2012 Summer Mountain Outlaw

Page 1

Exploring life, land and culture from the heart of THE YELLOWSTONE REGION



Baptism by Fire


summer 2012

The future of a Montana Wilderness Study Area

butte distillery: headframe spirits


Photo by Jon Marshall


photo essay: Khumbu region of nepal explorebigsky.com

Published in Big Sky, Montana

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Mountain Outlaw is published by

Mountain SUMMER 2012

Big Sky Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year - 2011 3 TELLY Awards - 2012 15 Montana Newspaper Association Awards - 2011 & 2012 Ski Area Management Magazine “Best of Marketing” Recognition - 2011 Maggie Award Nomination - 2012 EDITORIAL POLICY Outlaw Partners LLC is the sole owner of Mountain Outlaw magazine and the Big Sky Weekly. No part of this publication may be reprinted without written permission from the publisher. Mountain Outlaw magazine reserves the right to edit all submitted material for content, corrections or length. Printed material reflects the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the opinion of Outlaw Partners or the editors of this publication. No advertisements, columns, letters to the editor or other information will be published that contain discrimination based on sex, age, race, religion, creed, nationality, sexual preference, or are in bad taste. For editorial queries or submissions, please contact emily@theoutlawpartners.com. DISTRIBUTION Distributed twice a year in towns across Southwest Montana, including Big Sky, Bozeman, West Yellowstone, Three Forks, Livingston and Ennis, and regionally in Jackson, Wyoming, Cody, Wyoming, Driggs, Idaho and Bend, Oregon. We also distribute nationally through direct mail. Mountain Outlaw can also be read online at explorebigsky.com. OUTLAW PARTNERS, MOUNTAIN OUTLAW & THE BIG SKY WEEKLY (406) 995-2055 PO Box 160250 75 Center Lane, Suite B Big Sky, MT 59716 explorebigsky.com media@theoutlawpartners.com Copyright © 2012 Outlaw Partners, LLC Unauthorized reproduction prohibited The Spanish Peaks from the Gallatin Valley Photo by Emily Stifler






COO Megan Paulson




Operations director Katie Morrison

EDITOR Abbie Digel

Distribution Director Danielle Chamberlain

Assistant Editor Taylor Anderson

Account relations coordinator Kacey Brown

videographer Chris Davis WEB DEVELOPER Sean Weas

Contributing Writers Chris Bangs, Victoria “Torie” Bentley, Felicia Ennis, Adam Fruh, Marcie Hahn-Knoff, Jessica Kilroy, Jimmy Lewis, Max Lowe, Robbi Nace, Eric Ross, Casey Schwartz, Josh Simpfenderfer, Mike True, Brad Van Wert Contributing Photographers Daniel Bullock, Tyler Busby, Jake Campos, Ryan Dorn, Elevated Productions, Liz Figgins, Royce Gorsuch, Sunni Heikes-Knapton, René Kraus, Jon Marshall, Greg Mather, Anna Middleton, Karl Neumann, Jim Nygard, Tori Pintar, Scot Rogers, Hannah J. Ryan, Jeremy Shive, Richard Smith, Larry Stanley, Shanna Swanson, Austin Trayser and Pat Wolfe

Join the ranks – submissions welcome

The Mountain Outlaw editorial team wants you to know we accept well-written articles or photos for consideration in our magazine. Submissions should match the Yellowstone region style and Mountain Outlaw brand, and are accepted throughout the year for our summer and winter editions. Email submissions to emily@theoutlawpartners.com or visit explorebigsky.com.



Beehive Basin Photo by Richard Smith


32 The Dividing Line The Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area

36 Where the wild west remains For the Ramirez family, rodeo is more life than sport

40 River of no return Jessica Kilroy fights wildfire in Idaho

44 Salvaging History Flathead Lake Historic Timber

62 The Wild Unbroken Max Lowe’s photo essay from the Khumbu region of Nepal

88 Summer Gear Guide 100 Distilling Butte Headframe Spirits joins a growing number of new distilleries in Montana

stories 12 Trailhead 14 Community 19 Science Yellowstone cutthroat is a keystone species 21 Outbound Gallery 26 Big sky bouts Roller Derby in Montana 29 Defying the Odds Robbi Nace barrels down at college nationals 30 Bait Fishing Eric Ross slays hogs 50 Profile Tejay van Garderen races to the top of international cycling 56 Alternatives A bottle’s journey 58 History The Mountain Shoshone

63 Explore Habihut: A novel alternative 68 Real Estate The Adventure Loft 72 Art Impressionist Shirle Wempner 77 Guide Forest Service cabins 80-86 Adventure Josh Simpfenderfer highlines Chris Bangs climbs Athabasca 96 Road Trip Ride, fish, camp, repeat 105 Food Holistic living for good health 108 Film Filmmaker Mark Vargo 111 Health Cowgirls vs. Cancer 112 Outlaw Rocky Mountain Hat Company

On the cover: Musician Jessica Kilroy poses with a custom guitar from Dan Roberts Stringworks, on Gooch Hill Road outside of Bozeman. Read Kilroy’s story about fighting fire in Idaho’s River of No Return Wilderness on page 40. More about Dan Roberts Stringworks on page 47.

The The World’s World’s Only Only Private Private Ski Ski and andGolf Golf Community Community

Yellowstone Club Big Sky, Montana (406) 995-4900 www.yellowstoneclub.com ycsales@yellowstoneclub.com

WWW.DISCOVERYLANDCO.COM Membership in the Yellowstone Club requires real estate ownership. Yellowstone Club is a secure gate guarded private community and appointments for access to view the real estate or amenities need to be arranged in advance. This does not constitute an offer or a solicitation to residents in any state or jurisdiction in which registration requirements have not been fulfilled. Please call or email for complete information.







from the publisher

The Yellowstone Region I vividly remember the first time I saw Yellowstone National Park as a child: the sights and smells, the rubber tomahawks, the Davy Crockett hats, the first sighting of Old Faithful. The people of this region are blessed to live in such an amazing part of the world. We share a common bond inspired by nature and driven through our passions. Here at Outlaw Partners we’ve been blessed to see Mountain Outlaw magazine quickly grow to become one of the largest lifestyle magazines in the Northwest. With this issue, we’ve decided to expand the tagline to “Exploring life, land and culture from the heart of the Yellowstone Region.” This represents our focus: featuring stories about and by the people of the regions surrounding Yellowstone Park.

In addition to the 200 Montana locations and 30plus states that Mountain Outlaw is distributed in, you will now see this publication regularly in great towns like Jackson Hole, Driggs, and Cody. This expansion will not only be beneficial to our advertisers but also make it easier to share these stories with the millions of “Yellow- View of the Tetons on the drive from Jackson to Big Sky Photo by Eric Ladd stone Pilgrims.” Outlaw Partners is committed to supporting worthy causes and charities and helping share them with the world. Most recently Outlaw has begun work with Yellowstone Park Foundation (ypf.org). The group raises funds privately to help worthy causes in the park. Learn more about one of their projects on page 19.

The art of story telling is a gift, and this magazine features some of the best ‘tellers’ in the area. I hope that you enjoy these stories as much as I did.

Eric Ladd Publisher eric@theoutlawpartners.com

C RE AT I NG L EG ACY P RO P ERT I ES AN D L EG EN DARY S PACES Schedule an appointment 406-586-3883 or design@vardainteriors.com


Big ď‚ŤSky big events




from the editor

mile 61

For me, Gallatin Canyon is a The shadows have just series of snapstarted to climb up the east shots like this: side of Gallatin Canyon. morning sun Dust kicks up as I pull shining off the into the parking lot by the river, the cheers bridge, just north of mile of rafters at marker 61. House Rock, a fisherman castPhoto By Pat Wolfe It’s 6 p.m. on a summer ing near Spanevening, and I’m headed ish Creek, a home from the office. I pack my climbcold swim at the Deer Creek bridge, the ing gear and head toward the trail. Soon sea of spruce- and fir-covered hillsides, I’m on the single-track, walking over an evening rainstorm. rocks and roots. Cool air washes up from the river, over my face. Living in Bozeman and working in Big Sky, I sometimes feel as though I exist As I hoof it up the trail toward Skyline somewhere between the two—among Ridge, my energy level rises. I meet these snapshots. friends near Spare Rib, one of the highest rock formations on the hillside. And each time I drive the canyon, it They’ve been climbing all day, and are expands before me: There’s another hot and sated. I run a lap up the rock, hidden drainage, another rock buttress, and the evening light turns gold around another high snowy cirque. me, like summer grass.

The stories in this issue of Mountain Outlaw are a similar set of snapshots. Robbi Nace barrel races, Eric Ross is dragged downstream by a monster trout, Anne Marie Mistretta digs into the lore of the Sheepeater Indians, and Ryan Dorn gets cultured at a new distillery in Butte. Through my work with Mountain Outlaw, I’ve met talented, passionate, hardworking people who care about the world around them. For me, their stories have painted color and depth into some of this region’s many facets. Thanks for picking up a copy.

Emily Stifler emily@theoutlawpartners.com


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featured contributors

Ryan Dorn fulfills his curiosity about everything in life through being a freelance writer and photographer. Climbing, skiing, soccer and eating chocolate take up most of his time. He’s originally from Bozeman but currently lives in Seattle with his lovely wife.

Ryan Dorn

Jimmy Lewis is a freelance writer, English teacher, and self-described “omniventurer,” meaning he enjoys participating in a wide variety of all things outdoors, cultural, and artistic. He lives on a small farm outside of Bozeman with his wife and ski-crazy 6-year-old daughter, along with a passel of bird dogs, cats and horses. Robbi Nace was the 2011 NIRA Barrel Racing Reserve Champion. She enjoys riding and competing in rodeos throughout Montana and western Canada. She is currently studying secondary education and history at Montana State University and is expected to graduate in 2014. In 2003, Anne Marie Mistretta, PH.D., moved to Big Sky to retire. Instead, she returned to work as the Superintendent/Principal at Ophir School during the “high school building years.” Now, finally “retired,” she’s designing and fundraising for the performing arts center, writing, traveling and enjoying grandchildren. Mistretta is co-authoring a Big Sky history book that will be published next fall.

robbi nace

Jimmy lewis

anne marie mistretta

Jon Marshall is a Bozeman based commercial photographer. He specializes in advertising with an emphasis on conceptual lifestyle, fashion and editorial style portraiture. More of his work can be seen online at marshallstudio.com. Richard Smith has been shooting photographs for more than 35 years, ever since his parents gave him a Brownie instamatic for Christmas when he was a child. He wanted to get close ups of wildlife so he put one lens on a pair of binoculars in front of the viewfinder and started taking shots of a Canada goose. Today, Richard works with his son Zebediah in wildlife and landscape photography and film. He’s exceptionally proud of Zebediah, who won an Emmy in 2011 for best cinematography and has been nominated again this year.

jon marshall

Brad Van Wert is a self-proclaimed writer/filmmaker who likes to eat. Therefore, he has a career in renewable energy so he isn’t one of those starving types—check out his work at harvestsolarmt.com. If you want to talk about movies, solar electricity, skiing or just generally shoot the breeze, drop him a line at brad@harvestsolarmt.com.

brad van wert

richard smith


Reduce wildland fire risk on your property The Big Sky Natural Resource Council put together a list of 10 steps for property owners in Montana to help reduce wildland fire risk on their land. “There is no better time than now to ensure your home is protected from wildland fires,” says Crystal Hagerman, natural resource agent from the BSNRC.

2011 Big Sky PBR Photo by Daniel Bullock

Big Sky PBR The Professional Bull Riding Tour is making a stop in Big Sky on July 31 and August 1, for what seems to be transforming into an annual tradition. In true western fashion, Chad Berger will bring herds of his notorious beastly bulls from North Dakota through the Gallatin Canyon, unleashing them into the arena stocks in preparation for the riders. The energy was high at last year’s sold out event. Beau Hill, a native

western Montanan and the face of the first annual Big Sky PBR, rode for eight into the top spot of the event. He then won the $5,000 cash prize bonus ride and went home a lucky man. This year will feature live entertainment from Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, a Calcutta auction in which half the money raised goes to charity, world-class rodeo athletes and local vendors, all under the Big Sky. T.W. explorebigsky.com/bigskypbr

Landowners should take the following preparatory actions before a wildland fire occurs to improve the survivability of human lives and homes, Hagerman said. These tasks primarily focus on the home and 30 feet around it in the area known as the “home ignition zone.” • • • • • • • • • •

Mow and water grass Thin trees and brush Trim overhanging tree branches Ensure home is clearly marked Remove dead and overgrown vegetation Plant fire-resistant plants Clean under deck and around home Screen vents Clear gutters, eves and roof of debris Move firewood away from house


Film: Eastern Rises Just watch the trailer, and you’ll be hooked. “I’m jealous of anyone who comes here for the first time because that initial, awestruck reaction is so special to witness and experience for yourself,” said Ryan Peterson, co-producer and fisherman in the film. Peterson is talking about Kamchatka, a wild place in Russia’s far east. The crew of Felt Soul Media explores pristine rivers from decommissioned Cold War helicopters, catching giant, mouse-eating trout in a wilderness not unlike Alaska 100 years ago. The 38-minute film celebrates the soul and craft of fly fishing while showing off the filmmakers’ skilled cinematography and storytelling. 12 Mountain


An adventure journal for all types, the film raked in awards at festivals including the Mountain Sport Award at Banff, and Best Action-Sport Film at Flagstaff Mountain Festival. “They really, truly slay it,” says Outlaw Partners web programmer and adventure film buff Sean Weas, who wanted to recommend the film to Mountain Outlaw readers Look for Felt Soul’s forthcoming film, “DamNation,” which examines the history and controversy behind current and proposed dam removal projects. Producer Ben Knight describes it as “a collection of empassioned voices and spirited stories from the people entrenched on both sides of this divisive issue. A.D. $25 feltsoulmedia.com


Moonlight Adventure Day Ennis school kids have worked with the Jack Creek Water Monitoring Project since 2006, helping collect data on sediments and stream health in the waterway that drains west from Moonlight Basin toward the Madison Valley. The project, run by Madison Watershed Coordinator Sunni Heikes-Knapton, has seven sites along the creek, from 7,500 feet down to just above its confluence with the Madison River. Much of the area is privately owned and is closed to the public. Moonlight has helped support the project by providing access to sites on its property and helping cover expenses. This summer, Moonlight Adventure Day will give Big Sky residents and visitors a chance to be part of the project. The day will bring small groups to Jack Creek for a half-day of water monitoring, and a half-day of wildlife education. “This is a chance to offer people a way to get up on Jack Creek, learn about the project and do a bit of monitoring themselves. It’s in their backyard,” Knapton said.

Ennis preschool students participate in a water quality lesson on Jack Creek. Photo by Sunni Heikes-Knapton

Biologists from the Wildlife Conservation Society will be on hand, teaching the groups about local wildlife and the importance of habitat. “Water monitoring is part of the larger scale of things,” Knapton said. “Wildlife can be looked at in the same way.” Moonlight Adventure Day will be August 18. Call (406) 995-7600 to sign up. Space is limited in this free, daylong program. E.S.

Big Sky’s Rocky Mountain safari Since the Lone Peak Tram was built in 1996, it will be open to the public in the summer months for the first time ever. The Lone Peak Expedition takes guests to Lone Peak’s 11,166-foot summit, where 360-degree views span three different states and stretch all the way through Yellowstone, to Wyoming’s Tetons. Take a guided hike around the summit, and keep your eyes peeled for mountain goats and other wildlife. Ride the tram, or hike back down to the base area. “The Lone Peak Tram put us on the map as a major big-mountain ski area, and now it is putting us on the map as the true base camp to Yellowstone National Park, “ said Meg O’Leary, Big Sky’s sales and marketing director. This summer, be one of the first to ride the tram. Call (406) 995-5769 for reservations. A.D. Photo by Jim Nygard




A ‘new’ Buffalo Bill Museum Buffalo Bill Cody was ahead of his time. Born in 1846, he was a Pony Express rider, Army scout, frontiersman, guide, showman, entrepreneur and town founder. He toured the U.S. and Europe, performing in front of millions, including Queen Victoria. “Buffalo Bill was the first international rock star,” says Bruce Eldredge, director of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. He was an American icon long before television, movies or the Internet. He also stood up for Native American and women’s rights, and for conservation.

The Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyoming near the east gate of Yellowstone National Park, was founded as a memorial a few months after his death. Today it draws more than 160,000 annual visitors and is housed in a historical center that also includes the Whitney Museum for Western Art, Plains Indian Museum, Draper Museum of Natural Science, and Winchester Arms Museum. “[It is] indeed the Smithsonian of the Wild West,” said Dewey Blanton from the American Association of Museums. The wing hosting the Buffalo Bill Museum this year received a $1.25 million remodel, its first facelift in 30

Buffalo Bill Cody in 1903

years. Through authentic artifacts and interactive multi-media, the modernized exhibit tells Buffalo Bill’s story in the context of the history and tall tales of the American West. E.S.


but it’s not unci viliz ed

Eye in the Sky Photography


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Yellowstone Club Community Foundation turns three By Casey Schwartz, YCCF Executive Director



The Yellowstone Club Community Foundation was established three years ago with the goal of giving back to community, education and conservation. Today, the nonprofit is growing, evolving these goals, and finding a niche in southwest Montana. The foundation not only gives away hundreds of thousands of dollars, but also creates and leverages partnerships among the recipients to extend its financial reach and results. At a set of meetings last fall, program directors spoke about their highest priority needs in the areas of children, family services and conservation. There, the foundation learned more about the organizations it serves and they learned more about each other. As a result, our regional nonprofit community is growing. The Gallatin Valley Food Bank now provides food for Big Sky Youth Empowerment programs, and Thrive and Women In Action will launch a cooperative parent education program in the Big Sky School District next year. In fact, the assembled nonprofit directors requested YCCF host similar meetings twice a year. To make a difference with these nonprofits, the foundation must establish giving plans that guarantee income for two or three years in a row. This is long enough for the organizations to gain something significant and put in place programs like the Gallatin weekend food backpack program.


For donors, it’s important to understand and see real outcomes, which is why the foundation has also supported MSU research studying hunger and the impact of the food bank. With the foundation’s trajectory more focused than ever, we’re fielding requests and ideas from our active board and working with and growing our network. Yellowstone Club staff members have been some of the best resources for knowing what needs to happen in the community, and we’ve increasingly heard ideas and requests from this group. “The foundation is truly living the ‘community’ in its name,” said YCCF Board President Sam Byrne. “This organization is supported by the community, to serve the community.”




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Project SAS bringing wounded warriors to Big Sky this summer By Emily Stifler Lieutenant Colonel Kathy Champion tied into the climbing rope and methodically made her way up the frozen waterfall by kicking her crampons into the ice and swinging her tools above her head. She heard water dripping behind the ice and felt cold air on her face, but couldn’t see where to place her tools or kick her feet. That’s because Champion is blind.

cared and believed in the sacrifices these veterans made, and with other veterans—that was a powerful and healing experience, she said. “The biggest thing about this event is it gives [us] an opportunity to meet other wounded warriors in a relaxed and encouraging [setting], where they can actually breathe a little and truly play,” Champion said. “Laughter is the best medicine.”

“It was a little surreal because if it wasn’t for the guys on the ground telling The SAS project is “This is why we went me I was on a cliff supported by Operato war, this is what we tion Never Forgotten, wall, I wouldn’t have been able to went to fight for—the a volunteer nonprofit perceive how high that works to create beauty of this country.” national awareness for I was,” Champion said. “Part of doing the more than 47,000 anything—whether you can visually wounded warriors, deployed troops, see or not see—is being able to conquer fallen heroes and military families. the fear of fear itself.” SAS will return to Big Sky this sumChampion served 27 years in the U.S. mer, taking veterans rock climbing, Army, including tours in Iraq and horseback riding, rafting, fly fishing, Afghanistan. Seven roadside bombs zip lining, archery shooting, mountain hit her convoy in Iraq, and the ensuing biking and golfing. They’ll have optraumatic brain injuries, combined with portunities to watch a rodeo, visit the a viral infection, left her blind. Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center and hike in Yellowstone National Park She came to Montana in January 2011 with a pack string of llamas. as part of Operation SAS—the “Sports, Afield and Stream” project. The week“Too many of our combat veterans long event brought 45 wounded warare struggling with invisible wounds riors to Big Sky to participate in outdoor or stress injury and are falling into recreation and adventure. high rates of crime, broken marriages, substance abuse and even suicide,” “I was the highest-ranking person said ONF President Linda Kelly. “We there,” Champion remembers of her introduce new hope and passion in life day climbing. “But you take off the through adaptive skills.” rank and you take off the uniform and you’re there to have a good time.” Senator Jon Tester and Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger attended last Having camaraderie in a safe, pristine year’s event, and both plan to return environment with people who really this summer.

