Category Archives: Leisure

Believing that a life properly lived includes the deliberate pursuit of recreation and relaxation, here you’ll find a junk drawer mix of comments and thoughts on the things we enjoy in Montana’s Big Sky Country: eating, sightseeing, photography, hiking, backpacking, camping, hunting, fishing, and more.

Real Men Own Poodles

Overheard recently by my wife at her place of employment –

“You ought to meet Katherine’s husband. He’s this big, 6’3” macho outdoorsman and his dog is a POODLE!”

Ahem. That’s STANDARD Poodle, if you please. Not one of those yappy little car wash mitts.

So why a poodle for a macho man?

Me and Sophie
Me and Sophie

I’m glad you asked that question, because there’s a backstory. Not that I owe you an explanation. But seeing as how you’ve read this far, let’s continue.

When we moved to North Central Montana years ago (The Land of the Upland Bird) I wanted a bird dog. So I got a yellow Lab pup. Named him “Nugget” as I expected him to be pure gold. And he was.

Trained him myself, and in spite of my many mistakes Nugget became a retriever’s retriever. But the inevitable happened. Nugget turned 13 last January, and went the way of all the earth shortly after.

I began thinking about another dog, but after Nugget I couldn’t bear to get another Lab. So I started doing some research, and discovered that Standard Poodles were originally bred as hunting retrievers. Some of them still have it in their blood.

Bonus: Unlike Labs, poodles don’t shed. Labs shed like a Montana blizzard, and my wife was tired of vacuuming up enough hair each week to make a new dog.

Enter the Standard Poodle.

The short story: I contacted Dreamscapes Standard Poodles in Trout Creek, Montana. Dreamscapes breeds their Standards for bird hunting, retrieving, backpacking and carting. We now share our home with a very nice female Standard pup of just under four months of age. Her call name is Sophie – alias Sweet Pea, alias Snuggle Bunny, alias Daddy’s Girlie-Girl and sometimes alias Monster Baby.

After church last Sunday a friend gave me a ride home. I asked him if he’d like to see my new dog.

He said, “Does she have bows in her hair and painted toenails?”

I smiled. “Of course. Bright red.”

He laughed and said, “I’ll pass.”

Silly redneck. Everybody knows poodles make the best hunting dogs.

What do you think? Are you with me or agin me? Would love to hear your thoughts!

But wait, there’s more! I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –  

Great RV Campsite in St. Regis, Montana

Considering a vacation in Montana this year? Looking for a good campsite for your motor home or camp trailer with tons of outdoor opportunities right out the door of your RV?

Your Montana RV Campsite is Waiting for You

We have a single RV site available. Full hookups including power, water, sewer and garbage service, private setting, 360 degree of the mountains, and the best rates in the area! We also offer discounts for weekly and long term camping.

We’re located just 33 miles east of the Montana-Idaho border just off Interstate 90, and three miles north of St. Regis. Free fishing, hiking, backpacking, and hunting information. Mineral County (where we’re privileged to live) is 86 percent publicly owned – virtually all National Forest or State lands. Essentially an outdoor person’s playground! Miles and miles of trails, Forest Service roads, and over 50 mountain lakes to explore. Come and experience the “Overlooked Montana” and get away from the crowds!

Just give us a phone call at 406.649.0649 for all the details. Hope to see ya in Montana!

P.S.: If you just need some free info about area outdoor opportunities, call us! We love to share about our corner of Big Sky Country.

 

Hundreds of Miles of Hiking Trials near St. Regis, Montana are Available to You

Small Town, Big Heart: Making it Happen for Others in Rural Montana

They come together from divergent backgrounds, life experiences, cultures, traditions and political persuasions and cooperate like a wedge of Canada geese flying in faultless formation. Their goal is to offer townsfolk and visitors three full days of wholesome entertainment and recreation as they organize the largest event of its kind in Montana. The St. Regis Flea Market, held every Memorial Day weekend since 1985 hosts hundreds of visitors and vendors in the 13 acre St. Regis Community Park. And the price of admission is just a smile.

Although Montana ranks among the top 10 states when it comes to volunteerism few towns can compare with St. Regis, a neighborly community of about 300 residents nestled in the mountains of Western Montana. Although St. Regis lies just off Interstate 90 at Exit 33, it is usually ignored by motorists hurrying toward tourist destinations. However, those who glide off the Interstate and invest a little time at the Visitor’s Center will find that this small community serves big slices of amusement and recreation.

