Swinging Through Montana From Bozeman to Bridges

Already in one beautiful part of the country, Jackson Hole, it was time to move to another, Montana. To hitchhike from Jackson to Bozeman is an easy day trip, or could take you weeks. Intentional weeks, due to the fact that laying in between the two is Yellowstone National Park. Beauty between beauties, the story of travel.

I was still in the midst of the Tetons to start off, my Uncle had driven me a bit out of Jackson to the open road. I was eager to see a friend up in Bozeman I hadn't seen in a while, I'd gotten in touch and he was happy to host me a couple nights, also mentioning that if I stayed to the weekend I could join in on some bridge rope swinging.

I got a ride pretty quickly from a couple Army guys who were on their way into the park for the day. I ended up tagging along as we hopped out in several places to hike around, catching incredible views and glances at bison and other animals. I splashed in a river or two, we even hopped out in time to see Old Faithful spurt into the sky, something I hadn't seen since I was a kid on vacation one year.

They dropped me off at a junction in the park eventually and I waited on the next ride. A guy on bicycle pedaled by and braked next to me, I told him my story and he told me his. He was biking the Continental Divide Trail and ultimately on route to South America, giving himself around a year to take his time to see what he could see.

Soon I was in a pickup truck alongside a guy calling himself Father Dave, he was heading to West Yellowstone, out of the park. Before we exited, we saw several people pulled over and looking at something out in the lake. We both saw a big brown creature in the center of the lake, we thought it must be a bear, it was massive, but the shape didn't quite add up. We got out for a better look and discovered it was a golden eagle. This thing was massive beyond comprehension, earth is full of surprises.

Soon I was walking through town, sticking my thumb out, in no time I was in the passenger seat of an 18 wheeler truck that would be rolling right through Bozeman. We rolled through the beautiful scenery, fittingly talking about nature, then I was hopping out of the truck there in town.

Within minutes a car was rolling up alongside me, my friend Sourdough smiling inside. I'd originally met him in Phoenix in his vagabonding days, we were both couchsurfing at the same place and had run around the city a bit, pretending to be waste management industry professionals to sneak into a convention among other things. He made traveled with a starter and made sourdough bread wherever he went, hence the nickname.

We caught up that night at his place, he told me how he'd gotten into high lining pretty seriously. It's just like the slack lining you see people doing in the park (he had this set up in his backyard as well), except extremely high up, basically tight rope walking.

In the morning we headed into the canyon with a friend of his who had some climbing gear. We hiked up to the base of a few climbs and got to it. I climbed up to the top of one, but they moved like monkeys along the walls, reaching holds with ease and steadily cruising. I didn't even have the grip by the end of the day to try to keep up, it was pretty fun up there.

The next day I explored the town a bit, eventually catching up with another friend in town, Wendy. I'd met her up in Oregon while traveling with my friend Molly, they'd been friends and we spent the night with her in the tiny town up there. Now Wendy worked for the paper in Bozeman. We went to a couple breweries straight away and caught up on all of this, then went on a hike with her friend to a nice vista point just outside of town.

The night went on to a favorite bar of her with a slew of her friends, plenty of beer, gourmet hotdogs, shuffleboard and darts to go around. A drunken walk home and I passed out on the couch at her place. I gathered myself in the morning, afternoon rather, Wendy had already gone to work. I spent some time at the library and eventually made my way back to Sourdough's place for an early night.

I wandered around the town some more the next day, the library and coffee shops, then headed back to Sourdough's for a little bit before meeting back up with Wendy in town. I planned on staying at her place again, Sourdough had another friend in town so he could use the extra space. We hopped from bar to bar, I fell in love with some pretty eyed girl as I tend to do, more beer, a shot here or there, but soon both pretty eyes and Wendy had disappeared in the shuffle. Luckily someone in the group I was still hanging with had an empty room I could crash in for the night, a couple beers later and I was passed out comfy in a bed.

I wandered sleepily into town the next day, pretty relaxed and lazy day it was, ending in the backyard of one of Wendy's friend's houses who'd set up a projector for a movie night.

At last the next day we were on the move, a caravan of us all heading west past Missoula for the rope swinging. We got to the area late, quickly eyeballing the bridge in the dark, then driving off to make camp for the night.

We all got up early and headed for the bridge. Sourdough and company got to rigging things up right away. I was amazed at the balance, as he held him self high above the river below by his hands, legs dangling, a sneeze away from a significant fall.

He was the first to swing after the long rigging process, showing everyone how it went and how to disconnect from the harness once you stopped swinging to drop into the river and swim back to shore.

I soon made my way up to the bridge, balancing out and getting hooked into the rope. Some rafters had gathered below, eager to see us jumping. I jumped, a free fall for a second of bliss and adrenaline, then the rope caught and I went into a swing. The first time around it damn near cracked my back when it jerked, I was more prepared by the time I took a second jump.

It had been an incredible afternoon jumping and watching the others. I had to get moving though, I had to meet Molly and Kirby at a particular spot along the Pacific Crest Trail so I could hike a section with them. My bag already packed, I walked across the bridge watching them still jumping, looped around the road and on to the highway from where I could still see them from afar getting in all the jumps sunlight would allow. Washington bound I went.

August 18, 2012 to August 25, 2012