to as many as he cared to tell. It’s all stories, in the end, and this one wasn’t over.

illustration by Jonathan Marquis

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1705 Bow St. • Missoula, MT 59801 549-5283 •sapphirept.com John Fiore, PT • Rachael Herynk, DPT • Lindsey Flint, DPT

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WILD THINGS by Emily Graslie

A reason to believe in fairy gliders

I

f you’re camping in western Montana, bats may not be the only fuzzy things soaring over your head at night. Not to worry, though. The northern flying squirrel is an enchanting creature, less a vampiric terror than a flying teddy bear. While most flying squirrels live in Africa or parts of India, two species are found in North America. One of those, the northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus), is native to western Montana. These adorable rodents are also called “fairy gliders” or even “fairy diddles,” the latter a somewhat ridiculous name most likely used by people so overwhelmed by seeing one of these elusive creatures that they were reduced to incoherent tittering. To call these fascinating animals “flying” squirrels is somewhat generous, because they are not true fliers like birds and bats. Instead, the squirrels navigate their forest habitats by gliding from tree to tree. A single bound is, on average, about 98 feet, or roughly the length of an NBA basketball court, but glides as long as 295 feet have been recorded. The gliding is made possible by a large flap of skin connected to a cartilaginous membrane that runs from the squirrel’s wrist to its ankle. When leaping from one tree to another, the squirrel flings its arms and legs apart dramatically, effectively turning itself into a fuzzy paper airplane. Its paddle-like tail acts as a rudder. The northern flying squirrel is relatively small and weighs in at a scant 2.6-5.1 ounces. That’s nothing compared to the largest flyingsquirrel, the woolly, found in Pakistan, which can reach a hefty 3.3-4.4 pounds. The woolly glides like a pro, despite being the size of a Chihuahua. The northern flying squirrel’s distinctive cartilaginous membrane has another advantage beyond just allowing it to catch air. These squirrels are major prey for raptors, wild cats of all sizes, coyotes and the occasional weasel. When threatened, a fairy glider’s first instinct is to flatten itself against a branch or the trunk of a tree; its expansive brown coat serves as convincing camouflage. If that doesn’t work, evading a predator is made easier with the help of its builtin parachute. It can simply scramble to a sufficiently high

vantage and launch itself into the air and away from danger. Fairy diddles also sometimes catch a lucky break—literally. Should its tail end up in the paws or claws of a foe, the tail may break off, allowing the squirrel to escape without sustaining serious damage, besides a ding to their ego. Flying squirrels are most active at night and spend their days curled up in communal nests inside of dead trees. Sightings are rare, but not impossible. On your next venture into a local coniferous forest, keep your eyes up. You may be lucky enough to spot a fairy one night yourself. Alex Badyaev


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GRUB by Ari LeVaux

D

uring hunting season, a friend of mine uses the euphemism “cooking balls” to announce that a male deer or elk has been taken. This is in keeping with his policy, in such instances, of eating the testicles first. When the words “cooking balls” leave my lips, they mean something else entirely. I’m not celebrating an elk down. I’m acknowledging that my freezer is bare. I make a sincere attempt to harvest all the edible parts of any animal I shoot, both as a show of respect to the creature that died to feed my family and as a matter of good old-fashioned thriftiness. These edible parts include internal organs. But I’m more inclined to cook them last than first. Organ meat has greater nutritional value than muscle meat, and many organs are considered delicacies. But unlocking their edibility takes a lot more finesse than just slapping a steak on the grill. Thus organs tend to remain untouched in my freezer until all other options have already graced the table. When I do finally get around to cooking my organ meats, I’m usually pleased with the results. So for all you would-be organ harvesters, here’s a rundown of how I handle these under-appreciated parts. In honor of my hunter friend, let’s start with the balls. Like many organs, testicles come wrapped in a membrane. Be glad they do, because membranes protect organs from dirt, freezer burn and other culinary insults. In the case of the testicles, there is both an inner membrane and an outer membrane. Remove the outer membrane by carefully piercing it, then ripping it open and pulling it off. The outer membrane comes off easily, clinging only to the area where the testicle connects to the conduits that attach it to the rest of the body. With a knife, carefully remove this point of attachment along with the punctured membrane. Rather than try to remove the inner membrane, simply pierce it. While cooking—in a preheated oven at 350 for 15 minutes—the inner membrane will shrivel as the flesh inside slowly inflates. Soon, all that’s left of the inner membrane will be a tight mass that can easily be pulled off of the cooked ball. Dress that ball with soy sauce and black pepper, and serve with lots (and lots) of beer.

In many hunting traditions, the heart—not the testicles—is the first thing eaten. One reason the heart is a good organ to eat first is that, unlike other muscles, it doesn’t stiffen with rigor mortis in the hours following the animal’s death. This makes the heart a viable dinner at camp on the same day an animal is taken. To prepare the heart, remove the outer membrane and flush the interior with water until the exiting water runs clear. Now cut away the valves and artery ends, which are clustered at the top of the heart, and slice the muscle into half-inch steaks. Fry the slices in oil over low heat. When the steaks are done on one side, flip them and add butter, sliced mushrooms, sliced onions and wine to the pan. Continue cooking until the meat is done—there’s no shame in cutting into it to make sure. By the time the meat is done, the mushrooms and onions will be too. (Mushrooms, I should point out, have a special affinity with organ meats. They just go well together.) Kidneys, well prepared, might be my favorite organ meat. They may not have the tradition of heart, or the mystique of balls, but they have the most pleasing texture of any organ meat I know. Alas, they also have an extremely foul taste that must be dealt with by soaking them in milk. Remove the kidneys’ membranes and carefully cut away the hard mass on the kidneys’ concave side. Slice each kidney in half longitudinally to yield two thin filets. Rinse the resulting four pieces thoroughly and soak them in milk for three days, changing the milk and rinsing the kidneys in water daily. Cook as you would cook the heart, frying in oil with mushrooms and onions. Add garlic alongside the onions, then stir in a tablespoon of Dijon mustard for each pair of kidneys in the pan. Deglaze with a healthy shot of sherry and season with salt and pepper. Liver from livestock animals like beef and chicken is the most commonly consumed organ meat, but I’m sorry to say I don’t even take the liver from wild animals home. It’s too gamey, and I haven’t found a way to make it taste good. That’s a shame, because it’s a huge organ. I guess it just goes to show that it’s not the size of the organ that matters. If it was, nobody would bother with the balls.