Starting with the annual St. Patrick’s Day Potluck and Dance, the events continue with an Easter egg hunt, Fourth of July Parade followed by a carnival and community-wide fireworks display (locally known as “group insanity”), a free Thanksgiving Day Dinner, Christmas Bazaar and New Year’s Eve Party. The list goes on, but the largest event, and the function that funds all the others is the Flea Market.

Every year, over 150 vendors fill the park and offer an eclectic array of goods. Many of the vendors return year after year. Ron and Linda Kindred of Clinton, Montana who have returned for over seven years and offer leather goods and military surplus, explain why they keep coming back. Ron jokes, “It’s like a disease you can’t get rid of.” But Linda adds, “Actually, it’s kind of like a family reunion. We have vendor friends that we meet here from Spokane, Helena, and Billings.”

However, it is not just the vendors who are drawn back to the Flea Market every year. Shoppers return from all over the Northwest seeking something special. But the Flea Market offers more than potential treasure. The food cooked and served by the volunteers is hard to resist. And why bother? For those not watching their waistline, every morning starts with an all-you-can-eat breakfast featuring hot cakes, eggs, sausage and bacon, all for six dollars. Shoppers who recover from breakfast can return to the concession throughout the day for snacks, hamburgers and more.

Monies earned by the Flea Market furnished materials to construct the St. Regis Community Center and Visitor Center in 2001. The 5,500 square foot building was built mostly by volunteers. In addition to community events, the Community Center is available for such functions as weddings, birthday parties, and family reunions.

For the volunteers of St. Regis, organizing the year’s events amounts to many hours of work. Why do they do it? Perhaps it is a sense of gratitude that motivates them, perhaps it is an expression of appreciation for the privilege of living in the Last, Best Place. Perhaps it is just a reasonable response to all that Montana is, an overflow of the heart. For most volunteers, it simply distills to loving the community and giving back.

Although some feel that volunteer work is often thankless, Flea Market manager Anita Bailey disagrees. “I have never felt that my volunteer work is thankless. I have always felt appreciated. And I love meeting and working with people.”

Community Council President John Cheesman agrees and adds, “I like seeing people working together to accomplish goals. This is the real deal: coming together for the betterment of the community and providing quality events throughout the year.”

Ida Alexander, who has helped out for over 25 years likes the feeling of accomplishment. “It’s such a wonderful feeling when everything turns out.”

Many of the Community Council volunteers have found volunteerism so agreeable that they want extra helpings. For example, 10 year Community Council volunteer Glen Koepke also helps out with Community Center maintenance, is a liaison with the Forest Service, and was the catalyst for creation of the Loge Nature Trail adjacent to the community park.

Although anyone with a St. Regis address is a de facto member of the Community Council, volunteerism is not limited to council membership. During the January snowstorm this year, townsfolk wielding snow shovels, steering snow blowers and driving snowplows joined forces. There was more snow getting shoveled, blown, and plowed than was falling from the sky.

St. Regis is a small town with a big heart. As John Cheesman says, “Almost everyone is willing to help out if you just ask them.”

Be sure to view a few of the photos made at the 2011 Flea Market – Just click “Flea Market Gallery” and select any photo to start the slide  show.

God and the Great Outdoors

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God;

And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

Day to day pours forth speech,

And night to night reveals knowledge.” (Ps 19:1-2, NASU)

Have you ever been awed by a sunrise, wonderstruck by a starry sky, astonished as you gazed from a mountain peak, or marveled at the ways of a river? If so, then you have heard from God. Each day’s sunrise speaks of God’s faithfulness, the night sky and the mountains remind us of His great power, and the flow of a stream in its channel testifies to God’s promised guidance of the Christian’s life.

 

Dipper Falls
Dipper Falls

Much can be learned about God by examining the world around us. Theologians call this, “General Revelation,” or the revealing evidence of God’s existence and what He is like through the things He has made. I call it pretty cool.

If you’re a Christian sportsman, then you know what I’m talking about. You can’t spend much time outdoors hunting, fishing, camping, or hiking before you start making the connection between what God has revealed about Himself in the Bible with what you experience in the great outdoors.

For example, a few years ago I was hunting elk. It was early morning, and I was hoping to catch elk passing by as I sat near a trail they used as they traveled from their night time feeding area to their daytime bedding site. The first animal that happened by wasn’t an elk, but that animal brought me a word from God.

It was a very nice whitetail buck, four points to each antler. I had a deer permit, but I hesitated to harvest the buck as I was afraid that the shot would spook any nearby elk. As I wondered what to do, the buck stopped and stood broadside, not thirty yards away. Easy shot. To shoot or not to shoot?

