Daily Reads

9.02.2015

Montana - Paradise Valley (Part III)

in my life I've probably taken 100 pictures by this bridge, but this one is my favorite

On Sunday morning, bright and early, we turned south on Mill Creek Road up into the mountains, past where the paved road ends, along gravel road that follows Mill Creek, and eventually across a beautiful old wooden bridge and into Yellowstone Bible Camp. We were only about 10 miles from our cabin, but I felt like I had stepped back in time to my childhood. I attended the camp from 1993-1997, as a camper and as a counselor (I basically went as often as I could). To this day some of my happiest times, greatest friendships, times of purest worship and deepest contentment happened here. It is sacred ground to me, and returning with my family and our friends to worship and play for the morning was the high point of my trip. My heart could have burst with joyful memories and thanksgiving.

 Mill Creek / driving up the gravel road with the windows down

It looked a little different, but the place still smelled just like it did all those years ago - the fresh piney air, the smell of the creek, coffee and hot breakfast and smoke from the fireplace coming from the lodge. Kids played basketball and adults sipped coffee around the campfire. We were welcomed so warmly, and when it was time to ring the bell for worship Michael and Sam got to do the honors! We packed into the chapel and worshipped together. It was such a special morning.

Hyalite Reservoir (photo by Elsabe)

On Monday Tim and Lance spent the day fly-fishing and Elsabe and I took the boys on a hike to Palisade Falls in the Gallatin National Forest south of Bozeman. It was a fairly long drive (about 90 minutes from our cabin in Pray), but it was so worth it! The views were beautiful and the hike itself was gorgeous and good for kids too. The trail is steep, but it's paved so I was able to push Sam in the stroller, and Michael ran along ahead of us most of the way. 

Palisade Falls

At the top of the trail is this beautiful waterfall. Also, some really cute, really bold chipmunks. I didn't get any pictures, but the chipmunks were obviously used to sharing food with the hikers and they hung around us the whole time we rested and snacked by the waterfall. Later that afternoon after we returned to the cabin and the boys had napped, we went out for a walk in the neighborhood and I fell in love with it all over again. I even found my dream house (see below).

home of my dreams
 picking wildflowers and gathering rocks. always gathering rocks.
big sky and mountains at the end of our street

On our last day we all went to Bozeman. We shopped for souvenirs, had some lunch, and played at the park until it started raining. Then, we had the treat of driving back down the valley in a huge thunderstorm - it was so beautiful. I had forgotten how quickly mountain storms come in, and how quickly they move on...

walking down main street in Bozeman
enjoying Lindley Park
Lindley Park / the storm completely hid the mountains
after the storm, headed home on highway 89
 stormy afternoon view from the cabin / last night out in Livingston

That night we drove back into Livingston for one more meal at the Rib and Chop House. It was hard to enjoy it, knowing that we had to leave the next morning. I was so sad and then, that night when we got back to the cabin, God blessed us with one last spectacular sunset over the river. It was so, so beautiful. It was quite a gift to all of us. 
I'm so very thankful for our time there. 

sunset on our last night at the cabin

9.01.2015

Montana - Paradise Valley (Part II)

storm over the Absarokas, headed south on 89

On our third and fourth days in Paradise Valley, we spent some time in the local towns. On Friday we went in to Livingston, one of our favorite places in Montana. We walked around and bought souvenirs (including some cowboy hats for the boys - be still my heart!), and had an amazing lunch at Mark's. It was one of those days - the weather was gorgeous, and the burgers and shakes were so good, and we had such a good time devouring our lunch and listening to good music in the car. That's a memory that will always make us smile! 
Livingston. I love so much about this picture, but especially the truck with the canoe, camper, dog looking out the window, and a bike on the back - delightfully typical in this part of the world
 the boys in their new hats / lunch at Mark's was a good choice

The next day we went to Bozeman, another town we love, and took the boys to the Museum of the Rockies. That was a huge hit! The dinosaur exhibit was amazing as expected, but so were all the other exhibits. Michael loved the Native American exhibit, and both boys were in heaven playing in the Children's Discovery Center, dressing up as rangers and fire-jumpers, camping and fishing. It was really fantastic. Michael has been talking about it ever since.
Sam was SO excited about these dinosaurs - this picture makes me laugh every time!
 Sam has a thing for mountain lions / please, please don't ever become a fire jumper, Mikey

