Hello from Bozeman.
Er.. well, I’m about equidistant from Bozeman and Belgrade, but for the sake of simplicity – and since I’m working in Bozeman – then I’ll probably just refer to everything as if I were living there as well. Besides, Bozeman is much larger than Belgrade.
This is to be the first of my “Bozeman Check-in” posts, which I discussed the groundwork of here, though the gist of it is that they are essentially the same thing as my “Denver Check-in” posts from last year. In general, they will cover about one week of time and this time around I’m going to try to limit them to ~2,500 words. Last year I tried ~1,500 and it didn’t always work, so I’ll try ~2,500 words this time around. It’s not that I couldn’t write more (lol, obviously) but instead my concern is that since these tend to be diary-type posts, if I keep them “short” I’ll be more likely to do them in the first place – and future me will appreciate the life record.
This post will get us caught up to me being in MT and as such mainly focuses on my journey out to Bozeman and the exploratory stuff I’ve done since arriving, so if you feel like I gloss over a few things (like work), have no fear, it will all be addressed in good time.
So, let’s get down to business, and it’s no coincidence that my first Bozeman Check-in shares the same title as my first Denver Check-in did, i.e. “Dinosaurs.”
But before I get to the dinosaurs, I have to backtrack a bit to Indiana, where I was departing early in the morning on Memorial Day after a long run of festivities.
I was leaving from a small regional airport since the Indy 500 had caused Indianapolis tickets to skyrocket. I didn’t mind as I like getting to walk out onto the tarmac.
I got really lucky with the weather, it was a nice morning and my plane was right on time – actually we boarded early.
I was hoping to get some sleep on the plane as I was seriously sleep deprived, but that didn’t happen namely because the trip to Bozeman was busted up with a stop in Chicago.
From Chicago it was on to Montana, and by that time my reserves had kicked in and I suddenly wasn’t tired anymore, go figure. I knew we were getting close when things started turning very green.
Then some mountain foothills got thrown in for good measure.
We a really large loop around the airport, so it made for some good views of the surrounding area.
The flight into Bozeman was a bit bumpy when we got over the mountains, but by and large it was a smooth day of travel, and my luggage wasn’t destroyed this time, so that’s a plus.
Bozeman’s airport (which is actually closer to Belgrade, and is also the main airport for Yellowstone) had a serious “lodge” theme going on.
After getting our bags Tristen [who had finally decided that he was indeed coming just the day before] and I met Moose, our first of three rental cars (I had figured out that it was cheaper to get three separate rentals, rather than one long one – it was pretty stupid actually). Moose is a Toyota Corolla S, with less than 3000 miles (when we got him), so, like Lillian, he is one of the nicest cars I’ve ever drove.
From there it was off to try to find my house for the next 10.5 weeks, and I was immediately taken in by the scenery.
We actually did really well finding our house, the only moment of confusion was that I wasn’t sure I’d gone to the right door. My landlord had asked me to park and meet him in a certain place, and I got it right, but since their house is huge I had a few moments of wondering if I had just randomly pulled into someone’s driveway in the backwoods of Montana and was going to get shot.
Speaking of getting shot, our apartment has a “Western” theme to it, and Tristen honed in on a gun (fake – but don’t tell him) without about 5 seconds of opening the door.
I have my own little private driveway for Moose to live in, it’s pretty nice.
The apartment itself is inside a garage, but they spent a fair amount of money converting the back 1/4 of the garage into a pretty nice little unit.
It’s kind of funny, it’s a converted garage, but its larger and nicer than my apartment back in Boston. It also has lots of things to keep Tristen occupied.
So far I’m liking it pretty well. It’s got lots of amenities, was well stocked with utensils, kitchenware, towels, sheets, etc. Basically all I had to get was food and a few odds and ends. I also have access to the main house (where my landlords live) at certain times during the day (very early – works best with my schedule and theirs since they don’t wake up until ~8am) and they have a fairly nice gym and a steam room (yes, they have money – the main house is crazy nice, and as mentioned, huge – I’ll probably discuss this more in the future). They also have a “small” theater in the house I can use too, but I don’t really watch movies that often, so who knows if I’ll ever use it, but the chairs looked super comfy. Tristen also really likes their basement, I wonder why.
The three downsides to my apartment so far are that 1) I have no desk, which means I’m doing a lot of standing with my laptop at a bar, which probably isn’t “bad” for health purposes, but I don’t like it. 2) My internet curse continues – though the internet is better than last summer in that it doesn’t go out (like it also did in Santa Fe), it’s very slow. 3) The air conditioning
kind of sucks. This wasn’t an issue until it got up to 85+ degrees, as the nights are very cool – which I like – but still, right now I’m sitting here sweating as I type this and the AC is on full blast.