Veteran Kathy Champion and her seeing eye dog Angel on a snowcoach in Yellowstone Photo courtesy of Operation SAS

“Our veterans have made deep sacrifices, and it’s our responsibility to support them when they return,” said Tester, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. “One of the most meaningful ways they can heal is through the camaraderie of other veterans.” Several wounded warrior guests, including Champion, will return, this time as volunteers and mentors. “I’ll encourage [other veterans] to look beyond their wounds, believe in themselves and realize the wound does not identify you,” Champion said. “You are still who you are. You have things to contribute to society just like everyone else.” Montana’s beautiful country and friendly communities fit the project well. “Montana is God’s gift to man,” Champion said. “This is why we went to war, this is what we went to fight for—the beauty of this country. I could feel and smell it, and it was clean and crisp. This is the America I remember.” sasproject.org




Creighton Block FIN E A RT, J E W E L RY, H OM E F URN IS H IN G S Rob Akey Greg Alexander Jim Barrett Diana Brady Lynn Cain Todd Connor John DeMott

Jerral Derr yberr y Flavia Eckholm Edd Enders Thomas English Mark Gibson Don Grant Mimi Grant



Frank Hagel Ott Jones David Lemon Asha MacDonald Mike Patterson Paula Pearl Jacqueline Rieder Hud

Gar y Lynn Rober ts Daniel San Souci Deb Schmit Laurie Stevens Dave Swanson Ezra Tucker Shirle Wempner



Ar twork also displayed at Outlaw Par tners and Lone Mountain Ranch Dining Room

18 Mountain



Yellowstone Cutthroat: a keystone species Infographic by Mike Martins

Yellowstone Lake by the numbers surface area


north to south

east to west

avg. depth

max. depth

132 141 20 14 140 410 miles



40 species

Yellowstone cutthroat spawn in the Yellowstone River above and below the lake, and in other tributaries. There, the water is shallower, which makes the fish accessible to predators. Within the lake, they live in the top 40 feet, making them accessible to birds. The non-native lake trout live 150-200 feet down in the lake, and spawn in the lake itself, which makes them unavailable for predators.

lake trout

cutthroat per year

4,000,000 500,000 1970s


Since lake trout were introduced in the 1980s, they have severely diminished the native cutthroat population.

The Solution





Last fall when we monitored the cutthroat population in the lake, we found a lot of small cutthroats. That’s exciting because it shows the cutthroats might be on the rebound.



One eats 40-50 Cutthroat Population in Yellowstone Lake




More than depend on Yellowstone cutthroat for food, including grizzly bears, ospreys, bald eagles and river otters. The only trout native to Yellowstone Lake and its tributaries, this fish is critical to the structure of its ecological community and is at the center of the ecosystem.



Guided by a national science review panel, the park has caught and killed more than 830,000 lake trout with gillnetting boats. Sustained, concerted efforts through 2018 will reduce lake trout to levels where Yellowstone cutthroat recovery is possible.

For more information & updates on the project, visit the Yellowstone Park Foundation at:

Sources: Todd Koel, supervisory fisheries biologist for Yellowstone National Park, and the Yellowstone Park Foundation explorebigsky.com

ypf.org Mountain


20 Mountain



austin trayser

Northern saw whet owl, Bitterroot Valley, Montana traysermediagroup.com





Jake campos

National Folk Festival, Butte, Montana jakecampos.com

22 Mountain



tyler busby

Max and Gary, Junction Hwy 83 and 200 tylerbusbyphotography.com





shanna swanson David, O’Dell Creek Ranch, Ennis, Montana shannamaephotography.com

24 Mountain




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Bouts under the Big Sky

Roller Derby in Montana By Marcie Hahn-Knoff | photos by Jon Marshall My throat is closing. I breathe harder. The thump of my heart fills my ears, pinching the sound of the crowd into a muffled roar. I don’t dare look behind me. The wheels on my quad skates slide and give, barely gripping on the polished concrete floor. I accelerate toward the pack of skaters searching for my teammates, with only a split-second to decide how to get through the maze of aggressive women wrapped in combat padding without getting my ass kicked. Finding myself in the midst of a flat-track roller derby bout was the culmination of a loosely woven series of events: a childhood spent ice skating, the lure of a women’s contact sport, an offhand comment at an adult roller skating party a few years back, and a flyer on a bulletin board for a league starting up in Bozeman. Six months of practice with the Gallatin Roller Girlz, and here I am. I duck for cover behind one of my team’s blockers. Hips clad in colorful shorts sway and swing like demolition equipment, out to crush me. 26 Mountain


A fearsome girl soars over me, ready to deliver a hit. ‘Move!’ my mind screams, and I swerve left, barely missing her assault. Crack—I take a shoulder hit from another skater and am nearly sent out of bounds. I stumble back and recover, then see a path open up to the front of the pack. My lungs tighten again as I sprint to break free of the pack. I battle past four blockers and score four points. Now I’m alone once more, accelerating around the track to lap the pack and get ready to do it all over. Four long whistle blasts and the jam is finished. Sweat pours from beneath my helmet. We’re already midway through the second half, and the scoreboard reads 15 minutes left. I return to the bench and five of my teammates skate onto the track to start the next jam. The four blockers from each team line up behind the pivot line, a mismatched assortment of heights and sizes jumbled together awaiting the signal to start. Back at the jammer line, two jammers, bright stars emblazoned on their helmet covers, stand on tiptoe waiting for their signal to sprint. I gulp water on the bench, and my breathing calms.


The whistle blasts and the blockers start skating as a pack, slowly gaining momentum. A double whistle blast sets the trembling jammers running down the straightaway of the track, racing to be the first through the pack. As they fold one behind the other around the curve of the track, they meet the pack and fight to get through the scrum and be the first to the other side. A jammer in a metallic gold skirt emerges at the other side of the pack—not ours. Ours is trapped behind a wall of opposing team blockers, setting up to knock the snot out of her. But she finds a path around them, and once clear, she heads back around the track in pursuit of the other jammer.

roller derby in a nutshell A flat track roller derby ‘bout,’ or competition, is played between two teams of five players. Each team consists of four ‘blockers’ (one of which is known as a pivot) and one ‘jammer.’ A bout is an hour long; within a bout as many two minute ‘jams’ take place as possible.




(Starting positions)

I glance back up at the scoreboard. We’re down but we’ve made up some ground. Not bad. Ten minutes left. And once this jam is whistled dead, it’s my time to step back on the track, this time as a blocker.

Blockers line up as a tight group known as the ‘pack.’ A single whistle blast signals the pack to start skating, and a double whistle blast releases the jammers. Blockers work to help their jammer through the pack while blocking the opposing team’s jammer.

Marcie Hahn-Knoff, AKA Ava-Launcher #88, is the proud owner of a growing pile of colorful knee socks. When not obsessing about all things derby, she is usually skiing, climbing, hiking, mountain biking, playing in her whitewater kayak or hula hooping in the backyard. She also handcrafts collapsible hula hoops, which can be found at hooplahulahoops.com.

The jammers’ initial lap determines who the lead jammer is— that player can call off the jam before the two minutes pass. Subsequent laps allow jammers to score points by passing members of the opposing team.

Montana roller derby leagues

Flat track roller derby is one of the fastest growing women’s sports in the nation. There are almost 1,200 leagues worldwide, up from only 50 in 2005. Montana has seven established leagues (Billings (2), Bozeman, Kalispell, Great Falls, Helena and Missoula). Bouts (games) are played between teams on the same league and also between leagues. Derby’s original architect Leo Seltzer was born in Helena in 1903. No longer the televised spectacle sport of the mid 20th century, roller derby has re-emerged as a legitimate sport that’s shed its theatrical undertones. Punching, hair pulling, kicking, throwing elbows and biting are a thing of the past, as is the banked track in most locations, though the derby names and costumes live on. The sport now adheres to strictly enforced rules, governed by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. wftda.org Right: Gallatin Roller Girlz’ Tornado Juice #918

Billings Billings Roller Derby Dames billingsrollerderbydames.com Magic City Rollers magiccityrollers.com Bozeman Gallatin Roller Girlz gallatinrollergirlz.webs.com Great Falls Electric City Roller Grrrlz Facebook: electriccityrollergrrrlz Helena Hel’z Belles Roller Girls helzbelles.org Kalispell Flathead Valley Roller Derby fvrollerderby.com Missoula Hellgate Roller Derby hellgaterollergirls.com



28 Mountain


Robbi Nace competing in the 2011 College National Finals Rodeo. Photo Courtesy of Mike True



the odds

Barreling down at the college nationals By Robbi Nace The barrel racer’s number one rule is to know your horse like the back of your hand. I kept that rule in mind in Casper last June, at the College National Finals Rodeo. I was in prime position to win a national title that night, and my nerves were on high alert. It was the first run I ever asked my coach to stand with me while I waited my turn in the infamous tunnel in the Casper Events Center. It had been a long road to this moment. My horse Crystal had surgery seven months earlier, and the vets were unsure if she would make a comeback, let alone survive. She was cleared to run four days before CNFR, but I doubted if she could still do it or if I still knew how to ride her. Despite the odds, here we were sitting among the top 10 in the nation with a chance to win it all. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach. These nerves were for Crystal and me, and also for my teammates. Before my run, I listened, sitting astride of my horse as one of my teammates won the national title in her event and another placed seventh.

The crowd roared, and the echoes in the tunnel made Crystal uneasy and antsy. Coach was there to steady her, as the barrel racers who finished sidled past us on their way out. Slowly, we inched our way up the tunnel. I contained my thoughts to my job and my horse, trying to ignore the results being announced. Worrying about someone else’s run wouldn’t help my focus. Then I was up. I eased up the alley, but Crystal stalled at the gate. I quietly backed her up and spun her around again. That did the trick, and in an instant we were flying down the arena to the first barrel. My adrenaline was up, my thoughts blurred and my body took over. I pushed Crystal hard to each barrel, because if I didn’t, we would have knocked a barrel, resulting in a five second penalty and taking us out of the championship race. Barrel racing isn’t just about speed. It has more to do with teamwork and muscle memory than anything else. I could feel Crystal’s breath pushing against my legs, her heart beating so hard I could feel her pulse under my right knee. We turned second and I went for the whip because we were losing too

much speed. I over-undered her to the third barrel and all the way around it to ensure we maintained speed. She launched us from the back of the barrel, and we crossed the finish line at full speed. As we approached the gate, she glided to a stop and we both took a deep breath. I patted her on the neck, and we walked out of the arena the announcer’s excited voice echoing above the crowd. I didn’t knock that night, and instead we made a great run, turning all three barrels tight, losing very little speed and running across the finish line as fast as my little horse could go—about 35 mph. I was elated. My horse had come back from a life-threatening surgery, four out of five CNFR qualifiers from Montana State ended up in the top 10 in their respective events, and despite the doubts, Crystal and I still placed second and helped MSU to a women’s team national championship. Robbi Nace enjoys riding and competing throughout Big Sky Country. She competes in rodeos throughout Montana and western Canada.





It’s just way more fun story and photos By Eric Ross, as told to Abbie Digel

First things first, I have to catch my bait. Salmon fly nymphs, dragon fly nymphs, and worms are useful, but to catch a hog I need a sculpin. Besides, I don’t like fishing with worms. They easily rip into little pieces, making the fish go wild. I only resort to those tactics when it’s really slow.

in the middle of his back. The trout sees me and keeps his distance. Without leverage I can’t even crank my reel.

Sculpin are small bottom feeding fish that live under the rocks. Catching a sculpin is just as fun as fishing. To catch one, you have to place a fine mesh net down current of a rock, then slowly pick up the rock, being careful not to cloud the water. Then just stare down there. Sculpin don’t move at first; they hold their ground. Once you see one, put your hand in real slow and scare it into your net.

“Bring the camera!” I yell to my wife Valerie, who’s sitting on the bank. Tripping on the rocks, I fall and scrape both knees along the rocky bottom. I’m in the middle of the rapids before the bridge, pulling some real Brad Pitt moves. My arms are above the water, holding tension. The trout drags me under the bridge into the deep pools next to the horse pasture along Highway 191.

Slowly, it starts to move down past Anceny’s pond. My 100 yards of line are all out, the trees are encroaching on the river and I’m forced to wade out to the middle.

After a few minutes, a few rocks and some good luck, I sweep up a fat one. I slice his belly open and like sharks in bloody water the hogs start to go crazy. Since I catch and release, really I’m just feeding my pets. After a huge backhand cast my strike indicator disappears. The fight is on. There’s slack, I jig, another hit, another jig, and now I have what feels like a log. It must be the biggest fish ever. A few minutes pass, and I haven’t made any progress. Maybe I’m hooked under a rock. The hog doesn’t know it’s caught. Then it starts thrashing. Next thing I know the behemoth is at the surface, and I see that my hook is 30 Mountain

Catching old friends: the author and the fish he named 10 o’clock, L: March 23, 2008, R: May 3, 2009


SELL Tales

Tripping on the rocks, I fall and scrape both knees along the rocky bottom. I’m in the middle of the rapids before the bridge, pulling some real Brad Pitt moves.

Dragging myself out of the river is not easy in flip-flops, but luckily I still have my shorts.

Round three begins. I start reeling the beast up from the depths. After a couple more runs to the bottom he’s tired and finally I get my hands under his belly. Pulling him up I scream in his face, “I got you, I got you, I got you!” Somehow, my hemostats are still pinched to my shorts. I try to remove the hook but can’t because his skin is too thick, so I put the fish back in the water to rest. A few minutes later Valerie zooms up in the Suburban and runs the camera down.


No other Time exists than now

I grab my prize. With a splash of his tail he dowses my face and snaps the line back at me. “Nooo!” I scream, falling in the rocks. No fish, no picture, bloody knees and defeat. That 28-inch rainbow weighed at least five pounds. And he got away. I’ve caught a lot of giant fish in Hog Alley because I put them back. I catch the same fish over and over again. They live in the same place unless a larger fish pushes them out. I’ve caught a lot of brook trout there too, but I haven’t caught a big one in a while. The lifespan of a fish is 10 years, and most of the ones I used to know are gone. Eric Ross has lived in Big Sky with his family for 10 years and has worked at many restaurants. A graduate of Bozeman High, Ross also attended MSU, where he studied art. His art major led him to food, photography and fish.

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31 explorebigsky.com Mountain William Feher | Lynn Milligan | Lara Hobby | Aimee Gerharter


East of Big Sky, 45 miles south of Bozeman’s sprawling development, there’s a part of the world where most people will never set foot. The Gallatin Crest is a habitat for grizzlies, lynx, elk and moose, and is reminiscent of a time before our impact on the natural world. It keeps wildlife from development and the roadways cutting the wild lands abounding southwest Montana.

Gallatin Crest waiting for someone to start the collaborative process By Taylor Anderson

A grizzly sow roams the rolling prairie along the Porcupine Creek Trail, marching in and out of densely covered forests and sauntering to the stream to riparian vegetation with her cubs in spring. For the last few years, she’s given visitors to this forest a hard time, spooking them as if to say they aren’t welcome. But the visitors keep coming. Trails bounding past wildflowers and through thick sagebrush spiderweb through this 155,000-acre grouping of wild lands. For recreationists it’s a supreme play area, an ideal spot for locals and tourists to hike, hunt, horseback ride, or ride mountain bikes and dirt bikes. Others cherish its unique and untouched beauty, and argue we should tread lightly and preserve it for the next generation. Their ranks have included members of congress, local leaders and federal judges. The area, sitting within the Gallatin National Forest, has existed in a state of purgatory for 35 years—ever since the Montana Wilderness Study Act created the Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area in 1977.

Photo: Mountain biking on the Gallatin Crest is now illegal, but was not when this photo was taken. The Hyalite-PorcupineBuffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area was established in 1977 when Congress told the Forest Service to manage the land as Wilderness. Photo by Elevated Productions.

32 Mountain


Stakeholders from two broad groups—dubbed recreationists and environmentalists—are staunchly divided over its management. The only common ground is a reverence for the land, one side claiming its right to use it, and the other warning that residents in the surrounding mountain towns are loving it to death. One thing is clear when it comes to ending the arguments: Something has got to give.


Hyalite-PorcupineBuffalo Horn Wilderness Study area Big Sky


Congress signed into law the Montana Wilderness Study Act in 1977, creating nine WSAs, mostly in the western and southwestern parts of the state. This was fresh off a period of congressional activity driven to preserve the country’s quickly diminishing wild lands, and also on the heels of the Wilderness Act, which President Lyndon Johnson signed into law in 1964. Wilderness was not yet a politically divided issue. Designated wilderness today remains the highest protection of public land in the country. Wilderness areas allow “outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation in wilderness,” according to the Wilderness Act. These areas, it states, must have four staples of wilderness character: natural integrity, apparent naturalness, opportunities for primitive recreation, and opportunities for solitude. Wilderness study areas have more leeway for fewer restrictions. Wilderness areas allow non-mechanized recreation, including hiking and horseback riding. Biking is considered a mechanized use. The Wilderness Study Act directed federal agencies—the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish,


Wildlife and Parks, and the National Parks Service—to survey nine areas of public land in Montana and determine whether wilderness designation was warranted.

Judge Donald Molloy ruled in 2009 on a Montana Wilderness Association lawsuit, upholding a claim that the travel plan wouldn’t protect the area based on 1977 wilderness characteristics.

The bill was plagued with vague language and guidelines. It charged the agencies with preserving the “wilderness character as it existed in 1977” and potentially recommending them for wilderness.

The Forest Service appealed the ruling soon after, but an interim management plan went into place that drastically reduced open trails. Trails open to mountain bikers reduced from 170 to 20 miles under the new plan, and the 70 miles previously open to motorcycles contracted to 40.

Since 1977, wilderness advocates have successfully argued the Gallatin National Forest Service hasn’t followed the guidelines of the law in the HyalitePorcupine-Buffalo Horn WSA, and has allowed degradation of the landscape.

The Gallatin National Forest Service from 2003-2006 hosted a number of public meetings meant to collaboratively guide then Forest Supervisor Becki LockettHeath in developing a new Travel Management Plan for the HyalitePorcupine-Buffalo Horn WSA. The agency received more than 12,000 letters from concerned citizens regarding management of the area during the planning years. The plan kept open trails that had seen use and had been enjoyed by various recreationists.

On Dec. 1, 2011, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Molloy’s opinion, calling the 2006 travel plan “arbitrary and capricious.” The court said the new GNFS plan didn’t account for historical data and increased use in the WSA since 1977, meaning opportunities for solitude would be diminished with the proposed plan. “If a hypothetical hiker traversing a certain route in 1977 would have encountered one noisy motorcycle, but today would encounter 20, his opportunities for solitude have plainly decreased, unless the impact can somehow be offset by other factors or considered so small as to make no qualitative difference,” the appeals court opinion reads. The interim plan put in place following Molloy’s court ruling has appeased





wilderness advocates, but has fueled the anger of motorized and mechanized users who want access to the land. With such polarization, the process of mending relationships and getting everyone to the table to make a long-term plan for the area is likely to last years. A poll of hundreds of attendees at a February 2012 public forum highlighted the divide: 80 percent said they mistrusted other parties interested in the WSA. However, about 73 percent said they knew long-term resolutions would best be achieved through collaboration, and 86 percent said the time for solutions is here.

“If you don’t like wilderness because you fundamentally don’t think the government should manage land—or on the other hand if you think every acre should be wilderness—it’s very hard to move anybody that’s that ideologically entrenched.” In the motorized use camp, some argue that since the population of the surrounding areas has mushroomed, it would be unfair and nearly impossible to restrict use to 1977 levels. Brad Grein, of Citizen’s for Balanced Use, a motorized use advocate group, has lived in the area since 1974. Grein says he’s traveled everywhere in the WSA and advocates for more trails and looser restrictions on motorized and mechanized use. Grein and others call wilderness legislation “land grab bills,” and the groups that support the bills or file suit 34 Mountain

“environmental obstructionists.” He regards the 9th Circuit Court as “the most liberal in the country.” “This is just what these environmentalists and these judges have made up,” he says of restricting motorcycle and snowmobiles in the WSA. “If you talk to Congress, they said it was never their intent to shut down the recreation uses that were enjoyed there.” He’s on an arguably pro-economic side that says easing regulations and opening the WSA to recreation would bring business to the surrounding tourismbased communities. Tom Owen owns Gallatin Alpine Sports in Big Sky and is part of the Big Sky Mountain Biking Association. He says because Big Sky’s economy is dominated by tourism, it’s missing out if the lands the economy could benefit from are closed to popular recreation activities. He said other federal designations would still protect the land while allowing recreation. Bozeman, Owen says, is less impacted by current restrictions because the northern border of the HPBH is 15 miles south of Gallatin Valley. Those 15 miles are prime recreation spots for climbers, bikers, hikers and others. Roger Jenkins is president of the Bozeman chapter of the Montana Wilderness Association. He’s also a member of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and the Wilderness Society. Jenkins says Molloy and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges ruled according to the law put forth by the Wilderness Act that “solitude is an important aspect of wilderness.” “Clearly, in my opinion, what happened is the Forest Service, I’m talking about the supervisors in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, permitted this encroachment,” Jenkins said.


At current, both sides threaten litigation if the Forest Service enforces or lightens regulations on the land, and the polarization promises that without remarkable collaborative efforts, the HPBH will exist in limbo until no one can argue whether or not the land is worthy of congressional wilderness designation.

