|Our families at Debbie's ranch|
We left Newberg on a Friday night at 7 p.m. and drove to Spokane, Washington, checking into our hotel around 1:30 on Saturday morning! We were back on the road by 7:30 a.m., tired but with God-given energy, strength and mostly good attitudes for the drive ahead.
Instead of going to Great Falls we arranged to meet Shane, his wife Quenby, and two of his three daughters (Maggie and Sydney) at a gas station in Ulm, Montana. My cousin Jon, who lives in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, just happened to be in Montana visiting his wife Laurie's family and they joined us for 24 hours of our adventure.
Technically Ulm is not even a town. According to Wikipedia, "Ulm is a census-designated place (CDP) in Cascade County, Montana. It was originally a large ranch owned by Indiana-born cattleman William Ulm. The population was 738 people at the 2010 census." Ulm is basically a few houses and one gas station/restaurant/casino combo just off the Interstate, about twelve miles from Great Falls.
Shane roared into the station with his big, 'ol white Ford pickup followed closely by my cousin Jon in his city slicker mini van. We landed squarely in the middle with our Sequoia and made quite the caravan heading out of the gas station.
From Ulm, Shane took us a good hour (probably more) into the country. The County Road we turned onto was a dirt road. There was a slight learning curve to following the vehicle in front of us. Follow too close and you could see nothing but swirling dust. Follow too far back and you lose sight of the car you're supposed to be following. We quickly learned to follow the dust cloud, not the car, down the road.
|follow the dust cloud|
|This was still on the County Road|
|The view from Debbie's homestead|
We stopped at Debbie's to say hi and use the bathroom. Her home is filled with animal mounts, including several giant mountain lions, all killed on her property. It was eye-opening to realize that lions, bears, elk, deer, rabbits, and who knows what else would be sharing the land around the cabin with us.
We piled nine children, two dogs, and tons of camping gear into the back of Shane's pickup truck, left Jon's mini-van in Debbie's driveway and caravanned to the cabin. The "road" from the ranch to the cabin requires four-wheel drive because we drove through a small creek, down a steep canyon, then out onto a vast plain where the cabin sits on a bluff above the Smith River. It took us thirty minutes to drive three miles.
|leaving Debbie's ranch|
|down into the canyon|
For the next 48 hours we soaked in what a Mighty Creator we serve. Every direction boasted a view prettier than the next. It was a total paradise. Shane is a bit sarcastic and often says after admiring the view, "It's like rubbing garbage in my eye."
|Shane and Curt taking a walk with Shane's dogs|
|Quenby doing dishes|
We split most of our day time between the swimming hole and tubing.
The swimming hole in front of the cabin is deep with a slight current but the water had warmed up nicely so it wasn't too cold. A cave was on the other side of the river that the kids had a blast swimming over to and exploring. Shane and Curt hung a rope ladder from the top of the cliff for the kids to climb up and jump off the cliff into the water.
|Grant jumping off the cliff|
We accessed our Putting In Point via a similar "road" that junctioned off the field by the cabin. It went up a mountain and down the other side on a single track with hairpin turns, steep drop offs, and big rocks mixed in with the gravel that we had to drive over. There was no room for error and our kids were all in the back of Shane's pickup. GAH!!!! It was the scariest road I've ever been on.
Shane's philosophy? "Someone made this road which means they drive it. If they drive it, I can too. And I figure if I make a mistake and we go over the edge, we'll all die quick and happy." So reassuring...
|Looking down the road from the top of the mountain|
|Driving UP the road|
When we finished tubing we had to retrieve Shane's truck. Shane and I ran-walked to the top of the mountain, ran down the other side, and drove his truck back to the cabin. Thank you Jesus for protection!
|I love my brother!|
Restorative, real rest where we let our bodies, minds and spirits slow down.
Breathe in. And out.
Open our eyes to look around us and actually see the beauty around us.
That's what this time in Montana did for our family.
We sat on the river's edge and watched our children play with their cousins. Skip rocks. Jump off cliffs into the water below. Catch crayfish. Chase butterflies. Throw their heads back and belly laugh
|Late evening sun painting the cliffs|