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Wannaskan (Crazy) Almanac for Saturday, July 21

Welcome to the Wannaskan Almanac! Today is Saturday, July 21st.

With the older three kids all away at camp, for Week 8 of Summer Vacation we decided to take the little ones to Montana for some hiking in the mountains.

The last time we went to Montana was August 2009 when the older kids were 7, 5, and 3 years old. My husband and I believe it's good to get kids hiking mountains at an early age. In the name of "fairness," it made sense to head west again so Kid Crew #2 could enjoy the same childhood benefits.

Montana 2009, Kid Crew #1

Sunday we drove across North Dakota, making it past Medora just before sunset. I found Camel Hump Campground on Google Maps and followed the GPS faithfully to our destination. The campground, according to Google, was supposed to look like this:

What we reached was a stretch of dirt road that ended with a cattle corral, a locked gate and a fence.

Our "Camel Hump" campground.

We pitched our tent anyway and enjoyed the single star and moon hanging in the darkness above the horizon. In the morning, we hiked our own "camel humps," hubby and the toddler taking the crumbling red rock one and the 6-year-old and I clambering up the greener one. We discovered cacti at the top of ours! When we left this peaceful spot of dirt, we found the cattle grazing just over the next hill.

Our own camel humps.

Our first Montana stop wasn't a mountain but Cabela's in Billings. When we entered the store, the toddler walked up to the huge stuffed elk standing by the restrooms, stretched out his arms and said, "This is a-MA-zing!"

At Big Timber, we turned north for the Crazy Mountains and pitched our tent at Half Moon campground.Tuesday morning we hit the trail at 8:40 a.m.The hike was mostly stony scrabble and forest foliage. We forded many little streams that made their way across our path. The incline was gradual, but enough to keep us focused on our feet instead of too much on our thoughts. Lucie occasionally complained up the mountain about her legs being tired. "Are we going to the tippy top?" she asked. "Not the tippy top; just the regular top," I answered. She settled into the ascent when we told her there would be a lake at the end. "Can I swim when we get there?" she asked. Umm... "Sure," I answered.

On the way up we enjoyed glimpses of Big Timber Creek with rapids of clear glacial water pooling in colors of aquamarine. Big patches of snow on the craggy mountain sides appeared closer and closer until they were right across the creek then, at last, scant spots right next to our very own path.

At the "top," Twin Lakes was surrounded by spongy ground, making it difficult to get to its shore. When we did, Lucie stripped down and waded into the frigid glacial water, while the toddler tiptoed around the edge, uncertain about his next move. The mountains rose up all around us, a gorgeous scene, to be sure, but, well, honestly we came to Montana for the viewWhat we wanted were grand vistas and looking out upon the land as far as the eye can see.

We were off of Crazy Mountain by 3:00 p.m. and heading west to Bozeman. The last time we were here, we hiked up to Sacajawea Peak in the Bridger Range of the Gallatin National Forest. According to my husband's new topo map the size of a table cloth, Sacajawea Peak is the highest peak in this range at 9,650 ft. Rather than revisit old stomping grounds, we would start at the south end of the range and hike up to Baldy Mountain at 8,914 ft. of elevation.

For those of you who aren't going to click the link on "Baldy Mountain," I've cut and paste the information right here so you can appreciate what we tackled on Wednesday with a 2-year-old (one month shy of his third birthday!) and a 6-year-old.

"M" to Mt. Baldy Trail

Length: 10 miles (round-trip)
Duration: 4 to 7 hours 
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 4,300 feet 
Activities: Hiking, trail running
Crowds: Moderate traffic


Mt. Baldy has several approaches; this is the steepest trail with about 4,300 feet of elevation gain in 5 miles. From the M trailhead, hike the M to the ridge. Stop and take a breather, then traverse up along the ridge on a reasonably flat portion until the trail starts climbing again through the trees to a rocky outcropping. Enjoy another leisurely stroll along the ridge until you come to the final ascent: a steep climb up a scree-covered slope. As expected, the views on top are incredible. 

If you're still not impressed, let me add some color. The first stretch up to the infamous "M" just north of Bozeman is a 1/2 mile killer. It's so steep, I was sweating bullets and having asthmatic wheezing by the time we reached what is referenced above as the "start" of the hike up to Baldy Mountain. The rest of the hike was one direction: Up. When we got to the ridge, there was no "reasonably flat portion" nor "leisurely stroll" - it was just up. Up. UP. UP.