It’s been close to 30 years since the last new wilderness, the Lee Metcalf’s segmented 254,288 acres surrounding Big Sky, was designated in Montana. Today, roughly 5 percent of the country is congressionally designated wilderness. About half of that is in Alaska, leaving around 2.7 percent of lands in the lower 48 with this protection. About 40 percent of the Gallatin National Forest’s 1.8 million acres are already designated wilderness. In a 1985 report, the GNFS said the HPBH’s public land had high wilderness character in publicly owned land, but was still checkerboarded by private land once given to Plum Creek Timber Company. Three years later a bill passed the Democratic-controlled Senate and House that would have created 64,000 acres of Wilderness along the Gallatin Crest. The bill was pocket vetoed by then President Ronald Reagan, something the Montana Wilderness Association alleges today was an election favor to Republican Senator Conrad Burns. Jen Ferenstein works for the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front, a group that’s collaborated successfully with residents and federal agencies along a 100-mile wildlife corridor in north-central Montana that’s rich with natural resources. Ferenstein suggests starting by collaborating on positive ground, in a place that has the potential for wide agreement.

After Senator Jon Tester upset Burns in the 2006 election, Senator Max Baucus picked up and passed that legislation verbatim, and the groups stopped the threat of resource extraction along the lower two-thirds of the Front. Finding support for protecting the Front had clearer direction for Ferenstein’s group. Unlike the HPBH, the Front didn’t have a heritage of motorized recreation, and conservation groups there collaborated with ranchers, farmers and hunters on a solution. What the Front had was multiple sides that cherished the landscape.


“If you don’t like wilderness because you fundamentally don’t think the government should manage land—or on the other hand if you think every acre should be wilderness—it’s very hard to move anybody that’s that ideologically entrenched,” Ferenstein said.

Regardless of the polarization clouding the HPBH’s final designation, all sides agree that the only permanent solution is congressional action—which cannot be taken to court. But it’s not likely any politician would take a quill out of an inkbottle to regulate the HPBH until the divide is bridged. Current Gallatin National Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson has inherited a weighty issue in a state that deeply values its public and private lands. The



For her group, this meant working in 2004 and 2005 with Burns, drafting legislation that allowed environmental groups to buy out oil and gas leases along the Front. Those, she said, posed the biggest threat to the integrity of the land.

Forest Service has no plan to develop a new WSA management plan as of now. The Montana State University’s Center for Local Government is working with the GNFS to design a community-wide collaborative to find a solution. Still, Erickson says although she believes strongly in the collaborative process, the GNFS is mandated to follow the guidelines set by the WSA and the court rulings. “It has to be within the court framework and the purpose of the act, and when people come to the table, that’s a hard sell.” Stakeholders meanwhile should pull out the Rolodex and start building relationships on the vast common ground, and stop wasting time and money fighting it out in court. Mountain Outlaw Assistant Editor Taylor Anderson has been writing on everything under the Big Sky for a year.

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James and Luke Ramirez

By Abbie Digel | Photos by Anna Middleton

It’s a blustery day in early March. James Ramirez is waiting in a chilly, dim arena 10 miles south of Livingston, among about 50 other middle and high school boys. They’ve been at the Rockin’ R arena for two days, at the Joe Beaver Roping Clinic practicing calf roping skills. They wait for their turn, sometimes for hours, to ride and rope in front of world-champion calf roper Joe Beaver. Beaver’s thick Texas drawl illuminates the arena every time he yells, “good loopin’ boy!” Perched on their horses, some of the young riders goof off, others are stern and focused as they wait their turn. James is up next. His father, Ed, stands cool and distant, leaning against a gate at the edge of the arena, watching with a slight smile on his face, his eyes squinted. With a clank of the metal gate, a black calf takes off, running for the opposite end of the arena. James gallops toward it at full speed, a piggin’ string clenched between his teeth. His free arm whips his lasso around so fast it blends in with the air. 36 Mountain


He ropes the calf’s neck, and it reels back as if hitting a wall. James jumps off his horse, runs to the calf, lifts it in the air, and drops it to the ground with a thud. He ties its ankles, tightening the piggin’ string with one thrust of his arm. He walks away, head hung low, and the small crowd of parents applaud. “Not bad, not bad,” Beaver says. He approaches James, placing his hand gently on the boy’s back, whispering. Beaver’s hands swing in the air, mimicking roping motions. Ed watches, and nods. The next rider is up. “Think of that gold haired beauty with the BMW and the American Express Card waitin’ for ya,” Beaver yells. And the rider takes off after the running calf. March was James’s fourth month calf roping. In that time he’s also worked with Montana calf ropers like Mark Sammons of Choteau and Scott Lynch, from Ronan. James ended up second place in his age group that day.

The Ramirez family has lived in Big Sky for two generations. James’s mother Kristen still lives in the same home on five acres just off Highway 191 where she was raised. The family owns and runs Ramirez Property Management, and the rest of their time is spent living and breathing rodeo. Kristen has always had horses, and Ed, who grew up in Malta, is a rodeo veteran. He competed growing up and attended college on a rodeo scholarship. Now, while he still competes, he mostly acts as chauffeur, horse groomer and head rodeo coach for James, 12, and his younger brother Luke, who’s 9. James and Luke have been taking care of horses and riding them since they could walk. Most of the year, when the boys aren’t in school, the Ramirezes are on the road with a horse trailer, four dogs and two to four of their 10 horses, headed to a rodeo. Buckets, Dyna, Oakely, Mator, Sammy, Tuff, Tugboat, Dunny, Breaker and Dixie are all horses in the family’s herd. Some of the animals were bred and raised by Kristen’s mother, Ann. One, Tugboat, was a gift from the boys’ godfather, local horseman Jerry Pape. The 23-year-old horse has taught “many in this valley how to rope,” Kristen says. Now retired, Tugboat is living the good life, “belly deep in grass.”

“There are families from all over the state and parts of Idaho and Wyoming who compete with us,” Luke said. “We have friends all over the state and we met them through rodeo.”

But all over the state, rodeo is coming to a standstill in larger communities.

The boys practice several nights a week and compete every weekend from March through October. During the winter, Ed and Kristen drive them to an indoor arena in Bozeman a couple days a week; in the summer, they spend most of their time in an outdoor arena near Buck’s T-4.

While there are some families involved in the Gallatin Valley, rodeo is primarily found in eastern and northern Montana. Raising horses in Big Sky is challenging because of the climate, distance to medical facilities, and the price of real estate.

James taught his younger brother how to tie a goat, and also how to practice roping on dummies. “If it has legs we rope it,” Luke says.

“Rodeo in this area is a dying breed,” Kristen says.

“Big Sky is no longer known for ranch land, and most don’t want to live by horse pens,” Kristen said. “But the animals are part of our family. We will run a horse down the canyon to a veterinary hospital in the middle of the night if we have to.”

“It’s just another day,” James says about rodeo’s competitive nature. They also participate in soccer, basketball, skiing, snowboarding and hunting, but rodeo is top priority.

Managing the animals is a full time job in itself, Ed says. Everyone in the family has a job at home and on the road.

“Rodeo is not a sport,” Ed says. “It is who we are, it is a way of life.”

“We get up and feed the horses before we feed ourselves,” Kristen says.

The Ramirez boys participate in various classic rodeo events. James competes at the junior high level in team and calf roping, goat tying, barrel racing, flag race, ribbon roping and bulldogging. Luke competes in the junior league, in goat tying, barrel racing, breakaway roping and team roping. They belong to the Southwest Youth Rodeo Association, the Montana Junior High School Rodeo Association and the Wrangler Team Roping Association. Luke on his family’s property in Big Sky.





In the winter months, they give the horses a short break, sending them away to pasture in Dillon and Sheridan, Montana, but by early March, the horses return. And similar to human athletes, equine athletes must be conditioned after a break. The process includes introducing additional exercises, changing feed and vitamin regimens, grooming, and fitting horseshoes and hoof care. Come spring, the boys also check their equipment: saddles, boots, hats, blankets and buckets are all in need of cleaning, oiling or repair. A trampoline and swing set sit next to the practice arena in the Ramirez’s lawn. There, the brothers practice their groundwork--skills related to rodeo that can be perfected without an animal. “The fun part comes when you get to put it all together on the back of a horse,” James said. Luke is just beginning to rope, and knows he has a lot to learn. “If you don’t practice groundwork, you will get injured,” he says. Sitting on his horse one sunny afternoon in Big Sky, Luke says, “horses are large animals with minds of their own and if you are not ready, you can lose a finger roping or get bucked off.” He giggles when a gust blows his hat from his head, running after it. Gripping the reigns, his horsemanship skills show, even at his young age. Where the boys’ dedication shows most is the amount of time spent on the road. The night before an event, hours are spent preparing the horses and trailer for travel. Feed and tack are packed, along with various vet supplies, roping gear, goat tying gear, piggin’ strings, gloves, groceries, as well as leg wraps and blankets for the horses. “We work to make sure they are as comfortable as possible,” Ed said, explaining that travel is tiresome on the 38 Mountain

James leading his horse Dyna.

horses. During long drives, they stop and exercise the horses along the way. “We get to see the whole state,” Luke says.

But equine athletes are expensive, and require 24-hour, seven day a week care. The better they’re cared for, the better they’ll perform.

Kristen laughs. “When we show up [at events] with three of our dogs and all of our gear, we look like gypsies,” she says.

“We just like the horses so much,” Ed said, a twinkle in his eye. “Most kids sleep with a teddy bear, but my boys sleep with a rope.”

“One morning we woke up [in the parking lot] next to world champion Tuf Cooper,” James said, beaming. The boys got his autograph, and other kids circled his camper all morning.

This year, both James and Luke are hungry for rodeo association titles. James is working toward a trip to nationals in New Mexico, and Luke is looking for an all around award from the Southwest Youth Rodeo Association.

For the Ramirez brothers, rodeo is more than just horsemanship. The associations hold them accountable for their actions and choices. Cowboy attire, which includes a collared button down, cowboy boots, hats and jeans, must be worn at all times during competition weekends.

Where they go from here is up to them, Kristen said. “We want them to do something they can do all their lives.”

There are other sacrifices. On years when summer gas prices are high, Christmas gifts are fewer.

“It’s a cowboy lifestyle,” James says.

Luke wants to “go pro, and go to college and do rodeo.” The boys giggle and kick at each other.

Luke laughs. “It’s hard to dribble a ball with cowboy boots on,” he says.

“We do what it takes,” Kristen said. The boys work odd jobs shoveling snow, building fences, watering plants and helping with the family business. “With basketball you put the ball away and you’re done,” James says.


Abbie Digel is the editor of Mountain Outlaw magazine. An east coast transplant to Montana, writing this story was literally, her first rodeo. The Outlaw Partners is a sponsor of the Ramirez brothers and their rodeo pursuits.

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R i v er o f N o Re A Baptism by Fire

Outnumbered and under gunned, firefighters pull into a safety zone while an uncontrolled fire burns out of control around them. Photo by Jon Marshall

40 Mountain


The earth drops away. The only thing between me and the ground is the fuselage of a Bell 205 chopper. I feel calm. The chaos and urgency of responding to a wildfire has a quieting effect on me.

turn B Y J E S S I C A K I L Ro Y

I’m not alone. Flying low, our pilot, a Vietnam veteran, wears a coy, mischievous grin, silent amidst the constant radio chatter and powerful drone of rotors. Navigating with skill and ease, he holds steady as we approach a vast granite wall looming hundreds of feet into Idaho’s blue sky. He pretends to lose control of the helicopter for a moment. Eyes fixed on the horizon, my squad boss and captain are unimpressed by his antics. This isn’t our first rodeo. Realizing he isn’t dealing with a crew of greenhorns, the prankster pilot regains his composure, pulling the chopper up and over the craggy monolith, chuckling as he clears the top by mere feet. My crew, the Panhandle Hotshots, has been called to assist the Missoula Smokejumpers in containing a lightning strike that’s gotten out of control: one hotshot crew, four jumpers, hundreds of acres ablaze. We have our work cut out for us. We descend into an open valley and find ourselves deep in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. No roads, no trails, this country is ruled by no man. Surrounded by steep mountains, the lush valley below is protected by peaks rugged and forlorn—ancient warriors ordained to guard sacred ground, steadfast and loyal. Black billows rise above the blaze high on a mountainside. It appears to be rapidly increasing in size and intensity.

The night sky lights up as if the sun is rising, and the rumble of the devouring inferno is deafening. explorebigsky.com




We approach the narrow ridge and hover over a makeshift helipad, one helicopter skid in the air, one touching down. Carefully we exit the chopper onto the structure of teetering logs and unstable rocks hastily constructed by the smokejumpers, and make our way down toward the safety zone where the rest of the crew awaits the plan of attack. After a short briefing with the jumpers, we hike together down steep, treacherous terrain, staying close to prevent rockfall from gaining momentum and causing injury. After 40 minutes we reach the bottom of the fire and begin digging a cup-trench, a tried and true method that catches rolling embers from above.

the steep mountainside, we’re losing the battle against Mother Nature. Twenty hours, no food, no rest. Suddenly our dulled senses are heightened as the freight train roar of a crowning fire threatens from above. Radio traffic explodes, and all crew members are ordered to retreat to the safety zone. I fight against the 40-degree slope. Sucking smoke, scrambling to reach safety, we run for our lives. Helping each other up after each fall, we push across the mountain with shouts of encouragement barely audible over the thunderous firestorm.

“Rock!” My co-workers shout warnings as various sized boulders dislodge beneath quickly disappearing vegetation and pound down the slope from above. With each near miss, I’m surprised to hear myself let out primitive yelps of fear. The air is thick with smoke and dust, causing the inevitable “dirt tooth” anomaly, a most uncomfortable situation where

The night sky lights up as if the sun is rising, and the rumble of the devouring inferno is deafening. I reach the safety zone. Gasping for air, I frantically dig a shallow hole in the ground with my combi tool and shove my face in the dirt. I can breathe now, but still feel the heat of flames only yards away. I feel sick and dizzy from heavy smoke inhalation, and hear several of my crewmembers vomiting. We shout out our last names to make sure everyone’s accounted for, and I’m relieved to hear all 20 names between intermittent gasping and coughing. I know what I signed up for. I’ve accepted the risks involved in my choice of profession. With a father who spent 30 years fighting fire with the Forest Service, I grew up well versed in the ways of wildland fire. But this is a wake up call, and I find myself questioning the point of interfering with nature’s course any further. With our meager tools and feeble methods, we are no match for Mother Nature.

dust, ash and grime cake onto teeth exposed inside a firefighter’s wide open panting mouth. The heat from flames only feet away grows to an almost unbearable temperature. Cutting, swamping, digging, dodging, soaked in sweat, slipping down

After what feels like ages, the fire burns out. With dawn on the horizon, we hike down the ridge to make camp, whipped and weary. Earlier the previous day we got a call that the helicopter slingload carrying our red bags (sleeping bags, tents and bottled water) had malfunctioned and detached our gear from the line, dropping it deep in the wilderness down the River of No Return many miles away. We’re going to have to survive with just the contents of our work packs.

Above: The writer (far right) with the Panhandle Hotshots after fighting fire in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Photo by Liz Figgins Right: Pete Alotta and Nolan Humphrey exhausted after a long night’s fire PHOTO BY JESSICA KILROY

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Cutting, swamping, digging, dodging, soaked in sweat... we’re losing the battle against Mother Nature. After building beds out of pine boughs, we huddle around a small campfire. With water drawn and purified from the nearby creek, we crack open our emergency Army MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), wrap ourselves in our space blankets and settle in for a few hours of rest. As I move in and out of consciousness, I spin through scenarios and possible outcomes of the day’s events. Too many close calls this time, and we still have another 13 days to go. My mind flickers back and forth between good times and haunting memories across six seasons of fire. A wild red sun rise after working through the night. Searching for missing bodies of fellow firefighters and close friends on the Stanza fire. Inside jokes that keep us smiling through tough times. Lifeflight helicopters bringing crewmembers to the emergency room. A tattered, ash-covered crewmate carrying a frightened doe to safety after a rogue rescue mission. Suffocating in the safety zone. Moments beautiful and tragic.

I imagine lost crewmates disappearing into the great blue beyond, like our red bags floating down the River of No Return. I think about the wild current, and dream of the refreshing sensation of moving with it, rather than against it. This is my last year on the fireline. I long to spend time in the world’s wild places, to marvel at the magnificence of nature rather than fighting against her. A crewmate once told me, “you can never return. Once you go forward, you will never return.” I think I finally understand what he meant. I drift off to sleep, and the earth drops away. The only thing between me and the ground is the river. I feel calm. Jessica Kilroy grew up in Driggs, Idaho and Eureka, Montana. Since quitting fire, she’s become a full time musician, touring in the U.S. and Europe. Her new album comes out this summer. Find this, and more of her music at jessicakilroy.com and pterodactylplains.com.





Salvaging history Sunken timber symbolizes log drives and the rise of the Great Northern Railroad By Emily Stifler This 36-inch diameter larch ‘cookie’ has rings dating the tree back to 1535. Photo by Emily Stifler

A steady, high-pitched whine resonates through a forest above the Flathead River, and the afternoon sun glistens off the snow. Five feet up the side of a massive western larch tree, two lumberjacks stand on springboards jammed into notches in the trunk, pulling a crosscut saw back and forth. The movement is so smooth and rhythmic it looks effortless. The year is 1924, and the men are contract workers for the Great Northern Railroad. They work long days in the woods and are indebted to the company, but they can’t imagine another way of life—to leave the woods, the fresh mountain air and the hard labor for a job in the office would be unthinkable. Halfway through the tree they stop. With a flick of their caulked boots, they shift the springboards sideways to better their stances, and then pick up sawing where they left off. The men have their sleeves rolled up, and sweat glistens on their brows even though it’s winter in Montana. It’s nearly the end of another long six-day workweek, and one of them is thinking about the woman he once knew back in Minnesota. The other is readying himself for the moonshine drunk he’ll put on in town when he gets his quarterly wages.

When they’ve nearly sawed through the 200-year-old giant, it begins to lean and creak, and they climb down to safety. “Timber!” shouts one of the men as the tree leans further. It pauses, defying gravity for a moment, then falls with a thunderous crash and squeal, tearing through the underbrush and bringing down several smaller trees with it. The men limb the tree with their axes and buck the trunk into 12-foot sections. They stamp a Circle N brand into the ends, marking ownership by Great Northern. Because the sawyers are paid per log, this is also how they count their work. From here, a team of horses will drag the logs across the snow down to the Flathead River. There, along with thousands of others, they will move 80 miles downstream in the annual spring log drive. Once the logs reach Flathead Lake, they will be barged by a logging towboat toward Somers Bay at the north end of the lake. There, they’ll float in the bays next to ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir. The Doug-fir, the lightest and most buoyant wood, will be pulled from the lake first and milled into railroad ties. The larch, a heavier wood, will become waterlogged and sink to the bottom of the lake.

Looking east across Flathead Lake from Somers toward the Swan Mountains. The pilings in the foreground supported a monorail that was once used to pull floating timber from the lake. Photo by Brian Niles

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The Northern Pacific Railroad reached Montana in the 1880s, and the Great Northern followed soon after. The transcontinental railway was completed in 1893, and the line continued expanding throughout the Northwest. Since a mile of track required 2,500 railroad ties, plus lumber for bridges, pilings, telegraph poles and snow fences, the logging industry in Montana grew alongside the railroads. In the late 1890s, James J. Hill, founder of Great Northern Railroad, sent Minnesota lumberman John O’Brien to build a sawmill on the north side of Flathead Lake. Great Northern completed an 11-mile spur line from Kalispell to the mill site in 1900, and a year later the town of Somers was born.

1953, brothers George and Ron Devoe, through the newly formed DeVoe Lumber Company, bought the old sawmill and the rights to its property—including the sunken logs. The brothers had grown up in Somers, and their father and other family members had worked at the old mill. The sunken logs, sometimes called “deadheads,” were valuable, and the DeVoe Lumber Company recovered more than a million board feet from Flathead Lake between 1955 and 1957. Ron’s daughter Virginia DeVoe Gentry remembers watching the divers. “[They had] big helmets that screwed down, and they’d pump air down to them. My dad always called them pearl divers. My cousin and I would sit out on the pilings and watch the pearl divers go down and bring up the logs.”

Named for George Somers, a railroad executive, the company town grew quickly and was soon producing millions of board feet annually. Men came from around the country to work, and ethnic neighborhoods called Swede Hill, Dirty Dozen and Pickleville popped up.

A fire destroyed the sawmill in June 1957. The blaze started at 5 a.m. and the building was totally destroyed by 7:30. Most of the DeVoe family left Somers soon after, Ron’s family to Arizona, and George’s to Idaho.

