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Norm's Internship Journal
Six Months with Hollowtop Outdoor Primitive School
April - October 2004
by Norm Grondin

Drinking clear mountain water.

      It has been six months now that I have been in Montana, staying with Tom Elpel, participating in the Hollowtop Outdoor Primitive School internship program. With my time here coming to a close, I feel as though it is high time I attempt to put my experiences down and into something concrete.

      When I left my friends and family in Ontario I said that I held no illusions, no preconceived notions of what would happen because although I had a rough outline of the summer, largely I did not know what to expect. I realize now, however, that was false--I did expect something; it is only now that I understand what that was--validation. I thought that I had found a good sense of direction in my life and I suppose I was seeking validation towards a lifestyle that I thought I wanted and that would make me happy. I did not find that. However, I quickly realized I was getting everything out of this internship that I never thought possible. I am grateful for that as I feel I have a new-found perspective on life, a new and fresh way of seeing the world around me.

      When I came here I felt that a complete transgression back to the Stone Age would fix our social ills. I still believe that we largely need to start over, that we have taken more than one wrong turn in the creation of our civilization. However, a return to the Stone Age--although a romantic solution-- is just not a good one. Having these notions myself, I sought to put my money where my mouth was, and since I had no money, I made my lifestyle fit my convictions. I could not advocate a return to a primitive lifestyle having never tried it out myself.

      So, like I said, I have learned a lot, managing to lead a life worth living and having stories worth telling---these are my stories, excerpted from my letters to friends and family:


April 15th
      I am at Tom's house now, my sorta boss. He and his family are wicked! His house runs on solar power and over the course of ten years he and his wife built it using logs and stone masonry!!!!

      We (the interns) live in a trailer house next to Tom's other house, which is built into the grocery store in Silver Star. Brian is pretty much like me so we've been doing well!!!

      We put up the teepee yesterday, so Brian and I are going to be moving in shortly. We will be putting a bit of carpeting in to keep the dust down some. I look forward to cooking out there.

Family hiking trip.       I recently got back from a three-day camping trip (no tents!), and will soon be off on a week long canoe trip. The camping was fun; it's so hilly around here!!! We slept on coalbeds for the most part (Dig a grave-type hole 6" deep or so, light a fire and let it burn for a while, then bury it and sleep on top of it; the mass of hot ground keeps you warm.) I was pretty beat after the first day but had a good time. The second day we went through a good amount of snow as we were about 8,000 feet above sea level. (Silver Star is around 4,500 feet.) Our shoes were soaked, but we had a chance to dry them by the fire afterwards.

      On the third day, we had some tough hiking to do and by the end of the day it was raining then hailing then snowing. It snowed for most of the night. We made a lean-to (sort of a vertical stick wall) to block some wind and keep the snow off our heads. Tom then hiked out before breakfast at 7:30 am fourteen miles in about five hours to pick up the van. We ended our hike early due to the weather and because of his daughter Felicia's knee, which was acting up such that it was tough for her to walk. All in all, it was a lot of fun. I learnt so much during the trip and I am excited to go out canoeing at the end of the month.

      Otherwise, I've learnt a bunch while staying put in the trailer as well, including starting my first bow drill fire!!! It felt good to make fire from nothing. I've been learning about making arrowheads and other points as well, along with knots and hitches. I am working on starting up the garden; it looks like it will be 14 by 20 ft!! I'm psyched. However, the ground is so dry here that I am fearful for my results.

      Today, on our ride out here we picked up a roadkill bunny and skinned and butchered it. What an experience, I still have yet to sort out my feelings about the whole thing. As I'm sure most of you know I am not against animal consumption as much as I am against domestication in general plus waste. So in the end after going nearly three years sans meat, my first taste was a chunk of fried up bunny heart!!!! How's that for a change!!

      To attempt to sort my feelings about it for now, I felt a real connection to what I was consuming (how easy it is to forget what you eat when its wrapped in Cellophane!) It felt natural. I've been feeling a real connection to the land around me, the alienation of the alien-nation seems to be subsiding.


Teepee along Jefferson River, MT. April 19th
      I'm back at Tom's house in Pony. We are welding together a canoe trailer for our trip in a couple of days. I moved into the teepee and spent the coldest night of my life out there for the first night--25 F!! Afterwards, we got warmer sleeping bags and it's been nice. I'm getting used to sleeping on the ground and I am sleeping very well now. I've found more time to get some personal things done--reading, writing and listening to music, but I'm still fairly busy. I have to start some seedlings for the garden soon as well as turn up the dirt for the garden. We (Brian and I) also have to make up a bunch of bowdrill fire sets for a meeting with 150 Boy Scouts after our canoe trip.