Cathrine L. Walters


* Banners * Vehicle Wraps * Aluminum Signs * Magnetic Signs * Sandblasted Signs

* Job Site Signs * Decals * Canvas Portraits * Sandwich Boards

Montana Headwall Page 45 Fall 2013


Cameramen Nathan Petersen and Jake Hanson film on the Snake River for an episode of “Trout Unlimited.� Matt Young


M

y crew and I were thigh-deep in the frigid waters of British Columbia’s Thompson River when the driftboat came floating around an upstream bend. I told my cameraman to move his shot from the steelhead anglers we were filming to the approaching boat. I didn’t know what might happen, but I wanted it on tape. As the big river pushed the boat closer, the attractive brunette in its bow stood up and turned toward us. “Hey Nick!” she bellowed across the water. Then she lifted her shirt, exposing a pair of magnificent breasts, and raised her hand, middle digit extended. “Fuuuuuck youuuuuu!” she yelled, then sat down and floated on down the river and, thankfully, out of my life. The five of us in the water—two steelhead freaks, a couple of cameramen and myself—went back to work. We had less than 24 hours to salvage the most bizarre shoot I’d ever been on, and we needed a fish to close out the episode. Considering the expenses we’d already incurred, we needed to return to Missoula with a show, come hell or high water. We’d already had plenty of both.

Outdoor television is a dichotomous beast, with one foot in the high-tech, high-pressure world of TV production and the other in the wilds and waters where sportsmen roam. Conventional TV productions typically boast large teams, rigidly controlled environments, tight scripts and even tighter logistics. Successful hunting and fishing excursions normally involve solo trekkers or small groups, highly variable environments and loosely laid plans. Force the two together and the result can be utter chaos: sportsmen who can’t effectively pursue their quarry with a TV crew in tow; producers who can’t make otherwise intelligent people understand that if something doesn’t happen on camera, it might as well not have happened at all; and non-cooperative animals, weather and equipment alike. But well over 50 million Americans hunt, fish and shoot, and enough of them like to see their lifestyle represented on the tube to support three full-time national hook-and-bullet cable and satellite channels, and a host of regional and part-time channels. That’s a lot of

hours to fill with programming, and it’s been filled in every way imaginable, with hunting shows (rifle, bow, muzzleloader; big game, small game, bird, predator); fishing shows (fly, bait, gear; freshwater, saltwater, brackish water; big fish, small fish, exotic fish); and shooting shows (recreational, tactical, competitive, exhibition; large bore, medium bore, small bore). Back in 1989, when outdoor television was limited to part-time status on sports and regional networks and the occasional network special, a former tennis pro from Billings convinced ESPN to air a show about celebrities fly fishing in exotic global destinations. Using “Fly Fishing the World” as a cornerstone, John Barrett created a small empire built around outdoor TV production, with comparatively high production values as his calling card. Barrett moved his operation to Missoula in 1997, and I was hired as a writer for Barrett Productions in 2003. We produced upwards of 120 half-hour episodes annually, and within a year I was writing and producing three different fly-fishing series. One of them, “Fly Fishing America,” had recently lost its

Jake Hanson


John Aaseng

Jon Aaseng filming Magnum Hunt Club member John McKnight on a British Columbia mountain goat hunt.

host, and we decided to reinvent the show without one, documentary-style. That approach allowed me to go after the best stories I could find, be they angler-, river- or fish-centric. I thought I was onto something special when I stumbled across the website of a brash female guide from Washington state. She had a chip on her shoulder about the lack of respect she felt she received in the male-dominated world of salmon and steelhead guiding, and offered numerous anecdotes suggesting her equality—if not superiority—to her male peers. Numerous self-portraits on the site additionally suggested that she harbored few qualms about using her sexuality to further her business prospects. The takeaway—I’m paraphrasing here—was why hire a male guide when you can get the same or better results with me? I’m hot! That attitude set off alarms among my female colleagues, but after lengthy consideration I made the call and scheduled a shoot with the guide—let’s call her Athena. I figured we’d get a great story if Athena turned out to be all she said she was. And if she wasn’t, we’d still have a star who would fuel nearly every male angler’s (other) wet dream: a hot chick with a fly rod.

There are innumerable challenges to making outdoor television, but the biggest impediment is almost always the budget, or lack thereof. Ratings for outdoor networks aren’t usually robust enough to command the attention of national advertisers, and so

the ad landscape of outdoor TV is dominated by niche products: guns, ammunition, bows, rods, lures, boots, knives and the like. The companies that make and market these products tend toward the shallow end of the national advertising pool and, as a result, production budgets for outdoor shows are a fraction of those for mainstream television.

