October 13, 2015

Pitstop: Bozeman

Oh hey, Bozeman!  Bozeman flew past me like a dream.  I drove all day through Wyoming, which, okay, is not the most pleasant state to drive entirely through in one go.  After all the happening that Denver was, Wyoming felt like a lot of empty space.  Weirdly beautiful empty space that mainly looked like it wanted my car to run out of gas so it could murder me on the side of the highway.  Can beggars be choosers?  Regardless, I didn't let my tank get less than halfway full the entire time, and during one of my pit stops, I witnessed an enormously dead deer laid out in the back of someone's pickup.  I know I am from North Carolina.  I know people kill deer there and I know people kill deer in Wyoming.  But for goodness' sake, I have lived in North Carolina my entire life and everyone has had the discretion (luck?) to keep their dead deer away from my face that whole time, and then I am in Wyoming two hours and someone with a dead buck lolling its head back in their flat bed truck decides they need to run inside a convenience store.  Whatever.  This is my hippie vegetarian talking.  Back to your regularly scheduled blog post.  Southern Wyoming did not impress me.
Northern Wyoming started to have actual trees and stuff, which was pretty nice.  "LOOK BIX," I'd yell, staring at some brightly colored aspens or whatever, and he'd look dutifully at me and we'd trundle on down the highway at seventy-something miles an hour because all the speed limits out west are at least that.  And then we hit Montana and there were trees in about five different colors AND green grass AND the occasional body of water NOT TO MENTION the mountains Wyoming had sported, only better, PLUS actual houses which suggested there were people who had chosen to live there.  (Sorry.  I really didn't like Wyoming.)  There was also a billboard that read "In the beginning, God created" and had a picture of the chimp-like creature evolving to man with a big red X through it.  Welcome to Montana, I guess.
And then I got to Bozeman!  The sunset was spectacular, and since it's a college town, Main Street was reminiscent of Franklin or King, those main drags in Chapel Hill and Boone with the boutiques and bars and coffee shops.  All the leaves were starting to show off and, once you got into neighborhoods, none of the intersections had stop signs.  Polly's house was a cute little split-level thing, and she welcomed me in with a spring roll.  She'd been a WWOOFer too, so she knew and we traded stories of the creeps and the weirdos for a while.

After dinner, we rode our bikes to a nearby bar.  It was dark and she rode faster than I was used to, skimming over the fallen leaves.  I loved it.  Her ex-boyfriend Nate was in town, and she'd explained him to me, sort of, said he was skydiving, said we could meet up with him.  He was wilder looking than I'd expected, with dark dreadlocks and thick eyelashes and piercings.  His friends were Bree, a smiley twenty-one-year-old with long hair dyed black and sticky out ears, and Evan, who was in the marine corps and had been stationed at Camp Lejeune, just a couple hours from Chapel Hill.  Polly immediately fell into talking to Nate, doe-eyed.  I traded stories with Evan about North Carolina, about the Marines who'd come to check out our downtown occasionally.  Bree and Nate showed off their dogs who were waiting for us in the car, a big old brindle pit bull mix and a labrador-cocker spaniel.  After a while, we went to another bar, the Filler, for live music and to see a hops farmer Polly was talking to.  He was actually wearing overalls, and she later whispered to me she'd never seen him wear anything different.  Alice was there, mis-scrawled on the door of a bathroom stall, but she was there.  I found a couple guys who could dance, and one of the them flipped me over his shoulder, and I was in twirly heaven.  They turned out to be creeps, Nate was a little possessive and spoiled, Polly and Bree were both drunk.  Evan drove us back, and when we came to a railroad crossing blinking red and lowering its bar, everyone in the car except me and Evan, thank goodness, yelled for him to drive through.  He didn't, and we sat there in his SUV with the taste of cheap beers in our mouths, watching the long, long train go past.
The next day, Polly and I went to Hyalite Canyon.  It's not far, maybe a ten minute drive to the entrance, and then a good bit longer to get down into the canyon and then back up to the other side of it.  We explored a trail at the very opposite side, a trail recommended by her roommate's friend.  He said it went to Emerald Lake, and that's about all we knew.  We estimated a three-mile hike up based on the map at the beginning of the trail, but we didn't anticipate it to be mostly straight up and over four miles, according to the women at the top with Apple watches.  Polly and I talked about backpacking (she'd successfully navigated a portion of the Camino Santiago trail, I'd done my stint on the Mountains to Sea Trail) and boys (tall brunettes with swoon-worthy eyelashes were both of our types) and what we were going to put on our pita when we got home (everything).  Polly hiked the 4+ miles up easily while I panted behind her, wondering what exactly happened to the legs that carried me and my thirty-pound pack up and over the Smoky Mountains.  But then we got there, and it was worth it.  The lake is called Emerald for very obvious reasons, its still green water smiling up at the snowy mountains just above.  We hung out on the bank for a while and then hiked back down, our pitas calling to us.
So that was Bozeman for me, a wild night and a beautiful hike.  Like most of this trip, it was a little terrifying and a little wonderful and mostly worth it.  Keep on doing you, Montana.