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Published: August 27th 2020
Here's how that white space filled up.
After the Disappointment in Deer Lodge
, we decided to head back east a bit, to Whitehall, to drive by a property we'd been shown more than a week ago, to view it again with different eyes. The Great Processing
work we had done with our third partner had given us more realistic guidelines to follow, and more freedom to explore "the good" instead of demanding "the perfect." We'd passed on this property before because of our third partner's concern about proximity to neighbors, but now we've all come to realize that it may be impossible, at least in this market, to get absolute remoteness AND reasonable access AND proximity to a thriving community all at the same time, or to find a perfect food-growing spot AND a perfect secluded State Park atmosphere AND a perfect trout stream AND a perfect mountain view all at the same time. So after Breakfast in Butte
(everything feels like an event now, or a boxing match, or a movie title) we loaded up the caRV and headed down the road once again.
And we took Highway 2 this time, rather than the Interstate, and that made
a huge difference. Turns out Whitehall is just a thirty minute drive east from Butte over a gorgeous mountain pass, chock full of trees, rock outcroppings, twisty turns, dangerous precipices, and the like. There was something heartening and inspiring about that beautiful National Forest drive, and when we came down from the pass and could view the gorgeous valley from that direction, and see the mountain views on virtually all sides, our hearts lifted further. We slowed as we came to The Potential Property
in question, which is right on Old 2, and stopped in various places nearby, and viewed it from different angles, and took the side roads on either end, and got an even better understanding of the place than we had on the first viewing.
We looked it over, and Sally communicated with the realtor peoples about getting The Second Showing
, and then we headed into the town of Whitehall, seven miles further up Highway 2, to check out the nearest amenities, and find a bathroom, and get some gas, and wash the bugs from our windshield, and look at one last property we'd found right near town, which turned out to be A Big Loser
From there, tired, in need of a place to stop and rest and work on our computers and such, we headed seven more miles up the Interstate to Cardwell, to a small campground and RV park there. We found a spot. Signed in and paid. Sally rested and watched a documentary. I sat Under the Cottonwood Tree
and searched the listings one last time and flicked ants off my legs. After a while I crawled into the caRV to rest as well. And then the owner showed up and told us About That Moose
So of course we got up and walked over to the corner of the RV park to peer through the trees at the moose. It was just across the creek, a hundred feet away, at the most. Huge. Majestic. Glorious. A large, mature bull with antlers like vast, praying hands in supplication to The God of All Ungulates
. We watched. And after a bit he saw us watching him. And he watched us back. And then we saw a second, smaller bull in the trees behind him. And the smaller moose watched us watch him. And after a time, the big bull stepped down into
the creek, toward us. And we backed away a bit. And eventually the smaller bull came down as well.
And that's how it went for the next couple of hours. We watched the mooses as they fed along the creek. And then came to our side of the creek. And eventually up into the RV park, and along the creek quite close to our campsite. We swatted the mosquitos that swarmed about us. I cursed the hordes of tiny, winged ants pouring from holes in the ground under my chair. I took photos and videos. But always the moose were there on the periphery.
At last a storm moved in. And it was getting late in the afternoon. And Sally had scoped out Dinner in Whitehall
. So we packed up to leave. But then the caRV wouldn't start. We'd depleted the battery with all of our automatic door opening and closing and device charging and such. And the batteries in at least one of our key fobs had died and we were getting warnings and we didn't know how that would affect the car. So I went over and asked another camper for help, while Sally kept her
eye on the approaching mooses. And this sweet man from West Virginia, vacationing with his wife, agreed to come over and give us a jump. And he sparked Empedocles back to life from his Ford F250 while two bull mooses stood nearby watching. And we talked and laughed and he told us Tales of High-Priced Montana Steakhouses
and we agreed on the awful humidity in the South. And then Empedocles was running again. And the rain was starting to fall. And the mooses were making their way just past our campsite, happily munching moose grass and moose moss and moose leaves and moose berries, and we watched and photoed and videoed some more, while we let Empedocles run and recharge his battery. And at last the mooses disappeared into the trees, and we pulled forward and out of the park, and made our way to The Two-Bit Saloon in Whitehall,
and found a booth way in the back, where a sweet young woman brought us wheat beers and hard ciders and some of the best food we'd had in a while, and told us about life Growing Up in Whitehall, Montana
. And then, full, heartened, relieved, if a bit bug-bitten,
we made our way Back to the Campsite
and crawled into bed and watched another episode of Alone
and went to sleep. Eventually.
And this morning, after sleeping better than the night before, if not actually well, we rose early, showered, headed back to Whitehall, got lattes from The Happy-Coffee Lady
in the tiny drive-through espresso place, and with caffeine in hand, drove back to Butte on Old 2, seeing the property again as we passed, driving over the beautiful pass to a breakfast spot that the happy-coffee-lady had recommended. It was raining, and we got inside the restaurant without getting soaked, and sat and ate so-so food and drank so-so coffee in yet another restaurant that said they had wifi but didn't really. We had The Second Viewing
of the Whitehall property schedule for 11 AM now, and so we finished up, drove back over the pass, met the realtor and the owner, spent three hours asking questions and viewing as much of the whole shebang as we could, which included petting horses, a donkey, and a young, orphaned foal, and petting silly dogs, and nodding knowledgeably as if we understood everything they were telling us, and driving
up into Lumpy Estates on 4-wheelers. And we took hundreds more photos and dozens of short videos, and then finally ended it, tired and worn out and thirsty, and made our way back to the same moose-infested bug-laden campground we'd slept in last night, which is where I'm writing now, while Sally rests and dozes in the van, and cars and trucks pass on the nearby Interstate, and the sun now shines.
More about some of which later. For now, I need to stop and get those photos uploaded.
No sign of the mooses yet today.
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