“I think that most of us feel like something is missing from our lives. But life isn’t about searching endlessly to find what’s missing. It’s about learning to live with the missing parts.” – Michael Finkel.
The temps in Yellowstone over Christmas will be around 5 Fahrenheit for highs and -10 Fahrenheit for lows. That’s about -23 Degrees Celsius for my Canadian friends. My bag is rated for 0 Fahrenheit or -18 Celsius. Its all in your head though, right?
In another lifetime, I recall the owner of a surplus store trying to sell me a sleeping bag she claimed was so warm – “you could put raw eggs and bacon in at sunset and have a fully cooked breakfast by morning.” There was also a large hole in the bag which she claimed was from “heavy combat use.” I guess that was code for “campfire spark.”
Fortunately for her, I was a kid with birthday money, burning pockets and a dream – plus, I needed a sleeping bag for an upcoming camping trip and I wasn’t leaving the store empty handed. A minute of negotiating bought me the bag and I even had a little money left over to piss away on something else.
I found out a couple of weeks later, my bag was the equivalent of an old moth eaten towel. As an extra kick in the frozen nuts, the duct tape that I used to put over the “heavy combat use” had come off during the night and whenever I moved it looked like a whales blowhole, but with feathers instead of water.
Many years later and having adult money in my pockets, brought me to my newly acquired and thoroughly researched -18 degree Nemo bag. I’m hoping to find consolation in this one. But if its another dud, I’m not complaining because as Hunter S. Thompson once said – “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
Here’s the complete list—
Lost Cabin Beer Company-Rapid City
Hay Camp Brewing Company-Rapid City
Crow Peak Brewing Company-Spearfish
Gillette Brewing Company-Gillette
Black Tooth Brewing-Sheridan
Thirsty Street Brewing Company-Billings
Canyon Creek Brewing-Billings
Angry Hanks Microbrewery-Billings
Red Lodge Ale Brewing Company-Red Lodge
Katabatic Brewery Company-Livingston
406 Brewing Company-Bozeman
Bozeman Brewing Company-Bozeman
White Dog Brewing Company-Bozeman
Mountains Walking Brewery and Pub-Bozeman
Map Brewing Company-Bozeman
Madison Brewing Company-Belgrade
Beehive Basin Brewery-Big Sky
Lone Peak Brewery-Big Sky
Butte Brewing Company-Butte
Muddy Creek Brewery-Butte
Quarry Brewing LLC-Butte
With camping in the backcountry it becomes an infernal obsession to improve on every trip. Seeing what works and what doesn’t – trying new gear, shelving old gear, the seasons, the geography, the landscape, equipment breaking down, things not working, too much weight, I should have brought this and not that. All factors that dictate what to bring and what to leave at home.
Winter camping in the mountains is a challenge of sorts due to the the terrain, the snow, the longer periods of darkness the unpredictability of the weather and the fact that I won’t have the presence of a warm fire in Yellowstone to keep me company due to fire bans. But it’s not like a reality show where every move you make is fraught with danger and peril. Anyone can enjoy winter adventures with the right gear and mindset and maybe a little cold resistance 😉
On the plus side, the park itself is virtually empty. If you’re seeking solitude, this is the perfect time to go. No bugs, no bears, no traffic, no noise. I like to think of the snow as a sandy white beach, which is a little easier said than done sometimes and probably laughable to most people, but if you go into this environment with a negative mindset, you’re already halfway defeated before you even get to your destination.
The only entrance into Yellowstone during the winter is the Northwest Mammoth entrance just south of Gardiner, Montana. Go south of Livingston, Montana off of highway 90 via highway 89 towards Gardiner.
In my opinion the northern part of the park is the most beautiful during the winter, with great views of the Beartooth Mountains just outside the park boundaries to the north.
My plan is to head east towards Tower Junction on Grand Loop Road after getting into Mammoth. This is the area that the animals tend to migrate towards in wintertime, due to the lower altitude. Up to 5,000 elk, lots of Buffalo, Bighorn Sheep and of course Wolves, (with all that dinner running around) make themselves home here in the winter.
I recently read a great article on the benefits of going unplugged from social media for a couple of days, and I plan to do it during my stay as natures guest in the park.