By 1937, the railroad company employed 375 workers and owned nearly everything there—the townsite, the company store, the water and electric utilities, and John O’Brien’s mansion on the hill above town. In addition to railroad ties, lumber was produced for flooring, molding and siding, and crates to ship apples from the region’s orchards. Everything was hauled away on the tracks. From its company records it became evident that the company paid the sawyers for more logs than were processed at the mill. These missing logs—approximately 10 percent in all—had sunk. After World War II the railroad moved its operation to a tie plant nearby and closed the sawmill. Then in Above: In this historic photo, sawyers stand on springboards while using a crosscut saw. Right: Logs cut in the region around Flathead Lake were shipped downstream in annual spring log drives and then barged to sawmills on the lakeshore.Photos courtesy of Northwest Management




Hunt’s Timbers, a specialty mill in St. Ignatius, processes the logs salvaged from Flathead Lake. Here, Rusty Hunt surveys a stack. Photo by Emily Stifler

In 2004, George’s widow Donetta, then in her 80s, convinced her friend Alan Leener to help recover the logs. In 2005, they established North Shore Development LLC and hired Northwest Management to oversee and implement the project.

All the logs branded with a circled N stamp—those cut by the Great Northern Railway—belonged the North Shore. All others belonged to the state.

After the settlement, this agreement was presented to the state land board, including Governor Brian Schweitzer, North Shore received a permit from the for approval of a land use license allowMontana Department of Environmening North Shore to salvage its own logs tal Quality to retrieve as well as the state“These recovered tim- owned logs. the sunken timber and began salvaging bers present another it in spring of 2006. “These recovered great opportunity to Without exposure timbers present showcase Montana’s to oxygen, the wood another great opporhadn’t rotted. And in natural resources and tunity to showcase a stroke of luck, it was create jobs in our state” Montana’s natural beautifully stained resources and create -Gov. Brian Schweitzer from sitting in the silt jobs in our state,” for so many years—the said Schweitzer, larch had turned chocolate brown, who has been a supporter of the project with streaks of black, green and violet, ever since. and the pine turned peach, black, gray, charcoal and blue. Counting the rings North Shore now has a 10-year license on one big twisted larch cut in 1924 from the state, during which time it dated it back to 1535. estimates it can produce 500,000 board feet of lumber a year. The license is But the project was stopped short when renewable by North Shore for an adthe Montana Department of Natural ditional 10 years. Resources claimed the logs belonged to the state, as abandoned property. Making sure the project is environAdditionally, the state questioned the mentally sensitive remains a priority, environmental soundness of the salLeener says. Northwest has conducted vage. The dispute was settled in 2008. detailed water quality testing and 46 Mountain


studies of the fishery. The choice to use divers rather than a barge with a crane to retrieve the logs was also an environmental one, because the divers disturb the lake bottom less. Already, the areas where the logs have been removed are seeing improved habitat, with the added sunlight allowing vegetation growth. And, Leener points out that timber, particularly old growth, isn’t necessarily a renewable resource, so salvaging the logs instead of cutting new trees is a sustainable move.

Modern-day Somers is a sleepy artist community and summer tourist destination on the lakeshore. Many of the buildings on tiny historic Main Street are painted yellow, including Sliters Lumber Company, which once housed the company store. John O’Brien’s mansion atop the hill is a monument to days past. Down the hill, small cottages now sit where the mill workers’ housing once was. Looking east across the lake, the Swan Mountains rise above the deep green water.


Jody Bakker lives in nearby Bigfork and was an excavator until the recession. He runs a karaoke show two nights a week, and his passion is scuba diving. Bakker’s new job as a professional diver sends him below 20 feet of murky water in Flathead Lake in search of the sunken timber. Armed with scuba gear and a bag of ropes connected to foam buoys, Bakker kicks and feels his way around in the lake’s murky water in search of the logs. The currents in the north part of the lake, combined with wind and runoff, stir up the water so much that Bakker says sometimes he can’t see his hand in front of his face. “I try to run by my compass to see which direction I’m going, but sometimes you can’t see that, even if it’s lit,” he says. “You almost feel like you become part of the bottom of the lake, like a bug.” Photo by richard smith

The murkiness really doesn’t matter though, because there are logs everywhere. Once Bakker locates one, he feeds a rope under it, hitching it about two feet from the end. Then he lets the little buoy attached to the rope float to the surface, marking the log. “I’m a true tree hugger—when I’m down there, to rest I’ll hug a log and just sit there. It’s so peaceful. You’re in the darkness, and all you can hear is yourself breathing.” Most of the dives happen during spring, fall and winter—not when recreational boaters are there in summer, and Bakker typically works with a three-man team—two divers and a driver running the modified pontoon workboat. The workboat winches the logs to the surface and brings them to shore. They average 40 logs a day, he says. After being measured for board feet, the lumber is loaded onto trucks and transported an hour down the road to Hunt’s Timbers, in St. Ignatius. There, it’s milled into rough-cut lumber, tongue and groove flooring and paneling.

Dan Roberts Stringworks Sitting downstairs in Dan Roberts’s custom guitar shop in Belgrade is a small slab of Western larch milled from Flathead Lake salvaged timber. It’s a rich, dark color, and is rough to the touch. Guitars are typically made from spruce or mahogany, and in the tradition-driven stringed instrument market, “if you want to use something a little unusual, you better be a real well known builder or have some proof,” Roberts says. With more than 25 years of experience building guitars, including a tenure with Santa Cruz, Roberts is one of the most respected luthiers in the country. Careful and precise in his work, he takes every piece of wood to a different thickness, based on its stiffness, density and tap tone. He compares himself to a chef working without a recipe, guided by intuition. Roberts built a larch guitar a few years ago, and said it’s heavier, but had a warm, mellow sound. He’s fascinated by the idea of building a guitar from the salvaged larch, and said luthiers have used wood salvaged from the Great Lakes with great results. Old growth lumber from the salvage operations tends to have a tight, even grain. As it ages, even while underwater, wood becomes lighter and stiffer, and the lake water forces the pitch out, crystallizing the resins. “Having a story behind the wood makes it more personal,” he says. He plans to inlay mother of pearl in the shape of barbed wire on the front of the larch guitar, naming it “Don’t Fence Me In” after cowboy poet Cole Porter’s famous song.

Diver Jody Bakker’s job as a professional diver sends him below 20 feet of murky water in Flathead Lake in search of the sunken timber. Photo by Brian Niles

“We’ll see. It’s experimental,” he says with a smile. danielrobertsstringworks.com




He likes seeing the finished products, too, describing tables, mantles, trim, bar tops, floors and entertainment centers that customers have made with the historic wood.

The Draught Works Brewery bar top in Missoula was handcrafted from larch from Flathead Lake Historic Timber. Photo by Daniel BUllock

Hunt’s Timbers sits alongside Highway 93 in St. Ignatius, near the base of the dramatic Mission Range. The mill has been in the Hunt family for 33 years and now employs between 14 and 18 people.

baseball cap. Rusty and his brother Robert run the lumberyard together. With their father, the brothers have built or customized nearly every machine there. The planer, Rusty points out, was built in the ‘20s.

“We were born into it, in a sawdust pile. This is all we know,” said Rusty Hunt, red hair sticking out from his

“It’s about the age of some of them logs we’re sawing. This is what they used in that era.”

Fish Camp

Haas Builders of Big Sky is using Flathead Lake historic timber for all of the interior woodwork in a house it’s building in the Spanish Peaks this summer. Called Fish Camp, the custom home is set near the south fork of the Gallatin River’s west fork, and will be constructed from 90-95 percent North American products, said company owner John Haas. Haas plans to use Flathead lumber for all interior trim, doors, cabinetry, wood ceilings and wainscoating. “This is the epitome—to have a lumber company, a material supplier from the state of Montana, and the history of it is pretty cool,” he said. “I showed it to my interior designer, Michelle Varda, and she fell in love with it. It’s gorgeous wood.” haasbuilders.com

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When it arrives, the Flathead Lake lumber is sopping wet clear to the middle and is four times the weight of green wood. The guys at Hunt’s mill it wet and then let it air-dry for several weeks. Finally, it sits in the lumber kiln for a week, until it has only 12 percent of its moisture content left. “Probably one of the neatest things about it is it was cut with a crosscut saw, not a chainsaw,” Rusty says. He turns a piece of 1 by 4-inch tongue and groove flooring in his hands, then runs his finger along a streak of color. “You never know what’s in it, just like chocolates when you open the box. When you saw the log you find out what you’ve got.”


Historic wood salvage projects are taking place in a small but growing number of waterways around the country. Probably the most famous of these is the Great Lakes, where old growth hardwoods like cherry, walnut and oak are being pulled from the depths, some left from logging drives and others from shipwrecks. This wood is known among stringed instrument builders for its incredible sound. The timber industry, alongside mining, was the backbone of the country at the turn of the century because it provided materials for a growing nation. As the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, Flathead Lake is a western landmark. And while the Northwest’s majestic old growth forests are now severely diminished, this salvage project connects all involved to a sense of the region’s history and place. Rusty Hunt knows that if you look carefully, each log has a story. He pulls out a piece he imagines will become a fireplace mantel. “This was used as a boom log that the logger stacked in to build a cribbing pile,” he says, pointing to the “saddle notches” cut into it with an axe. Its butt end is stamped with a Circle N and also the number 19, meaning it was cut in 1919. “Nobody knows how much is down there,” he says. flatheadlaketimber.com Managing Editor Emily Stifler worked on a trail crew in the Adirondacks as a teenager, and has cut down some very large trees with axes and crosscut saws.





one track mind

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Tejay van Garderen

Photo Courtesy of BMC racing team

Bozeman-born cyclist is among America’s strongest riders By Ryan Dorn On a hazy 2010 summer day in southeast France, cycling legend Alberto Contador waited on his bike at the starting line of the 4.8-mile prologue of the Critérium du Dauphiné. He adjusted in his seat, licked his lips, made the sign of the cross, and set off racing to try to catch Tejay van Garderen. After a blistering pace, Contador beat van Garderen by only two seconds. Tejay’s near win in one of cycling’s biggest stage races helped confirm something many who are close to him have known for years. This Bozeman kid is for real.

Tejay had his eye on a bicycle long before he was big enough to fit on one. His father, Marcel, has raced for more than three decades. As a young man he moved to the U.S. from the Netherlands to pursue a cycling career. Tejay watched his dad spend hours every week on an indoor trainer during cold Montana winters. At age six, Tejay wanted to start riding, but his kids’ bike was too small to fit on the indoor trainer. A friend of Marcel’s had left a small adult road bike at their home, and Marcel told his son when he could fit on it, he could ride it. “He would go out there every month and see if it fit him yet. It took a couple years, but he was tenacious,” Marcel said. Finally, by age eight, Tejay rode his first racing road bike. Bozeman was a good place for an aspiring cyclist to grow up, Tejay says. “There’s not a huge cycling community there, which I think was actually better because everyone knew everyone by first and last name.”

Photo Courtesy of BMC racing team

Like the bike, success didn’t come as early as Tejay would have hoped. He started racing when he was nine, but because there weren’t many kids his age racing, he competed against other beginners, most in their 20s and 30s.

“Sometimes they would stick me with adults, and here I was a 90-pound 9-year-old that could barely fit [on a small road bike],” Tejay recalls. He would stay with the pack for about 15 miles and then fall behind, riding the rest of the race by himself. Marcel would comfort him to no avail. “Tejay would tell me, ‘it doesn’t matter how old the other racers are, I want to beat them.’ He’s always had that tenacity.” Tejay insists it was still fun, no matter how bad he lost. “I loved the atmosphere of cycling. There were a couple years where I measured my success by how long could I last before getting dropped.” Marcel and Tejay trained on Bridger Canyon Road, Churchill Road, Springhill Road to Dry Creek Road, and rode in Tuesday night group rides, which Marcel organized for about nine years. Tejay’s racing made great strides in the next few years. Marcel mapped out a time trial course that was similar to the course at nationals the year before. The first Saturday Tejay was two minutes slower than the kid who’d won the previous year. The next Saturday he raced the same course and took a minute off his time. The third week, he dropped enough time that he would have won.





When Tejay was 10 he wanted to test his abilities against the best riders of his age group. His first year at Nationals in Cincinnati was overwhelming, with banners, team buses and crowds. He took fourth, but wasn’t happy with his performance. The following year in Pennsylvania he competed in all three categories, the road race, time trial and criterium. “He slaughtered everybody [in the criterium],” Marcel said. “I told him I would let him know when to attack. When I did he went ballistic. There were only two kids he didn’t lap. He was on fire. After that I don’t think there were any races he didn’t get top five in.” Bozeman custom bicycle frame builder Carl Strong says Tejay’s winning was a result of discipline, even at a young age. “A lot of kids get interested in girls or cars, and pretty soon they forget about bikes. Or when competition gets stiff and they go from winning everything to not winning anymore, they get frustrated and quit. I think

Tejay (center) takes first place in the road race for 15-16 year olds at the 2004 Nationals. Photo Courtesy of Marcel van garderen

with Tejay, he’s never been distracted. His commitment has stayed 100 percent.” Even in middle school and high school, Tejay continued his training, putting aside everything for cycling. One winter Marcel told him that since Nationals were in August, he shouldn’t start his training until April. He encouraged Tejay to take up other sports and hang out with friends so he wouldn’t

burn out. Marcel wanted his son to fall in love with cycling for life. Tejay decided since he wasn’t going to train until April, he’d just ride whenever he felt like it. “But he was on that damn trainer everyday,” Marcel says. “So I said, ‘OK, this isn’t working.” Marcel wrote a training schedule for 15 or 20 minutes a day. “That was the only way to reduce his time on the bike at such a young age.”

Tour de Bozeman The Tour de Bozeman, Montana’s premier cycling event, is returning to Bozeman for its fourth consecutive year, and for 2012 will consist of three stages, July 7-8. A criterium will kick off the event Saturday evening in Bozeman, and on Sunday morning a 12.39mile time trial near Springhill will start the day. Elite racers will conclude the tour with a 70-mile climb that gains 4,000 feet of elevation starting at Bridger Bowl Ski Area and weaving through Bridger Canyon. Other categories will ride 43.5 miles with a little less climbing.

Last year’s criterium event was held in the Big Sky Town Center Photo by Emily Stifler

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An awards ceremony will take place Sunday afternoon at Bridger Bowl, and $5,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded to racers in eight categories. tourdebozeman.com


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“I was a cycling super fan,” Tejay said, admitting to the intensity that came along with his training. “I would follow the training plan, and I did my intervals and recorded my heart rate to try to live like a pro, because I thought being a pro was the coolest thing. I guess it was discipline, but it was more like living a fantasy.” Soon he earned a sponsorship from Strong, who gave Tejay a new bike or frame every year. “He’s a good kid,” Strong says. “When he was 13 he was more professional than most professionals are. He would send us his results at the end of the season along with a video of some of his races, and his national championship jerseys. Even last year he sent me a couple jerseys as a thank you.” As a result of his 10 Junior National titles, Tejay picked up sponsorship when he was 19 from development team Rabobank Continental, one of the best in the world. This allowed him to move to his father’s native Netherlands to train and race for two years. That, Marcel says, was where Tejay honed his technique. He rode in strong winds regularly and learned to navigate narrow, winding European roads. In 2010, at age 21, Tejay moved to team HTC-Columbia, which had been the most successful team the previous year. He placed second in the Tour of Turkey and helped his team leader Michael Rogers win the Tour of California. Then came Tejay’s rise out of the shadows on the Critérium du Dauphiné in France, where he took third overall after the near victory over Alberto Contador. Tejay finished the year helping HTC-Columbia win the 54 Mountain

team time trial in the first stage of the Vuelta a España.

in a while. People are going to be watching and talking about him.”

Tejay started out 2011 with second place finishes in stages at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal and the Tour of Switzerland. His accomplish-

Being on a strong team allowed Tejay to be leader of the Paris-Nice in March 2012, where he took fifth and wore the Best Young Riders jersey at every stage. He also hopes to be on the podium this summer at the Tour of California, the Tour of Colorado, and possibly the Olympics in London.

“I told him I would let him know when to attack. When I did he went ballistic. There were only two kids he didn’t lap. He was on fire.” ments with a new team, along with a fifth place in the Tour of California, got him the nod he’d been waiting for: a chance to ride in the Tour de France. During the eighth stage, Tejay won enough points to earn the King of the Mountain jersey, the first American to do so in the history of the Tour de France. He finished in 82nd place, third best on his team. Later that season he earned third in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge near his new home in Colorado, and won the third stage of the Tour of Utah. Years of hard work and good results didn’t go unnoticed, and last year the BMC Racing Team, one of the world’s strongest, signed Tejay to a three-year deal. George Hincapie, legendary U.S. cyclist and a rider for BMC, said he tried to persuade Tejay to sign with his team earlier in 2011. “He has a lot of talent,” Hincapie said by email. “He’s one of the biggest American talents to come out


“It would definitely be a huge honor to represent the U.S. in the Olympics,” Tejay said. “It’s not the biggest thing in cycling, but it’s something that people who aren’t cycling fans recognize.” For now, Tejay’s biggest responsibility is to help his new teammate Cadel Evans, winner of the Tour de France in 2011, win again. “I’m focused on trying to take it step by step,” Tejay said. “I don’t want to push my development too hard, or too fast because I’m still young. Right now my focus is on one-week stage races. When it comes to the big tours, I’ll be there to help Cadel Evans. With the time trialing kilometers of the Tour de France, I think we have an even stronger team this year. I don’t think there’s any reason why he shouldn’t get the yellow jersey again.” And Tejay’s got his eye on the yellow leader’s jersey, too. “I’m hoping in two to three years time that I’ll be ready to step into that role myself.” With so much success and growth each year of his pro career, the spotlight of that yellow jersey may be focused on Tejay sooner than anyone thinks.



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By Hannah J. Ryan A cold soda on a hot summer day after a hike or paddle down the river may seem like a simple pleasure. But a plastic bottle’s journey is a complicated trail that stretches thousands of miles across the United States and beyond. If you’re pulling a chilled soda from your picnic cooler in Montana, that bottle was likely made in this state, but it will not be recycled here. A bottling company in Butte creates the

Recycling Resources recyclemontana.org How to recycle in Montana Economy, Energy and Environment conference Works with community leaders to forward recycling in small communities In Bozeman, September 12-14 Pay-As-You-Throw A fee-for-service system deq.mt.gov/recycle/PAYT/default. mcpx Department of Environmental Quality’s recycling guidelines deq.mt.gov/recycle/default.mcpx

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vessels, and Great Falls has a plant that fills and distributes the bottled drinks for all Montanans to consume. The majority of plastic bottles are tossed in the trash, overflowing our landfills in the last best place. Plastic bottles are estimated to take several hundred years to break down, but humankind hasn’t been around long enough to know how long it really takes. Many consist of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is made from petroleum and never breaks down. According to the environmental protection agency, 55 percent of the waste that Americans generate in a year is buried. The rest is either burned or recycled. From 2009 to 2010 Montanans tripled the tons of plastic they recycled. Although this sounds positive, only 19 percent of all solid waste materials in the state were actually recycled in the last year. Montana does not have facilities to recycle plastic, so it’s instead shipped elsewhere to be mashed into pellets that can be used in other products. A number of facilities on the West


Coast and in other metropolitan areas squash plastic into reusable materials; however, much of the plastic recycled in the U.S. is sent overseas where it is hand sorted by cheap labor, said Sandra Boggs, recycling specialist for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. “There are a lot of concerns about transporting recycled material around the world,” Boggs said. “It’s hard to translate the energy actually saved but yes, it is energy efficient in the end when we are not filling our landfills with more new plastic.” PepsiCo recently came out with two new eco-focused products: plant-based bottles and recycling units called Dream Machines. The new bottle is made entirely from materials like switch grass, pine bark and corn husks. Dream Machines accept cans and bottles and reward consumers on a point system for local discounts. These machines are appearing all over the U.S., but none have made it to Montana, yet. PepsiCo has committed to increase recycling of beverage containers from 34 to 50 percent by 2018.

Only One company founded in Billings, Floating Islands International, uses all plastic from recycled bottles in its of all solid waste product, but ships in recycled material from materials in Georgia. The artifithe state were cial plastic islands it actually recycled produces support the weight of soil and in the last year. vegetation to float in wetlands where the island’s plants filter unwanted nutrients from the water.

19 %

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Anne Kania, CEO of Floating Islands International, said the idea is based on biomimicry, or using nature’s models to solve human problems. “Our water is in such a terrible state, it needs help,” Kania said. “This is a cost-effective tool that is a sustainable way to clean up our water.” Home Resource makes another form of recycled plastic that stays in Montana and requires little shipping. The Missoula-based company collects and sells reusable building material to reduce landfill wastes. Lauren Varney, executive director at Home Resource, said a lot of the plastics it has include black irrigation and PVC piping. “None of this can be recycled nearby so when people pick these items up here they can be reused as garden piping or closet bars,” Varney said. “All these things we throw away have creative opportunity.” While the story of the soda bottle goes in many different directions, it’s really a simple act on every person’s part, says Mark Nelson, president of Recycle Montana. “To me recycling is just managing our resources, it’s no different than managing your financial resources, it all needs to be done. It doesn’t make sense to bury plastics, but it does make economic sense to recycle it.”