Then she lifted her shirt,

exposing

a

pair of magnificent

breasts, and raised her hand, middle

digit extended. The job of nurturing a series from conception to delivery falls on the producer, who finds storylines, determines locations, arranges travel and lodging for the host and crew, and works with editors to put the show together. Since the vast majority of outdoor shows are sponsored—production companies typically purchase airtime and then solicit sponsors to offset the cost—producers have to also be adept at managing relationships with sponsoring

Montana Headwall Page 48 Fall 2013

companies that may care more about product exposure than creative content. Due to budget constraints and the logistical need to keep crew size to a minimum, producers are often unable to accompany their crews on shoots. When the producer stays home, responsibility for field production falls on the cameramen. A standard outdoor shoot requires one or two videographers and maybe a production assistant/audio tech on location. On multiple-camera shoots, one videographer, usually the most experienced, will take the lead. On one-camera shoots—typically remote or stealth hunts—the lone videographer is a oneman band, responsible for all video, audio and field direction. The entire responsibility for content-gathering falls on a single individual; if they don’t return with enough quality footage to make a show, there will be hell to pay. To get that footage, shooters coordinate and direct the on-screen talent, be it host or guest. They record all pertinent action, from travel shots and set-ups to scouting missions and distant animals, kill shots to hook-ups, interviews to transition-easing B-roll. In addition to finely tuned creative chops and discipline, field crews are also highly advanced in terms of general badassery. They pack upwards of 50 pounds of gear over every kind of terrain on the planet. A Barrett Productions crew once spent 10 days in the high mountains of Kyrgyzstan on an ibex hunt, getting shuttled by outdated Soviet helicopters and military vehicles and humping up 13,000foot peaks. Field crews brave conditions


that would cripple normal humans: musk ox hunts at 40 below zero in the Arctic Circle; September bow hunts in temperatures approaching 100; black bear hunts in the impenetrable tangles of the Yukon; African safaris dodging blast-furnace temperatures and angry man-eaters alike. The job isn’t without its rewards, of course—getting paid to travel to some of the most stunning landscapes on the planet is a hell of a perk—but the faint of heart, leg or eye need not apply. Time in the field working with crews and hosts in such conditions is the best way to understand the dynamics of television production, and I made a practice of traveling to as many regional shoots as my workload and budget would allow. That’s how I ended up staring at an angry woman’s breasts bobbing down the Thompson River.

The plan was to begin filming Athena as she guided clients for two days on her familiar home waters. Then we’d head up the Thompson River for a few days of steelheading, her favorite recreational pursuit. It was the first week of November and all but one of our staff cameramen were scattered on other shoots. I flew in an out-ofstate freelance shooter we used on such occasions, and the three of us headed west. A massive storm system was bearing down on the Pacific Northwest as we left Missoula. By the time we hit Snoqualmie Pass, all liquid hell—buckets of rain, sleet and snow—had broken loose. After a white-knuckle drive we arrived at Athena’s house in the late afternoon, shot a few short segments of Athena cooking dinner for her husband and kids (Hot Steelhead Guide Does Domestic!) and then drove through steady rain to the small town where we’d base our operation for the next few days. The rain continued through the night, and when we woke up the next morning we had a decision to make. Every river in the area was bank-full and muddy, but Athena said she knew a river or two that

py weather, eat crappy food and drink crappy beer in the name of a pursuit that can reward all that effort with days or even weeks without a single instance of steelheading’s treasured tug. British Columbia’s Fraser River is one of the most revered watersheds in all of steelhead fishing, and its largest tributary, the Thompson River, is held in particular esteem by hardcore steelheaders. The fish of the Thompson are known for their massive size and immense power. They’re also scarce enough—in down years, the run is measured in the hundreds of fish on a river that averages over 20,000 cfs—that the Thompson suffers occasional season-long closures. That Athena had picked one of the toughest fields in fishing on which to show her stuff gave me enormous optimism about her skills. That optimism proved mostly unfounded. Because we began fishing a day earlier than planned, Athena’s fishing buddy from Vancouver had not yet arrived, so we shot an entire day of footage with Athena and the “client” she had arranged for the first leg of the shoot—a guy we’ll call Steve, who had made the trip from Washington with us to help out. Steve seemed uncomfortable with a fly rod, which didn’t strike me as overly alarming because, hey, that’s why the guy needs a guide, right? But Athena wasn’t much better. Spey rods (long, stout rods designed for big fish in big water, operated with two hands) are graceful tools when properly handled, but there wasn’t much grace showing up in our camera’s lens. Matt Young Then there was the odd and apparently growing tension between Athena and Steve, on-camera of plan. Little did I know that the literal and off. My headphones were tapped into storm we were enduring in Washington the wireless mics they were both wearing, was just a gentle spring shower compared and one thing most inexperienced “talto the figurative storm we were chasing to ent” forgets is that the audio remains live B.C. even when the cameras are off. By late afternoon I had heard enough “stupid Steelhead fly fishermen operate on the fucker” and “idiot” outbursts from Athena to make me think that a) there lunatic fringe of angling. They routinely was something more to her drive hundreds of miles to camp in crapwould fish even in these conditions. We grabbed a quick breakfast at the motel café and game-planned an effort to find fish in the flood. It was then we got word that both roads leading out of town had been nearly overrun by the advancing flows, and that we risked an extended lockdown if we didn’t make tracks in a hurry. We heard relatively good news about the weather up in British Columbia, and decided to switch up our locations; maybe we could get some good footage on B.C.’s Thompson River and then shoot on the dropping Washington rivers on our way back. Improvisation is chronic on outdoor shoots, and I felt good about the change

Montana Headwall Page 49 Fall 2013


Aaron Carothers

Jon Aaseng in his "mobile field office" downloading footage in Tanzania during a Cape buffalo hunt for “Nosler's Magnum TV.”

