Posts Tagged ‘travel’

There’s something living in the car!!

May 3, 2012

There’s something living in the car!

As mentioned in my previous post, we decided to take a road trip to Montana.  We rented a vehicle because we knew we’d be driving a lot of miles and we wanted something that would get better gas mileage than our truck and have more room.  Our ultimate destination was a guard station cabin in Montana, and that required that we pack extra things such as bedding, towels, food, solar shower, lights, chairs, etc.  Needless to say, the Ford Explorer that we ended up getting was packed to the hilt!  When we picked the “family truckster” up (if you’ve ever seen National Lampoon’s Vacation—you’ll know why we called it that.), it only had a few hundred miles on it.  We returned it with an additional 5300+ miles on it…..thank goodness we had unlimited mileage with our rental!  The comment made at Avvis by the attendant when we returned it, was; “Wow—you drove….A LOT….it’s due for an oil change already!”

Because we had driven so much, my mechanically inclined hub kept a close eye on the regular maintenance of the vehicle.  He checked the tires, fluids, and general mechanics of the family truckster each morning before we took out.  He’s quite handy like that!  One particular morning, he was in for a surprise when he popped the hood.  He saw something quickly scamper out of sight and, upon further inspection, he started noticing grass around the motor….as if something was trying to nest in the engine.  Surprised and somewhat baffled at what could be trying to make a nest in the vehicle, he looked under the vehicle and all over the engine, trying to catch another glimpse of said critter so he could possibly figure out what it was.  Finally, the critter popped his head up just long enough to see that it had small ears, was brown, and had a long tail.  He thought it looked similar to the Pica we had seen in the Rockies, only bigger and with a long tail.  He came in and got me, told me to bring the camera and said there was something I had to come see this.  I really didn’t know what he was planning to show me but, he seemed pretty excited about it so, I followed.

As we reached the vehicle with the hood up, the hub explained to me that something was trying to nest in the vehicle and it appeared to still be there.  Uh, yeah, OK…..I think you’re seeing things.  We had just checked the vehicle over the day before and there was no sign of anything.  The night was a bit chilly, and I’m sure the motor was warm the night before when we’d returned to the cabin but, we really hadn’t seen any smaller critters around and we typically spent most of the evening outdoors around the cabin/vehicle.  This thing would have to work fast.  When I asked what it was, he told me it looked like a cross between a rabbit, rat, mouse, pica thing…….uh, OK… other words he had no idea, he’d never seen one before.  Imagine, the hub, both of our kids, and me with my camera up, gathered around the family truckster, anticipating the “it” to pop up at any minute.  Well, as soon as it did—there was chaos….screaming, jumping, everyone scrambling and then laughter because we were all startled.  This went on for a bit, while we were all trying to get a glimpse of “it” and better yet, a picture so we could figure out what it was.  Finally, I think it was as scared of us as we were of it, so, it jumped to the ground and then the chase was on!  We all took out after it, chasing it out away from the vehicle.  The hub’s biggest fear was that it would chew through some wires, plug something up, or get stuck in there and cause major damage.  We the “it” on over the hill, and the excitement apparently over, the hub went to work cleaning out the grasses and leaves from the motor, checking things over thoroughly before we loaded up and headed out for the day.

What a crazy start to the day!  Once I had access to WiFi, I did some research and it seems that the consensus was that “it” was a bushy tailed wood rat……yep, it was some sort of a rat….ewwwww…… Always an adventure with the Brown fam on vaca!


Cattle turning into bears!! What???

April 20, 2012

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Cattle turning into bears….Oh My!

Back in 2008, I enrolled in an art workshop in Montana.  We decided to turn it into a family vacation as well.  Road trip!!  We decided to allow a few days to drive to Montana so we could see the sites along.  We rented a vehicle since we knew we were going to be traveling a fair amount of miles (over 5300 in two weeks to be exact!)  We packed up the kids (who were both teenagers at the time), packed up the car and away we went.  We felt like the Griswolds on family vacation!  This little trip proved to be a string of adventures for the Brown family!

Our ultimate destination was to be a guard station cabin in the Tally Lakes/Star Meadows area of Montana.  We found the cabin located off of a rural road, miles from town.  It was such a peaceful scene, surrounded by some level, bottom, ground sprinkled with pine trees and scrub brush with a creek/river running through it.  There were mountains on the backside of the creek and mountains to the front of the cabin……mountains everywhere—perfect!   A rail fence enclosed the “yard” with pine trees towering above the parking area and hiding view of the road from the cab

in.  Upon exploring a bit more, we learned that the field was the temporary home to a herd of cattle.

