The Misadventures of the Vagabond Artist in Montana

As my husband and I start to prepare for the next leg of this adventure, I look back on our time spent in Montana and want to share with you some of the missteps and misadventures we experienced.


We had previously purchased tickets for a concert in Missoula Montana, so we wanted to stay nearby. My husband found a rustic, renovated barn.  Since we were to stay for the whole month of July, he wanted to make sure wherever we stayed had a washer and dryer.  One thing he did not verify – air-conditioning! Yes, our rustic barn did not come with air conditioning.  Temperatures were unusually high in the first part of August.  Thankfully it cooled down t night and we had fans. Still, heavy sweating was the mode for the first few weeks. 

Our Renovated Barn

Oh! Did I mention the roosters?  And the dogs?  And the cougar? What about the fox? After a while, we became used to the roosters and made friends with the dogs. 

The menagerie

I did see a Western Tanager – a bird on my bucket list.  I did manage to capture him in my sketchbook. 

Watercolor and Ink

How NOT to Hike

The Bitterroot Valley is surrounded by the Bitterroot Range to the west and the smaller Sapphire Mountains to the east.  The Bitterroot Mountains contain several hiking areas predominated by steep canyons. We did several of the hikes with limited success, mostly due to our own ineptitude. 

Bear Creek Trail

The trailhead was easy to find and the trail obvious.  It ran alongside Bear Creek, offering stunning views and the soothing sound of running water.  Supposedly, there’s falls at the end of the trail.  We didn’t make it that far.  We had the excitement of needing to step aside on the narrow trail as a mule and a green-broke colt were making their way uphill.  At one point we were inches away from the mule’s hindquarters as the rider of the colt was trying to get him to cross water flooding the trail.  They passed us again on the way down and the rider of the mule offered to have me jump on back! By the way, native Montanans pronounce creek as “crick” not “creak.” We never did make it to the end to see the falls.

Rapids on Bear Creek

Lake Como

This was touted as an easy 8-mile hike around the lake.  Granted, the elevation didn’t change much, but several streams and rocks needed to be crossed.  It was hot and we were running low on water.  We didn’t make it to the end (again).  We came to a boat launch, and I was desperate. I knocked on the window of a car that was running and asked the nice lady to drive us to our car.  At first she was startled, but agreed. I called her my new BFF!

View of the lake from the trail

Bear Creek Overlook

Supposedly this offers the most stunning view of the valley.  We wouldn’t know – we didn’t make it.  The road was a harrowing steep, washboard, gravel and dirt road, taking at least an hour even though it was only a few miles.  At the trailhead, a road led directly in front of us and we assumed that was the trail – wrong! We hiked the road for awhile until it came to a dead end.  On the way back to the car, we noticed a trail that hadn’t been obvious before.  We didn’t have time to hike it as we wanted to get back down that frightening road before dark.

View of the Bitterroot Valley From The Bear Creek Overlook Parking

Sweathouse Falls

This hike was similar in that it followed alongside the creek leading to the falls apparently.  We wouldn’t know – we didn’t make it!  The trail led to a spot where it appeared you would need to ford the creek to continue.  We opted to turn back. Still, the trail offered stunning scenery and the day was pleasant. 

Sweathouse Creek


Oh boy! Talk about a misadventure.  First, we opted to follow the guidance on our phone GPS rather than the car navigation system.  On the surface, it seemed to make sense since it was shorter.  Highway 43 was supposedly under construction.  We had to wait for nearly a half hour for the pilot car to come and lead us through. No obvious signs of construction were noted. We drove through the Big Hole Battlefield.  The car was pelted continuously by locusts as we made our way slowly.  We entered I-90 and exited at a town called Spencer (“Opal Capital of America”).  The road quickly turned into a dusty, washboard surface and remained that way for nearly 50 miles.  Talk about teeth chattering!  We finally made it to our hotel in Island Park, Idaho. The hotel was located right on the banks of the Henry Fork of the Snake River.  The setting was beautiful. 

Island Park

The next day we went to Yellowstone with the intent to hike. A map of the park is handed out at the entry points, but the hikes are not clearly delineated. Instead, they refer you to the National Parks app.  What they don’t tell you is that there’s very little cell service inside the park.  We did manage to get service at the Old Faithful location but didn’t download the hikes we wanted and couldn’t download them once we left Old Faithful. 

Yellowstone is beautiful and sacred. At this time of year, there’s just too many people to be able to fully take in the beauty and feel the sacred presence.
The Majestic Beauty of Yellowstone

I did take photos of most of the iconic images and was able to use them for reference in creating a little travel journal. 

Yellowstone Memories

Directions on how to make a mini travel journal froma single sheet of paper can be found at the following link: 

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  1. Sorry for all the misadventures, but they do make for unforgettable memories! And so glad you were able to capture some of the beauty in your pictorial journal. Lovely! We miss you!!!

  2. What wonderful memories to laugh about in the future. We enjoyed wine nights with you and Jim and hope to see you again at Barrett Jackson. Thank you for sharing your yummy Washington wine and the wonderful conversations. 😊

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