and the Thompson River, and bypass the to be her fishing buddy for this portion of relationship with Steve than a simple follow-up Washington shoot altogether. the show, to ask him about Athena’s dubiguide-client dynamic, and b) whatever But then things turned strange. Athena, ous skills. He surprised me by saying that it was, it wasn’t a good thing. After we perhaps sensing the shift in the show’s he’d only fished with her once or twice, wrapped for the day I pulled Athena focus, became at once more brash about and that he’d agreed to the shoot because aside and told her that the portrait we her own fishing acumen—while continuit sounded like a cool experience and ended up with was entirely up to her, ing to undermine that brashness with her might provide him a platform but so far it was not a pretty one. actions—and even more intolerant of to advance the cause of his favorite river. Still, despite a tug-less first day, I held He agreed that Athena was comout hope that Athena’s actual pletely overmatched on the steelheader buddy would help Thompson. right the ship on day two. “Mike”—all names have been As we floated our final changed to protect the guilty— stretch of river after fishing the was heavily involved in a major last run of the day—catching no B.C. steelhead organization, and fish, though Mike had a tug— from what I could gather online, Athena’s malice toward Steve, he seemed like the real deal. which had thus far seemed Indeed he was. Mike handled merely irrational, flamed into the long rod like it was an extenwhite-hot hatred. She verbally sion of his arms, sending fly and beat him like a rented mule the line arcing through the air like entire way. It was a surreal gossamer silk. He spoke of the scene, and the crew, Mike and I Thompson River as if it were a life sat in stunned silence as the Jake Hanson partner, and he knew its runs and sparks flew. By the time we got “Nosler’s Magnum TV” host Rob Dunham, left, poses with flows intimately. to the takeout my own fuse cameraman Jon Aaseng and Mike Babcock in Kyrgyzstan. I dedicated one camera to blew. I told her we were taking Mike and one to Athena. Though the show in another direction Steve. She ripped into him incessantly, they fished the same runs, I began spendand would no longer be requiring her even when he was trying to help. At one ing more and more time with Mike, services. point, Athena was struggling with the gleaning information about the sport, the Later that evening, in the riverside anchor mechanism in the bottom of the river and the culture, and he routinely bed-and-breakfast where I’d arranged boat; when Steve tried to tell her how to supplied the kind of cleanly articulated lodging, she went after Steve with a operate it, she went off like a rocket. thoughts that Athena could or would not. poker from the fireplace. Steve avoided By that point I had begun thinking we injury, and neither he nor the proprietor I finally got comfortable enough with could build a show around Athena, Mike elected to press charges. Athena was Mike, whom Athena had personally tagged Montana Headwall Page 50 Fall 2013


kicked out and we thought we’d never see her again. We were wrong.

In outdoor television production, as in fishing or hunting, dumb luck can sometimes make the difference between success and failure. My luck on the Thompson River changed dramatically after we parted ways with Athena. Mike took me to a lowbagger boarding house for steelheaders to meet its owners, who lived in an upstairs apartment and charged from $5 to $20 per night for lodging, depending on whether you wanted to sleep on a bed, a couch or the floor. After receiving their blessing, the crew and I mingled with the occupants—perhaps 15 at the time, including a famous Japanese spey-rod designer and his posse of five—in hopes of finding someone to build a show around. We ended up shooting four anglers, including Mike, over the course of three days of fishing on the Thompson. They were young, in their twenties and early thirties, tattooed, pierced and rocking flatbrimmed baseball caps. They were passionate about the sport, engaged in the protection of the fishery and immensely

A Barrett Productions film crew interviews Scottish actor Billy Connolly after a week of fishing in Belize.

articulate. They handled their spey rods with ease and grace, and fished hard even when no tugs were forthcoming. For my purposes, they were pure gold. I had extended the shoot by two days to accommodate our new direction, but both cameramen had commitments that disallowed further extension. On the morning of our departure day, we had tons of great footage of the river, of casting, of interviews, of boarding-house camaraderie. We just didn’t have a fish. We discussed our Hail Mary options

Mike Emery

and headed out for a final run. After three hours of hard fishing we still had no fish. I delayed our departure by a half-hour, figuring we could speed on the trip home, and hoping the boss would cover the ticket if it came to that. The half-hour came and went, and out of sheer desperation I announced a lastditch five-minute extension. Three minutes later, the line came tight in one of the anglers’ hands, and minutes after that we had a beautiful 14-pound hen in the Continued on page 58

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HEAD OUT mtheadwall.com

Cathrine L. Walters

SEPTEMBER SEPTEMBER 1 Throw on your best furs and take your buddy to the annual Montana Atlatl Mammoth Hunt at First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park in Ulm, where members of the World Atlatl Association will teach this 10,000year-old hunting method. Through Sept. 2, from 9 AM to 5 PM. SEPTEMBER 6 Annie, get your gun and head on up to the annual two-day Medicine Rocks Buffalo Shoot, which includes target shooting with .22 rifles, revolvers and long-range buffalo rifles. Period costumes encouraged. Buffaloes not included. Call 775-6705. SEPTEMBER 7 Time to stock the freezer: Archery hunting of antelope, deer and elk opens today and lasts through Oct. 11. General hunting season runs Oct. 12 to Nov. 10. Visit fwp.mt.gov.

Get totally krazy kalf muscles at the Yellowstone Alpine Klimb, an “Ultra Century” ride of 141 miles that starts in Red Lodge and winds up the beautiful Beartooth Pass into Wyoming and back. This race is part of the Montana Cycling and Ski Race Series, and now allows teammates to ride the route as a relay. Visit montanacyclingraceseries.com. You should be in such good shape after the summer that the Huckleberry Hillclimb Mountain Bike Race will be easy as pie. The competition covers about 12 miles and climbs 3,700 feet to the summit of Big Mountain in Whitefish. Check out skiwhitefish.com. It’ll be one big three-way competition during the Garden City Triathlon, which begins at Frenchtown Pond State Park and includes a 1,500-meter swim, 40K bike leg and 10K run. Learn more and register at mtcompact.org.

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SEPTEMBER 14 All right, you gluttons for punishment, here’s a gnarly one: the first-ever Big Sky Resort Ultramarathon, known as The Rut. There’s a 50k and 12K course, each of which traverses the expansive beauty of Lone Peak. The 50K—“not for the faint of heart”—includes 8,200 feet of elevation gain, plus singletrack through forest and jeep roads leading to the summit. Visit bigskyresort.com/events. Get a grand view of Helena and the mountains beyond at the 38th annual Mount Helena Run, a 5.6-mile course starting at Last Chance Gulch downtown and climbing to the summit of Mount Helena. Visit vigilanterunning.org. SEPTEMBER 15 They say you don’t have to run faster than a bear, you just have to run faster than the guy next to you. Test this theory during the Two-Bear Marathon and Half Marathon in Whitefish. Check out twobearmarathon.org.


