Id like to begin this entry by describing the bond I witnessed between a friend and his dog on their last adventure together. Moose, a 17 year old golden retriever, accompanied by my buddy Dario, had left the trailhead at 5pm about two hours prior to my departure. An hour and two miles into my trek, I ran into the pair resting and allowing for Moose to get his feet back under himself. Here is where I learned of Moose's age and determination to make it to the top of Garnet Peak (8,245 ft). From the Garnet Mtn trailhead, to the lookout cabin is about 3.5 miles and 2,800 feet of elevation gain; many choose to take the alternative and easier 5 mile Rat Lake approach to the cabin, but do to our late start we both chose to take the short steeper route. Dario explained to me how Moose had been his childhood dog in which he insisted move out to Montana to enjoy the "last best place" and mountain air by his side. Although quite a feat for a dog of this age, the bond these two shared getting to the top was beautiful. What may have been a quick 2.5 hour sprint to the cabin, turned into a 5 hour endeavor allowing for breaks every 100 yards. Dario's motivation kept Moose moving when Moose had no more left. At one point Moose decided it was too much - Dario hoisted his 70lb dog on his shoulders and kept moving. About 1 mile from the cabin we ran into a pair of eyes that startled us. Dario and I kept Moose between us and began yelling "go away bear!" profusely to realize a couple deer were grazing ahead. Soon after, our friends from the cabin saw our headlamps and ran down to greet us. Here, Moose received praise and excitement from the accompanied friends and found a boost of energy prompting him the last 300 yards on his own willpower. What a dog. Moose made it out safely following the trip but recently past away. You will for ever be in our memories Moose and our condolences go out to Dario. What a dog. RIP Moose.
Continuing on a happy note and celebrating life, we shared memories and laughter at the Garnet Lookout!
Moose sound asleep on one of 4 cabin bunks, Kia's new puppy Togy prancing around in search of attention and 8 happy campers passing whiskey around the campfire illustrate a night atop Garnet Mtn. At night, you can see the traffic of Hwy 191 from Bozeman to Big Sky and the city lights of Belgrade in the distance. Vivid stars create a feeling of what may be the last frontier in which city lights frequently dilute. I can find the North Star and the Big Dipper consistently but can not make much of anything else in the sky - a skill worth pursuing. It feels good to be a top a mountain after a long approach and school day prior. Leaving the trailhead in the dark and arriving in the dark isnt the most enjoyable trek but means waking up tomorrow to the surprising panoramas will be worth every step it took to get here. All but two of us slept in the cabin. I chose to sleep in my tent to have a more relaxing and peaceful morning and enjoy the comfort of nature. Plus, without the rainfly on my tent I could star gaze all night until I fell asleep.
***on a side note, I am religious about eating half a chocolate bar before going to bed when camping. I believe it warms your body and makes it easier to fall asleep. Whether this is true or not, pseudo is working for me.
Waking up the next day, many retreated to Rat Lake for some fishing before heading home. Although this sounded like a lot of fun, I chose to stay put and enjoy the views of the Spanish Peaks to the west, the Gallatin Range to the east, the Hyalite Ridge to the south and the Gallatin Valley to the north. I had my camera close and a book in my lap. I am not the most fond of reading but places like these sure do make it easy. The lookout, to my surprise, is a very busy place for hikers, mtn bikers, dirt bikers and four wheelers we soon found as the day approached noon. Throughout our stay, we counted 15 passerby's just out for a beautiful day. This did not bother us but is something to take note of.
Between chapters and greeting others, we practiced our sling shot skills. Using small pebbles the size of marbles we aimed for strategically placed beer cans in the trees. Nobody hit a target. We played Cribbage creatively using matches to take place of missing pieces and other card games to pass the time. These interactions with one another, minus normal distractions, are what make sharing the outdoors so powerful. Without phone service, we are forced to communicate face to face and fully indulge in sensory details by appreciating the little things.
These old forest service cabins are a blessing to outdoor enthusiasts. Staying in these means being apart of history and the conservation of our wildlife and habitat. I can only imagine building these in the early 1900s and arriving on horseback. Months on end atop a mountain, living in simplicity and refinement. Thank you Kia for the invite!
Photo Credit : Ben Prager