Copper Creek

My buddy Chad and I have been camping off and on since I moved back to Montana. He lives in Western Montana, I live in Central Montana. He likes camping in the mountains, I like camping in the high desert/prairie. So we trade off. Copper Creek, (the one by Georgetown Lake, not Lincoln,) is one of his favorite spots, so one day last August I loaded up the camper and headed West to camp with Chad and his family.

Rewind

Let’s go back to 2018 first. I didn’t have a camper, but the dog and I were content to sleep in the back of the truck (under the topper.)

We met Chad at East Fork Reservoir and set up the truck. It was pouring rain, but I set the tarp up off the back of the truck and borrowed Chad’s Mr. Buddy heater. Long story short, it was cold and wet, and the dog and I ended up spending the second night in Chad’s camper. Which is actually one of the main reasons I ended up buying a camper. I guess I’m admitting that I’m too damn old to sleep in the back of my truck.

At any rate, we took a drive up to Copper Creek so he could show me where he usually camps. His spot was already taken, (which was why we were camping at East Fork,) but I quickly realized why it was his favorite place to camp. Awesome open areas bordering a small creek, dispersed camping so no nearby neighbors, great scenery. Burn scars from a relatively recent forest fire swept through parts of the landscape. It was fascinating to me that one tree could be burnt to a crisp, but another tree ten feet away was just fine.

The rain poured all weekend, but I promised I’d come back to camp the following summer.

Back to 2019

A few days before I was scheduled to leave for Copper Creek, an old high school girlfriend called to say that she was taking her kids on a road trip in her RV. Based on her route, it looked like our paths would cross right around Deer Lodge, so we planned to grab lunch. Plans didn’t quite work out perfectly, so we ended up meeting in Drummond, instead.

After lunch at the Rough Stock Saloon, (great place, by the way,) her kids asked if they could do some camping, so the whole crew caravanned to the Copper Creek camping spot with me. We met up with Chad and his family–not at the spot he had shown me the year before because it was occupied–but at an equally awesome spot just down stream.

That night was full of campfires, s’mores, stories and a wickedly awesome full moon.

The next morning, our camp guests left, so Chad and I decided to do some exploring. We ran into Philipsburg to grab some dinner and check out the brewery. Dinner was at Bricks Pizzeria and Pub, and we weren’t overly impressed. Everyone was friendly and the food was good, but it was slow. So slow, in fact, that after watching his drink sit on the bar for 10 minutes, Chad finally walked over from our table to grab it himself. The brewery was awesome. I grabbed a growler of something or other, and we headed back to camp. We toyed with the idea of coming back for some kind of festival that was going on that night, but decided we’d just end up getting ourselves in trouble.

Back even further

Way back when–I’d say back when I was in my 20s–my best friend’s parents owned a gallery in Philipsburg. I only visited once or twice, but I’ve heard stories. So many stories of shenanigans that went on in that little town. If I remember correctly, there were two bars, and I’m pretty sure my buddy managed to get temporarily kicked out of both of them. Good times. It’s an awesome little town.

Back to 2019, again

The small creek by our campsite was full of tiny brook trout, so we spent a little time fly fishing it. We must’ve caught and released 20 or more fish in one morning. Hoping to catch something more substantial, we drove over to Moose Lake to see what we could catch on worms. The short answer? Nothing. And it didn’t matter. Just getting out of town to sit by a lake for a bit was rewarding enough. (That’s something people tell themselves when they don’t catch fish.)

The rest of the weekend was spent exploring, fishing, and target shooting. The dogs wore each other out on a daily basis, and the camp cooking was delicious.

And the wrap up

Copper Creek, (again, the one by Georgetown Lake, not Lincoln,) is an awesome place to spend some time. Plenty of dispersed camp sites, and an actual campground if that’s more your style. Moose Lake would be great to paddle around on in a canoe, but it’s surrounded by private residences, so it’s not the idyllic beauty I’d prefer to see in the mountains. Philipsburg is the closest town, so you can pick up groceries, fill a growler with local beer, or grab some gas. Get there early, as there are no reserved camping spots. Keep your fires in the fire pits, and make damn sure they’re out before you leave.


Places and things mentioned in this post

Copper Creek Campground
Bricks PIzzeria and Pub
Philipsburg Brewing
Rough Stock Saloon

Lake Alva

I have one of those dogs that is terrified of fireworks. Every year, I drug the poor guy and hope for the best.

This year, we decided to go somewhere without fireworks.

Lake Alva is just a bit north of Seeley Lake. There’s a great fireworks display in Seeley, but Alva is far enough away to escape the sound. I met a few friends there, and proceeded to relax.