Finally I decided to take the buck, but at that very moment he flipped his tail and was gone. I’d waited too long. The opportunity was lost, gone as quickly as a popped balloon.

I began thinking of all the other opportunities I’d missed in life by waiting too long. And I thought of the story of Moses in Exodus 4:10-16. Because Moses hesitated, he lost a special opportunity.

At that point in my life I was struggling with an opportunity I thought God might be offering to me. But it required a huge step of faith, and I was hesitating. In all of this God was saying, “Stop hesitating. Move forward now or you’ll regret it, just like you just lost the opportunity to take that buck. The time to ‘tag’ My will is now.” I decided to move forward by faith, and it turned out to be the right decision.

If you’re a Christian sportsman you can probably relate. The Lord often speaks to us through outdoor experiences. If you love the Lord and love the great outdoors, I’d like to recommend something to you. For daily devotions centered around God and the outdoors, check out http://www.sportsmensdevotional.com/.

But wait, there’s more! I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –  

Pack it Out from the Outback! How to Quarter Big Game Without Gutting It

By Mike Raether

It was a fair question to ask of someone entering their sixth decade of life.

“At your age, why do you still backpack in to your hunting areas and pack the meat out on your back?”

A fair question deserves a fair answer.

“Because I still can.”

Backpack hunting offers many rewards. The solitude, the greater abundance of game, and the increased chance of bagging a real trophy. But for me, one of the greatest rewards is the satisfaction of harvesting game in the back country and packing out the meat. To test myself against myself, and then sit down to a meal centered on wild game I packed out of the wilderness always makes me smile. But packing out big game from the outback can be hard work. To make it easier I quarter the critter, drop the pieces into game bags, side the bags into my backpack and walk out of the woods triumphant.

Quartering-1
Step 2

If this thought appeals to you, then you’ll want to learn how to quarter your prize. That’s what this article is all about. Step by step, here we go:

Step 1. You’ll be butchering your prize one side at a time. Starting at the base of the head, make a slit down the center of the back to the base of the tail and then skin the animal from the backbone down.

Quartering-2
Step 1

Step 2. Remove the legs from the “knee.” After you’re done, the first finished side will look like this.

Step 3. Standing or kneeling over the animal and

Step 3
Step 3

at the animal’s backbone (with its head to your left) remove the front shoulder by grasping the shank and bending it back toward you, progressively cutting the shoulder free by making slices toward the backbone, staying close to the rib cage (be careful!). Keep making slices towards the backbone and the shoulder will come free.

Step 4
Step 4

Step 4. Now it’s time for the rear quarter. Again standing or kneeling over the animal at the animal’s backbone (with the rump to your right) grasp the shank, pull it toward you, and carefully slice between the body and the inside of the hindquarter.

Step 5
Step 5

Step 5. Progressively cut deeper until you encounter the socket that attaches the hindquarter to the body. Work the tip of your knife into the socket to cut the cartilage that holds everything together to free the ball from the socket. Keep cutting to free the hindquarter from the carcass.

Step 6
Step 6

Step 6. The prized back strap comes next. Starting about where the neck joins the body, slide your knife along the backbone (as if filleting a fish) to the point where you removed the hindquarter.

Step 7
Step 7

Step 7. Returning to your first cut near the neck, now work the knife back towards the hindquarter by sliding it along the top of the rib cage with the point of the knife following the backbone. Lift the back strap free.

Step 8
Step 8

Step 8. Now comes the tricky part: removing the tenderloin. It lies on the inside of the body cavity up against the backbone, beginning just about where the rib cage ends and continuing back about 9” (on an average size deer) towards the rump. To remove it, make a careful slice just under the backbone and just at the end of the rib cage (if you’re not extra cautious here you’ll cut the paunch – yuk). Reach in with your hand, feel along the underside of the backbone and you’ll find the precious tenderloin. Holding down the paunch with one hand, use the fingers of your other hand to work the tenderloin free from the backbone (it lives up to its name – it’s very tender and will come loose with a little encouragement).

Step 9
Step 9

Step 9. Now flip the animal over and do the other side. Note the finished product: one animal, quartered and ready to slip into game bags and then into your pack! At this point you can slit the belly open and easily remove the heart and liver without going through the whole gutting process.

Slow Down and Live

By Mike Raether

Busyness is thief, a villain that saps our strength and robs us of life.

Although it’s true that a busy life is a purposeful life, we can get so busy with life that we forget to live. Especially if our lives include serving others in some way.