There was electricity to the cabin but no running water or indoor plumbing.  There was however, a new water hand-pump located outside for potable water and a new vaulted toilet with a concrete floor and a “stall” where a solar shower could be hung.  I’m not sure my children realized what a vaulted toilet was until we got there and they realized they were going to have to go outside and walk about 30 yards to use the facilities.  We kept a flashlight in the stall as well as one in the cabin for just such occasions, however, my daughter resolved that she would not be going out there unless it was daylight!  She proceeded to tell us that knew there was a possibility of seeing bears—she saw the sign and brochure about bear safety in the cabin.  Even during daylight, when she had to walk out there by herself, she hustled!  I tried to reassure her that the cattle in the backyard would more than likely alert her if anything was around.  She still didn’t find that too comforting.  Maybe it was partially because they all kept joking that “bear safety” meant that they just had to outrun the slowest person in the family and then they all laughed and looked at me.  And thanks to all of the teasing I received, I told her I would not be escorting her to the “facilities”.  Chels did luck out however, we were far enough north that the days seemed to be pretty long and there was an abundance of daylight.

It seemed like it was never completely dark until about 11PM and then daylight seemed to hit around 6AM.  Between the light and the very loud serenade sung by the coyote choir every night, and the chill in the cabin, it took a few nights to actually get some quality sleep.  Not that I was complaining—it was beautiful there….just that with the combination of me giving up caffeine before we left and the lack of sleep, I had regular headaches for days.  We did eventually figure out that one of the windows had been left open in the cabin…..causing the chill and our blankets to never be enough!  That seemed to cut down on the volume of the nightly coyote choir as well.  The lack of sleep did finally catch up with me and with the new found warmth and quiet, I slept in one morning.  The hub didn’t—he awoke early to see some cowboys driving the cattle out of our “backyard” and down the road to their next home.  I was a little upset that he didn’t wake me to watch but understood why he didn’t.

Since the cattle were now gone, we decided that evening that we would explore more of the backyard.  We found the remains of a couple of whitetail fawns that had apparently been dinner for some of the “choir” a few nights ago.  We also discovered that what we called a “creek” was rather deep and very cold and that it was a little further from the cabin that we’d thought.  We walked a bit further and found a whitetail doe, dead, in the creek.  We’re not exactly sure what her cause of death was but it was definitely evident that there was predator activity around.  Given that fact, the whole time we explored, I tried to keep an eye out for said predators—I love to explore the wilderness but I’m a bit paranoid about something that could potentially make a meal outta me, catching me by surprise and gnawing a limb off before I knew what hit me.  I know, call me crazy, but my imagination runs wild sometimes and I knew we were in bear and mountain lion country….something we really do not have to worry about back home.  My hub seemed to find my paranoia entertaining and took every chance he got to slip out of my sight and make noises, break sticks and watch me jump.  Not funny, not funny at all!

The next morning, Chels woke up and had to use the facilities but it wasn’t light enough yet, so, she danced around the cabin until there was enough light.  As soon as she felt it was light enough to make a clean break for the toilet, she darted out of the cabin, running fast enough to reach the toilet before anything could possible get her.  As she was coming out she noticed something black, furry, and rather large moving through some of the brush off to the backside of the toilet.  She watched for a bit and then decided to make a run for it.  She came barreling in the cabin, eyes wide, breathing hard, and obviously scared.  We started questioning her and she proceeded to tell us she’d just seen a bear.  With that news, the hub and I walked outside armed with the binoculars to check it out.  After a bit of investigation, we did find Chels’ bear…… happened to be a black angus cow and calf that had apparently missed the earlier roundup and were left behind.  There were coming up to the cabin in an effort to find the rest of the herd.  The owners did come back later and gather the stragglers….turned out there were a few more than just that pair.  In Chels’ defense, it was fogging in the bottom that morning, foggy enough to turn cattle into bears!


“Did you hear that??”

April 13, 2012
mule deer

The culprits....