      Last night we had our first meal out in the teepee, a stir-fry with antelope meat!!! How luxurious!!! I am still very much vegan aside from non-domesticated meats, domestication is no good as far as I'm concerned whether its animal or human.

      Not much else has really gone on aside from being able to start, with the help of Tom's daughter Felicia my first handdrill fire. Rubbing two sticks together really does work!! It doesn't hurt that everything is so dry around here either.


April 28th
      Ok, after welding the canoe trailer we were ready to go on down the Jefferson River for a 5-day outing. We started off in Silver Star and went approximately 70 miles downstream. Sometimes the water was about shoulder deep but mostly you could see the bottom; sometimes we scraped and once in awhile we had to get out and drag the canoes. We portaged twice around diversion dams. Jeff and Becky, some friends of Tom's came along, plus Tom's kids Donny and Felicia... and of course Tom and Brian and I. Jeff and Becky were a blast.

      Sleeping wasn't too bad, I had a sleeping bag and wool blanket and the first night we stayed in a wickiup that Tom built on a previous outing. The second night we stayed on a 30-acre island. (The Jefferson is quite narrow but it splits off a lot.) It was cold at night. We stayed there two days and tried hunting wabbits the third morning to no avail.

      I napped most of the day and some of the group wove willow baskets. I started my first camping bowdrill fire which felt good. That night it went down to about 20F and it was COLD!!! There was a thick frost and those of us not in warm enough bags, like yours truly, was up by the fire before sunrise. My feet froze in the morning dragging our canoes out of the stream back to the river. By lunch they finally warmed up and regained feeling.

      That was not as bad as day two, however, when Felicia and I were trying to go to the right of an island but there were some low branches. I ducked down and missed them but as Felicia was still trying to steer, she got clothes-lined and dropped into the water. She was freezing for the rest of the day, and I mean freezing!!! Wrapped in warm clothes under the sun and by a fire shivering.

      On day four we camped out in what looked like a Nazi concentration camp, surrounded by barbed wire. That night we slept on coal beds so I was warm, albeit on a huge slant. That day we also stopped in at a cave of limestone and went inside--WOW, it was so amazing. The valley is so beautiful with a strange ecosystem: where the sun hits the mountain side directly, its a sagebrush desert, but where the sun doesn't hit, then its juniper city. It's very odd.

      At the start of day five I puked as soon as I woke up; I think the tea I had on an empty stomach turned me around a bit. I felt better by lunch and we cruised about 19 miles that day to finish off the trip. We had blue skies for the whole trip, making up for the hail we got during our last expedition.

I'm going to be working on hide tanning equipment soon. Buckskin clothing here I come!!!


June 8th
      We've been busy like a bee trying to get things done. We went out with Tom's daughter Cassie's 8th grade class as well as the 7th graders for a total of 18 people for two days. Brian, Christian and I went out the night before and set up a tripod for a new wickiup that needed to be built for the campout. (Christian is a newly arrived intern.) It rained and rained some more; we were all soaked pretty much the whole weekend. In between doing things we watched the steam rise off of our clothes by the fire. It was pretty fun tho, and I was surprised by the overall enthusiasm of the kids, especially in making flint and steel fires. I did however burn a bit of my shoe while attempting to dry it off as well as the ends of my laces... :(

Middle School kids camping trip group picture.       About two weeks ago we went out with the 6th graders from Twin Bridges, a town nearby, for a day trip to build a wickiup and what not...that turned out ok, but nothing really exciting happened.

      Since then we have been working on hide-tanning again, trying to get about six hides together for full buckskin gear for a stone age trip we are doing in August. We have also started flint knapping, making arrowhead points and knife blades, but so far it's been tough going. We started with glass and I've managed successfully to break about four pieces.

      Recently I went for my second horseback-riding lesson with Felicia. I was already feeling uncomfortable about riding horses because of the domestication issue. I've decided I don't like it much at all in fact, since the horse has to be 'broken' in order for them to 'love' being ridden. I liken it to kids 'enjoying' school because of the rewards they get. Like horses with treats, you obey because that's the best you get, not because its what you want to do. Submission is still submission and slavery is still slavery no matter how many treats you get or how much money you make.

      Incidentally, as I was contemplating all of this, the horse, Missy, went too fast down a hill and I fell off. Now, I know most of you know that falling (in my book) is always funny no matter what, but since I've been out here I've found two instances where it isn't funny: 1) when you are portaging a canoe and one person slips a bit, causing the whole thing (gear and all) to tumble down on another person's head, and 2) when you fall into some prickly pear cactus. Yes, I still have needles in my thigh and right hand. I got the other ones out. The spines in my face were a tad precarious and my headache is long gone from my jaw hitting the ground. Oops! :)

      We just got back from a trip to Yellowstone National Park. Jeff and Becky went along with Brian, Christian, and I. It was a lot of fun, but strange to see the earth bubbling up all over, it's really quite fragile you know! :)

      The park is really nice, I think they did a nice job keeping it wild considering that they see about 3 million people a year. I saw a lot of burnt trees from previous forest fires, which are required for the natural ecosystem of the plant life. We also saw a lot of elk and bison. The bison reminded me more of domestic cattle than wild animals, but its just the nature of the place (pun intended). The park does have a real amusement park feel to it--you drive from ride to ride.