SEPTEMBER 20 Helena’s spectacularly classy South Hills Annual Trail Series, aka S.H.A.T.S., presents Goats in the Dark, a 3.2-mile night race starting at Tubbs Trailhead. The path is marked by glowsticks, but organizers say “BYOH,” as in bring your own headlamp. Check out southhillstrailseries.blogspot.com. SEPTEMBER 27 Bicycles and beer are, without a doubt, a match made in heaven. Support both these things at the 13th annual Ales for Trails at Dehler Park in downtown Billings. Proceeds support the project to finish the Magic City’s multi-use trail system. Runs 5 to 10 PM. Learn more at bikenet.org.

Bash competition is held on the Boulder Batholith formation, and includes a prize raffle, food, tunes and beers. Check out montanabouldering.com. The Goat Grind race, part of Helena’s South Hills Trail Series, is a 4-mile meatgrinder of a junket that features steep hills, creek crossings and singletrack. If you survive the race, there’s an awards ceremony and pancake brunch afterward. You’ll find the starting line at the Elkhorn Endurance Retreat, 597 McClellan Creek

OCTOBER 27 The dead have risen and they’re after your braaaaaaains, so get a move on during the Tread of the Undead Zombie 5K, taking place at Fort Missoula and hosted by Run Wild Missoula. Check out runwildmissoula.org.

NOVEMBER NOVEMBER 2 The Butte Piss and Moan Runners host the 2013 edition of the Montana Cup cross-country race,

SEPTEMBER 28 Celebrate our nation’s giant playgrounds during National Public Lands Day, during which volunteering opportunities abound and there’s no fee to enter areas managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Bureau of Land Management. Visit publiclandsday.org.

OCTOBER OCTOBER 6 That first chilly fall breeze will doubtless feel great during the 28mile Wolf Creek Canyon Relay, outside Wolf Creek between Helena and Great Falls. Up to four people can compete in a team. Check out wolfcreekcanyonrelay.net. OCTOBER 12 General antelope season kicks off today and runs through Nov. 10. Do your finest lope at the 32nd annual Le Grizz Ultramarathon, a 50-miler running alongside the Hungry Horse Reservoir. Check out cheetahherders.com/LeGrizz.html, which includes a handy button labeled “Go Ahead. Email Your Stupid Questions By Clicking Here!” Work up a sweat with fellow females at the annual Run Wild Missoula Diva Day 5K, hosted by Community Medical Center. Check out runwildmissoula.org. OCTOBER 13 It’s like rock, paper, scissors, but without the paper or scissors! The Third Annual Butte Bouldering

Cathrine L. Walters

Team Sobba riders take a break at the lunch stop during 2013 RATPOD, or Ride Around the Pioneers in One Day.

Road, in Clancy, and more information at southhillstrailseries.blogspot.com. OCTOBER 19 Duck for cover and watch for lightning as this weekend kicks off the Rolling Thunder cyclocross competition in Missoula, hosted by the Montana Bicycle Racing Association. Check out montanacycling.net. OCTOBER 25 Show how much buck you got for your bang at the 28th annual Hunters Feed and Wild Game Cook-Off in Ennis. Mmm, I can already taste the deer burgers. Call the Ennis Chamber at 682-4388 to enter your dish. OCTOBER 26 Today is opening day for the general deer and elk season, as well as mountain lion. Runs through Dec. 1.

taking place about an hour outside of Helena this year. Check out montanacup.com for location and info. NOVEMBER 9 The Herron Park Cyclocross kicks off in Kalispell with two days of events for men, women and junior racers. Organizers note that mountain bikes are kosher as long as you remove the bar ends. Visit montanacycling.net. NOVEMBER 26 Kick off ski season Nordic-style at the annual Yellowstone Ski Festival in West Yellowstone, with crosscountry ski races, gear demos and clinics. Check out yellowstoneskifestival.com. NOVEMBER 28 Snow gods permitting, ski season starts today at Big Sky Resort. Head on over to bigskyresort.com for passes and info.

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HEAD GEAR mtheadwall.com

Montana company introduces a different kind of energy bar by Nadia White A grizzly bear and two cubs graze the meadows of Two Creek Monture Ranch near Ovando. Trumpeter swans tend to a nest on nearby wetlands. Roughly 1,000 head of cattle are to pasture, turning grass into beef. Cooper and Anne Burchenal see this bucolic setting as not only the inspiration but also the backbone of a new, unapologetically different breed of energy bar. In a marketplace increasingly defined by niches and ingredients left behind (gluten-free, fat-free and so on), the Omnibar caters to anyone who eats everything. It is made of fruit, grains, nuts and, true to its ranching roots, beef. Unlike conventional energy bars, the Omnibar is savory and tastes more like a meal and less like a dessert. “We are what we are, we’re not going to make a vegan version. There are other products for that,” says Brent Ruby, a University of Montana physiologist who is a founding partner along with the Burchenals in the Omnibar enterprise. The entrepeneurial trio intend to shoehorn their Omnibar into the $5.7 billion energy bar retail market. With more than 500 cereal or energy bars already on American shelves, it will be tough to get noticed. But the Omnibar team feels their product will have a better chance than most when it hits stores this fall. As one of the industry’s only meat-based bars, Omnibar will be distinctively different. But the confidence of the crew behind it has just as much to do with a business plan that capitalizes on the company’s tight-knit Montana connections.

