Mon-freakin-tana Part II The Lake
Speaking of heading INTO the mountains, with a loyal homie, Chip and I have quite the story for you. Chip has been one of my best friends since our freshman year of college. We ran track together and as the two fastest people on the team, we became friendly competitors right away. That quickly evolved into an incredible brotherhood. I have been continually encouraged and pushed by Chip and the way he lives his life. This story that I am about to tell you is blatant proof of that. So saddle up, y'all, you are in for a treat.
At their family ranch, the mountains are just a four-wheel drive away. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. As we were tossing the ol' pig skin in the back yard, which is literally on the Yellowstone river, Chip pointed out how one of the snow covered mountains makes a bowl with the tree line. He then explained to me that in that bowl is a beautiful snow run lake. 30 minutes later, Chip had already called the owner of the land, gained access to the old logging road that leads us to the lake. We had changed our clothes, packed our bags full of beef jerky, fishing poles, guns, whiskey and a walkie talkie I had bought for my 3 year old godson (Chip's son). We threw Max (Chip's Giant Newfoundland) in the tail of the ford explorer, and we were on our way- to what turned out to be quite the unexpected adventure. The excitement and adrenaline of two boys and a dog heading into the mountains was barely contained. We were ready to drive, hike, leap and swim our way up a massive and beautiful mountain. We were prepared for anything, certain we were going to encounter some crazy shit. We had normal bear spray, as well as man bear spray (hand guns), we brought max for cat protection. Despite all the scary possibilities, literally straight up the mountain we went.
"This is a quote to fill up space."
By Shannon Liam Winant
Through 2 cattle gates, and one barbed wire gate, held up by some old wire, probably 60 years old, we ventured further and further away from our wives and the comfort of the ranch. I felt like the further up we went, the further back in time we traveled. By the end of the third cattle gate, the pavement turned into gravel, which then turned into grass, where you could barely make out the old logging road with the naked eye. A homestead that looked like a scene straight from the Magnificent 7 was abandon, overrun by stinky cows- that was our gateway into the wild. We were now off road, relying solely on Chip's recollection of this same trip he made with his grandfather 15 years ago. And so, with our chivalrous and bold ford explorer, we threw that puppy in 4-wheel-drive, and pressed forward.
Right away we were driving over fallen tree branches, mini sized boulders, and a newly formed creek bed, which would later lead to our demise. Every fallen tree branch busted through, the logging “road” slimmed itself up just a little bit. We were too excited and overjoyed to let any of these caution signs disturb our epic adventure. We made it almost to the top of the tree line, when we noticed a few things. Ahead was a fallen tree. That’s no problem, we just put the explorer in park, marched our way to that silly tree and threw it off the edge of the mountain. Boom, no more barrier. The other thing we noticed was that sometime in the last 15 years since Chip was on this road last, there had been a minor land slide, which shifted a big pile of debris onto the road…NO problem right? We’ve got a four wheel drive vehicle, and it looks like there could be enough room between the land slide and the end of the creek bed “road” to sneak our way through, and continue on our trek to the lake.
“Buckle Up” Chip Said….GLAD WE DID! Chip gunned it, and as common sense would have it, the land slide pushed the driver’s side of the truck too close to the edge of the water logged road, which quickly gave out under our 5000 pound car. The tail end of the explorer was off the edge of the road, which was on a mountain so….Anyways have no fear, we’ll just reverse out the total fuckery we got ourselves into. NOPE, we reversed ourselves deeper into this mess, as we were now at a 45 degree angle. I was hanging above Chip, looking down the edge of the side of the mountain into the creek which was about a 20 foot drop. It was at this moment we knew that we were completely fucked. I panicked, ripped my seat belt off and left chip and max to die. I then realized how much of a dick move that was and climbed back into the tipping explorer, held the passenger door open for Chip, helped him climb out, grabbed my phone, let max out, and let the madness of the day begin.
First, we had to let all the horrible thoughts and scenarios run through our heads before we could actually get anything productive done. Mostly a lot of saying “we are totally fucked” or “lets just roll it down the mountain” but mostly “yeah, we are fucked”. The second battle was getting a hold of…well anyone. We were in the middle of Montana in the depths of a mountain. This is where my “for ages three to five” plastic, gray scaled camouflage walkie talkie comes in to the story. By some miracle, that tiny toy had the coverage to reach my 3 year old godson, who kept saying “nobah nobah”??? (I still don’t know what that means)…so I just said, “nobah nobah” back and then he said “Shan do you need coffe!?” and I was like “Yes, Charlie I Copy, you’re the cutest human ever” he then handed his walkie talkie to his mom, Stace (Chips wife) Her name is Staci, but we call her stace. Although it was choppy, we got the message across, and soon there was help on the way….the best help…Rancher Jim, pure cowboy, Ford F-350 and all. We had about 45 minutes to kill before Rancher Jim arrived to our cluster fuck we had created, so we did the only thing appropriate in a situation like this, we cracked open the whiskey, which was in a baby sippie cup, the beef jerky because I can’t handle liquor on its own, and pulled out the man bear spray to shoot some very dangerous looking tree trunks.