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A history of the Sheep Eater Indians in the Big Sky area By Anne Marie Mistretta

They called themselves Tukudika, eaters of meat, and they likely spent summers in and around Big Sky. Surely, the “Cut-tuh-o’gwa” (Shoshone for “swift water”), our Gallatin River, was a source of fish and plants for their diet. And just a few miles to the northwest, Sacajawea, the fabled Shoshone guide of the Lewis and Clark expedition, was kidnapped at the headwaters of the Missouri, near what is now Three Forks. The Mountain Shoshone, also known as the Sheep Eaters, were one of the bands that made up the great Shoshone people, Numic speakers

Illustration by Kelsey dzintars

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linguistically related and located in California and the Great Basin. “Sheep Eater” references first appeared in the mid-19th century when U. S. Indian Affairs agents, not recognizing bands of Indians as users of multiple resources, devised a classification system that described them by what they appeared to be eating. Bighorn sheep certainly provided high protein meals, but archaeological evidence confirms Sheep Eater palates and menus, like all at the hunter/gatherer level, were much broader. They hunted 60 different mammals, caught six species of fish, and foraged for seasonal plant foods. The Shoshone expanded their range to what is now Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, following resources, particularly water, over the course of the first thousand years or more A.D. Archaeologists offer varying opinions on when the Shoshone expanded their southwestern range, but most believe that over a period of thousands of years small familial and social cohorts, called kin and cliques, adopted a seasonal culture that moved with the resources and angled northeastward. The Shoshone were in the greater Gallatin Valley at least 100-200 years prior to the arrival of

European adventurers and American expansionists. Artifacts from the Folsom Period (dated 9,000 years ago) have been found in this region. DNA and language evidence points toward the Shoshone of the 1800s as descents from this time, and most Indian bands believe they are connected to the ancients.

Today, evidence of their passage remains in cairns, pottery, projectiles, flakes of stone, game capture structures like traps and drivelines, trails and a few burial sites. All of these “writings” help archaeologists better understand the Mountain Shoshone and other Indians who visited this area seasonally.

By the late 1800s, disease, combative tribes, trappers and treaties had shrunk the Shoshone’s once expansive range, and their overlap increased with the Crow, Blackfeet, Pend d’Oreille, and Flathead (Salish) in warfare and diaspora. The Tukudika, with their tremendous hunting prowess and mountaineering skills, found refuge in the territory in and around Yellowstone National Park. There they embraced the traditional hunter/gatherer culture until the 1890s. Making their home in such rugged country likely caused them to shun horses, unlike other Shoshone, and instead use pack dogs. This type of resourcefulness allowed the Mountain Shoshone to evade enemies rather than aggressively resist them, particularly the Blackfeet, the Hidatsa and slave traders. But this behavior, coupled with their lack of horses, caused white men in the 19th century to see the Sheep Eaters as pitiful, impoverished and cowering. That depiction was likely self-serving for administrators of Indian Affairs and eventually the superintendents of the country’s first national park, which needed to be kept “safe from the Indians.” This region in and around Yellowstone stood at a crossroads among various cultures, and Indians from the Plains, the Great Basin, and the salmon-rich territory in Idaho met there to trade. The Tukudika could offer valuable animal skins, well-constructed clothing and obsidian for projectile points.

This wickiup was built in Gallatin Canyon by an Indian band. Wickiup structures were designed for shelter and storage, and sometimes were used as war lodges. Photo Courtesy of the Gallatin Historical Society and Pioneer Museum

“We examine the ethnographic, historic, photographic and archaeological records and infer to compile a clearer picture,” says Scott Carpenter, archaeologist and president of InteResources Planning in Bozeman. Pottery finds, for example, can tell more about Indian presence, but the archaeological record is often mixed, with components of various cultural groups sharing the same region over time. Steatite pots, carved from quarried talc (commonly known as soapstone) deposits, are attributed to the Shoshone. Steatite is found readily throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem; those quarries closest to this area are located near modern day Virginia City and Dillon. The heavy pots were often cached

at occupation sites for future use, but some traveled with the Indians, making it possible that Madison or Beaverhead river valley talc quarries were the origin for pots excavated near the Yellowstone. There are 20 sites in Park County with Shoshone ware and steatite, and burial sites at Yellowstone’s Fishing Bridge and at Mummy Cave in Wyoming, according to anthropologist Dr. Larry Lahren, founder of Anthro Research Inc. Archaeological evidence points to concentrated use of the Paradise and Madison valleys; however, very little is known about the archaeological record of Gallatin Canyon, Carpenter says. This is because very few controlled archaeological excavation projects have been conducted. What we do know is that the narrowness of the canyon made it challenging for travel, which concentrated Indian occupation in a few small areas. Although Big Sky and Gallatin Canyon haven’t yielded cultural materials like pottery, rock art or burial sites, a good deal of ‘lithic scatter’ has been found. These are stone tools and chips scattered on the surface of a site, and they constitute the most frequently found evidence of Indian presence in the area. “The material culture that remains on most [archeological] sites is generally a fraction of what had been left behind due to deterioration and erosion, weather, later human disturbances and deposition by floods,” Carpenter explains. Like modern campers, the Indians stayed serially at several places in the canyon. In the 1960s, archaeology student Lewis Napton found knives, scrapers, an awl, projectile points and flakes along the Gallatin River, near confluences with several creeks. Many of these areas were degraded by flooding and a 1953 upgrade of Highway 191. Another heavily used camp





existed on the west fork of the Gallatin near where the Conoco gas station sits today, but that site was destroyed by gold prospectors in the 1890s and then later development. Some of the material unearthed in these areas dates back to the Folsom Period. Indians, including Tukudika, likely used Big Sky as a connector between the Paradise and Madison valleys to the east and the west. Plus, Carpenter says, “There were animals and plants here that were not seen elsewhere at certain points in the year, and the Indians were aware of that.” The nearby Gallatin Crest was also a major Indian travel and hunting zone, extending from the Yellowstone area to the Gallatin and Paradise valleys. Archaeological finds along that “highway” route, much of which is above 8,000 feet, have been

plentiful. Recent environmental impact studies done by the Gallatin National Forest in the HyalitePorcupine-Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area have noted many cultural and heritage sites there, and many modern trails follow historic and even prehistoric routes. Some archaeologists point to wickiups as specific evidence of Shoshone presence. Assembled from poles and threaded with pine boughs, wickiups were conical structures used as sleeping quarters, war lodges and storage shelters. Although most have been destroyed by fire and the elements, several remain in southwest Montana. It’s difficult to prove, however, that they were built and used exclusively by the Shoshone or any other ethnic group. Perhaps they served various wayfarers, much like our forest cabins do today.

Likewise, the side-notched arrowheads most commonly found in the region are often attributed as Shoshone. But, Carpenter says, “There is evidence that other groups, including those from the Plains, the Great Basin and the Columbia Plateau developed the same form of arrowhead, and it could have arrived here through the trade routes or through independent development of the form.” In the Paradise Valley, archaeologists have studied many sites extensively. One of the largest, set on the Yellowstone River, spans 9,000 years. Each level of the dig has divulged stone tools and materials (mainly obsidian and chert), projectile and lithic materials, and various hearth types. Some levels yielded beads. Fauna remnants allowed a better understanding of the diets of





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This large obsidian biface tool blank found at a site east of Bozeman, dates to approximately 3,800 years ago. A biface blank could be used as a single tool or as material for making several finished tools such as blades, scrapers or projectile points. Photo courtesy of InteResources

successive Indian groups. Dr. Lahren has postulated this site was occupied by a band of Shoshone around A.D. 1200. “Assigning archaeological characteristics, especially projectile points, to define the location and assign time depth to historically known groups is risky, especially the farther one goes back in time,” Lahren says. But beads of steatite, mussel shell, iconic projectile points and other “Shoshone” materials found at this particular site support his bold designation. Nearby, a bison kill with Shoshone weapons also dates back to 1200. And, he says, it’s on the same trail that Sacajawea showed Clark. Further analysis of the diet would indicate that “buffalo eaters [kukundika]” lived there rather than “sheep eaters,” says Dr. Lahren in his book Homeland, repeating the findings of an archaeologist on site and thus proving that Shoshones were much more than “sheep eaters.” So, were the Tukudika in Big Sky? It’s possible. In fact, it’s likely that bands of Mountain Shoshone were among many Indians that used the Big Sky area at some time during the past 10,000 or more years. Strong archaeological evidence shows that the Indians before us understood the interconnectedness of this ecosystem and landscape—a lesson we could learn today. We often gaze up at the beautiful ridgelines here in Big Sky. There’s strong evidence that the early inhabitants also enjoyed the beauty long before us. Sources: “The Sheepeater Myth of Northwestern Wyoming,” by Susan S. Hughes, (nps.gov/yell) Homeland, by Larry Lahren, Ph.D. Mountain Spirit, by Lawrence L. Loendorf and Nancy Medaris Stone Canyon and Valley: Preliminary Archaeological Survey in the Gallatin Area, by Lewis Kyle Napton headwatersnews.org




Your dream home should be one of those “last-best” perfect places to escape—to relax, decompress and unwind. With that in mind, your builder should leave no detail uncovered. No matter what the size or shape, QUALITY is always our top priority. Building for any budget—your team is SBC.

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A novel alternative By Abbie Digel HabiHut was born from change. The company began in 2010, when a group of developers switched their focus to building sustainable, affordable housing shelters. Located in Bozeman, HabiHut offers cost effective, lightweight and easy to assemble modular shelters. They’re installed mostly in the developing world, in communities where natural resources are limited and there is a need for durable shelter. Since the company’s inception, it has pushed forward social entrepreneurship by creating solutions for developing countries and disaster-stricken areas. A recent partnership with General Electric has enabled HabiHut to establish a water kiosk solution that utilizes GE’s ZeeWeed water filtration and solar panel system. Entrepreneurs can purchase the water kiosk and in turn offer clean and safe water to their communities, while earning vital income and building economic sustainability. The kiosks are being installed this summer in Haiti, Afghanistan, the Dominican Republic and Nairobi, Kenya. Three pilot units have been operating in Kenya for 20 months. The HabiHut team travelled to Kenya in May to document the installation and unveiling of a solar water kiosk in that country. “It’s the biggest thing we’ve got going right now,” said HabiHut president Buz Weas. The solar model of the kiosk utilizes thin film PV solar technology from GE PrimeStarSolar Inc., which is a low-costper-watt solution that fills energy needs like cell phone charging. The solar water kiosk creates a solution at the intersection of need for people, Weas said. He explained that in Nairobi, women are most affected by the shortage of water, while at the same time are responsible for supplying water and energy needs for their families and communities. The kiosks solve multiple issues at once by providing clean water and energy. “The vision is that we will have thousands of these systems [installed] that will improve the distribution of water,” Weas said. Through projects and partnerships like these, HabiHut aims to continue growing and adapting to the needs of developing countries by providing economically sustainable solutions. thehabihut.com

what’s inside Power System

• PrimeStar thin film solar panel that can power either the ReadySet or the water pump • Fenix ReadySet Charging Station that can charge mobile devices and power other utilites.

Water System • 1,500 gallon water tank that distributes about 51,600 gallons a month in current projects

• GE ZeeWeed Water Filter a low pressure, resilient and easily deployable system that guards against pathogens

Distribution System • Greif WaterWear Backpack for water transportation. Roll down top reduces spilling and spout protector keeps distribution clean.


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The unbroken story and photos by Max Lowe

L: Porters walk along a precipice overlooking Thamserku and Khangtaiga. R: The cairn honoring Alex Lowe looks out over Tauche, Cholatse, and Ama Dablam.

The raw sound of thousands of pounds of rock and snow crashing like a raging torrent of whitewater reverberates off of canyon walls and strikes a guttural fear in me. Lying on my back staring through the fog of my own breath and into the darkness of the tent ceiling, my thoughts drift to my father in his last minutes. The din of the glacial avalanche dies into the cold still night air. I can’t imagine the feeling of terror and the scramble to move up, down, back or forward, somewhere out of the cascade of snow and ice crashing toward you. My father died 10 days before my 11th birthday in a massive avalanche on the slopes of Shishapangma, a peak in the Tibetan Himalaya. I traveled there in the spring of 2012, into the high Himalaya in Nepal, following in his footsteps. As I hiked through the winding valleys along trails skirting 6,000-meter peaks of snow, ice and rock, I realized I was entering the otherworld of my childhood. As a child, my father Alex Lowe was with me half the time and on the other side of the planet for the other. I learned of the places he went—Nepal, Antarctica, Baffin Island and New Guinea—through postcards stamped with unrecognizable postage and always his signature and love. Alex came to this place, the Khumbu region of Nepal, many times. He truly had a passion for the Himalaya, and




Children at the Shree Himalaya Primary School in Namche Bazar frolic in a gap of sunshine shadowed by Kongde Peak.

for the native Sherpa people who so warmly welcomed him into their lives. Hiking up from the small town of Dughla, I came upon a collection of Cairns dedicated to those lost to the slopes and peaks of Everest, Lhotse, Kanchenjunga and countless other peaks. Many were large and made of concrete, built by westerners honoring a lost teammate or family member. One stood alone from the others, consisting of a large boulder topped with stacked stones and tattered prayer flags, with the words “Alex Lowe Friend� hand carved into the granite. This monument to the friendship my father shared with the Sherpa with whom he traveled and lived in these mountains is, in some ways, his gravestone, and this was the first time I had seen it. Although our family and friends have erected many other monuments to my father’s memory, this one stands alone. It was never a question that my father loved his family, but if he had a vice, it was most certainly escaping into the wild and unbroken corners of the world. The Himalaya of Tibet and Nepal occupied a prodigious sum of his gaze into the inhospitable. After spending several weeks here, I share his fondness for these mountains. The peaks are beautiful, titanic, cold and 66 Mountain


foreboding. The snow blankets the land by day and night, and the midnight sky has so many stars it seems the glinting light of the millions of far-flung suns might soon overwhelm its blackness. The Sherpa people who inhabit this realm of mythical gods directly contrast the harsh landscape. Never have I chanced upon people more warm and welcoming than those I befriended through my travels in Nepal. With smiles and laughter, they usher in weather-beaten travelers from distant lands like they were kin, always offering a warm cup of tea to shake off the nipping cold. After trekking to Everest Basecamp and back to Namche Bazaar, I have concluded that Alex was onto to something, spending as much time here as he did. The Khumbu will remain with me for the rest of my life. Max Lowe is a photographer and writer based out of Bozeman. He received a grant this year from the National Geographic Society to do a study and photo essay on the changes of the Sherpa culture in the Himalaya of Nepal over the last 50 years. Max also traveled there in 2003 with his family for the Khumbu Climbing School, which was founded in honor of his father, the late Alex Lowe. maxlowemedia.com

A lama in prayer at the Pangboche Monestary in upper Khumbu




real estate

adventure the


a new precedent of indoor recreation

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Courtesy Feature by Megan Paulson, photos by Karl Neumann explorebigsky.com

Four at P Lodgeaks e


br i d ge

S l i de

“go to your room� takes on a whole new meaning





Courtesy of Four Peaks Lodge

Any child’s dream is to have a room so inviting and fun it transcends an ordinary bedroom and becomes an escape for adventure. Inside Yellowstone Club, a fortress awaits that surpasses one’s wildest dreams.

fun features,” said the residence owner. “Jerry stayed in the office all night and in the morning had an initial drawing for the amazing adventure loft in the house. It was perfect.”

The adventure bunkroom in Four Peaks Lodge is a child’s dream--and an adult’s dream for that matter. “Go to your room” takes on a whole new dimension here, where your room includes the option to descend an indoor 10 foot slide, balance on a suspended rope bridge, play hideand-seek among hidden turnstile doors, navigate wall tunnels with LED lighting, and scale vertical wood and metal ladders.

The whimsical bunkroom called for playful colors and extraordinary details for both children and adults

Built-in bunk beds provide room for four, so sleepovers are a must. Any child that experiences an adventure palace of this magnitude would never want to leave. Inspiration for the adventure bunkroom came in an unassuming way. “I told the architect, Jerry Locati, about a room that I did for my kids when they were young-- the room had a slide, ladder and some other

The interior design elements were also a key component to bringing the adventure loft to life. “The whimsical bunkroom called for playful colors and extraordinary details for both children and adults,” notes interior designer, Michelle Varda. “The tunnel system

is comfortable enough for adults to climb through and actually stand up in the separate girls and boys lofts.” Every element was considered: Cable lighting flanks the rope bridge and incorporates a variety of fun fixtures, from Montana dragonflies to planes and balloons; each bunk bed has an individual reading light, book ledge and a window for natural light; wide drawers offer extra storage, and the multi colored chest of drawers catches the eye as one of the many focal points of the room. Even the slide is wrapped in leather and bordered with studded nail heads. If the kids ever tire of their adventure room, they can easily slip downstairs and watch a movie in the home theater or play in the custom arcade, which is equipped with machines ranging from vintage Pac Man to CSI Pinball, and a popcorn snack cart to top it off. A survey was given to 20 designers, builders and audio-visual experts to select the particular games, and they draw players of all ages and tend to provoke cheers heard throughout the house.

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Courtesy of Four Peaks Lodge

Beyond the adventure bunkroom and the arcade, Four Peaks Lodge is a masterpiece in itself. Its location in Yellowstone Club near the boundary of Big Sky Resort sets it in close proximity to both the private and public resorts. Full ski-in/skiout trails from the home provide unhindered access to powder days and more than 8,000 combined acres at the adjoining resorts. True to its name, four prominent peaks surround the home. A gilded compass in the entryway, invites you to locate each of them. Four Peaks Lodge’s design takes advantage of the topography of the lot, with walkout decks on all three levels of the home. Perhaps the most beloved room (aside from the adventure loft, of course) is the Tower Suite, which boasts 360-degree windows and endless mountain views. The home’s furnishings, dubbed “mountain eclectic,” were sought out by a team of six, including the owners, interior designer, translator and personal buyers. The team traveled together for weeks throughout the Far East combing warehouses, flea markets and visiting many local artists to create the collection of furnishings, natural boulders that evolved into plumbing fixtures, wall finishes and historical pieces that now detail the home. “Each room has a unique feel, and yet there is continuity throughout that makes 11,000 square feet feel comfortable and a place to call home,” Varda said. Whether enjoying the youthful indoor adventure or admiring the Far East fusion that meshes with Montana’s Big Sky country, Four Peaks Lodge provides an escape for the imagination and the soul.

The perfect heart-shaped Thai monkey tree table The library was in need of a special coffee table, and the owner presented an idea for a heart shaped piece. “Years ago I saw coffee tables crafted from natural wood in Thailand that had very unique shapes, so I contacted the woodworker to see if he could find a piece of wood as close to a heart as possible and build a table from it,” the owner says. “He responded by saying he could try to find the right tree, and that he would send people to the forest to look for it.”

Amazingly, six months later the owner received an email that the woodworker had indeed located the heart-shaped tree, which turned out to be a Monkey tree, and that he would build the table for the residence. This truly unique, one-of-a-kind centerpiece symbolized the owner’s love for the entire building process—from finding the right piece of land, to spatial design, building in extreme elements and landscapes, all the way to the details of art and décor selections.

The Zen Room Stepping into the Zen Room, a wall of old, handpainted doors are the core focal point of the space. The team had been searching for a special feature and came across this antique

masterpiece, formerly used as a room divider, from the Mongolian countryside. They later found an antique rug made of Indian wedding dresses for the central placement in Zen room to complete its peacefulness.

For more information visit 4peakslodge.com explorebigsky.com



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S h i rle W em p n er

Impressions of Montana By René Kraus


hirle Wempner is at once charming, engaging and self-effacing. After many years working as a legal services professional, she now devotes her attention full time to her art. She’s enjoyed increasing visibility and professional success in recent years, something she says is improbable, incredible and wonderful. Growing up on Eagle Cliff Ranch outside of Billings, Wempner had few nearby playmates. Comfortable with solitude, her vivid imagination was inspired by mystical animals and fairy-tale creatures, and horses and other ranch animals became her real world companions. The connection to animals is evident in many of Wempner’s impressionist paintings today. She tells a revealing story from her recent past: Several years ago, she came across a sick eagle while she was out riding across the ranch. She sat with it and fed it over the next few days. “That bird would look directly into my eyes,” she says. Eventually, the eagle recovered and she watched it fly away. Profoundly influenced by the encounter, Wempner describes it as cathartic and emotional. Using broad, sweeping strokes and a vivid, intuitive color palette, Wempner paints an impression of an animal without specific individual features, leaving viewers to fill in the

detail. This drive to evoke emotion is a central element of her work. “If you find you are wrapped in the essence and passion of the subject matter, I feel I have succeeded in communicating with another soul,” she says of her art. “Emotions are what touch and form our souls, and a churning of emotion is what I strive for.” Surprisingly, Wempner only recently began painting horses—for many years, she wasn’t confident she could authentically capture them. A recent first place award at the annual Art at the Classic juried art show for a study of a Belgian draft horse must certainly now dispel this doubt. “The most enjoyable aspect of my creative process is allowing the unknown—and unplanned—to take shape on the canvas,” Wempner says. This theme is recurring in Wempner’s work, and is something she learned early on. While studying art in college, she was trained in metalsmithing. She found that she loved the mistakes that resulted in crafting metal art; instead of discarding them, she accepted these pieces as fully intended. Now, through her painting, Wempner consciously tries to silence the analytical voice, allowing a painting to create itself.