If you put your palm over the Blackfoot River on a Montana highway map and spread your fingers west, you’re essentially covering the whole Omnibar production chain with your hand. Cows culled from the Burchenals’ ranch in Ovando are slaughtered at White’s Wholesale Meats in Ronan. The meat and other ingredients are mixed, rolled and baked by Vandevanter Meats in Columbia Falls. There, they are packaged using a unique horizontal wrapping machine rebuilt by a guy in St. Regis—the only person in North America who works on such

5Montana Strobot Studios

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contraptions. Six Pony Hitch, a design firm in Missoula, created the Omnibar logo of an open-mouthed bear, the Old West lettering on the packaging and the company’s motto: “Eat it all.” “It’s a Missoula product. It’s highly reflective of this community. That’s what’s been fun about developing it,” company founder Cooper Burchenal says. “One of the true virtues and delights of Montana is if you need to talk to someone as a resource, there’s almost nothing that stands between me and an expert. It’s a very entrepreneurial place.” Cooper and Anne have tested their entrepreneurial mettle before. He is educated as a sculptor and painter. She has a deep interest in horticulture. They used to run a nursery on the banks of the Ohio River devoted to native grasses. It blossomed as a space for art and outdoor events, but not as a business. They shuttered Ohio River Grass in 2001 and moved to Montana. Cooper became a founding partner in the Missoula design firm saltStudio, but that enterprise faded as the partners went their separate ways. Still enthralled by the entrepreneurial spirit, Cooper and Anne looked at what they already had and started again. The ranch near Ovando had been a Burchenal family destination since Cooper was a boy. His father, Ralph, was a successful Cincinnati banker who owned farms in the Midwest. But Ralph Burchenall’s fondness for agriculture was no match for the majesty of a ranch at the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. A pack trip into the Bob tilted him forever westward and he bought ranchland on Monture Creek in 1971. Today, the ranch contains acreage from several properties and leases 3,436 of its acres to the University of Montana’s Bandy Experimental Ranch. The family visited in summertime, sometimes traveling in an old school bus outfitted with bunks and living space. While summers were always a social time, community took a more central role when Cooper’s 12-year-old older brother was struck by lightning in Ohio and killed. Their mother, Toone, sought solace in the company of crowds.


“The only way she could stay sane and keep the pain at bay was to have a lot of people around,” Cooper says. The tradition of reaching out and inviting others in is central to Cooper’s character and defines his approach to building Omnibar. It explains how Cooper and Brent Ruby came to know each other, how Cooper and Anne found the rare packaging machine in St. Regis, and how Cooper put together his team of local manufacturers. “I would never have come up with something like this in my wildest dreams,” says Ron Vandevanter, a veteran jerky maker who runs the Columbia Falls meat-processing plant that mixes, bakes and packages Omnibar. “Cooper is good at finding things. He just knows how to find the right things and people.”

When Cooper first called Brent Ruby, he wanted to talk about jerky. Ruby is a physiologist, probably best known locally for studies that remove plugs of flesh from cyclists who pedal long distances in order to gauge exercise metabolism. As the director of UM’s new Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism, Ruby focuses on the needs of what he calls “occupational endurance athletes,” such as wildland firefighters and military personnel. When Cooper called, Ruby steered him away from jerky because it provides poor fuel for working muscles. He instead encouraged Cooper to look for unprocessed ingredients, especially fats and carbohydrates, that would make the Omnibar more complete and complex than its competitors. Most people, Ruby says, don’t know what their body needs to thrive at work. “On the fire line, everyone is wearing a yellow jersey,” he says, referring to the color worn by both firefighters and Tour de France champions. “I always ask them, ‘Why aren’t you eating like the elite endurance occupational athletes you are?’”

Ruby says the Omnibar team is “concerned with feeding people the right way to get the job done.” This often means bucking traditional energy foods, such as gels. Fructose and sucrose—simple sugars—send a “help is on the way” signal as soon as they hit an athlete’s mouth, and make blood sugar levels quickly rise. During sustained exercise, like a marathon, muscles easily put that sugar to use. But in work like firefighting or military operations, where effort may be more sporadic and over a longer period of time, the body needs more. “You don’t want to use simple sugars as a food source all day long,” Ruby says. “If you’re in a rest break during a work day and you eat, the blood sugar goes up, the insulin levels go up and then your break is over. … You feel sluggish and wonder, ‘Why am I bonking?’” Ruby suggests that the Omnibar’s complex mix of ingredients solves this problem. Using meat as a base gives the bar several advantages. Fats from almond butter and beef, mixed with carbohydrates, also slow digestion.

Montana Headwall Page 55 Fall 2013 Anne and Cooper Burche nal

Strobot Studios


Cathrine L. Walters

“When you eat a mixed diet it takes longer to digest, and the energy trickles into the body,” he says. This long-term approach is more useful in the stop-and-go environment of a 12-hour fire shift—or a day spent backpacking, bike touring, rock climbing or any other outdoor activity that alternates between breaks and exertion. Ruby notes that this pattern happens to mimic the daily grind for busy mothers, delivery drivers and baristas. “We’re not just some hard-core energy bar,” says Anthony Krolczyk, the company’s sales and marketing director. “We’re the weekend warriors. We work hard all day and then we want to have fun.” Carla Cox, a nutritionist and specialist in sports dietetics at Western Montana Clinic, praises many of Omnibar’s attributes, but isn’t so quick to discount other energy bars on the market. She puts no stock in the sugar–crash theory, and believes the Omnibar offers the same nutritional benefits as other bars containing carbohydrates and protein, regardless of whether the protein source is whey, soy or meat. To her, Omnibar’s greatest asset is its minimal processing. Cox says that the fewer additives go into a bar, and the less its ingredients are processed, the more phytonutrients—beneficial chemicals from plants—are available to the eater. “Nutritionally, it’s not so different from other bars,” Cox says. “But it’s good that it’s locally made, and if people think it tastes better, well, that’s fine.” Cox touches on an important part of the Omnibar strategy: taste. The company has tested its product extensively in an effort to deliver complex, savory flavors and a moist texture that stacks up favorably against competitors. Again, Ruby says, meat offers the company a distinct advantage. “Meat takes us down a different path as far as flavor,” he says. “It’s the foundation of meal-oriented flavors instead of dessert time, all the time.”

