For whatever reason, I’ve always been terrified of spiders. There are exceptions, (I’ll let a tarantula crawl all over my arm,) but for the most part, I avoid them like the plague.

I recently drove my mom and I to a little mini family reunion, and was reminded of the fact that when I was in college and living at home, she would have to remove the occasional arachnid from the shower before I would even set foot in the bathroom. I’m not proud. But the bathtub spiders were HUGE.

When I lived in Portland, I was constantly dodging giant house spiders. Seriously, they were everywhere. I even found a particularly giant one on my bed one afternoon. Almost had to burn the entire house down. So I had a dilemma: to kill or not to kill. I love animals, so I generally won’t kill them without a good reason (like they’re a tasty animal and I plan on eating them.) I came up with a rule for spiders. If they were either outside, or in a generally unused part of the house, I’d let them be. But if they were in my bed, or in my kitchen, or any other inside area I frequented, they had to die.

A couple of weeks ago I was working in the garage and noticed a creepy looking critter trying to hang out just inside. I recognized it from the old fake images from Iraq I saw years ago. It was a relatively small camel spider, which isn’t even a spider. They aren’t venomous, but they have crab-claw-looking pincers on their faces. It was even kind of cute in a nightmare-inducing kind of way. Apparently they like the shade, and this one was hanging out just inside the shade line in the garage. It wasn’t bothering anybody, so I let it be.

Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve seen a single spider in the house since I moved back to Montana. Actually, I had more wildlife in and around my house in Portland than I have here. It’s odd. At any rate, I’m getting used to seeing spiders in the garage.

At the end of last summer, when I brought the boat in for the winter, I inadvertently brought a hornet’s nest in with it. There was a large crab spider type thing in the garage window then, and it massacred every hornet that headed for the window in an attempt to escape the garage. I liked that spider.

This summer, there’s a new resident in the garage window. I glanced over at the window last week and saw her, just hanging out. I thought she looked familiar, so I got closer. Sure enough, there was a red hourglass on the underside of her belly. I’d seen a black widow a decade or two before, but this is the first one that didn’t run and hide immediately.

Since the first sighting, I’ve been keeping an eye on her. She’s a busy girl. She murders every single bug that gets caught up in her web. There are no hornets left in the garage, but plenty of other pesky things, so I like her too.

I’m really just hoping she doesn’t have babies in the window. How do you ask a black widow to go outside to procreate?

A Drive to American Bar

When my dad suggested driving out to American Bar for Father’s Day this year, I was all for it. I’m always down to check out a new bar. What I didn’t realize is that American Bar he was referring to isn’t a bar at all. It’s a sub-development on the eastern shore of Upper Holter Lake.

By boat, it’s a leisurely cruise up the Missouri from Holter Lake. By car, it’s a 2-hour jaunt over some less-than-ideal dirt roads. We stopped at the York Bar for lunch–if you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend it. The burgers were good, and the atmosphere is great.

We got there a little before they opened, but the local birds were entertaining enough to watch while we waited.

The sub-development itself is great. My only issue with it is access. Rain would turn the road into a shit-show, and snow would make it incredibly difficult to get there. Just across Upper Holter Lake is the Gates of the Mountains Marina, but the docks are private. I’m not sure if they’d let you lease a spot to make it easier to get to your property.

Even with the questionable roads, the drive was relaxing, and a great way to spend Father’s Day with my dad.


One thing I love about summer is the early sunrises. I tend to wake up whenever sunlight starts streaming through my window, so in the summer I tend to wake up early. The older I get, the more I enjoy waking up early.

The other day, I woke up at 5:45 am. Wide awake. No point in even trying to go back to bed, so I grabbed my camera and hopped in the truck. The plan was to just grab a few shots on the way to my friend’s awesome new coffee shop in Great Falls, but I got sidetracked on the way there.

There’s a road that heads west out of Ulm. It’s marked with a dead end sign, so I’ve never driven it. Square Butte happened to catch my eye, and that dead-end road was headed in the right direction, so I decided to check it out. It didn’t quite do what I’d hoped it would do for the Square Butte photo (never rose up high enough to see the full butte,) but it was good enough.

Square Butte in the morning light.

The sky was just cloudy enough to keep the light interesting, and I found some areas I need to explore further later this summer. Definitely worth the drive.

I was on my way to the coffee shop by 7 am with a camera full of photos. I can’t think of a better way to start a day.

Delicious coffee at Broadwater Coffee Brewing