Right: “Summer Breeze”





Wempner has sought artistic coaching and counsel from such heavyweights as Jack Hines, Jessica Zemsky, Thomas English and Carolyn Anderson. She’s also influenced by Native American traditions and reverence for animals and sometimes consults ‘animal cards,’ which are traditionally used by Native Americans to interpret animals and the messages they impart. Being an impressionistic artist in Montana is somewhat unusual, but Wempner is confident in her intuitive and open style. She looks forward to each piece as it unfolds, revealing new insights and emotions. Shirle Wempner is represented by the Creighton Block Gallery, in the Big Sky Town Center. René Kraus is a freelance writer and communications consultant with an avid interest in the arts and Montana’s outdoor lifestyle. Her work appears regularly in print and online media. She is currently finishing a children’s book about life lessons from a dog.

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Above: “His Majesty” 36x36” Below: “Spring’s Awakening” 24x30”






Representing buyers and sellers in the greater Big Sky area





Jeff Helms

Big Sky Town Center Office M: 406.539.0121 E: jeff@sothebysrealty.com www.bigskysir.com

“There has never been a more opportune time to purchase real estate in Big Sky”Mountain explorebigsky.com


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Forest Service cabins by felicia ennis We drove slowly up the winding road to our cabin tucked a half mile into the woods, then parked, and carried a box of food and sleeping bags down a narrow trail. The log cabin was just as I dreamed it: front porch, small windows, wood shed and outhouse to one side, creek on the other. Inside we set things down and quickly went to work as homesteaders. As I unpacked the food, my friend started a fire in the wood stove. Soon, we were heating water for tea over one of the stove’s hot plates. While the cabin was rustic, it was clean and comfortable, and it felt cozy having our own private getaway in the woods for the weekend.

The National Forest Service has more than 50 public cabins in Montana. In the summer they’re accessible by foot, car, fourwheeler and mountain bike. Some are roadside, and others are deep in the backcountry. Most are open year round, but access can be longer and challenging in winter. Many of the cabins were built in the 1920s and ‘30s as field headquarters for forest rangers and crews working on trails, fires, and range and forestry projects. Some continue to be used for that reason and are stocked with wood, have running water, comfortable mattresses, sinks, and dining tables and chairs. Reservations are required and can be made online at recreation.gov or by calling (877) 444-6777. Visitors are often given a combination to open the door.

Window Rock Cabin

Gallatin National Forest/Bozeman District Beautiful forests surround this secluded and comfortable getaway in Hyalite Canyon, south of Bozeman. The cabin is easy to access via a well-maintained, paved road. It was built in 1940 and is open year round.

Battle Ridge Cabin in the Bridger Mountains. Photo by Greg Mather

Access: Car, or a short distance on foot if staying in the winter

Location: Hyalite Canyon, 13 miles south of Bozeman

ACTIVITIES: Hyalite Canyon is a beautiful mountainous area with great hiking, fishing, mountain biking and rock climbing. The Grotto Falls trail is wheelchair accessible.



RESERVATIONS: Call the Bozeman Ranger Station at (406) 522-2520





Garnet Mountain Cabin

Reservations may be made up to six months in advance for any of the cabins on the Gallatin National Forest at recreation.gov. Select the National Forest of your choice. (There are 10 in Montana). Click “camping and lodging,” and select “Associated facilities.”

Gallatin National Forest/Bozeman District

Wow – what a view! The Garnet Mountain Fire Lookout sits atop Garnet Mountain, on the eastern flanks of Gallatin Canyon. It’s the only fire lookout available in the district, has outstanding 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains, and is far from the reaches of civilization. Access: Several trails wind up Garnet Mountain to this cabin, ranging in length from two to six miles. Hike, or ride a mountain bike, dirt bike or ATV. ACTIVITIES: Hiking, mountain biking and soaking in the view BEDS: 4

location: Travel south of Gallatin Gateway approximately five miles from Highway 191 via the Storm Castle Creek Road and Garnet Mountain Lookout Trail. The cabin is three-and-a-half miles from the trailhead at Storm Castle Creek or four miles up the road from the yearlong gate closure below Rat Lake. Mountain bike, dirt bike and ATV access is possible via Rat Lake Road. RESERVATIONS: Call the Livingston Ranger Station at (406) 222-1892

Garnet Cabin

Photo by Emily Stifler

ibex Cabin

Gallatin National Forest/Yellowstone District Ibex Cabin is a rustic one-room cabin in the foothills of the Crazy Mountains, 40 milesRESERVATIONS: northeast of Livingston. It’s Call the Bozeman nestled in a pine forest with the mountains to the east and prairie to the west. There is a wood heating stove, propane Ranger Station at (406) 522-2520 lantern, but no drinking water. Access: High clear-

ance 4x4 vehicles can drive to Ibex from June through October. This one room log cabin, built in 1939, has no running water or electricity.

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location: 15 miles east of Clyde Park, on the western side of the Crazy Mountains. Travel a half mile north of Clyde Park on Highway 89 and turn right on Cottonwood Bench Road. Road is well signed from here; continue northeast about 15 miles to the cabin.


ACTIVITIES: Hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, dirt biking, horseback riding and wildflower viewing (especially in the spring)


RESERVATIONS: Call the Livingston Ranger Station at (406) 222-1892


big creek cabin

Gallatin National Forest/Yellowstone District The Big Creek Cabin is set in a flat clearing surrounded by spruce and fir trees. Big Creek flows 50 feet from the back porch. This cabin is very accessible all year, and is perfect for those who love the solitude and natural wonders of the forested lands in the Gallatin Range. With five rooms and two porches, it’s the largest in the Livingston district. Access: Easy, year around. Good dirt road to front

door. Gourmet at Garnet

Above and below Photos by Emily Stifler

ACTIVITIES: Hiking, fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking and bird watching BEDS: 4 location: Travel south of Livingston on Highway 89 approximately 34 miles to the Big Creek Road, then west four miles to a small parking lot just west of the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch. RESERVATIONS: Call the Livingston Ranger Station at

(406) 222-1892

Bear creek cabin

Beaverhead–Deerlodge National Forest Bear Creek Cabin is located at the edge of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, at the foot of the west side of the Madison Range. The cabin is equipped with power, a wood stove, a refrigerator and an oven. There is also a bunkhouse nearby, great for overflow, but with fewer amenities. Hanging outside of Battle Ridge Cabin Photo by Greg Mather Access: The last five miles are gravel or dirt. The route is well signed at all turns. ACTIVITIES: Hiking, fishing, hunting and horseback riding BEDS: 4 location: Madison Valley, 20 miles south of Ennis, on the edge of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness. From Ennis, drive 11 miles south on Highway 287 to Cameron. Turn east for three miles, then south for a mile and a half, east for another mile, and south a mile. At the Bear Creek sign, it’s two more miles to the cabin. RESERVATIONS: Call the Madison Ranger station at (406) 682-4253

Felicia Ennis was born and raised in Montana. She is owner/founder of Bella Treks, an international travel company specializing in customized itineraries all over the world. bellatreks.com





Very al Highlining keeps Josh Simpfenderfer in balance impfe By Josh S


Em as told to

80 Mountain


r ily Stifle

Simpfenderfer walking a 192-foot line near Dead Horse Point, Utah, outside of Moab. Photo by Scot Rogers


Big Sky resident Josh Simpfenderfer first stepped on a slackline in 2002, at his wedding party. He was captivated. In 2011, he walked 31 different highlines, did three first ascents and established three new lines, each in Montana, Idaho and Utah. “You’re completely in the moment, and there’s nothing else, only action,” he says. “You don’t think about any of the problems in your life or any other normal day to day stuff.” That’s why he likes it. Here, he describes what it’s like to walk a high line.

I sit down at the edge of the cliff, by the anchor. I’m wearing my harness, and my leashes are tied to it. Two steel rings are dedicated to the rig around the line. I tie into those. My heart rate starts going up. I start getting excited. I try to concentrate on my exhale. Breathe to stay calm. I usually lead with my right foot. So, if I’m standing on the cliff edge, my left foot’s on the rock, and my right foot is on the line. Stare across, try and have good thoughts and feelings. Try and relax, clear my head. Then I give myself a countdown. ‘Slacklining in three, two, one.’ Step out and the exposure is instant. Right away, I’m 400 feet off the ground. There’s nothing but air out there. Half the time, the only contact I have with anything is the length of my foot. One inch—that’s how wide the lines are. There are three sections to a line. The start has more tension and is stiffer, twitchier. Then there’s a transition zone, which is a spot where the line is less tense, but before it starts to





Montana highlines Gallatin Canyon: Gallatin Tower, “The Royal We” – 115 feet “Skyline” – 39 feet “Skywalker” – 52 feet Indian Creek, near Townsend - 115 feet

Simpfenderfer established this Gallatin Canyon line in 2011. “It’s pretty cool because it’s got a lot of fall away—not necessarily the exposure directly under the line, but how it spills away all the way down toward the river,” he says. “You hear the river, know it’s down there, and it’s in your periphery.” Photo by Jeremy Shive


get loose. The angles are changing. It’s generally a cruxy, hard spot. Ninety percent of the time the battle is won in the first quarter.


Then there’s another transition. This one’s easier because by then I’ve built the confidence, and I’m getting closer to the other side.


Then there’s the middle, which is the most exposed. You’re the furthest away from the cliff. Your depth perception is the hardest. With any other sport you have the ground, and downward 45-degree peripheral vision for your balance. On a highline all that goes away. There’s a lot more movement out in the middle. I focus on the anchor at the opposite side. Get out there and get in rhythm.

When you get really close to the end, the line gets twitchy again. My heart rate starts going up. I try to keep any positive thoughts out of my head. The few times I’ve blown it right at the end, I’ve said stuff to myself like, ‘Oh, you’ve got it,’ or ‘I’m almost there.’ There’s no room for any kind of extraneous stuff.


Sometimes I’m euphoric when I reach the end. Other times I’m so pumped full of adrenaline I get the shakes. No matter what, it makes me feel very alive.






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Freestyle Motor Cross show in front of Choppers Grub & Pub in Big Sky, MT - watch


on jumps, tricks and stunts at this thrilling event. Fun for families and people of all ages.

Live music and festivities following the show at Choppers!


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As I paused at the edge of the bergschrund, that crack between the ice face above and the glacier below, I looked down into the icy void and remembered why most people don’t climb alone.


When I looked up, the massive North Face of Mount Athabasca soared above me into the horizon, covered in ice. It was seven Chris Bangs in the morning on the last week of September, and I had just made the approach hike up from the Columbia Glacier on the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park, Canada. I focused again at my feet, this time to make sure of my steps as I spanned the void of the bergschrund.

I swung myself onto the vertical ice face in front of me. A few hard moves of hammering my ice tools into the blue glacier and pulling up with my arms got me past the initial ice bulge that guarded the rest of the climb. Resting for a moment, I searched through my mind and heart for any sign that I was in the wrong place, or any reason why I shouldn’t continue. This was my first time on the Hourglass route on Mount Athabasca and I felt fantastic.

My passions and desires were engulfing me in this perfect moment. I decided it was all right to keep moving. I started climbing quickly, working to overcome the intense cold. I was a little underdressed, but I wasn’t about to turn back. Three months ago I left home in Montana on my bicycle, headed for the Canadian Rockies in hopes of climbing some of the highest peaks in this impressive and daunting mountain range. Because this four-month expedition was humanpowered, I had pared down my equipment to the bare essentials. I was climbing in lightweight boots, thin fleece gloves, and without the back up of a good thick rope. Halfway up, my feet were freezing. I was dressed in all my clothes, including my down coat. I kept looking up the face, and then down below me, in awe of my perspective. I was so small, on such a large expanse of ancient blue frozen water. Part of my attraction to this route was the beautiful crux of the ‘hourglass’ near the top. There, the ice face pinches down to a mere five meters wide, with vertical rock on one side and an overhanging serac, or cap of ice, on the other. The pure blue glacier ice spills through this hourglass, about 75 degrees in steepness for 100 feet.

The Hourglass route on the north face of Mount Athabasca lies just right of the major rock band, on the right side of the face. The ‘hourglass’ is the section between the right side of the rock face and the serac on the right, about three quarters of the way up. Photo by Emily Stifler

By the time I reached that spot, I was in the flow of movement. In the middle of the hourglass, I was 1,000 feet above the bergschrund. I looked behind me and experienced a bit of vertigo from my high perch. I felt as though I was a bird of the high peaks, soaring through space. As my mind swirled, I tightened my grip on my ice tools and then recaptured my attention on the task of climbing. This is why I had come here. I’d imagined this moment for months. Imagining what it would be like to be alone, and committed to something so utterly fantastic as a mountain of this magnitude.

A mixture of intense physical cold, combined with an intense joy that only comes from being right next to my greatest fears swept over me. If I slipped, literally or figuratively, I would not return home. Another hour later, I stepped onto the summit and into the sunshine. The years training and dreaming had paid off. I was safe. My mind had not slipped, and the pleasure of being alive became a trophy I would forever own. I had not come here to conquer mountains. I’d come to conquer parts of myself.





I pulled off my boots and began to massage my feet, bringing back feeling to my frozen toes. As I sat absorbing the sun and the mountains around me, a song I heard a week earlier popped into my head. I began to sing “Calling all Angels” by the ‘90s rock band Train. It seemed to fit. Then something flew directly over my head. A large black raven swooped in, landed 10 feet away from me and nodded in my direction.

to Mount Robson was wet and cold. The temperatures were dropping every day, and the thought of getting caught on my bicycle in a big snowstorm in October began to paralyze me. My journey was not over. My grand objective was to climb Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. I wanted to give the north face route a shot, but now I had the feeling it wasn’t going to happen. Yet I kept riding north, hoping the weather and my toes would improve. On the night of October 4, the sky was clear and moon was full. It was -10 degrees Celsius, but I hadn’t done a full moon ride yet on this trip, so I planned to pedal from Jasper up the highway into Mount Robson Provincial Park. I slept on the side of the road for six hours and woke at midnight. The highway was empty except for the occasional semi truck. I’m sure I looked hilarious riding in all my clothes and three big fleece hats, but I was warm enough, and having a great time under the full moon and crystal clear sky, surrounded by the heart of the Canadian Rockies.

Climbing in a frozen hourglass of time, my mind slows down to capture each precise fractal of imagination. Illustration by chris bangs

“Hello there, my friend. Congratulations—you didn’t die,” she said to me through her eyes. The raven and I hung out for 15 minutes, talking and nodding back and forth at one another. Then my new friend opened her wings and was gently picked up into the sky above, leaving me bewildered and in awe of my life and the day I just experienced. I thought about how I had gotten here—about the bike ride from Montana, the years of climbing, and about how I got started doing self-supported climbing expeditions. In search of finding the feeling of absolute freedom, this had been my life for years: spending months riding around on my bicycle, climbing mountains for the joy of it. I silently thanked the raven as I began descending the mountain. The next couple days were not as perfect. The feeling in my toes didn’t return, and I was worried that I might be getting frostbite. The bike ride north from Athabasca 86



At about 4 a.m., the earth began to shake and tremble around me, and I heard a thunderous roar on my left. The cold chill in my body churned with adrenaline as I looked over my shoulder. Elk. The first one ran by me, then the entire herd overtook me. The sound of their hooves on the road pounded in my ears, and I began to howl and yip and sing out loud. They surrounded me as they crossed the road and ran up a hillside to my right. After riding five hours, I rounded the final corner into Mount Robson Provincial Park and took in my first view of the mountain, the king of the Rocky Mountains. Humbled, I said thank you and paid a silent homage to the mountain and to my journey. Maybe someday I’ll be ready, but I knew this was not the time for me to climb that mountain. My adventure was complete. Chris Bangs lives in Bozeman and is the owner of HumanPowered Mountaineers Inc., a grassroots business dedicated to promoting local organic farming through the challenge of cycling and mountaineering expeditions. humanpoweredmountaineers.blogspot.com

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Starting Summer 2012 CHECK BUSCRAT.COM FOR DETAILS ON BIG SKY SHOWS • Best Entertainment in Big Sky • Comical descriptions of Montana history • Telling stories since the 1800’s

By Taylor Anderson and kacey brown


gear review

Patagonia Rock Grip Wading Boot - aluminum bar Walking around the Gallatin River on a cold, spring afternoon was easy after I traded my crusty old boots in for a test drive of Patagonia’s spin on the classic wading boot. Five aluminum bars are screwed horizontally across the sole of each boot. Though I didn’t step into the Ro drift boat with these, Patagonia says they’re soft enough not to impact the bottom of a drift boat. The bars provide incredible traction in high water or low, and certainly while climbing rocky Gallatin River banks. They’ll never let go, Jack. T.W. $179 Wenger Swiss Army RangerWood 55 The massive spin on a classic Wenger Swiss Army Knife is fit for a wide range of Yellowstone Country uses. The Ranger’s four-inch Swiss stainless steel blade shines a metallic blue—until it slices through enough earth. It’s got six implements with eight functions, including a doublecut wood saw, can opener, corkscrew, cap lifter/screwdriver/wire stripper, and reamer with sewing eye for burly seamstresses. This is the knife I’d bring to a gunfight T.W. $124.95 wengerna.com

Photo by Austin Trayser

EXPERT’S PICK Sage ONE Austin Trayser, fishing guide Give the Sage ONE a wiggle. At a shade under three ounces, it still feels stiff, yet sensitive at the tip. It’s gorgeous: Black carbon finish, ceramic and chromed guides, custom shape tapered handle, walnut wood and a bronze-colored aluminum reel seat. And it performs: In the boat, big streamers, double nymph rigs and even light tippets with small dries—the ONE handled all the situations we put it in with style and grace. Floating the Yellowstone? Bring the six-weight ONE. It will make a great hopper rod. $720 - $735 sageflyfish.com Simms Men’s G3 Guide Pants; Rivershed Crew Neck Whippy bursts of wind came down from the Absaroka Mountains on a rising and clouded Yellowstone River. I tossed my streamer as I test-drove a pair of G3 Guide Pant waders and a Rivershed Crew Neck from Simms. The pants are packed with GORE-TEX layers and waterproofing that kept the frigid river at bay. The sweater, a polyester layer with thermals, warmed quickly as the sun ducked in and out of clouds. No lunkers that day, but when the river’s beauty and not its bounty is really the point, I don’t care. T.W. $449.95, $99.95 simmsfishing.com Fishing on the Yellowstone River near Sheep Mountain

88 Mountain


Photo by Austin Trayser

Simms women’s G3 Guide Stockingfoots Waders Confessions of a fishaholic. Finally, waders made specifically for women. And they’re bombproof. Trudging through streamside alder and willow—nothing to it. I stay dry all day long. The women’s specific fit means I’m comfortable on the hike in, submerged in water or slaying trout from the boat. K.B. $449.95

YETI Tundra 110 When buying a cooler for either day or extended trips, don’t skimp—get yourself a YETI. Burly and reliable, the YETI Tundra 110 is specifically designed to accommodate whitewater frames. It fit our 14-foot raft perfectly. Whether we were hauling beer or perishable foods, I’ve never seen ice last so long. Added bonus: the YETI is bear resistant, so food storage at camp is worry-free. Available in 10 sizes; tan or white. $450 yeticoolers.com

By megan paulson

Women’s Solarflex Hoody Made of 100 percent polyester, this sun shirt is exceptionally light, soft and stretchy. It has sweet thumb loops and a built in hood for maximum sun protection. I especially appreciate the longer body, which provides complete coverage while rowing a boat or reeling in big browns. K.B. $49.95


Photo by Austin Trayser

Sea to Summit Dry Mesh Duffel Someone who spends a lot of time around water sports was clever enough to develop this dry/wet bag combo. An all-in-one bag, it has a roll-top closure that keeps the dry compartment separate from the mesh, and a zipped outer pocket for wet gear. Although it’s not meant for extended submersion, it’s functional for the daily river gear barrage and easy to haul around. 75L or 100L. $139 seatosummit.com Kokatat Meridian GORE-TEX Dry Suit with Drop Seat The Gallatin’s 38-degree spring waters were no match for the GORE-TEX Meridian Dry Suit. Factory sealed seams kept the water out, and the athletic fit provided comfortable range of motion for paddling and rowing. I’d trust this full dry suit on any expedition when staying dry is critical. The drop seat is a tad bulky, but worth the convenience. Available in men’s and women’s colors and sizes. $1070 kokatat.com



Left: Abbie stays cool while running on the Reflector Trail in Big Sky. Photo by Anna Middleton gear review


The North Face Better Than Naked Cool Jacket This layer is essential for those who’d rather run or bike outside instead of hitting the gym. A light, flexible zip-up, it keeps you dry and warm on early mornings, cool evenings or during a light drizzle. The mesh underarms and sides provide room to breathe, even as you sweat. Small enough to stuff in a pouch or pocket, it still packs a huge punch for comfort and endurance on a long run. It also stays put when tied around your waist. $130 thenorthface.com

By Abbie Digel

The North Face Better Than Naked Race Cool Capri TNF’s Better Than Naked technology sings to me with these running capris. They’re so light and comfortable I barely notice I’m wearing them— which is the whole point. They slip on easily and hug your hips, but don’t squeeze too tightly, leaving plenty of room for flexible movement. Stretchy mesh on the hems rests comfortably on my calves without pinching or chafing. Laser-cut vents wick moisture, and a convenient rear pocket holds keys, ID, money and an energy snack. $70

