A Pack Trip in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness: Part Three

I’m just going to say it: spending a week in the backcountry of Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness was a memory I’m never going to forget. But before I get too sappy, let’s pick up where we left off from parts one and two of this trip.

Day six was our last official day in camp and while most of the group opted to do a horseback trail ride to the Flathead River, I decided to stay at camp and go fishing with Bill—another guest on the trip. And while we had a great time fishing the purest water I’ve ever seen, it was the experience of fishing at this particular place that made it such a wonderful day.

Our fishing hole on White River.

Our fishing hole on White River.

You see, my mama and my grandpa (as well as my grandma and aunts and uncles) used to come into the Bob Marshall Wilderness every summer for their family vacation. The best part: they fished this exact fishing hole on White River.

No filter or editing; the water really is this color.

No filter or editing; the water really is this color.

And while my grandpa has been gone for a few years now (and I still miss him every day), it was so special to know that both my grandpa and my mom had spent time casting their own fishing lines in this spot. Sidenote: this was a memory my mama shared with me after I came out of the Bob. Looking back on that day, I spent quite a bit of time just sitting on the shore of White River and trying to soak up every moment. Now it makes sense to me why I was so drawn to that particular location; being in the same place my mom and grandpa had been decades before turned that Montana memory into something that I can only describe as part magic and completely special.

I'm certain that I'll love this place forever.

I’m certain that I’ll love this place forever.

Fishing will Bill, another sweet (and funny) grandpa.

Fishing will Bill, another sweet (and funny) grandpa.

Patiently waiting.

Patiently waiting.

I love a feisty fish.

I love a feisty fish.

Pretty little trout.

Pretty little trout.

The little fly that landed the fish.

The little fly that landed the fish.

After a few hours on the river, we headed back to camp to meet up with the rest of our crew. At dinner on our last night, we sat around eating ribeye steak (which was THE best steak I’ve ever had) and sharing highlights from our trip. Our group shared moments that included Amy’s cooking, the views from the Chinese Wall and making the ride to Gladiator. When it was time for my turn, I teared up…and not because I was sad, but because a trip like this isn’t something that can easily be put into words. To sum it up, it was one of the most impactful trips I’ve ever taken. We all went to bed that night knowing that we had all shared an experience that would stay with us forever.

On the last day, we awoke early and prepared to hit the 24-mile-long trail to Benchmark.

This is how light it was at 5:38 a.m. in the mountains.

This is how light it was at 5:38 a.m. in the mountains.

By 9 a.m., we were climbing up the Continental Divide toward White River Pass.

By 9 a.m., we were climbing up the Continental Divide toward White River Pass.

Looking west.

Looking west.

Giving the horses a rest on top of the pass.

Giving the horses a rest on top of the pass is always a good idea, especially with this view.

Standing at a place that's frozen in time.

Standing at a place that’s frozen in time.

Cementing this view in my mind.

Cementing this moment in my mind.

Giving Popeye a well-deserved break from carrying my booty up the mountain.

Giving Popeye a well-deserved break from carrying my booty up the mountain.

We walked a few miles down from White River Pass along creeks and through forests before mounting our horses to ride the rest of the way to our lunch stop. While we were taking a break, the two pack strings caught up with us. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: those mules can move.

Tucker and his pack string.

Tucker and his pack string.

Crossing the creek, with a stop to let the mules drink.

Crossing the creek, with a stop to let the mules drink.

Turk and his string.

Turk and his string.

A well-behaved mule string is a beautiful thing.

A well-behaved mule string is a beautiful thing.

Riding back through an old forest fire. As we made our way through this burnt forest, a wind howled through the trees creating one of the eeriest sounds I've ever heard.

Riding back through an old forest fire.

As we made our way through this burnt forest, a wind howled through the trees creating one of the eeriest sounds I've ever heard.

As we made our way through this burnt forest, a wind howled through the trees creating one of the eeriest sounds I’ve ever heard.

Getting closer! At this point, we were about 2 hours away from the trailhead and our rear ends were feeling it.

Getting closer! At this point, we were about 2.5 hours away from the trailhead and our rear ends were feeling it.

Officially leaving The Bob.

Officially leaving The Bob.

Just a girl and her horse.

Just a girl, her horse and their shadows.

We were met at the trailhead by Bryar and Amy's folks: Mark and Renee.

We were met at the trailhead by Bryar (Amy and Tucker’s oldest son) and cool drinks.

For fun (and to help me remember the trip and be able to share this off-the-grid Montana experience with you), I created a little video. Take a look…

A few things to keep in mind if you’d like to take a pack trip into one of Montana’s most beautiful places, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex:
-Go with an experienced outfitter. Mills Wilderness Adventures has more than 100 years of experience packing into The Bob and it shows in how they handle their stock, welcome their guests and act as true stewards of the land. Other recommended outfitters can be found here.
-Book your trip in advance. If you want to take a pack trip in summer 2017, start researching the area and outfitter you’d like to go with now.
-You don’t have to be an avid horseback rider to take a pack trip. If you’re not, your booty will be sore (especially on day one and day seven) but riding that far is manageable. Don’t let the distance scare you.
-If you book a trip with Amy and Tucker Mills, get ready for some of the best storytelling you’ll ever hear. While Tucker has a quiet demeanor, he is one of the best storytellers in the area.
-If you plan on using your cell phone as your camera, bring a portable or solar charger.
-For packing, be sure to bring a button-down shirt (or two); hiking boots (don’t forget these at home – I was SO glad I had cowboy boots and hiking boots); and riding gloves (to help keep your hands a bit clean during long rides).

As for me, this trip was special because it’s a memory that could only be made in Montana. And that’s something I’ll be grateful for forever.

xo,
TT

One thought on “A Pack Trip in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness: Part Three

  1. Danny

    A good friend & I spent two months in 1978, starting at a place called Alice Creek, East of Missoula, rode into the Bob Marshall,stayed in Pretty Prairie for three days, Gibson Resovoir, upover Scapegoat Wilderness, down to See my Lake on the 4th of July, paid a Gentleman to haul our horses and us & belongings down outside of Darby, where we headed up over Tin cup Pass to the Salmon River, to Riggins,Ida. The Bob was some of the most beautiful country!!! Little over 400 miles. Some of it seems like only yesterday!!! Met some Really nice people & two jerks from the Forest Service out of Agusta, leaving a C.G. horse got away with my pistol strapped thru the saddle, it was gone when we caught up to them!!! Hopefully Karma made things right!

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