Omnibar is counting on its mix of flavor, fuel for working muscles and locally sourced ingredients to make a mark in the industry. When it comes down to it, Krolczyk says, the strategy isn’t all that complicated. “Cooper and Brent made a bar [to fit their lifestyle],” he says. “This is for us and for people like us.”

Strobot Studios


Can a cricket snack put a spring in your step? In the arid American Southwest, a band of bold hydrologists have created an unlikely product aimed at slowing the rush of water to industrial agriculture. It’s an energy snack. Chapul Bars eschew the use of water-intensive ingredients such as wheat flour and grain-fed beef in favor of … crickets. Specifically, flour made from crickets is mixed with dates, nuts and spices to generate three flavors of bar: chocolate, coconut-ginger, and a new mocha-chipotle. The use of crickets offers a waterwise way to build protein into a bar, says Pat Crowley, the water scientist and river guide who founded Chapul Bars in 2012. Insects in general convert grasses and grains into edible protein much more efficiently than cows and pigs. Cricket flour allows Chapul to avoid using water-intensive flours made from wheat or grains. Crowley came up with the idea after growing frustrated with the fact that global agriculture accounts for an estimated 92 percent of all freshwater used annually. “I think all the while I knew a much larger change would have to come from the consumer level,” he says. The crickets used in Chapul Bars are raised for human consumption and ground into flour. Crowley says the use of cricket flour, rather than whole insects, makes it psychologically easier for people to eat an insect-based food. The bars, which are available at Liquid Planet in Missoula, are compact and chewy, with a mild flavor, and a bit on the dry side. They do not taste like cricket, and there are no discernible cricket parts in the mix. “It’s not this totally-out-of-thisworld thing that people are putting into their mouth,” says Crowley, who has heard all sorts of reaction about his product. “People are repulsed, people are excited about it,” he says. “Some say they’ve been waiting for something like this for years.” A 2008 study of the nutritional value of field crickets published in the journal Insect Science found that the bugs are a good source of protein, fatty acids and chitin, a polysaccharide. The study also found that crickets contain Cathrine L. Walters

about 58 percent protein. By comparison, a hamburger patty contains about 25 percent protein, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “The field cricket … is an ideal source for food and feed,” the study’s authors concluded. Further, they found that cricket protein is low in fat, though unlike beef it does not provide all the amino acids humans need. Chapul Bars—the name comes from the Aztec word for cricket—started with the help of about 400 backers from 13 countries who donated to a Kickstarter campaign. Crowley focused his appeal for funding on contributors interested in reducing the water consumption of industrial agriculture. Similarly, ecoconscious, politically active snackers are the company’s target market. Crowley says sales have grown each month for over a year. The company received a PR boost in May when the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization released a report extolling the potential of insects to ease global food insecurity. A flurry of related articles mentioned Chapul as the only food producer actually bragging about its insect content. “I think we’re spreading the message more than we’re selling our bars, which is good for our mission,” Crowley admits, “but maybe not so good for our business.” Nadia White


TV CONTINUED FROM PAGE 51

shallows, and on tape. After six days of stormy weather, a stormy woman, and dozens of hours of fish-free footage, we finally had our show. The crew and I rode a wave of euphoria all the way to Seattle, where we just barely got our freelancer on his flight back home.

The future of outdoor television is anybody’s guess. A quick perusal of online video sites reveals that the recent explosion of high-end, low-cost production equipment has found its way to hunting, fishing and shooting enthusiasts. Perhaps the democratization that these tools portend will result in a reinvention of the genre and an increased profile among national advertisers, in turn fueling higher budgets and better-quality shows. But no matter how polished outdoor TV becomes, video documentation of the outdoor lifestyle will always remain beholden to the wild environments in which it unfolds. Every sportsman and sportswoman worth their salt knows that anything can

A crew films an episode of the Sportsman Channel’s “Moment of Impact" at Mountain King Ranch in Wyoming.

happen out there, and that success is measured not just by results, but also by experience, determination, and the occasional lightning strike of dumb luck. Like the time a disgruntled exhibitionist led me to the best fishing story I ever hope to tell. In the midst of the storm we unwittingly rode into during our search

Montana Headwall Page 58 Fall 2013

Grant Herzog

for a compelling episode, my crew and I were beneficiaries of such a strike. The TV story we told turned out to be my favorite episode of my producing career. And the behind-the-scenes story, punctuated by a mid-river breast flashing, remains the one I tell people when they ask just how crazy it can get out there.


The Crux CONTINUED FROM PAGE 62 When I moved west to Montana in the late 1980s, I worked as a tree planter, sawyer, morel picker, yew-bark cutter, whatever I could do to live outside and be free to hunt and fish and climb and wander. What I loved growing up in Alabama, I found tenfold here. The Madison River and the Bitterroot were the rivers I had been looking for my whole life. Elk hunting was the most perfect kind of hunting, more so than any hunting I’d ever experienced before, more so even than what I’d read of the once-great African safaris. My relationship to the mountains and rivers is, first, as a predator, a forager, an inhabitant and particiI see pant rather than a visitor. As I teach my son for an and daughter these pursuits, I cannot help but wonder if they will live to see a time when there are few places to landscape forage, few wild animals to watch or hunt on public land, or no to public land at all. I look at the great cities of China and India, at Atlanta and even Bozeman, and I see no room for an inhabitant of anything but a landscape devoted to human needs. I ask myself if teaching my children to love the outdoors and all that inhabits it is wrong on a planet where the number of homo sapiens will soon reach nine billion ravenous souls. Residential subdivisions cover the Alabama land where I learned to hunt whitetails and rabbits and quail. The Outer Banks are now unrecognizable to me, buried under vacation homes. The quiet Bitterroot Valley that we once loved glitters with lights and traffic and commerce. If it is inevitable that we must bear witness to more subdivisions, more beloved rivers drained for irrigation, more loss of wildlife and wild places, then why teach our children to love these wild places and things in the first place? Why set them up for that kind of heartbreak? The answer is this: because hunting and fishing and the wonders of the natural world are what I have to offer them. It— everything I ever loved, its power undiluted by the losses I’ve experienced—is all still out there, waiting for a new generation to discover it and, if it is their compulsion to do so, to fight for it in the years to come. After the wild floods of mid-summer 2011 had subsided, my family was fishing the Missouri, downstream of Carter Ferry. My daughter’s nightcrawler rolled across