Scarpa Spark trail running shoes Scarpa is known for climbing and mountaineering footwear, but its 2012 line of trail shoes is perfect for seasoned runners looking to take to the hills. Best for technical environments, the Spark offers the right amount of protection from sharp objects on the trail, excellent traction, and plenty of mid-sole cushioning. Scarpa’s ‘mountain minimalist’ design is a good segue to barefoot running. Available in men’s and women’s sizes. 232 grams/shoe $115.00 scarpa.com

Darn Tough 3/4 Crew Mesh Run/Bike Socks I hiked, ran and worked in these socks, and they’re awesome. Knit from fine-gauge, antimicrobial Merino wool, this futuristic footwear is ultra-light and durable, with a foot-hugging fit. A seamless toe eliminates hot spots and blisters, and a crew-length cuff adds ankle protection for bushwhacking trail runs. Open mesh knitting on top adds breathability, and an elastic arch support makes sure they don’t slip. Guaranteed for life. M.P. $17 darntough.com

90 Mountain


VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trail Running Shoe When I first laced them up, I couldn’t help comparing Neo Trail Runners’ fit with the K-Mart Aqua Socks I sported as a kid. While the barefoot running shoe is super light and water resistant, luckily that’s where the comparison ended. I’m an intermediate, recreational runner, and found I adapted quickly to the barefoot style, and enjoyed the heightened sensory perception and protection of the thin, puncture-proof sole. On pavement or trail, the Neos allowed my muscles to move and respond the way nature intended. 196 grams with insole. K.D. $115.00 vivobarefoot.com


Mike Wolfe, ultra runner Carrying two handheld water bottles, Montanan Mike Wolfe raced his way to second place in last year’s 100-mile Western States race. Wolfe uses the Handheld Hydrator from The North Face—basically a neoprene strap wrapped around a 16 oz. bottle, with a pocket for gels. “I drink a lot of water in a race like that,” he says. “I’m hitting aid stations often enough that I can refill, so I use some to pour water on my head when I need it.” E.S. $25

Kelsey trekking the Pine Creek trail in the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness Photo by Royce Gorsuch

Outdoor Research Helium II raincoat Venturing out on a hike near Bozeman on Cinco de Mayo, I knew I had to be prepared for grumpy bears, lots of mud and almost any weather condition. Occupying nearly zero volume in my daypack, the OR Helium II raincoat was perfect for my outing. I wore it over a light base layer and was equally comfortable in the beating sunshine, and then five minutes later when icy white pebbles fell from the sky. Avg. weight: 5.8 oz $150.00 outdooresearch.com


Jetboil Sumo Conrad Anker, Alpinist Jetboil is the stove for mountain adventures: It’s lightweight, self-contained, easy to use and boils water in under 90 seconds. Bozeman alpinist Conrad Anker and his two climbing partners took the new Sumo last year on the Shark’s Fin, a remote granite big wall in India, and cooked with it on the 12-day mission. Larger than the original, the Sumo holds 1.8 liters, has a regulator, thicker cozy and better heat dispersion. E.S. $129.95 jetboil.com

OBoz Yellowstone II Boots It’s like walking on a bed of pillows that come from the golden silk worm in Southeast Asia, I thought as I slipped on a new pair of Yellowstone II boots from Oboz. The boots’ high-friction, rubber outsoles grip surfaces wet and dry like a vice. One hiker who wore these on a 23-day trip in Nepal had just three hours in them before leaving, and returned without a scratch, scar or blister. As if the boots couldn’t get higher praise, Oboz boots are made in, naturally, Bozeman. T.W. $150.00 obozfootwear.com The North Face Big Fat Frog 24 Tent The Big Fat Frog is an ideal 2 person, 3 season mountaineering tent. The color-coded, threepole system made for easy setup. Being a single lady, I felt like I had a castle with attached garage (a.k.a. vestibule), which was great for storing dirty gear outside and could even work for cooking when the weather turns foul. I appreciated the details such as reflectors on the fly and excellent ventilation, though the security of the fully-taped bathtub floor sealed the deal – literally. Trail weight: 5 lbs. 11 oz. $279.00

Black Diamond Women’s Onyx pack Move those hips! Long gone are the days of clunking around with the old, oversized external frame you inherited from your dad. The women’s-specific Onyx pack features an ergoActiv hipbelt and shoulder straps that work together as a system to provide full freedom of motion while carrying heavy loads on multi-day trips. The front and top loading body provides lots of easily accessible storage space and internal compartments, while the waterproof taping keeps everything dry. $259.95

By Kelsey Dzintars


Black Diamond Spot Headlamp I initially killed my companion’s night vision with the first 90 lumen click, but his annoyance was quickly replaced with an impressed “Ooooh,” as I dimmed the brightness by holding down the light’s single button. The Spot is a versatile lamp with a simple design, including proximity and distance modes, dimming, strobe, red night vision and lockout. Warning: You may be so busy playing in the dark that you forget it’s your bedtime. $39.95

By Emily Stifler


gear review

Belay device: Petzl Reverso 4 The Reverso changed multi-pitch climbing. Petzl’s newest belay/rappel device, the Reverso 4, is 25 percent lighter than its predecessor. In Reverso-mode, it sits parallel to the wall allowing the rope to run smoothly when belaying a follower; a larger carabiner hole allows easy release of a loaded device—big improvement. Magically, it doesn’t heat up while rappelling. Hot-forged aluminum; 59 g; works with various rope sizes. $24 petzl.com Black Diamond Distance FL Trekking poles After 25 years of skiing my knees are trashed, so my pair of hiking poles get me to the crag (and back down) in the summer. Deployed in seconds, the Z-poles are strong and sturdy when I need them, and lightweight and easy to pack away when I don’t. The comfy grip extension makes choking up on side-hills easy-steezy, and BD’s FlickLock allows 20 cm of height adjustability. Available in men’s and women’s specific models. 430 - 445 grams; interchangeable carbide/rubber tips. $119.95 Asolo Sunset hiking shoes The Sunsets fit right out of the box—no blisters, just solid footwork on spring mud, slippery wet rocks and steep dusty trails. The mesh side panels keep my feet cool, and the water-resistant suede upper keeps them relatively dry. With lacing that extends to the toe and anatomic footbeds, they’re like a custom fit. Asolo-Vibram Tènèrè rubber sole; 340 grams/shoe. $120 asolo.com

Expert’s pick:

Petzl Ange Finesse Quickdraw Adam Fruh, rock warrior In the realm of high performance, we’re always attempting to eliminate redundancy and carry only the lightest equipment. The evolution of the carabiner has come a long way, and the Ange quickdraws have quickly ushered in a higher order. Petzl has made a sturdy yet delicate reinterpretation of a single gate while maintaining a key lock closure combined with a logical color code, and an improved rubber stay to make these danglers and the user one mean competitor. $25.95 - 27.95

92 Mountain


Emily climbing The Lurker, a new route in Gallatin Canyon Photo by Pat Wolfe

Patagonia Simple Guide Pants I’ve been through three iterations of Guide Pants. The second, a four-year-old pair of Alpine Guides, kept me almost completely dry while I hung on a rope in a snow and rain storm this spring. Lighter weight and with a loose fit, the Simple Guides are made from a breathable, water repellent, quick-dry soft shell—ideal for summer rock climbing and peak bagging. The partial elastic waistband is just what I’ve always wanted. Zipper fly; hand, cargo and back pockets; Bluesign approved. $99 patagonia.com

Patagonia Houdini Clocking in at a whopping 3.6 ounces, the Houdini is a secret weapon. Packing into its own tiny pocket, I never know it’s there… until I want it. This thing is a breathable, water resistant, wind resistant ninja. Plus, it’s mosquito proof (i.e. take it to the Beartooths in July). Be gentle though—the ultra-light fabric isn’t meant for bushwhacking or nasty chimney climbing and tears if abused. $125

Mago Mountain Works chalk bag The product of a collaboration between a Montana climber and a Peruvian climber, Mago Mountain Works’ handmade chalk bags are made with genuine Andean textiles. Durable and functional, the bags come in three colors and two sizes. Each is one of a kind. $22-24 magomw.com

BLACK DIAMOND XENOS (AND FOCUS) Made for ice and mixed climbing, the Xenos is so good I’m not the only Montanan still using it during rock season. Light and comfortable, the padded lumbar inserts keep your kidneys alive at hanging belays, and the gear loops have enough room for a day in the mountains. Also, my climbing partner just got the new Focus, another notch in BD’s belt for lightness, comfort, durability and affordability ($79.95). Both have a speed-adjustable waistbelt and full-strength haul loop. $129.95 blackdiamondequipment.com

ALSO IN EMILY’s kit: La Sportiva Muiras Because any other shoe is like a flip flop Petzl Meteor III+ helmet So light you forget it’s on your head Black Diamond Camalots The best




94 Mountain


Kacey is headed out of Bozeman in style. PHOTO BY EMILY STIFLER

Tilley Hemp Hat, Shantung Shantug Fedora Stepping out into another sunny Montana afternoon, I’m glad to be wearing my Tilley Hemp Hat. Durable, and with all around coverage and top-notch breathability, it’s perfect for everything from three week backpack trips in Glacier to an afternoon on the Yellowstone. And with Tilley’s no nonsense warranty, it’s guaranteed for life. The Shantung Fedora (on Kacey), is another enduring style. S.W. $84 $99 (P.S. from the editors: This hat makes Sean look like Indiana Jones. Never a bad thing.) Patagonia Ultra Light Down Jacket This puffy is a dream. A lightweight, insulating piece with quilted channels, it’s great for flying and traveling because it packs small into my carry on. Mostly, I wear it on cool summer nights. The hood and full zip also offer extra protection from wind, snow or whatever comes your way during an adventure. I love the color options, in magenta, clear pool or black. K.B. $299.00 Liquid Solutions Soft-t Tumbler Life is travel, and this mug will get you there. The durable double wall construction is made from sustainable materials, and its spill proof lid is good to go. Plus, its squishy rubber grip is a natural stress reliever—squeeze and relax. The small, Oregon-based company makes a host of other drinkware, all of which is BPA free. E.S. $15.99 liquid-solutions.com Mountain Khaki Original Mountain Pant Born in Jackson, Wyo., the Original Mountain Pant is made for people who spend time in the outdoors and are blessed with skier thighs. The thick yet comfortable material makes you realize you’ll be owning them for many years. Thoughtful pocket placements include a great double pocket on the hip. Be aware that after one wash they may shrink a bit, and that you’ll want to wear them daily. Men’s and women’s sizing and colors.. -Eric Ladd $82.95 mountainkhakis.com

DaKine luggage This is mountain folks’ version of roller luggage. Throw it in the back of your truck, and it will roll smoothly whenever you need to change in the phone booth like Superman/woman. It’s stylish, sturdy, water resistant, and fits in an airline overhead compartment. Interior mesh pocket and exterior organizer pockets are just the right size, and the retractable handle and side carry are thoughtfully built. Available in men’s and women’s colors. 42 L; 6 lbs. E.S. $140 dakine.com

Orthaheel flip flops Men’s Bryce, Women’s Cascade Made for post-workout recovery, Orthaheel sandals have a tripledense midsole that cradles and supports the feet, making these flops legit for walking long distances. They’re sporty, but neutral, and Vibram soles mean good traction. Due to the footbed technology, they cannot be submerged in water. Endorsed by Dr. Andrew Weil, a pioneer in integrative medicine. E.S. $79.95 -$89.95 orthaheelusa.com


Adventure Medical Kits World Travel Kit Felicia Ennis, owner of Bella Treks travel company This kit has the supplies you need when traveling to remote places where medical assistance may be hours or days away. It provides wound care supplies; blister treatments; and medications to treat upset stomach, dehydration, pain and allergies. Additionally, it has ample space for personal prescriptions; three TSA-approved 3-1-1 bag for liquids and cosmetics; and the medical resource book, Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicine by Eric A. Weiss, M.D. 1 lb. 8 oz.; 8.5” x 7” x 2.5.” $70 adventuremedicalkits.com

By Kacey Brown and Emily Stifler

Borelli Active Scarf It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a Borelli. This simple, versatile design functions as a scarf, a skirt, a wrap, a headband or even a yoga mat carrier. Great for traveling light, you can wrap, twist, fold or tie the Borelli into more than 30 styles. E.S. $30 borellidesign.com

Patagonia Kamala Cross-Back Dress The Kamala’s uber-soft material is a blend of organic cotton and Tencel, which is made from eucalyptus tree fiber. An environmentally friendly material, it lends durability and helps reduce wrinkling. The v-neck halter top is flattering, and the adjustable straps are comfortable and stylish. The ankle length hem with slits for mobility makes this number equally fit for outdoor concerts in Montana or a night on the town in Texas. K.B. $79.00


gear review

road trip



The recipe for a soul cocktail story and photos by jimmy lewis The Treasure State’s big open country is crisscrossed with dirt roads and mountain trails, many of which lead to creeks and small rivers. I recently bought a “dual-sport” motorcycle with the intent to ride every back road and byway I could find in search of solitude and good fishing. Last August, I loaded up my bike with gear and headed out to ride, fish, camp and repeat the process as often as my time and money would allow.

Soon enough, I was headed north from my home near Middle Cottonwood Canyon in Bozeman and off down a series of dusty roads toward my first destination, Sixteenmile Creek. This was my first-ever motorcycle ride involving both fishing and camping. My feelings were a bubbling mixture of fear and anxiety, excitement and joy, a mix that remained for the rest of the trip.

The key to planning gear for such an adventure is having a sense of what you want to do and how you want to do it. What do I need to wade fish on a hot day in August? Not much: quick-drying shorts, felt-bottomed sandals, and a fanny-pack full of flies. To ride? Suit, helmet, gloves, boots. To camp? Tent, sleeping bag, cook stove, freeze-dried meals, coffee and a water purifier.

Just a couple of hours into the odyssey, I parked my bike beside the first bridge on Sixteenmile Creek Road and stripped out of my riding gear and into my fishing attire. A few hours later, after I’d tussled with several feisty rainbows and browns, massive thunderheads began building overhead. Not wishing to get caught in the imminent deluge, I headed off aboard my trusty KTM toward my first

96 Mountain

Beside “Battle Creek” midway between Ringling and White Sulphur Springs with Mount Baldy in the distance

planned campsite located on a small piece of National Forest Land nearby. After riding past three steaming-fresh piles of bear scat, I wheeled into camp and set up my tent. Just after the final stake of the rain fly was in the ground, the dark clouds burst open into sheets of hard rain and hail accompanied by spectacular lightning and thunder. The storm raged, and I sat in my tent sipping from my flask and listening to my iPod. I drifted off to the cello of Yo-Yo Ma and soon entered the other world of my own psychological storms. I woke when the sun crept into the canyon the next morning. Springing from my cocoon and into the morn-

ing light, I ran for the coffee and hastily prepared a cup of dark coffee along with a freeze-dried breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon. The cold morning felt invigorating, but I was a little worried about starting the carbureted four-stroke on my bike. The KTM coughed to life though, and the engine ran with a warm, reassuring hum as I headed north through Meagher County searching for an all-dirt route to White Sulphur Springs. As I cycled along the back roads through the cool late-morning air, I felt comfortable in my riding gear. Cresting a small hill, I looked west

toward Mount Edith in the Big Belts. Edith, I concluded, looked a lot like Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro. Central Montana was lovely from the seat of a motorbike. At about the halfway point between Ringling and White Sulphur, I found a charming rivulet full of brook trout identified on my map as “Battle Creek.” I parked my bike beside the dilapidated bridge and rigged my fly rod. I countered what I saw as a potential rattlesnake issue by wading in my motorcycle boots—a first. A few fish later, I resumed my peregrinations, noticing soaring raptors, grazing deer, and dodging the occasional gopher

L: A canyon on the Upper Smith, replete with big black bears, solitude, and the occasional hungry trout. R: An alternative definition of a trophy: rarely fished waters; exciting bike ride; beautiful trout

road trip

scooting along in front of me. I rode for miles without seeing another vehicle. With just over 24 hours on the road, I was feeling heroic as I rode into White Sulphur, a small ranching town. It’s not about the length of time one spends away from civilization, but rather the intensity of the experience that leaves you wishing to return, so I was eager to experience a bit of social interaction there, along with some when on a solo freshly-cooked adventure, you food.

are, for the most part, your only company, and the quality of the experience will largely be determined by how you treat yourself.

After breakfast and a chat, I fueled-up my bike ($8.14 for nearly 100 miles of riding) and headed Along the Upper Smith River, a meadow area rich with hoppers and back out into the browns that like to feed upon them. countryside to find ized I’d done more than just ride, fish, and camp—I had gained my next campsite some wisdom, too. I had learned that when on a solo advenalong the Upper Smith ture, you are, for the most part, your only company, and the River. quality of the experience will largely be determined by how you treat yourself. The upshot of that is this: The same can be Adventure riding on said for life itself. a lightweight dirt bike doesn’t allow for many luxuries. After touring on such an outfit, it was sweet indeed when a good Later that day, I entered back onto Sixteenmile Creek Road, friend spontaneously decided to rendezvous with me for some this time heading west along its meandering path. Viewed fishing and camping, arriving in his Suburban with fullyfrom this perspective, it was the most beautiful leg of the loaded coolers. The ice cold IPA’s were delicious after riding journey. Riding under a warm sun and a deep blue sky, and fishing under the mid-August sun. And later that evening, listening to my favorite tracks from Van Morrison and Coldwe dined on mule deer steaks and scalloped potatoes, and my play, I thought for a moment I might somehow be entering fishing partner, a musician, even pulled out his guitar to strum into something like heaven—something transcendent and and sing into the night. sublime. After fishing together the next morning through the black Ironically, I began feeling disturbed, finally to the degree that bear-filled canyon up river from our campsite, my friend said I thought of pulling off the road and shutting down my bike goodbye. I continued on up the river, tooling along on my bike to let some time pass by in order to thwart fate if, indeed, I between the craggy cliffs and dark timber, into the solitude was bound for the afterlife and my death was waiting for me and possibilities of the unknown upstream. Everything felt around the next turn. right there on the Upper Smith, and I decided to stay a couple of extra days there. Something inside me, however, said keep riding. So I did, standing on the pegs and singing along with the music for the By the time I departed for home, I was feeling whole, satisfied canyons and, perhaps, even the gods to hear. and ready to return. As I packed up camp that morning, I real-

98 Mountain


Photos Š James Ray Spahn

Denver, Colorado - Big Sky, Montana - whitefish, Montana





distilling John McKee lay in bed in Butte, Montana one winter night in 2010, wondering what was next. He was about to be laid off at a company he helped pioneer and build the technology for. It was already a very difficult time for his family. His wife Courtney always encouraged him to dream and think big. “What the hell are you going to do with your life?” she asked, going out on a limb.

Twenty-three months later, in March 2012, they opened Headframe Spirits, the first legal distillery in Butte. Despite their fondness for whiskey and a good cocktail, it was love of the city and its people that kept the McKees in Butte. They could have chosen to move when John was laid off. “It was absolutely not going to happen,” Courtney said. “We want to be here, it mattered a lot less what we were doing, it mattered more where we were doing it.” Butte has a friendly, supportive community, they say.

He didn’t know. “You know how to distill and you like hooch,” she said.

“There hasn’t been a day I can really think of in the last year we’ve been inside this building that we didn’t have friends stop by and grab a paintbrush” or help in other ways, John says.

John got quiet. L: Lemp Saloon in uptown Butte circa 1900. This back bar was in the Pioneer Bar in Virginia City, Montana and was purchased by Les Skyles of Nevada City for $75. Photo courtesy of the World Mining Museum. R: Headframe Spirits is currently located in uptown Butte. Photo by Ryan Dorn





Headframe Spirits blends old and new in historic uptown Butte By Ryan Dorn

The first evening they were open, the community that helped through every phase of the McKees’ new business came out in droves. In their first week, the tasting bar was slammed every night. Once it became so overwhelming that friends who were enjoying cocktails offered to jump behind the bar and help. They asked what they could do, and John said, “Grab that glass and make that guy whatever he wants.” “It was cool, I mean, it’s Butte, that’s how we work here,” John said. “We’re all friends, and we all know each other. It’s really rewarding.”

Butte has always had a reputation for hard drinking. For decades it was known as the “wide open city” because a prostitute or a drink could be had 24/7. The brothels thrived. Boardinghouses hot bunked patrons. As soon as someone went to work, the bed would be filled with someone else who just finished a shift. In 1905, the Centennial Brewing Company claimed they sold a million glasses of beer a day. Arguably the most famous drinking establishment in Butte’s history was the Atlantic Bar. The original Atlantic opened in 1902, was the length of an entire city block and had 15 bartenders working at any given time. During prohibition it served “soft drinks” and likely liquor under the radar. It operated in different locations on the same block until a fire destroyed it in 1969.




