Luckily for us, they were having a crummy day too.

The storm system we had spent the last seven miles hiking in had spooked Deep Canyon Guest Ranch’s horses and riders and they decided to stop and shuttle horses and guests back to the ranch instead of finishing their trail ride.

We missed the last trail of our planned loop and ended up in the same spot at the same time — drenched, cold and several miles by road or back-tracked trail away from our car.

Notice Jared in the background trying to figure out why we missed the trail and how far it would take us to get back to our car. Notice the Leonie popsicle in blue and me just happy to have found shelter.

Somewhere around mile 40 of 47 it had started to rain for the first time on our four-day backpacking trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, which prompted me to ask (probably for the 50th time): “What the F@#$%* are we doing?”

It all started when my brother and sister-in-law (who regularly summit mountains) suggested a 20-mile-a-day hike in The Bob during their short visit to Montana. Jared chose a different trail that only required 12 miles a day. All we had to do was make it one day at a time, he said.

And we did it, one excruciating and beautiful day at a time.

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The last morning, we all woke up grumpy and ready to be home, but cheered markedly when we reached the top of Route Creek Pass, which was the prettiest part of the trip.

Mother Nature had other plans for us than happiness, though, and delivered thunderstorms shortly after our summit.

Which brings me back to the crummy day.

Any chance we can hitch a ride with you, Jared asked the frazzled wranglers.

I’m leaving in 30 seconds, so you better hurry and put your packs in the bed of that pickup, one said.

I’ll take you someplace you can get warm while we sort all this out and then someone will take you back to your vehicle, he said.

Turned out, Dave’s a good guy to know.

And Debra, who met us at the truck (it had, of course, stopped raining by then) was a good person to know too.

First, she stole my heart when she asked if she could get us coffee or beer.

Then she gave even the best Southern Belle a run for her money when it comes to hospitality by delivering fresh chocolate chip cookies to us as we drip dried in front of the lodge fire.

As only would happen in Montana, they proceeded to loan us their pick up to shuttle our vehicles.

When Debra was gracious enough not to audibly gag from the result of four days of creek showers when I gave her a hug, I was fully convinced they are angels.

Yes, I grumbled almost the entire trip and got blisters.

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Despite the muscle cramps, the moment the bear almost ran into camp, vicious mosquitoes, the soreness, and the exhaustion, I returned rejuvenated by the natural beauty of the wilderness and by the kindness of strangers who reminded me why I don’t want to live anywhere but Montana.



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