I started to question my husband's sanity. (Because, you know, it's all his fault we're up here.) I suggested he go on himself to Baldy, using a lack of time as an excuse to hang back. He counter-offered with a night in a hotel - with a shower, soft bed, hot breakfast and swimming pool -  if we all went together. I was impressed with his negotiation skills. We sallied forth.

Now, while we had just hiked in the Crazy Mountains the day before, the real crazy was all over here. Despite this hike being one of the most difficult in the area, it's also one of the most popular ones. Locals hike this bad boy daily. Apparently there's a select group of absolutely adorable wackadoodles who train on this mountain for pleasure. On this particular day, almost everyone we met was trekking up and down this torturous mountain in running shoes, running shorts, tank tops and small water hydration systems strapped to their backs, in preparation for the Ridge Run which is "19.65 miles of brutal climbing and descending, complete with unstable footing, unpredictable weather, and, of course, miles of exposure along the ridge line of the Bridger Mountain range."

Baldy Mountain or Bust

So how did our little band of family hikers fair?

The ascent was brutal. With the rapid increase in elevation, we could barely catch our breath. The super-friendly, ultra-marathoners who cheered as they nimbly passed us up, reported the last 1,000 feet would be "challenging but doable." (Which I now know to be a relative term.) What took the locals twenty minutes to ascend took us an hour. We could see the top. It was so close. The agony was horrendous, knowing it was so close and yet we still had twenty switchbacks to make. We had to stop at each one to rest while our beloved Bozemainians powered right past us on their tippy toes. I likened it to giving birth. I wanted so badly to give up. But it was so close. I could not NOT get to the top. There was no turning back now. It was so close.

Catching a breather at the false summit. #deceptive

When we summitted, we plopped to the ground and rejoiced, soaking in the glory and grandeur of the most gorgeous vistas in Montana. Several of those lovely, loco locals stopped to chat and congratulate us - especially Lucie who hiked the whole way - as they jogged back from Bridger Peak, one peak farther than our Baldy Mountain destination. 

Our 6-year-old became a hero that day, not only in the eyes of her parents, but also in those of the acclimated and experienced. We encountered only one other kid on the trail and she was 14. One couple we met had left there 12-year-old and 9-year-old at home saying, "Our kids think we're crazy!"

Lucie at the top of Baldy Mtn with Bridger Peak in the distance.

So what got her through it? Two things. The first was being able to see the destination. Once we got to the ridge, we could see Baldy Mountain. ("Are we going to the tippy top?") We pretended it was Mount Baldy from Jan Brett's story The Trouble With Trolls. The second thing was the promise of a swimming pool at the end of the day. Despite the hard work of this hike, she rarely complained.

And what about the toddler? I give my husband a big klobouk dolů - the Czech equivalent to "hats off" - who, other than that first 1/2 mile trek up to the "M", a small stint on the ridge and a 1.5 "easier" alternative route down from the "M", pretty much carried the toddler in a kid backpack the whole way up and down.

We're officially crazy.

Fun Facts from the Kids

JP2 Camp

J-O-H-N-P-A-U-L-2 HEY!!! HEY!!! Yep, it’s David again and this week I’ll write about my week at Pope St. John Paul II Camp; which is this amazing catholic Bible camp. So, for this blog, it’s my topic.
 It all started with my older sister going to JP2. When she went there, I was like, “I’m never going to go there,” so, I spent the time of my life at my grandma’s cabin, which is a couple miles south of Nisswa, MN. Me and my older brother and my mom went fishing, drove to public events, saw our cousins, and all that jazz.
So, when we went to pick my sister up, she said that she wanted to go there again. She said that it was one of the best times of her life. I was feeling dubious. She went two more times. Her last time there, my older brother went. He said it was awesome. He went again. Awesome. That made me want to go. So, I made it through sixth grade and into summer vacation until it was almost time to go.
When I got to camp, I didn’t know anybody. I was nervous. But later in the day I made some friends. We had lunch, went to Mass, and after a long first day, I thought I was going to like it. And I did. The next day, I had breakfast, small group, lunch, Mass, supper, adoration and then Bonkers. If you're not sure what that is, it’s a game where people called bonkers chase you and throw socks filled with flour. After Bonkers, we went to bed.
The next day was just about the same. Except for Bonkers. Instead of a game, we went into Park Rapids to do Four Corners. I don’t know how to explain it, but it was awesome. The next day, was community service. All the campers and staff went to Park Rapids to do service work. Well, most of the campers and staff. The kids who were going into seventh grade, which was me, had to pick out the brush from the woods. It was long and hard, but my group finished the job.
Then it was the last day at camp. A sad day, but also a happy day. We had breakfast, lunch, and then we had to go. I was picked up by one of the staff, and then I was brought to my aunt’s house. I had fun there and I played there and so on. The next day, I woke up to the sound of a cartoon theme song. We had breakfast, me, my cousin, my aunt, and family and my uncle. At about 11 o’clock we left for home. That was basically my week at JP2 Camp.