Copyright iStock_000010703250
Copyright iStock_000010703250

A few years ago, this got my attention like a flashing blue light in the rear view mirror. I was leading a small country church at the time. You’d think that shepherding a rural church would yield a relaxed lifestyle, but forget it. In a small church you wear a lot of hats. I was so busy running here and there that I rarely took time to slow down, rest up and simply live. I was flaming out fast, until the morning that I got up, looked at my schedule, and just about threw up. At that moment I seemed to hear the voice of God, “Come away to a lonely place by yourself and rest awhile.”

Me and My Old Hiking Buddy
Me and My Old Hiking Buddy

That did it. Although I felt a little guilty with so many places to be and so many people to see, I cleared my calendar, fired up my old pickup, let the dog jump in beside me and headed for the hills. We hiked up into two mountain lakes that day and I returned home physically exhausted, but mentally refreshed and spiritually rejuvenated. Ever since, I’ve made it a priority to set aside one day each week for personal renewal. Although this blots a valuable day off my schedule, I find I’m able to accomplish more and better work for others in the time that remains. And just as important, the quality of my own life has catapulted.

How about you? When was the last time you took some time for yourself? You might think it’s selfish. But I don’t care if you’re a busy mom, a dad, an executive, a teacher, a writer, a pastor, or a little league coach: if you don’t take time to fill the glass, you won’t have anything to pour out to refresh the lives of others.

The “to do” list will always have more on it than you can do. Dirty dishes will always pile up in the sink, work will always be there, and the lawn will always need mowing again. Forget about it for a while. Give yourself permission to slow down, rest up, and live.

So what is it that fills your tank? Go do it. Take a hike, read a book, watch a movie, take a nap, go to a ball game, whatever. How about a day off? As Dr. Laura Schlessinger would say, “Go do the right thing.” It’s the right thing for others, and it’s the right thing for you. Slow down, rest up, and LIVE.

But wait, there’s more! I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –  

Reminisce or Live?

By Mike Raether

Do you like to daydream? I caught myself daydreaming at my desk

Entrance to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, Washington State
Entrance to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, Washington State

recently, or rather, reminiscing on some past pleasures of my life. I smiled as I remembered when I had a boat, a 24’ cabin cruiser aboard which I spent many lovely days plying the protected bays and harbors of the San Juan Islands of Washington State. Ah! Those were the days! I thought to myself, missing the sea something awful now that I live hundreds of miles away in the mountains of Montana.

About that time an alarm went off in my head.

“Self,” I said to myself, “What are you doing living in the past?”

There is danger hidden in some memories. A memory can be an insidious enemy that drifts lightly into our minds, enchanting us like a feather floating on the wind, all the while robbing us of the present and the future. We can get so caught up in memories that we forget to live in the present, and sometimes even pass on the future. We can become like old men feeding pigeons in a park, mindlessly passing time until death draws a curtain over life.

I do cherish my memories, especially as I’m now in my sixth decade of life. I’ve been a lot of places, seen a lot of things, and done a lot of

Road to Somewhere
Road to Somewhere

stuff. I think I’ve lived well, and would have few regrets should I receive a bad report from my doctor. But I’ve come to realize that there’s a whole lot of livin’ left to be done. And life may have saved the best for last.

I write mostly to my older readers today, who like me are standing in the shadow of mortality. Far gone are the days of youth when I thought I was bullet-proof. My body howls at the things I demand of it. If I take a six-mile hike, I’ll pay for three days (although I’ll do it anyway). I used to survive on five or six hours of sleep a night and brag about it, but now eight hours of solid sleep is one of life’s great treasures. And so it’s tempting to fold my hands in rest, leave the mountains of life to the young bucks, and toss a few crumbs to the pigeons. Until the challenge of what yet may be serves up a better plate than that of stale, past pursuits. Until I think of what can be, what should be, what must be.

I’m reminded of those who accomplished great things in the Indian summer of life.

At 60, playwright and essayist George Bernard Shaw completed the play, Heartbreak House, thought of by many as his masterpiece.

At 70, Benjamin Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence.

At 80, British-American actress Jessica Tandy became the oldest person to receive an Oscar for her performance in Driving Miss Daisy.

In his 80s, the Biblical patriarch Caleb sought permission to make his home in the hill country of the Promised Land, where the enemy still held strongholds. “Perhaps God will be with me,” he said, “And I’ll drive them out.”

“Perhaps…” Perhaps is a good word. The 16th century French Renaissance writer Francois Rabelais once said, “I go to seek a great perhaps.”

What is your “great perhaps”? What would you attempt if “perhaps”? What would you try? Why not find out? Beats feeding pigeons in the park.

Grow old along with me!

The best is yet to be,

The last of life,

For which the first was made.

(Robert Browning).

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –