Hare Mountain Hike-In and a Cathedral Walk

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Some of those who hiked in enjoying food and fellowship

On Saturday, November 2, about thirty hikers enjoyed a potluck dinner and visited around the campfire, continuing the traditional annual Hare Mountain Hike-In to the high point of the Ozark Highlands Trail. It never fails that I meet new hikers and enjoy catching up with old trail friends, too.

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When I arrived, someone pointed out the walking stick on my walking stick. Just had to catch a photo of this little friend before moving him back to the leaves.

Some of my trail friends are aware of my obsession with spoons.  As I walked up Hare Mountain from Morgan Fields Trailhead, I noticed a spoon in the middle of the trail. It reminded me of the one Bob found for me at Lynn Hollow (on the right in the picture below).

Spoons

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The lost spoon

I picked up what I thought was probably someone’s serving spoon intended for the potluck later that evening. After arriving at the top of the mountain and visiting for a minute, I remembered the spoon and pulled it out, asking if anyone was missing a spoon. Norma was excited to see it and said it went with her casserole.

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Norma with her found spoon

Miles won the heaviest dish award with his dutch oven cooking. The smell was amazing, and from all reports, his results were top notch.

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Each year we’re seeing more young people coming up for the meal and camping for the night. Spread the word to watch for next year’s Hike-In about this same time. Sharing our love for the trail and our volunteer efforts was an encouragement to everyone. A few funny trail stories always crop up around the campfire. The group made a toast to several elder hiker friends who have passed on during the past few years.

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One of many views from the OHT on Hare Mountain

After dinner, I walked back down to Morgan Fields Trailhead and slept in my truck camper with Hiker-dog. Temperatures were in the upper 20s Sunday morning, perfect for hitting the trail!

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Hiker-dog on Dawna Robinson Spur Trail

Hiker-dog was excited to do an early morning walk on the Dawna Robinson Spur Trail. We paused to check on the memorial marker by headlamp early in the walk. The Ozark Highlands Trail Association (OHTA) purchased the marker, and Bob Robinson installed it in 2012 after OHTA volunteers completed the trail. The marker is as beautiful today as the day it was put in place.

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Indian Creek Spur Trail In memory of Dawna Robinson

Toward the end of our hike, we paused at a favorite bluff.

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Once back at the trailhead, we walked down to the Mulberry River where frost flowers lined the shore. They’re a special little treat for those who rise early on cold mornings in the Ozarks.

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One of many frost flowers next to the Mulberry River

Because of our early start, we easily drove back home in time to get to church where I play drums during the music service. Playing drums and regular time on the trails helps alleviate my squirminess in the pew. As I drove, I thought of the beautiful cathedral I’d already visited during the early morning on the trail.

Hiker-dog, trail volunteer and nighttime guide

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On November 9, there will be trail run across my adopted section of the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT), and it had been a while since I walked it. Because of schedules, I had to check it during the evening. I didn’t realize that I’d be adding to my list of positive Hiker-dog attributes – more on that in a moment.

Water was flowing from recent rains, and colors were beginning to change. Temperatures began in the lower 40s and dipped into the upper 30s by the time I finished. Woohoo! It finally feels like fall!

Stihl handsawI stopped and used my small handsaw on a few limbs and trees across the trail. Love that little saw and am amazed at what it will cut. My task on this evening was to look for trees that might need to be cut out by an expert sawyer, so I stopped to set GPS waypoints and make quick notes where future cuts might be required.

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I had to pause at creek crossings for a photo but only spent a few seconds at each. My adopted section runs along the ridge on the north side of  Jack Creek. It crosses several seasonal streams that flow into Jack Creek, and each one is worthy of a lunch break when water is flowing.

By the time we reached the camp spot about 4 miles from Dochery Gap, Jack Creek was powerful, having picked up steam from all those little streams I’d been crossing.

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Jack Creek

After giving Hiker-dog a snack, we headed back toward the truck, four miles away. I stuck my headlamp in my top pocket for later.

IMG_8802rrHiker-dog provided lots of entertainment on the dark portion of our hike. Two reflective eyes kept popping up out ahead of me as she turned to be sure I was following. These eyes helped me stay on the trail a couple of times, especially when I crossed a creek and then wasn’t sure which way the path went afterward. Sure enough, eyes could be seen staring at me as if wondering what I was waiting for. I took note that any future hikes after dark should include Hiker-dog and she added to her list of positive attributes as a trail partner.

If you love the OHT, consider volunteering or adopting a section to do light maintenance and monitor. It’s a great way to contribute to keeping the trail open, and it’s fun! Visit Ozark Highlands Trail Association website under “Maintenance” to learn more.

If you’d like to meet some nice folks, join us for the Hare Mountain Hike-in, a fall tradition that dates back to the 1980s.


HARE MOUNTAIN! NOVEMBER 2-3, 2019 “CELEBRATE THE OHT”. Hike in anytime Saturday from Morgan Field (shorter, but steeper) or from Cherry Bend TH. It’s pot luck, so bring something to share with your fellow hikers. Bring your kids or grandkids. Enjoy the campfire and camp for the night. Or hike back down Saturday after eating. Most people camp and hike out Sunday. Bring water. For more information call Bob or Dana 479-595-5461 or 479-263-7479. DON’T MISS THIS TRADITIONAL HIKE-IN CAMPOUT ON THE TRAIL’S HIGHEST POINT!

 

 

Trail Maintenance Cure

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Todd found a nice spot for a break.

I was feeling under the weather but still wanted to take part in a trail maintenance base camp sponsored by the Ozark Highlands Trail Association. I was tempted to cancel but knew my body needed to be outside. What I didn’t realize was that the combination of trail work, fellowship with some good folks, and sleeping in the night air of the Ozarks would be the cure I needed. By the end of the trip, I was feeling much better.

We worked on the Buffalo River Trail section of the Ozark Highlands Trail. I last hiked this section of trail in January of 2014, so it was a treat to see again and brought back memories of the starving black dog that followed us for 42 miles before arriving at Tyler Bend. As I walked this section in 2014, I avoided becoming attached to that dog because I doubted that she would survive. She did survive and became a great trail friend and training partner.

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Hiker-dog on the Ozark Highlands Trail

To read Hiker-dog’s story: Walk, Eat, Sleep, Repeat – Hiking the OHT and A New Trail Partner

Gear Obsession: Spoons

Spoons

Several years ago, I was on the Ozark Highlands Trail and damaged my plastic spoon while cooking (similar to #4 above). It still worked but the melted part caught my teeth with every bite. The next evening we made camp at Lynn Hollow close to Arbaugh Trailhead. A trail buddy, Bob, noticed something shiny sticking out of the sand next to the creek. There was a metal spoon that accompanied me the remainder of the trip (#6 above). I retired it after that trip due to its weight (1.5 oz.), but I’ve kept it as a souvenir from that trip. This “spoon story” crept into “The Trails Provide,” in Do South Magazine. 

I failed to pack a spoon once when I was on Arkansas’ Ouachita Trail. I managed to drink soup the first night out and used a stick to stir while cooking. On the next day, I stopped at a shelter on the trail and opened the storage box intending to read a few journal entries while taking a break. There sat a Wendy’s Restaurant spoon (.1 oz.) still in its plastic wrap. I used that spoon for several trips (similar to #1 above).

Because of these experiences, I’ve developed an obsession with spoons. I recently found a bamboo spoon and was fascinated with its lightweight and good natural feel. Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold much and will probably not come into regular use. The titanium spoon (#5), a gift from my wife, is my main spoon but, for some reason, I always like to carry a backup.

If you have a gear obsession, I’d like to hear about it.

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Creek crossing on Missouri’s Ozark Trail

To read more about packing, check out How to Prepare for Multi-Day Backpacking Trips.

The Trails Provide, Published in Do South Magazine

Here’s a link to the story I wrote for Do South Magazine, one of my favorite regional magazines. Thanks for reading!

 

THE TRAILS PROVIDE

WORDS AND IMAGES: JIM WARNOCK

Published in Do South Magazine September, 2019

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“Oh my!” Kathy yelled with a panicked crack in her voice. Scott and Kathy were part of a group at mile sixty-four of the Ozark Highlands Trail when the unthinkable happened. The left sole of Kathy’s shoe came apart, bringing her to an abrupt halt. We huddled around like paramedics taping a wound…..

Read More

Walking with a thankful heart and a few lyrics in my head

IMG_0566rrThis morning I walked with a thankful heart, a heart pumping blood through an aortic artery repaired by Denton Cooley when I was 16. At about the same time as that surgery, I read an article about the poetic elements in Sweet Baby James, by James Taylor.

The song stuck with me and has helped me walk many miles. I sing it softly to avoid disturbing the wildlife or personal embarrassment if another hiker approaches. The words never grow old and, in some ways, become more meaningful with time.

Here’s an excerpt.

Now the first of December was covered with snow
And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston
Though the Berkshires seemed dreamlike on account of that frosting
With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go

Goodnight all you moonlight ladies 
Rock-a-bye sweet baby James 
Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose
Won’t you let me go down in my dreams

There’s a song that they sing when they take to the highway
There’s a song that they sing when they take to the sea
There’s a song that they sing of their home in the sky
Maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep,
But singing works just fine for me

Whole Life Challenge Interview

Whole Life Challenge Emily Beers article

Emily Beers wrote a story based on our phone interview to share some the my lessons learned while doing Whole Life Challenge (WLC). WLC isn’t a diet plan but a customizable focus on seven important areas that helped you naturally change habits for positive impact.

Excerpt from the article by Emily Beers:

Despite these new habits being integrated into his life, Jim said he will continue signing up for Challenges, as it’s a great way to reinforce those habits and solidify them even further.

“It’s a good reminder. Even though those 7 Daily Habits [the Challenge teaches] are ingrained in my mind, doing the Challenge helps me stay in balance and pursue good health so I don’t get out of whack,” he said. “Like if I start losing motivation and I don’t want to exercise, being on the Challenge motivates me just enough to push me over the edge to work out.”

To read the article go to this link: Whole Life Challenge Allows Me to Remember What’s Important.

A recent lesson learned is that it’s good for me to sign up for a Whole Life Challenge in advance. Ever since I signed up for the September challenge, I’m more mindful of the habits I need for this challenge. I’m making better decisions simply because I know the challenge is coming up in the future.

Rocky Mountain High Part 3: Estes Park, Colorado

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Big Thompson River

Highway 34 roughly follows the Big Thompson River from Fort Collins to Estes Park. We enjoyed this beautiful drive and finally found a nice spot to pull off next to the river. I wanted to go wading but remembered the power of rivers whose source is snowmelt from surrounding mountains. I reconsidered and decided it would be embarrassing to be washed away by a river I didn’t even need to cross.

Estes Park is always a busy place in the summer. We wanted to explore downtown, but finding a parking spot would be challenging. We decided to pick up a few snacks at a grocery store and didn’t feel guilty walking to town when we left the store.

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We’re naturally attracted to independent stores, so Macdonald Bookshop was a treat. It opened in the Macdonald’s living room in 1928 and was operated by Jessica Macdonald until 1957. Paula Steige, a third-generation Macdonald, is the current owner.

IMG_5037rrI wanted to revisit a restaurant I’d enjoyed from a previous backpacking trip, so we stopped into Poppy’s Pizza & Grill for a light lunch. It was so good, we returned for dinner.

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One of our favorite stores carried custom games and puzzles. The owner was very entertaining, and his wife was a teacher like us, so we had some interesting conversations.

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Clouds lifted from the night before to open up views from far below.

We made two drives with some day hiking into Rocky Mountain National Park. Trail Ridge Road is a drive best done in the morning before the threat of thunderstorms becomes an issue. Both trips through were beautiful. On the second morning out, we were surprised that temperatures dipped down to 24 degrees.

IMG_5088rrWe noticed this Steller’s Jay on a stop early in the drive while still at lower elevations. We kept scanning the scenes for wildlife, but the only elk we saw were in downtown Estes Park.

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Trail Ridge Road at lower elevations

Amazing what a few hundred feet can mean! We enjoyed driving up through changing habitats and then above the tree line where snow was slowly melting.

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The Alpine Visitor Center (elevation 11,796 feet) was still closed when we were there in early July. Becca was a good sport and posed in front of the snowdrift showing part of the roof, reinforced with large timbers to withstand the high elevation conditions.

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This was a favorite photo taken close to Trail Ridge Road as we returned from an overlook and short visit with marmots. These little guys are built for the winter conditions. Don’t leave your pack sitting around unattended though. I’ve seen them make off with trail snacks. They’re bold.

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Our new marmot friend posing

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IMG_5281rrAfter a stop at the Continental divide, we descended into the Grand Lake area. It’s usually less crowded than Estes Park. The Visitor Center with its hiking trail is a great stop. I was pleased to see a Menasha Ridge Press guidebook and added a copy to my collection for future planning. Kim Lipker is a prolific author, and this is a great little book.

One of the great benefits from authoring Five Star Trails: The Ozarks has been making contact with other authors. Great resources for future travels!

We enjoyed the trail that begins at the Grand Lake Visitors Center parking lot. I’m pretty sure this is where Becca made the unauthorized collection of wildlife. I teased her about the importance of leaving things in the woods, especially when visiting a national park. She was pleased when I removed the Rocky Mountain Tick, her souvenir from our hike. It’s important to remove ticks as early as possible in case they’re carrying any tickborne diseases. Reading the list of possibilities will give you the heebie-jeebies.

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On this trip out west, we repeatedly felt the desire to explore more deeply and spend more time in every location. One of the best indicators of the value of a trip is if it leaves you wanting more. This trip definitely did that for us. We’ll be back!

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To read the earlier portions of our trip:
Rocky Mountain High Part 1: Mount Rushmore
Rocky Mountain High Part 2: Bozeman, Montana

Morgan Mountain Quick Trip: Beauty and a Leave No Trace Reminder

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Beginning

Hiker-dog and I needed a camping trip, something quick and close. We drove 40 miles and parked at Morgan Fields Trailhead as the sun was dropping low on Friday evening. We hiked the Ozark Highlands Trail west up Hare Mountain. After pausing at the campsite on top of the mountain, we started back down the mountain with memories of the many friends who’ve gathered around that fire ring each October over the years. 

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The view at mile 1 up Hare Mountain

Since the trail was dry, I gave Hiker-dog some water in my palm, and she licked it dry. It was easier going downhill and cooler, too. I knew to expect some downed trees and noted locations so the Ozark Highlands Trail Association chainsaw pros can cut them out before the October Hare Mountain Hike-In. A lot of maintenance happens in September in preparation for backpacker traffic through the fall, winter, and spring. If you hike in the summer, what we consider the off-season, expect more vegetation and a few downed trees. 

Lightening bugs sparkled and danced through the air. Hiker-dog got excited when she saw a trail sign in the distance. Before I got to the road, she was down the trail wanting to keep going. I said, “This way,” and she returned to the road. 

On the short road walk back to the truck, I turned off my headlamp thinking I’d walk in the dark. There wasn’t a moon yet, and after a few moments of pitch-black walking, I realize the light was necessary. When we arrived back at the truck, I looked up at a light-pollution-free star-filled sky.

After I popped up the camper top, Hiker-dog surprised me by jumping in. She curled up on the floor and sent me a side glance that said, “I’ll just sleep here for the night.” She was easy to coax into her crate at the door and was silent for the night as usual.

After checking for ticks, and finding a few still crawling, I began to think about the next day’s schedule. It was pretty simple. Rise early, do an out-and-back east to Herrods Creek, then get a turkey sandwich at Turner Bend Store.  

Night temperatures dipped into the mid-sixties. The 12-volt roof fan pulled cool air across the sleeping mats, so I slept well and even turned the fan off around midnight.

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Hiker-dog’s crate made a nice camp table.

We woke early and, after coffee and tasty breakfast, hit the trail by 6:00.

Anyone who’s hiked during the summer knows the pleasure that spiderwebs add to the experience. Several years ago, I started adopting a more zen-like view of spiderwebs and letting them wrap across my face with less frustration. I had plenty of “zen-like” practice on this hike. 

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Cool morning temperatures made for nice walking. Morning light adds beauty to the most ordinary scenes. 

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Rotting log in the morning light

I found myself noticing small things. A snail shell next to the trail caught my eye. Love the beautiful patterns of nature!

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For at least a mile, ox-eyes (false sunflower) were constant companions along the trail.

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I inspected these guys a little more closely to appreciate their beauty from all sides.

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Pretty from all sides!

The ox-eye and ironweed attracted butterflies. I enjoyed watching this one for a few seconds.

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After about three miles, we reached Harrods Creek, a dry crossing right now. Water pockets were up stream, and Hiker-dog found a good spot for a satisfying drink.

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Trail crossing at Harrods Creek

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On our way back to Morgan Fields Trailhead, I planned to pick up some trash we passed going in. I had a small plastic shopping bag, but wished for a bigger bag when I realized how much was there.

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From the looks of it, poor planning was the culprit. There was a lot of unnecessary packaging. The markings on a can of insect spray made me wonder if a bear had bitten into it. Hole patterns were similar on both sides.

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These weren’t Leave No Trace (LNT) folks! I think of the seven LNT principles as a pass/fail assessment. If you don’t follow just one principle, damage is done. What we saw here represented at least two principles:
#1 Plan Ahead and Prepare – NO
#3 Dispose of Waste Properly – NO

It’s sad to see trash left on the trail, but it feels good to leave the trail better than you find it. Hiker-dog seemed pleased with the clean spot we left behind. 

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I regret to report that we violated the fourth LNT principle (leave what you find) because we carried a few ticks out of the woods. Maybe we can be forgiven since they hitched a ride with us against our will.

Rocky Mountain High Part 2: Bozeman, Montana

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Drinking Horse Trail

The second part of our travels took us to Bozeman, Montana. We loved the low humidity and morning temperatures were glorious.

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Based on a recommendation, we stay at the Lewis & Clark Motel right on Main Street in Bozeman. It was being remodeled, but the rooms were comfortable, and we liked the location. We wished for more time to explore downtown but enjoyed visiting a couple of indie bookstores.  The Country Bookshelf was awesome. It was established in 1957 and was the type of store you could easily get lost in for hours. Vargo’s Jazz City and Books was also a fun store to visit. 

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Country Bookshelf

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I found a collection of short stories by Edward Abbey titled One Life at a Time, Please. The title alone is worth the book’s purchase price! 

IMG_4962rrBecca and I had a nice meal and made a souvenir of the glass coaster that included good advice for cowboys or anyone drinking from a creek.

We then enjoyed some Sweet Peaks Handcrafted Ice Cream before returning to the motel.

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I learned of the Drinking Horse Trail on the edge of Bozeman close to a fish hatchery. It climbed part of Drinking Horse Mountain and rewarded me with a view of downtown Bozeman and the surrounding countryside. 

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View of Bozeman from the Drinking Horse Trail

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Arrowleaf Balsamroot turning toward the sun 

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Arrowleaf Balsamroot were blooming, and temperatures rose quickly with the sun, but low humidity was a welcome feeling for this Arkansas hiker. I liked this trail so much I did it two mornings in a row rather than spending time driving to trails farther away. 

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First look at my new Four Wheel Pop-Up Camper

Part of the motivation for our out-west trip was to pick up a truck pop-up camper I’d ordered. By picking it up, we saved the delivery and installation charges. I also had the chance to see several other models of campers while waiting for the installation.

I was sure I’d like the Four Wheel Pop-Up Camper shell, but it exceeded my expectations and is getting frequent use. It’s easy to haul, lightweight, and perfectly functional without a lot of bells and whistles. Of course, you can fill it up with lots of extras, adding weight and cost, but I like the simple design of their shell model. 

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Four Wheel Truck Pop-Up Camper installation

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Steven Wilkerson with Four Wheel Pop-Up Campers after installation

We hated to leave Bozeman, but it was time to head toward the Rocky Mountain National Park. I’ll share that part of our trip in another post.