the gravels of a shoal and tumbled into the shadows of deeper water. We never knew what took it, just an invisible, implacable force. The 8-pound test line was singing as she ran through the shallows, doing her 9year-old best to hold on to the cheap little spinning outfit. The line snapped with deep finality. “It was a sturgeon!” she said. “A sturgeon! I know it was!” She stood in the water looking into the muddy currents, transfixed, the mystery there unrevealed, waiting for further exploration. My son’s first year in the mountains with a rifle arrived during elk season, 2012, though he’s come along on no such hunts since he was 6. We set out in proof found darkness and six or eight inches of new snow, our headlights but a playing over the tracks of a few mule deer, wolves, a pair of grizzlies, one big, one fairly small. The only chance needs. at the elk we knew were there was to go high, and try to be above them at first light. We went up and up, frozen slide rock underfoot, wind crying in stunted limber pines that slowly became visible around us as darkness turned to palest dawn. We had cow tags in our packs. If we could stay downwind, and around a ridge, there was a bedding area holding a hundred head in a patch of partially burnt timber. I’d seen them there the day before, glassing from another valley. We stood, breathing, recovering from the climb, waiting. Maybe the wind shifted. Maybe a sentry cow that we couldn’t see could see us. We heard the whistle and chatter of the herd, still too far away, then the thunder of hooves. We were close enough to smell their heavy scent, but they remained unseen. Somewhere still above us, beyond a false summit that we’d mistaken for the top of the ridge, the herd poured away, clattering to safety on trails we’d never seen before, never known existed. The lead cows came into view across an abyssal basin of sheer cliff and one narrow trail leading back toward the Scapegoat Wilderness. “They made monkeys out of us,” my son said, still winded but grinning. “Indeed they did.” We stood silent on that high place, awed and humbled in the timeless way of human beings who find, however fleetingly, their place in creation.

room inhabitant anything devoted human

Montana Headwall Page 60 Fall 2013


Custom USGS Topographic Maps of MT, ID, AK and WY are available through a print-on-demand program in the Missoula Public Library’s Audra Browman Room. These 11”x17” maps are $2 on standard paper and $3 on weatherproof paper.

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Montana Headwall Page 61 Fall 2013


Day after tomorrow

by Hal Herring

THE CRUX

Will the outdoor experiences we pass to the next generation be worth it? “For in the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” —Baba Dioum, Senegalese environmentalist I have been blessed with two strong children, and my wife and I have spent long months, of long seasons, outside with them, fishing, hunting, gathering everything from thimbleberries to antelope, marveling at the way a hawk rips a bullsnake from the grass, or at the way a sturgeon, caught on a catfish rig and released, disappears back into the cold runoff of the Marias River like a dinosaur returning to another epoch. In short, we are teaching them to love creation, and to find that sense of wonder at the myriad wild animals—what writer Henry Beston called “the other nations”—that share this part of Montana with us. For a long time, I wondered if I was making a terrible mistake. It has been my luck, and my choice, to have lived in some of the wildest places left in the United States. When I was 11, my family moved to a place called Sharp’s Cove, within driving distance of

Huntsville, Ala., a small valley in the southern Cumberlands, replete with mysterious caves and spring-fed creeks and bass ponds, farm lands and cattle, and endless (for a child) hardwood forests. It was a freedom that I could barely have imagined when we lived in town. The winter we moved there I hunted every day. I could load my pockets with shotgun shells, from Number 4 shot for ducks along the creek to 6 shot for rabbits and squirrels in the woods, to 8 for quail and doves on the way home. Hunting season ran until the end of February. By March, the silver redhorse (a kind of sucker fish) were shoaling in the creek. In April, crappie started biting at the nearby public lake. Catfish followed, with bass and shellcrackers after that. Summer was snakes, caught and kept for a few days and released, or bullfrogs, gigged on allnight expeditions and fried for breakfast. Bow-hunting season started in October, just as dove season closed, and as topwater bass fishing came back for a brief and glorious two weeks or so. These cycles were not strictly about taking game and fish. They were an intensive apprenticeship to a landscape that I learned to love more than anything else I had

experienced up to that point in my life. When I was in my early twenties, after a short time spent working at a sawmill in the Amazon and a stint working as a contractor for Weyerhaeuser paper company in the South, I lived for a while on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, sometimes commuting to work at a fish-packing plant in my brother-in-law’s skiff. After five or six hours of unloading pound net boats and boxing the fantastic bounty of Pamlico Sound, I got in the skiff, headed south and fished the outgoing tide for redfish, speckled trout, cobia and anything that came by—all the predatory inhabitants of a place where the current raged and sucked prey fish out of the sanctuaries of eelgrass and spartina and into the maelstrom of the Atlantic Ocean, not 15 miles from where two of the greatest forces on earth collided: the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current. It was a dream of mine, to be there, fishing, in that place, witness to those forces and those sleek predators arcing through the green waters. That dream had gotten me through many an afternoon of dreary school, many a day of dreary jobs. Continued on page 60

Cathrine L. Walters


Montana Headwall  

Outdoor Adventure Under the Big Sky

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