When I first arrived I had very little time to settle in, as the very next morning I was off to work!
Since I live a good clip outside of Bozeman, the first part of my commute is pretty awesome.
An interesting tidbit about the highways out here: The speed limits seem to be HIGH, for instance, my “main” road is 70mph despite being two lanes and curvy in a few spots. But, they have “Day” and “Night” speed limits, so the 70mph drops to 55mph at night, and whereas the “Day” signs are white with black letters, the “Night” signs are black with white letters. I hadn’t seen that before. Funnily enough, these 70mph zones seem to instantly transition into 25mph zones in some spots, it’s so ridiculous that there are lots of running jokes about Montana’s “speed zones” – oh and they also have loads of 4 way intersections with no stop-signs, that is far less funny to me. Another thing to get used to has not only been the high speed-limits, but also the high speed of a sizable chunk of the drivers, another running joke is that most Montanans prefer to cruise around at 97mph – in the block between stoplights.
My first week at work went well – though I’ll discuss my work a bit more next week since I’m sort of “introducing” everything this week. But overall, I’m very happy thus far, though the second clerk doesn’t show up until the end of June – and as a result I’m uh.. pretty slammed with work, it’s not to the “bad” level yet, but its definitely in the “well then” level.
But, being busy isn’t a bad thing for me, and I always have views like this to look forward too once I’m home.
Speaking of views, “Thars baar in them thar hills.” In fact, there are not only black bears, but grizzly bears as well (commonly referred to as a “Griz” around here). Since Tristen and I were jumping at the bit to get up into said hills, we needed to get some bear spray. Unfortunately it’s like $45 for a can, fortunately both my landlord and my employer let me borrow a can. So now I have a can for me (complete with belt clip – also borrowed) and a spare can for people who visit me. My hope is to not need to use them, and while black bears don’t really concern me, it’s those grizzly bears that made me seek out some bear spray.
Tristen has been surprisingly responsible with it, probably because one of his brothers is a bear.
Aside from bears there are lots of other kinds of animals here, from prairie dogs (saw them about 30 seconds outside of the airport), ground squirrels, tons of birds, deer, elk, bunnies, squirrels, horses, etc. Some horses live right next to me.
And some deer frequent my front door as well.
I also had a female elk come about six feet from my open front door, but my stupid phone was under 5% battery so I couldn’t take photos I really, really had that restriction, and if I ever root my phone that stupid 5% thing on the camera will be one of the main reasons why.
Although I was able to take a photo of my bunny doorman.. er.. doorbunny.
I really like my “neighborhood” and I’ve already established a running route with a challenge to myself over the course of the summer.
The goal is to reach the Bridger Mountain foothills before a certain time, that is how close I got on Saturday Run #1, which was about 3.87 miles from home.
Above you can sort of see how far away they initially appear, prior to running – basically the visual distance is very deceiving.
But, not ones to stay in one place too long, Tristen and I took advantage of the weekend to go on a hike. Not only had my landlords let us borrow bear spray, they also let us borrow a book of day hikes – complete with their bookmarked recommendations. I sort of semi-randomly picked one, which turned out to be “Lava Lake” – which was about 34 miles from home. So we were off with Moose. It also turned out that Saturday was National Trails Day, so that was a nice coincidence.
The Lava Creek trail head starts down in a canyon next to the Gallatin River.
In order to get to it you have to park in a turn-off area, then cross the Gallatin River Bridge on foot, then go down a dirt road, and there is the trail head.
There’s a very ehm.. “rustic” outhouse at the trail head – the only one on the entire trail – and I got a chuckle because someone had carved “I’ve shit in London, I’ve shit in France, but before I shit here I’ll shit my pants.” on the wall.
The trail is very rocky, and fairly steep in parts. It’s rated “Moderate” but since I hadn’t adjusted to the altitude yet (my home is at about 4,820′ and this trail gains another 1600′) and I have a chest cold (I think I gained it during one of my myriad of flights), there were a few times I was sweating like the fat kid during dodge ball (and since I once was the fat kid during dodge ball, see generally any photo of me in high school – I understand these things). Fortunately when you exercise 7 days a week your body tends to get used to feeling
terrible challenged, so it was fine (and really wasn’t that bad, it was mainly the chest cold that caused issues).