I’ve decided to start a “trip journal” of sorts.  I’ve not been painting lately since I’ve been working with my horses of an evening.  With work, horses, and housework….not much time for painting.  I have been doing a bit of sketching lately….maybe I’ll share some of those eventually but, for now, I decided to share some of our “adventures”.  I’ve been working on a scrapbook (between doing everything above….and no, I don’t sleep much…LOL.) from our last vacation and I’ve been jotting down stories for that.  I thought maybe everyone else would get a chuckle or at the least a smile out of some of them.  Being creative is sometimes about the journey not necessarily the finished piece that results.  Enjoy 🙂

Did you hear that???

“Seriously, I think I hear something outside….and it’s chewing!”

That’s what I woke up to one early morning while it was still dark outside.  The moon was up so I could see shadows of something on the walls of the tent and I could hear something moving outside the tent and heard chewing noises.  Chewing noises!!??!!  I looked over at the hub and he was still asleep.  I laid there, just waiting for something to hit the tent, rip it open, pull us out of our sleeping bag, maul us… imagination went wild!  I just knew there was a bear in camp!  I waited and listened with my “super” hearing for quite some time and nothing happened.  I couldn’t stand it anymore and finally pulled my head inside of my sleeping bag and tried to doze off again.  I mean, if you can’t see it, it can’t see you, right??  I awoke just as it was getting light enough to see outside and then peaked out the tent window but didn’t see anything.  RJ finally woke up and I started asking him about it.  He said he heard it too but he was tired and figured if it was going to get us… would’ve done it already so, he just rolled over and went back to sleep!  Thanks for making me feel safe, dear hub!!  We both decided to get up, get our boots on and investigate……we saw tracks through camp but didn’t see any critters………until we looked over the little hill that separated us from another campsite…..and there they were……….four mule deer bucks!  Ok, I can rest a little bit easier now……until the herd of elk moves through camp the next night……….

“Curious Coyote”

March 15, 2012
oil painting by Veronica Brown

Curious Coyote

“Curious Coyote”

10”x10” oil on gallery wrapped canvas.

This piece will be offered at the Faith and Outdoors event in Sullivan, MO on March 24.  Come out and show your support and possibly take home a piece of my artwork.

Coyotes are naturally very curious animals.  They’ve been known to “stare down” humans.  I don’t think this is meant to be a sign of aggression or intimidation, I think it is simply a moment of trying to figure you out.  They want to know what you are and what you’re doing.  As I travel and study wildlife more while gathering photographic reference material for my artwork, I notice more and more, wild animals that simply “watch you back”.  I have tons of photos of this behavior…..mule deer, elk, various birds, whitetail deer, coyotes….and even a black bear, sitting around watching traffic.

I feel I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to get outdoors and wander and to view the wildlife in their natural area.  I instantly feel at peace and relaxed when out there.  As John Muir said, “Wilderness is not only a haven for native plants and animals but it is also a refuge from society. It’s a place to go to hear the wind and little else, see the stars and the galaxies, smell the pine trees, feel the cold water, touch the sky and the ground at the same time, listen to coyotes, eat the fresh snow, walk across the desert sands, and realize why it’s good to go outside of the city and the suburbs. Fortunately, there is wilderness just outside the limits of the cities and the suburbs in most of the United States, especially in the West.”

Oh how right John was…..wilderness can be found just outside the limits of the cities or burbs….but it can also sometimes be found within the limits.  As we encroach upon the wildlife habitats, they have to adapt to smaller areas or move into ours.  It seems like there are constant news stories about wild animals being a “nuisance” in cities.  Coyotes prowling through back yards looking for table scraps or trash and in some cases preying on small, house dogs and cats.  Towns paying money to try and relocate or curb whitetail deer populations that are getting out of hand and causing property damage and vehicle accidents.  And then there are the more recent spottings of larger game moving through such as the recent sightings of black bears throughout Missouri and the confirmed sightings of mountain lions in populated areas such as Chesterfield just a year ago.  What can we expect as the wilderness areas dwindle?  We do have parks and preserves set up but these animals do not know of boundaries.


Feb. 27, 2012 “Wiley”

March 3, 2012
Day 27


Painting a Day Project – Day 27


“Whenever the pressure of our complex city life thins my blood and numbs my brain, I seek relief in the trail; and when I hear the coyote wailing to the yellow dawn, my cares fall from me – I am happy.”  –Hamlin Garland

Our last trip to RMNP proved to be a great time to see coyotes.  We’ve always been lucky enough to see one or two while there and always heard them of an evening while camped in Moraine Park, however the sightings were usually quick and a fair distance away.  This last trip, however, we were blessed to see 3 or 4 different “dogs” and had the opportunity to see how they behave in their natural environment without knowing we were watching.