Montana distilleries


Until new laws were passed in 2005, distilleries have not been allowed to operate in Montana since prohibition. Now, they’re all over the state. Below are some of those currently operating, with more sure to come. Flathead Distillers Rexford flatheaddistillers.com vodka, coffee infused vodka, cherry infused vodka Glacier Distilling, LLC Coram glacierdistilling.com five different whiskeys Headframe Spirits, Inc Butte headframespirits.com gin, vodka, bourbon, bourbon cream liquor, unaged whiskey Montgomery Distilling, Inc Missoula montgomerydistillery.com gin, vodka, with whiskey in the near future Ridge Distillery, LLC Kalispell ridgedistillery.com dry gin, absinthe verte, absinthe blanche

In 1906, a back bar came up the Missouri by steamship to Butte. It eventually found its way to the Rocky Mountain Café, which local business icon Teddy Traparish opened in the 1920s. Some of the breweries had closed during prohibition but the drinking didn’t stop, and the Rocky Mountain thrived, gaining national attention for its exquisite food. “Butte didn’t shut down,” John says. “There were 100,000 people at the top of the hill and 80,000 of them were guys. They went down into the mines, and when they came up they didn’t want a sarsaparilla, they wanted beer and they wanted whiskey, and they got it.” In the 1960s, Traparish donated the back bar to the World Mining Museum, where it was on display for 30 years. It was moved to storage in 2003, and started

to deteriorate. Dolores Cooney, the museum’s curator, said five more years and it could have been ruined. in January 2011 The McKees approached the museum and asked to borrow the 24-foot, oak and mahogany bar for their tasting room. They have been restoring sections of it, and have even met a man who remembers the bar from when it was at the Rocky Mountain. “[He] walked in and looked at the bar and stopped,” Courtney recalls. “John walked over to him, and the guy told him he had his first drink at that bar. Butte took care of it for the first 100 years, we have to take care of it for the next 100.” Today, behind the back bar in Headframe’s historic uptown

RoughStock Distillery, Inc Bozeman montanawhiskey.com five different whiskeys Spirit of Montana Distilling Billings spiritofmontana.com Cliffhanger Vodka, 40 Love Gin Swanson’s Mountain View Distillery Corvallis sites.google.com/site/mountainvieworchards/home unaged apple brandy and unaged honey spirit (similar to honey whiskey) Whistling Andy, Inc Big Fork whistlingandy.com hibiscus-coconut rum, gin, vodka, silver rum, moonshine Willie’s Distillery Ennis gin, vodka, unaged whiskey starting June 1



LEFT: The Atlantic Bar, once the longest bar in the world, first opened in 1902 and was the length of an entire city block. Photo circa 1933. Photo courtesy of the World Mining Museum Top right: John and Courtney Mckee Bottom right: Mckee working in the distillery photos by Ryan Dorn


Recipes from Headframe Spirits

“You know how to distill and you like hooch”

Dirty Girl

1 part Orphan Girl Bourbon Cream Liqueur 3 parts root beer Pour the Orphan Girl over ice and top the glass with root beer. Tastes like a boozy root beer float.

Montucky Mule

2 oz. Neversweat Bourbon Whiskey 8 oz. Cock n’ Bull Ginger Beer Lime Copper Mug

The five Headframe Spirits are named after Butte mines: High Ore Vodka, Orphan Girl Bourbon Cream Liquor, Anselmo Gin, Neversweat Bourbon Whiskey and Destroying Angel Whiskey.

location, you can get a cocktail made with fresh basil or one with cardamom pods, peppercorn and honey. Courtney has been creative with the menu, and their five spirits are named after Butte mines: Anselmo Gin, High Ore Vodka, Neversweat Bourbon Whiskey, Orphan Girl Bourbon Cream Liquor and Destroying Angel Whiskey. The gin, made with 12 different botanicals, is unique and has been met with a good reception. And from a desire to create a sweeter, lighter spirit for folks that aren’t big drinkers, the Bourbon Cream Liquor was born. Add root beer to get a “dirty girl.”

“It’s a very popular drink,” Courtney says. “It’s also fantastic in coffee, and we have a lot of folks who just come in and have it on the rocks.” A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each bottle of Orphan Girl goes back to the World Museum of Mining. “It’s exciting,” she says. “About a week before we opened I started looking at John saying, ‘we’ve built it, will they come?’ You can put your full heart and everything you have into something and not know. So far the response has been fantastic.”


Fill a copper mug with ice and add 2 oz. Neversweat Bourbon Whiskey. Squeeze a healthy chunk of lime in, top with ginger beer. For a spicier version, add 1/2 ounce of habanero simple syrup.

Lavender Lemon Drop

This drink works well with the High Ore Vodka and is stunning with the Anselmo Gin 3 oz. Anselmo Gin or High Ore Vodka 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice 1/2 oz. lavender simple syrup Shake with ice and serve in a martini glass. We recommend rimming half the glass with lavender sugar.




When you want it done right the first time~

104 Mountain

pasoirrigation.com | pasoirrigation@gmail.com 406.580.8142 | PO Box 161265, Big Sky, MT 59716 explorebigsky.com


Symphony {of Seasons { H o l i s t i c l i v i n g fo r g o o d h e a l t h By Victoria “Torie� Bentley

L iving in M ontana gives us the privilege of fresh air, breathtaking mountain beauty and the freedom to play outdoors. This nirvana brings a perpetual rosy glow to the faces of those who’ve found it. But we cannot survive on the sheer love of living in the mountains, and healthy movement requires a strong body. Choosing a diet of organic or locally grown whole foods from seasonal fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthy fats and quality proteins is the prescription for preventing illness and maintaining good health.

e ating



Seasonal eating is an important part of living a holistic, balanced, vibrant, long and happy life, free of disease. Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that eating seasonal foods similar in nature to the external environment will keep our bodies in harmony with the world around us, and help us adapt better to season change. This philosophy, which has more than 5,000 years of rich history, is commonly known as nourishing yang in spring and summertime and nourishing yin in autumn and winter. Think back to a time when there were no supermarkets or agriculture. The only food choices were from hunting, foraging and gathering. Diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes were unheard of. The author and her family

Photo by Tori Pintar




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r i n


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Summer is a fun time to jump and play. We’re all on the go, especially in Montana where the days are long, but the season is short. Enjoy light, cooling foods such as strawberries, apples, pears, summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppermint and cilantro.

Spring is a time of renewal and growth for both plants and animals. We notice the sun and walk with a spring in our step. Focus on greens, such as Swiss chard, romaine lettuce, parsley and basil. Humans need plenty of leafy vegetables and sprouts.


m m e

e a s o n s

a utumn Autumn begins to cool things down, and more warming foods from the fall harvest fill our plates. Eat carrots, sweet potatoes, onions and garlic, nuts, seeds, pumpkin and honey. Include warming spices like ginger, peppercorns and mustard seeds.

Include a variety of animal proteins throughout the seasons. Properly raised, handled and local is best. Visiting local farmers’ markets is a great way to educate yourself on seasonal foods. The harmony between food, your body, the seasons and environment are undeniable. Allow the symphony to play and enjoy sustainable health and wellness. Be creative, and let the natural backdrop of spring, summer, autumn and winter be your guide.

Victoria “Torie” Bentley is a certified holistic health coach specializing in lifestyle and nutrition counseling; a certified movement therapist teaching Pilates, yoga and functional fitness; and a nationally certified massage therapist specializing in structural bodywork. Her whole body wellness business is located in Bozeman, Montana. See different aspects of her business at bentleybodies.com and xocolatl4life.com Contact Bentley at

w inter

Winter necessitates energy conservation and strength building. Warming foods also apply during this season. All animal foods including fish, chicken, beef, lamb are warming, as are root vegetables. Try carrots, beets and potatoes.





the time making sure we had a working knowledge of the information.” Gentle and soft-spoken, Vargo becomes enthused when speaking about his passions, be it filmmaking, teaching or reading up on obscure state department officials. Over 15 weeks, he taught aspiring cinematographers not only how to compose the perfect shot, but also demonstrated through his real world experience how they could make a career out of filmmaking. But when the fall semester ended, he didn’t have to uproot his family and drag them back to L.A., because Vargo’s Bozeman address is his permanent address. The students who took his course can consider themselves lucky, because Vargo likes to demystify the idea that you have to go to Hollywood to find success. In fact, he suggests other courses of action. Photo courtesy of Mark Vargo

Filmmaker Mark Vargo

From behind the lens to the front of the class By Brad Van Wert Since its invention in the 1800s, the cinema has captivated people. Images flickering across the screen at 24 frames per second have the ability to make us laugh, cry and transport us to magical locations around this world and beyond. For those who enjoy this experience, there’s a pretty good chance they’ve seen one of the films Mark Vargo has worked on. As second unit director of photography, his name has graced the credits of such films as “The Green Mile,” “3:10 to Yuma” and “The Way Back.” Most recently he crafted memo108


rable shots for the 2011 science fiction blockbuster “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” This past fall, the Montana State University alumnus worked for the first time as an adjunct professor at MSU, imparting some of his experience and wisdom to the next generation of filmmakers. “Vargo’s approach was very hands on,” said one of his students, Erik Morrison. “Where other classes might offer a cursory introduction to a piece of equipment or technique, he would spend


“It’s almost like the system these days is designed to grind up young talent,” Vargo said. “But don’t believe the hype.” While the craft of filmmaking is very much an art form, the bottom line is it’s also a business, and many states other than California have become friendly to the industry. While Montana has benefited from picturesque landscapes, there’s far more to making films than just scenery. States like Louisiana and New Mexico have built infrastructure that allow an entire production to occur there. In addition, financial and tax incentives have found their way through these states’ legislatures, and movie producers have taken notice. The net result: Heading for Hollywood is no longer a necessity. Hungry young filmmakers are now free to choose a different route.

For Montana to attract more productions, it will take a concerted effort in both the private sector as well as the legislature. With many talented filmmakers choosing to make the last best place home, change is on the horizon. As much as Vargo enjoyed his time in academia, the veteran says he isn’t ready to take it on full time just yet.

“It’s almost like the system these days is designed to grind up young talent, but don’t believe the hype”

“There are still too many films I want to work on,” he said. And although many of these projects take him around the world, Vargo always looks forward to returning home. The movie industry can be a competitive, dog-eat-dog world, he says. “It’s crazy and cruel out there, but Montana has a pastoral quality that allows you to refresh and rejuvenate and go back to work,” Vargo says. “I always have a camera next to me. The light, the nature, the wildlife, the sunsets I am fortunate to view from my office window—these are all continuous sources of inspiration.”

“There is a certain level of credibility when you’re teaching these students about techniques that you have put to the test in the field,” Vargo said, smiling.

Vargo also looks to other successful Montana-based filmmakers. Many of these friends and associates visited his class and offered workshops, which resonated with his students. Taking it one step further, he used Skype to invite successful directors such as “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” director Rupert Wyatt to speak to his class. “I love to be able to explain things and give examples and see the light bulbs go on,” Vargo said. “I just loved every minute of it.” Mark Vargo isn’t going anywhere. He takes great comfort in the fact he can live here and be inspired and feel refreshed. But he’s glad that he can catch a flight out at anytime: There are great films being made all over this world, and he’s the man to help make them.

The pace of life and sense of community in Bozeman is also important. The good schools, safe environment and elbow room give him confidence that his daughter can enjoy her youth. And for Vargo, there’s more to success than just his film resume. Even though he is sometimes gone working for months at a time, when he returns to Montana he can direct 100 percent of his time to family. “In the end I think I might get more quality time on the meter with my family than a guy who goes to work nine to five, because I can chill out, and I demand it,” he said.


But make no mistake, that film resume is quite impressive. Starting out in visual effects in the late ‘70s Vargo helped bring to life such movies as “Return of the Jedi,” “Ghostbusters” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Since moving into cinematography, he’s been second unit director of photography on “Poseidon,” “Tin Cup” and “In the Line of Fire,” among others. Having shot photos and video to document setting up and executing difficult shots, he brought this material into the classroom as a teaching tool. That street knowledge and the lessons learned from his time in the industry has proven to be invaluable for Vargo’s students, Morrison said.

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all the details and made it very easy for us. ~Steve & Marie Rapp






Cowgirls vs. Cancer

Yoga, horses and camaraderie help cancer survivors grow strong again By Emily Stifler Kelly Hahn soaked in the smell of the pines and the mountain view, and she felt the horse move beneath her. Hahn was treated for breast cancer in 2005, and then again five years later. She came to Montana from Maryland in July 2011 on a scholarship with Big Sky Yoga’s Cowgirls vs. Cancer. “It was a transformative experience,” Hahn said. “I still keep a little bit of that with me. When I need to go to a happy place, that’s what I go to. I revert back to that day, that ride, that experience.” Now in its third year, the program will provide scholarships for eight breast cancer survivors this summer. The four-day retreat at the Double T River Ranch in Clyde Park leads women in yoga, horseback riding and healthy living. The three focuses—yoga, horses and eating—bring out many components of healing, says owner and lead yoga instructor Margaret Burns Vap. Yoga, horseback riding and eating well all make the women physically stronger. The chef, who is also a farmer, teaches participants about eating locally sourced, sustainable food, no matter where they live.

And there’s an emotional component. “If you’re around a horse and are angry or are covering something up, it won’t work,” Burns Vap says. “Horses are intuitive and won’t put up with emotional incongruities.” She encourages the women to address their emotions during yoga practice, and says the horses bring out a lot. “We get a lot of crying. We like to think of it as a big healing release,” Burns Vap says. The camaraderie is also powerful. When Kelly Hahn and another cancer survivor talked about their experiences on a trail ride, they found a lot in common emotionally. “It made me feel better that someone else was there who understood me to that degree,” Hahn said. They commiserated, but they also had a lot of laughs and fun, Hahn says, and still keep in touch. For Burns Vap, who runs yoga retreats year-round, being able to give back is important, but she can’t do it alone. The Double T River Ranch donates the facility for the retreat, which makes the whole thing possible. Others, like the personal chef and the horseback riding instructor, also donate their time. And it’s all worth it.

Kelly Hahn at Cowgirls vs. Cancer

Photos Courtesy of Larry Stanley Photography montana-people.com

110 Mountain


“These women are determined to get strong. Some of us who are healthy complain about dragging ourselves through the motions, but we really have no idea what it’s like to want to feel normal again,” Burns Vap says. “To see them surpass that hurdle is pretty cool. It’s inspiring.”

Yoga instructor Margaret Burns Vap shows off some cowgirl yoga.

Yoga and outdoor fitness in Big Sky country The Bozeman-based Big Sky Yoga runs yoga retreats yearround. With a focus in whole wellness, owner Margaret Burns Vap incorporates activities like hiking, nordic skiing, horseback riding, tea making and cooking lessons. “The idea is that yoga helps you do other things better, like riding or hiking. A yoga practice helps you increase your body awareness and mental clarity,� Burns Vap says. bigskyyogaretreats.com




Hard at work at the Rocky Mountain Hat Company Photo by Taylor Anderson


For the love of the craft FATHER AND SON live by the creativity of their hands By Taylor Anderson It’s not often one meets a theoretical physicist. Even rarer, still, is finding one that left General Electric and the oil industry to work with his hands. Even less oft is a cowboy hat making, theoretical physicist who’s spanned the spectrum of craftsmanship over his 73 years. John Morris is such a man. John left upstate New York for Boulder, Colorado in the ‘60s, and then led his family to Bozeman to escape the crowding Colorado college town for better scenery, better fishing and a slight change of pace. Today, his business, Rocky Mountain Hat Company, sits watching over the Gallatin Valley on Highway 191 outside of town. His well-tamed, snow-white hair and mustache lend him a clean-cut look. He is a strong man still, and he represents an aging group of artisans preserving old world trades in southwest Montana. John has applied his incredible intelligence and ingenuity toward making custom parts for the machines throughout his shop, which is scattered with thousands of parts, hats, orders and backorders covered in sticky notes. His son, John Jr., 52, also works the business. The two sit on a sunny Thursday afternoon in Bozeman with their heads down, each working a piece of beaver or sheep in a different stage of the hat making process. John Sr., in his throne before a Bernina sewing machine, sits upright, a hunch on his back not visible from the front. 112



John Morris Jr. and John Morris Sr.

Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain hat Company

Dozens of cowboy hats varying in shape and color form columns on the walls, the styles reminiscent of the hats seen in just about every Western movie. A counter forms an L-shape near the front of the room. Behind it, in tall stacks throughout the shop, wooden blocks cut into the egg shape of a head, size measurements written on the side—a few hundred in all—act as record for different customers throughout the 21 years the father and son have been in business in Gallatin County. Scattered throughout the store are pieces of antiquated foreign machinery from the Industrial Revolution. Many of them are French, and each has served a purpose in a now obsolete method of hat making. They sit retired on a workbench facing the front doors of the store.

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John Jr. points at a French machine shaped like a top hat and consists of hundreds of thin metal arms and clamps to measure size. He expresses no nostalgia toward the outdated equipment they’ve gathered over the years. “There’s a million moving pieces and none of them worked quite right,” he says.

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The Morrises still use machines that require the use of hands for operation, something that’s less common in the digitalized manufacturing world of today. “We were hand-sewin’ for quite a few years before we got this one,” John Sr. says, pointing at an old Bernina he uses for a bound ribbon around the brim of each Rocky Mountain hat. (He neglects to mention that he customized the machine over the years to make sewing more efficient and effective.) “When I meet another hat maker, the first thing I do is look at the bound edge,” he says. If it doesn’t have the bound edge, he doesn’t respect the hat maker. Various vapor steamers stationed around the shop spray the beaver fur to treat and form it. These machines, connected

New Big Sky boulder project coming this summer





with hoses to a base steam machine, were custom fashioned and are by no means pretty. The two have touched and adapted everything in the store, including a framed 1994 article from a Bozeman newspaper. They seem to control the world around them rather than observe. It’s truly an old lifestyle fashioned to fit modern culture. And everything tells a story. “Those hats up there are for friends and family that have died,” John Sr. says, pointing to the massive elk rack wearing four hats—two for family, one for a friend, and one for a customer whose last wish was to give his cherished hat with its quartz-encrusted ribbon back to the boys. John Sr. left his job with General Electric in New York in the 1960s, where he worked among Nobel winners developing high radiation large screen televisions, and traded it for a Western life in Colorado. “I was basically forced to party in Boulder for six months,” he recalls. Today he says with a grin that he got insider information on oil companies as they were about to go public near Boulder. He also worked as a headhunter to help start four small oil companies, finding CEOs and presidents for new startups. John Jr., also a trained geologist, worked in the oil business for a time during his younger years, rough necking on the rigs for summer jobs. The two also developed through generations of family share a passion for hunting, working with their hands, and basically doing what they want.



“ W e ’ re n o t a h i g h vo l u me , m o n e y p r i o r i t y o p er at i o n , I go out shootin,’ d a d c o mes i n at noon.” About a dozen trophy animals line the higher sections of the walls in the front of the store. They, too, help tell the Morrises’ story prior to starting the hat business: Rocky Mountain Recurve wooden hunting bows. John Sr. speaks lightly of it, saying, “I built a bow, I shot an antelope.” The Morrises did well making the long, hand-carved wooden hunting bows from high-quality wood. Hunting blogs today are still clogged with posts by enthusiasts looking to buy the old bows and raving about their beauty and function. There was a two-year backlog for the specialty bows, but the money wasn’t there for the time and energy spent making them, so they gave it up and moved on. John Sr. moved to Bozeman the following year. A large painting of a cowboy vaguely resembling John Sr. hangs on the wall above the cash register. It’s not John, but he was a friend of the painter, world-renowned Willy Matthews, who also designed the bucking horse logo that goes in the crown of each hat. Dozens of other sketches and paintings are scattered across the walls, alongside elk, deer, bear and a casting of a giant prehistoric bison. “Those ones up there came from a friend that did 37 years hard time for killin’ a man,” says John Sr., pointing to two original paintings by Western artist and friend Richard Stewart. Everything has its purpose and history here, with John Sr. as the patriarch and curator.


One afternoon, a woman driving to Great Falls notices the Western outpost and stops inside. She’s welcomed, as is customary, by Dan, the oversized and congenial 4-year-old French Brittany Spaniel. “I’m just passing through and don’t have a real interest in buying today,” she says, petting Dan’s head. Though this sort of stop seems less appreciated than friend and customer visits, John Sr. listens to her declarations of amazement. “You know, there’s not a lot of folks that do what you do here,” the woman says, pacing the front room with her chin raised up to view the hats and artifacts of craft. John Sr. sits quietly, eyeing his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Coke. He may or may not hear her compliments—his hearing seems to be fading in his advancing age—but something in his demeanor says there’s no room left to accept gratitude for his trade from strangers. That, or he has the poker face of an outlaw. The hat company has an eight-month backlog, but they don’t rush. “We’re not a high volume, money priority operation,” John Jr. says. “I go out shootin,’ dad comes in at noon.” They’ve come a long way from the family’s beginnings on the East Coast, but they seem to have found their place in a county that appreciates its handmade goods. As for how long they’ll stay in the game, John Jr. seems to know there’s something else nearing. “The future can hold a lot of different cards,” he says, hiding behind a theoretical poker hand. “I’m not roped into this for the rest of my life. As far as future plans, no, my son won’t be in here taking over.”






Build your dream and let the memories begin. loneviewridge.com


116 Mountain


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