According to a study done by the University of Utah, the daily grind of social media takes its toll on our brains. When we spend a couple of days outdoors without the internet, seldom used areas of our brain start to take over and our sensory perception and productive day dreaming start to improve. Our minds recalibrate as we start to notice things around us more clearly and our senses become acute and in tune with our surroundings. Your frontal lobes start to heal and recover. Something to think about. #brainspa #unplugged
No road trip is complete without music. Like the soundtracks to our lives, these are a few of my go to albums.
Traffic – “John Barleycorn Must Die”
If I had a dime for every time I played this album while driving, I’d have enough gas money for the entire trip.
Neil Young – “Harvest”
Much of Harvest is about aging, how life doesn’t always go the way you’d imagined and about how perspectives change as time passes. In terms of relating to the music (and thus Young), it took me a while to understand where Neil was coming from in “Old Man”. I guess I had to taste the inevitable defeats and flat tires life throws at a person before the song made any true sense.
Crosby, Stills and Nash – “Self Titled”
Like three pals on a roadtrip, every song on here is an adventure through life. These three stick together through the mud, storms and ice slicked roads until they reach their destination.
Judas Priest – “British Steel”
No technical savvy here, just straightforward heavy metal blitzkrieg to get you down the highway.
The Band – “Music From Big Pink”
What kind of music is this? It certainly rocks, and it has a solid, funky bottom to it, but you really can’t label it rock, folk, blues or anything. It’s probably better to concede that labeling Music From Big Pink with a genre name, wouldn’t be a successful enterprise, and it’d be better to just let the sweet sounds wash over you as you’re going through the fingernails on a chalkboard drive through South Dakota.
Stevie Wonder – “Songs in the Key of Life”
Stevie gave us a set of songs that I can put on in times when I’m utterly lost for a solution and I can find myself inspired again. Like a roadmap to life, this will get you going in the right direction.
Townes Van Zandt – “Our Mother The Mountain”
Good story telling here to take your mind off of all those miles ahead. “Tecumseh Valley” and “St. John the Gambler” have to be two of the most masterful story-songs out there. Relationships and their attendant complexities are documented quite well also in “Be Here to Love Me,” and “Second Lover’s Song.”
The Eagles – “Greatest Hits”
There’s a song here for every view out of the car window.
Arlo Guthrie – “Hobo’s Lullaby”
Remember that mouse at the tea party in Disneys “Alice in Wonderland?” Whenever somebody says “cat” the mouse gets stressed and has a panic attack – to calm him down they put jam on his nose. If I’m feeling a bit of road rage- this is my jam on the nose album.
Bob Dylan – “Nashville Skyline”
When Dylan and Johnny Cash team up and sing about going to the country fair, you can’t help but feel like you’re driving there to meet them.
Dwight Yoakam – “This Time”
For when you’re a thousand miles from nowhere.
Junior Wells – “Hoodoo Man Blues”
Like the hard, rough landscape and bumpy roads, as you get closer to the Black Hills. Don’t expect a perfect recording on this album, this is very raw and occasionally the vocal recording levels peak into some distortion, but it is one of the most truthful live blues recording out there and one of the best blues albums period.
Nas – “illmatic”
The music equivalent of a 5 hour energy drink, this album helps me get my drive on when I’m tired and I need that extra push to my destination.
My glory days of drinking are long behind me, based on the ungodly hangovers that have afflicted me the last couple of years. Those revolting headaches that can mess up your entire weekend. No thank you.
When my friends and I were involved in our AGC group, we were constantly trying to up the anti with premium whiskey at every get together. It was nothing to throw down big money for a bottle of select Whistlepig or a 20 year old rye. Hell of a price to pay for a raging hangover. In the simple words of Mike Tyson – “You come home, and you party. But after that, you get a hangover. Everything about that is negative.” And this is coming from a guy that made money handing out and receiving headaches for a living.
My goal on this up and coming Brewery Crawl is to avoid the crawling. Of course that’s easier said than done when you have a wide selection of beer beckoning you to take them for a spin. So with that I should add – if you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month. I’ll drink to that.