We saw a mother and young one yip and howl to each other from across the valley and finally run across Sheep Meadows to reunite.  They jumped around and played before heading back across the meadow.

We were also lucky enough to come upon a young one hunting one morning.  We watched, photographed, and recorded it for over an hour in one of the meadows.  We had him all to ourselves—a couple of people came by while we were watching him, but they didn’t see what we saw.  A coyote’s fur blends so well with the grasses and brush most people (and probably most prey) never know they were there.  We watched him stick his nose in the grasses then raise his head and listen, then next thing you’d know, he’d hunker down and leap through the air, pouncing on whatever he was after….if he was lucky.  If he wasn’t, he’d stick his nose back in the grasses, with his butt up in the air, tail up and wagging until he’d catch the scent of another possibility.  So much fun to watch!  We did finally see him become successful.  Not sure what he caught, all we could see was him taking a break, with his head up and crunching on something.  The winds finally changed and he caught our scent.  He looked straight up at us and then turned and started walking away.  Every so often he would turn and look at us again, I guess to make sure we weren’t following.  Maybe he had a “honey hole” of a hunting spot he was headed to and didn’t want us to find it!

There was also one particular night when the coyotes were very active in Moraine Park.  The moon was almost full, the wind was still, and we’d just settled down to bed in our tent when the first one started to howl.  It was soon joined by others and soon, it was a coyote concert.  They seemed to be moving closer and closer and then they kind of quieted down.  Just as I was dozing off, the encore performance started.  I jerked awake, just as a car alarm started going off…..yes, a car alarm.  They were so close and loud that they startled someone else in the campground and caused them to hit their car alarm button on their keychain or the coyotes themselves actually set the alarm off, not sure which.  Regardless, the car alarm started going off and the hub and I just rolled over and started laughing.  What else can you do??  Whoever owned the car finally got the alarm shut off and the coyotes moved along.  We rolled over and stared at the stars through the tent roof for a while and finally dozed off again.


Feb 26, 2012 “Clouds and Wildflowers”

March 3, 2012
Day 26

Clouds and Wildflowers

Painting a Day

Day 26

“Clouds and Wildflowers”

“The flower that follows the sun does so even in cloudy days.”  ~Robert Leighton

A few years ago, I traveled to Montana to take a painting/drawing workshop with an artist whom I greatly admire.  The workshop was to last 4 days, so, I decided to schedule two weeks of vacation and turn the trip into a family road trip/vacation.  What an adventure…..good with the bad.  Amazing views, grumpy kids, stunning wildlife, long periods in a cramped vehicle…and I wouldn’t have traded any of it!

We rented a guard station cabin in the Tally Lakes/Star Meadows area and traveled back and forth each day to class or to Glacier National Park.  That area was absolutely amazing and a few days was not near enough time to explore however, I’m one of those that tries to make the most out of any travel opportunity—I LOVE to travel and see new places!  I probably drive my family crazy because I want to see it all and do it all while there because you never know when or if you’ll get to come back.  I’m that flower following the sun even on cloudy days….well, not sure I’d go that far…ha ha….anyway…..

The last day we were going to be able to spend in Glacier, we decided to get up early and travel the extra distance to enter the park at the St. Mary’s entrance.  We had to travel quite a ways because the Going to the Sun Road was not open yet.  It was the latest that they’d ever opened the road.  They were having trouble keeping it clear and drivable because of late snows and avalanches.  The morning was overcast with low altitude clouds moving across the valleys, obscuring some of our views, however, what we could see of the country we traveled through was absolutely amazing.  I was almost as fascinated by the scenery and the journey to the park as I was the park itself. It was interesting to see the “free range” grazing areas and crossing cattle guards as we got on and off the “highways”….along with the Native American prayer bundles tied in some of the aspen groves along the roads.  All things we definitely do not see at home, things that remind you that you are in the west.  We saw views of snow-capped mountains clothed in clouds with wildflowers starting to bloom in the valleys below, absolutely breathtaking and definitely an area I long to visit again.