Rancher Jim arrives. The first words that come out of his mouth, after he rolls his eyes at us..”Rookies”, and then he laughs at us, says he has gotten himself into shit like this before, and soon devises a plan to try to get us out. The worst thing that could happen is Rancher Jim tries to pull out the explorer, and it slips into the depths of Smoag. Well I guess something worse is the explorer takes Jim with her down the side of the mountain. No time to think, we are men! We strap up the explorer to Rancher Jim’s giant ass truck, and since we are smart men, we looped the rope around a tree on the upper side of the mountain, to leverage the pull up and out. Rancher Jim hops in his bad ass truck, gives the gas some love, and I’ll be!? It was working, the ass end of the explorer was pulling up out of the depths…we were in business!....that tree was such a smart idea….and then….we quickly turned into freelance loggers, as the explorer ripped an entire fucking tree out of the mountain!? Holy shit??????? No worries guys, calm the shit down. We just hooked up bad ass rancher Jim’s truck to the tree, pulled it out of our damn way, and with our bare ass man hands, lifted that bastard tree up and off the logger “road” so we could get back to work.
So we were feeling better about our situation…although we fell an entire tree, the explorer looked like it was in a better position to pull. But still, the chances of this rig turning into the mountains dinner were high. So we did what any logical man would do, we hooked that sucker up to rancher Jim’s big truck and got ready for another pull, this time with no tree leverage. Rancher Jim had suggested to Chip that he get in the drivers seat of the explorer, you know the seat that is hanging off the edge of a mountain? Yes, that one. After all, that would give the explorer some leverage. Chip quickly turned that kind offer down. So on we went with pull number two. What could go wrong? Well….as chip was surfing the left side of his explorer to give some sort of leverage, I say the very sophisticated words “shit, shit shit”, I watch Chip jump off the explorer, I then watch the explorer take a plunge, a very like…calm and controlled, plunge down the very muddy side of the mountain….yes, now we were totally fucked. What now, boys? Well, the best thing is what! We call the real cavalry, we call up the man of the town, the cowboy of cowboys, Cowboy Steve. I’m telling you, this man came straight from the hateful eight. An old, wise, and bad ass cowboy.
Us boys, Rancher Jim, and max sit on the grasslands, sticking long ass grass in our mouths like freakin men, and watch the sun set, while we wait for wise, bad ass cowboy Steve to come up the mountain in his bad ass orange and black Polaris with his loyal ass sheep dog in the back. When he arrives, he’s just got that look that all us boys wish we had….his face relaxed, but you can tell he has killed somebody (not really, but hey, there's no way to know), but he just has that bad ass look…one eye brow up, cowboy look. When we take Steve to ground zero, Jim explains to him how we fell an entire tree, and Steve, bad ass cowboy Steve, busts out laughing! What a man! He examines the damage and tells us what we should have done right away, call the professionals (but that wouldn’t have been as fun). As we were all up in the mountain, looking out at the ranch, watching the sunset, I couldn’t help but feel completely present. Although we were in a predicament, I felt very alive to be with Rancher Jim, Cowboy Steve, two bad ass dogs, and my best bud. It was an epic moment.
We made our way back to the river house on the beautiful ranch, explained ourselves to our wives, who expectedly (not a word apparently) and like they had rehearsed it rolled their eyes at us. Chip got to calling some potential buyers of our manure. After three different towing companies said “we don’t feel comfortable in that situation” (professional towers my friends, said that this situation was too dangerous.) Chip finally got a hold of the dude that would be our saving grace. He came in with deafening confidence, him and his ‘92 rear wheel drive ford wrecker, his son and co-worker. On we went back up into the mountain, with the quickly setting sun. We were in for another fun adventure of an evening. We took them through the first cattle gate, the second one, then the third one that hasn’t been used since 1989, then, into the woods we went…again. This bad ass wrecker, reversed its way up the logging “road”, threw some chains on to get up the thick muddy creek bed, and inch by inch pulled the explorer out from the depths! We were amazed. We rolled that beast down the mountain, as the battery had roasted, and came out of the mountain with one more car than we were expecting. What an adventure. What a day. An expensive and unexpected day, but an epic one for sure.
Yes, we failed hard. We went out to accomplish something, and instead got hit with something completely different. Something that we wouldn’t have necessarily planned on our own. A big challenge and an unexpected trial for sure. We even made some bad decisions that most definitely contributed to our peril, some that if we would have stopped and thought about for longer than a split second, we probably wouldn’t have gotten ourselves in that messy scenario. But we didn’t do that, we failed. We failed my friends, but because we failed, I say we won. Besides this epic story that you just spent 30 minutes reading, we got to learn. We got to experience taking initiative for one thing, which is a challenge in its own, but then tossed a totally different set of shitty circumstances, and we had to choose to respond to those circumstances. We had to discover ourselves and how we would handle this really shitty situation. I am glad we went, straight into the mountain. I am glad I was with my brother, and his dog, and I am glad his explorer fell off the side of the mountain. And I am glad we got it back. The experience is worth a lot more than we will probably ever know. The experience of failure is critical in our growth as men and women.