P.S. I won’t be here next week.

P.P.S.S.  This happened when my parents were in Montana. 

On This Day

Historic Highlights (credits)

2011 - STS-135 lands
This space shuttle was the 135th and the last space shuttle flight of American Space Shuttle program.

1983 - Lowest temperature ever measured on Earth
Vostok Station, a Russian station on Antarctica experienced the lowest temperatures ever measured in recorded human history. The temperatures fell to −128.6 °F (−89.2 °C)

1980 - Mary Eugenia Charles is elected as PM of Dominica
Her election to office made her the first female and the longest PM of the Commonwealth of Dominica. She is also the first elected female head of state in the Americas.

1977 - Libyan–Egyptian War begins
This short war between Libya and Egypt started with Libya striking Egyptian cities. The war lasted for 2 days with a ceasefire on July 24.

1969 - First person walks on the Moon

Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the Moon. He stepped on the Moon's surface almost 7 hours after Apollo 11, the space craft that carried them, landed on the Sea of Traquility on the Moon. After stepping on the Moon, Armstrong uttered his famous words, "one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."

Happy Birthday to You!🎶 

1948 - Cat Stevens, English singer-songwriter, musician

1946 - Ken Starr, American lawyer, judge

1911 - Marshall McLuhan, Canadian author, theorist

1899 - Ernest Hemingway, American writer, Nobel Prize laureate

1693 - Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle, English politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Dream big, embrace crazy and make it a great Saturday!


Riding their "ponies" on the easy route down from the "M".


  1. What a story, and what fine writing of it! You four truly had an adventure. Who is the third kid in the first picture? Did you lose one on the climb?

  2. Thank you! The third kid in the first picture is "Dave", aka my kid who likes to blog in the kid section. That photo was from 2009 when we took our oldest three to the same mountains before the others were born.

  3. Flashback time! As I read this wunnerful story, my thighs started going into great spasms of crampage leaving me regretting not being satisfied to look at your terrific photographs and having to read all the text as well--and reliving the carnage of climbing Black Elk Peak a.k.a. Harney Peak in South Dakota's Black Hills a.k.a. Pahá Sápa, that I climed with Joe McDonnell. He said he and his boys climbed it years ago, and one of them wore flip-flops. So that's what he lorded over me, as I took an inhalation of my asthma inhaler 200 feet from the parking lot and stumbled around in a oxygen-depraved fog wishing I had brought my diving tanks instead. Getting to the top over downed trees the size of Volkswagens was bad enough--and then meeting a family who looked alot like you folks in shorts, t-shirts, street shoes and carrying a little white dog to boot, coming down so cheerfully, and then us scraping ice of the handrails at the summit--I was soooo happy, knowing it'd be easier going downhill...HA! My legs, knees, thighs and hips had better ideas. All those front muscles I used climbing up, were replaced by all those back muscles going down, and I thought of just throwing myself off the 'mountain' and getting it over with, I was never so glad to see a motel bed and a beer in my life!

  4. HA! I know your pain! We, too hiked to horrible Harney's Peak and my story is similar to yours. In fact, I was the 2017 District 64 Toastmasters Tall Tales Champion with the story of this hike. (My husband is lucky I still love him.) :)

  5. I am SO impressed with your children!! (And you, too, of course.) Kudos to your entire family for making it to the tippy top and for making memories to last a lifetime :)


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