Diego got carsick for the first 3 years of his life. He eventually learned to relax in the car and seems to actually enjoy going for rides now. I wasn’t sure how he’d do in a boat. He doesn’t swim. If I throw a stick too far into the lake, he’ll just stare at me and wait for me to fetch it myself.

But he did great in the boat. Didn’t even seem to phase him.

I’ve reached that age where it takes too long to recover from sleeping in a tent. I picked up a camper last winter, and am not ashamed to admit I enjoy having some of the comforts of home. It actually is like sleeping at home, but I get to wake up with a better view.

My step-brother has a little country store/gas station in Swan Lake, so I took a drive up there to see him on the 4th. If you’re ever up that way, swing by O’Connell’s Qwik Stop. Tell ‘em Daniel sent you. And get a pizza. Seriously—that shit was delicious. The crust and sauce is home made. It was better than Howard’s.

On the 5th, I decided to put the drone up to see what I could see. Of course, everything I saw was amazing. It really is surreal knowing I live in a state this incredible.

It was a great weekend with old friends, and some new ones. Diego did great on the boat, and with the kids.

The only glitch in the get-away-from-loud-noises-for-the-4th plan was that we got home just in time for a huge thunderstorm and a late celebration by the neighbors. So Diego ended up getting drugged anyway.

Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild

When I was a kid, my sister and I would take the Greyhound bus between Missoula and Great Falls. We started out sitting in the front seat so the bus driver could keep an eye on us, but as we got older, we moved further and further back in the bus.

On one trip, there was a bunch of older kids sitting in the last row, so I sat with them. The memory is a bit fuzzy, but I do remember someone having Jack Daniels, so I tried it. Back in those days, you could still smoke in the last few rows of the bus, so that trip consisted of smoking Marlboros and taking sips of whiskey. I learned a lot on those bus trips.

The halfway point between Missoula and Great Falls is Lincoln. The bus stopped at the gas station to pick up new passengers, and let the rest of us off to stretch our legs. If we had a little cash, my sister and I would go in and get a candy bar or something to drink, always mindful of the time. We didn’t want the bus to leave without us.

Up until two weekends ago, that’s all Lincoln was to me–a stop between Missoula and Great Falls. I’ve driven that route a thousand times, but recently I’ve been noticing a sign on the side of the highway just east of Lincoln: Blackfoot Pathways. I looked it up online, and decided I need to stop on one of my trips to check it out.

For various reasons, that never happened. I was either in a hurry, or didn’t think about it until I had passed the turnoff. But the other weekend, friends invited me to their cabin near Lincoln. So it was the perfect time to check it out.

It’s surreal. A sculpture exhibit in (what feels like) the middle of the nowhere. The sculptures themselves are amazing. Made of wood and metal and other media native to the area. There are information boards near each sculpture that tells you a little about the artist and the art. I highly recommend going in the winter when there’s snow on the ground. Granted, I haven’t seen it in the summer yet, (it’s on the list for this summer,) but it’s extremely cool covered in snow.

More information about Sculpture in the Wild

Since I’m planning on going back, I created a project page for this location. All current and future photos can be viewed at the link below.

Conflux Brewing

Mom and I had a mission to visit every brewery in the Missoula area. Yeah, I know–it’s not as lofty a goal as visiting every brewery in Portland, but it was a goal. It’s important to have goals.

We’re going to need new goals now.

Conflux was the last on the list, and it didn’t disappoint. The lamb burger was amazing. So amazing, in fact, that I don’t remember what Mom ordered.

The Chili Nelson was an interesting beer. I didn’t taste any heat, but definitely got the pepper flavor. It was mild–not like the slap-you-in-the-face-and-take-your-dignity effect I’ve encountered in other chili beers. I’m a fan.

The building itself is awesome. I can’t wait to come back in the summer to sit on one of the patios. Service was good, people were friendly, and we left full and happy. What more can you ask for?

We grabbed two crowlers on our way out: a Velvet Danger Hazelnut Brown, and a Two Shots in the Dark Java Stout. The Velvet Danger didn’t wow us. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t memorable. No hint of hazelnut in the flavor at all. The Two Shots was outstanding. Awesome coffee flavor. I’ll definitely order that one again.

Lolo Peak Brewery

The Missoula area is full of good food and beer. Lolo Peak Brewery is about 7 miles southwest of Missoula in Lolo. It’s worth the quick drive to try the food and beer.

Mom and I were visiting friends in Lolo, so we decided to grab lunch at the brewery. She ordered the wheat, and I grabbed a porter. Both were outstanding. I’m always on the search for the perfect burger, and Lolo Peak has a buffalo burger. I went for that, and Mom ordered the Mediterranean Lamb Naan. The burger was outstanding, and Mom loved the lamb naan. The shoestring fries were the star, though.

The service was great, and overall it was a great experience. We’ll definitely be back.

Oh–they fill growlers, too.