And in all the rest of our other free time we were on the river. Pretend fishing, waving to all the people that went floating by, collecting rocks, throwing rocks, catching minnows, climbing on fallen trees and driftwood, and later doing some actual fishing after we bought them some poles. It was such a treat for all of us to be out there on that cold, clear water.
we loved waving and chatting with the people floating the river
 our "pet" minnows / all four of us in our happy place
Michael really took to the river - he seemed right at home and it was so fun to watch him!
Sammy liked it too - as long as he could hold our hand

One of my favorite nights of the trip, we allowed Michael to stay up late with the adults to have a camp fire. We also told him we would sleep outside with him (his idea because he thought we should be camping out all the time in Montana). We didn't get a lot of sleep that night, but it was really fun and I know it will always be a special memory for us.
he was so excited! (actually, we all were!)
such a big boy! he totally enjoyed being one of the grown ups for an evening :)
 sitting around the fire pit with Uncle Lance
 it was such a beautiful night! not too cold, but chilly enough for a fire...
...and s'mores, of course
 Michael took this one for us! One of my favorite shots from the trip!
We took this one in our bed on the porch around 10:30. Two hours later Michael and I were still awake (mostly because he wouldn't quit talking). He walked out into the grass to go potty and came back to tell me that he smelled a skunk. And that's when we retreated to our beds inside. But it was fun while it lasted!

There's still more to come...

8.31.2015

Montana - Paradise Valley (Part I)

Absaroka range, Paradise Valley, a few miles from our cabin
Mallard's Rest, Yellowstone River

It took us most of the day to drive from Glacier, south through the Flathead Valley, through Missoula, south and east and over the Continental Divide and into Livingston. From there we turned south onto highway 89 through the Paradise Valley - a gorgeous two-lane road that follows the sparkling Yellowstone River dotted with fishermen in their boats, beside pastures of cows and green fields watered with giant sprinklers, and the Absaroka mountains looming up beside us. We opened the sunroof and the windows for the final stretch of our drive, and tried to take in every bit of the beauty and the sweet air. When we arrived at the cabin and got out of the car I could have cried with happiness - it was a quiet little spot on the country road of my dreams, and just beyond the cabin, winking at us in the afternoon sun, flowed the Yellowstone river. We immediately trekked down to the water to start exploring.
driving south throught the valley / our view from the porch
exploring "our" little piece of the Yellowstone / ice cream on the porch

It was hot and sunny when we arrived at the cabin, but as soon as the sun dipped below the mountains (around 9 at night!) the air turned cool and crisp. The mornings were so refreshing - open windows, sweatshirts, hot coffee, warm little guys in their warm pajamas. Some of my favorite things!
 waking up and showing me the river - the boys always wanted to get outside right away! me too!
 happy Sam - he picked out this mountain lion in Glacier and named him Bomp
quiet, happy morning by the river

On our first day we packed up and headed south to Yellowstone for a half-day trip. We wanted to minimize time spent driving and/or sitting in Yellowstone traffic, and of course find some activities that would be fun for the boys, so we drove a short distance into the park and spent the morning hiking and playing at the Boiling River.
hiking along the Gardiner River / the Gardiner and Boiling Rivers meet

a beautiful day in Yellowstone - by the end of the hike we were hot and ready to get in!
playing in the Boiling River (it turns out there was a snake coiled up in the rocks right next to us)

 It was a perfect activity for little ones. The hike was flat and pretty, about half a mile in each direction, with the Gardiner river running along beside the trail, and wildflowers to pick along the way. The trail ends where the Boiling River empties into the very chilly Gardiner River, and where the rivers meet the water temperature fluctuates between hot and cold, but it's comfortable enough to swim! The boys protested when it was time to leave, and I forgot to bring them dry shoes for the hike back, but otherwise we had a really good time!

Park County Fair in Livingston / dinner at the Rib and Chop House, one of our favorites
having some ice cream at the fair

That night we hit one of the highlights of our trip - our precious friends Lance and Elsabe joined us!! We met up at the Park County Fair in Livingston, had a fun dinner at the Montana Rib and Chop House, then spent the rest of the evening back at the fair before heading home to the cabin. We stayed up late every night visiting, using the hot tub, having a campfire, trying to photograph the stars, and always laughing. It was so special sharing this trip with them! I wish I had more pictures, but as is so often the case (in my life, at least) some of the best times go un-photographed because I'm just enjoying myself too much to worry about pictures! I suppose that's the way it should be.

More to come....