You can hike the trail, bike the trail, run the trail, and even take a horse on the trail – though I’m not sure how all those rocks would work out for the horse – however I only saw hikers and one runner.
The majority of the trail follows “Cascade Creek” (which flows from Lava Lake) and you cross over a few small streams that feed into it.
It was hot enough that I splashed my face with the cool water a few times, it was oh so refreshing.
As we got higher there were more open spaces, and here we saw some bear poo, but no bear.
After about 3.5 miles we reached the lake, and wow, the views were amazing!
The official trail ends at the north end of the lake, but there are a couple of smaller trails that take you about halfway around either the east or west sides as well.
The smaller trails were pretty rough and not really “trails” in a few parts, but the plus side is that there was hardly anyone out that far.
Eventually the side trail terminates in this huge rocky area, and Tristen and I both decided that yeah, we didn’t have any desire to hike across that, so we had a snack and drank some water before heading back.
There were a few people swimming (when they first jumped into the lake I thought it was gunfire – the echos were so loud), but the water was way too cold for me, and besides I enjoyed the tranquility without my gonads ascending into my stomach.
The entire lake was formed when the creek was backed up in this huge jam, I’m not sure how long ago but it’s safe to say that its been a very long time.
On the way down I was almost positive that I heard some sort of wild dog creatures in this area, I checked and I was in Gray Wolf territory, but in all likelihood it was probably just a dog(s), not a wolf, because there were a lot of people hiking with their dogs.
After we got back down to the bottom, we got to watch some rafters float by, at least one of them seemed slightly horrified, which I enjoyed.
Then it was time to hit the road and head the 34 miles back home, as Tristen and I had already walked (or ran) about 17 miles that day.
The next day (Sunday) we got up early and lifted some weights (manries) then we headed into down to visit Montana State University‘s (MSU) campus.
I always like visiting the local universities as generally speaking campuses are cool places to visit – especially in the summer when it’s just the campus without its student parasites.
MSU’s mascot is the Bobcat, and despite his general hatred of house cats, Tristen seemed quite ok with the giant Bobcat statue.
Just like Saturday, it was a wonderful day to be outdoors.
At one point I was getting followed around by this bird.
I have no idea what kind of bird that is, but they are everywhere out here, and had a really annoying call.
[Update: They are Magpies.]
After my bird friend got bored I decided to go in search of the “Duck Pond” I’d heard about in a passing conversation, which lead me past the MSU “gate” and honestly I wasn’t sure if I was heading in the right direction. But then I saw this:
And then right across the street was the glorious duck kingdom.
I gave them a few pieces of my granola bar and was instantly declared their God King.
It was a nice little area, which was thankfully completely deserted other than me and the ducks – I cannot imagine that it is like this during the academic year.
From there I started walking towards some big domed thing, which I correctly assumed was MSU’s arena.
Little Bobcats were “hidden” all over the place.
I found an unlocked door, which was odd because everything else on campus had been locked up tight – but since I had to go wee I had been trying random doors. Of a series of like 20 doors, this one was open. So I went inside to wee, and found the bathroom to be very odd.
I’ve never seen floor urinals set up like that before. Weird.
The arena still seemed to be in “graduation” mode.
I’m honestly unsure if I’ve ever seen a university hanging “Rodeo Champion” banners before in my entire life.
I didn’t explore much further since I didn’t even know if I was allowed to be in there, and the last thing I needed was to get arrested for trespassing. So I went back to my campus walk.
Once back outside I could see the football stadium in the distance, I bet it has crazy good views of the mountains.
Shortly after that I completed the campus “loop” and when I was getting into my car I realized that I wasn’t very far from the “Museum of the Rockies” which is famous for its dinosaur collection.
I had cabbaged onto a $2 off coupon, so we decided to check it out.
Inside Tristen made lots of friends, he was ecstatic.
While Tristen was playing with (and probably eating) the other dinosaurs, I checked out the exhibits.
This little guy (Oryctodromeus) cracked me up, I have no idea why – something about the face.
The museum is known for its extremely intact T-Rex skeleton.
As well as for having the largest T-Rex skull in the world.
After finishing up at the museum we stopped in the gift shop for a magnet, then said goodbye to Big Mike.
Then we headed back home to do a bunch of boring stuff, like laundry and the dishes, and being hot and sweating despite the AC running for hours.
But the good news is that some of our ground squirrel buddies who live in the field adjacent to us were out to say hello.
Now I’m going to relax (and sweat) for the rest of the night, because tomorrow morning [as of me writing this – Sunday] it’s back to work for week two!
Until next time,