      At the end of the month we are headed out on a week-long canoe trip down the Jefferson with some customers; it should be a lot of fun. I think we are going to work on some no-blanket shelters for a few nights, cool stuff.


June 20th
      We just returned yesterday from a one-night stay in the Tobacco Root Mountains at Dry Boulder Lake. At 2:00 pm we parked the van at around 5,000 feet on the side of the road and went out with no water, no tents and no blankets or sleeping bags and not much food. Dry Boulder Creek, which was not dry, was our source of water. Getting down on your stomach and dunking your head into the creek was the way of things for this trip and it felt good.

Group picture inside wickiup.       We hiked up the road for 4 miles, bringing us up to around 8,500 feet, and got to the lake which was sooooo nice. We then ate one pb and j sandwich and started on shelter and fire. I got the ole bowdrill set going, quite easily actually, considering the thinner air, and we all worked on shelter. We used two large rocks for two walls and used big branches for the other two walls, using punky (rotten) wood to plug the holes.

      It started to rain so we put up a huge branch against the large rock in the middle of our little cabin and put up shingle type pieces of punky wood to block the rain. We then found a fallen lodgepole pine tree and cut off the boughs to coat the ground to keep us dry. I added a pair of jogging pants, an extra sweater, wool socks, a toque, mitts and my trusty rain jacket to my cold body and dried out my shoes and socks by the fire.

      I slept little that night, probably no more than 15 minutes at a time, if that-- not so much due to being cold, but rather my uncomfortable position. The shelter was a bit small, at least the part of it blocking the rain. I remained fairly warm considering the 40 F temperature thanks to some hot rocks. Hot rocks are what you would expect--rocks thrown into the fire then taken out with mitts or something and put next to you to keep you roasty. Roasty indeed. I singed my pants trying to keep my legs warm and also my mitts from grabbing the rocks! We each had a chocolate bar that night.

      By morning, we ate our second pb and j and worked on making some cordage out of dogbane fibers, which I suck at, then hiked up to the upper lake, about a mile total or so. We went through copious amounts of snow, which made for a wet shoe walk back, but a lot of fun since it was packed pretty tight. We walked on most of it and slid down the hills, which was fun. The lake was still frozen.

      We hiked back to camp and on the way slid down a fifty-foot hill. It was so much fun. Donny fell, which was funny. We dismantled our shelter and packed up our gear and headed the four miles back down the road to the van. On the way we had a botany lesson, which was cool. Who knew that artichokes were in the sunflower (aster) family????

      We got to the van and although I didn't feel tired at all, as soon as I sat down I was struggling to hold my head up with my arm. I later just put my head down and to my surprise lifted it up to hear a song halfway done. Yes, I fell asleep sitting up!

      We got home, ate, showered, made rhubarb crisp, ate again, ate the crisp, listened to music and went to

bed. Good times.


July 8th
      We got back from the canoe trip Sunday and it was a lot of fun. We were out for a week and yours truly was put in charge of planning and packing food for 3 meals a day for 12 people for a week!!! No easy task...

One couple was from Kansas: Karen and Ron, while another couple, Judith and Dick, were from Minnesota. Nicko, from Chicago, was pretty cool.

      In addition, there was me, Tom, Felicia, Cassie, Donny and Brian. Christian headed back to New Hampshire just before the trip. :(

Soaking in natural river hot springs.       The first couple of days were beautiful but uneventful. The second night we set up shelter on a sandbar, digging coal beds and picking copious amounts of grass to cover six people head to toe a foot thick. Grass cuts and mosquito bites abounded!

      Afterwards, we went to a hot springs. The cold intake didn't work because the river level was too low, so Brian, Nicko and I filled a canoe with river water and poured it into the pool to cool it down. It was nice after that. I slept well in the grass shelter and we were off again in the morning.

At night we got about an inch of rain in an hour, staying completely dry, thanks to Tom's engineering of a few well-placed plastic bags that came wrapped around the new canoes. Oh, and I swam that day. It was fun. Brian was doing handstands on the canoe, landing in the water. It looked like it hurt at times, but with his lifejacket on he said it was fine.

Canoeing Jefferson River.       We made coal-burned bowls which we ate out of. Soup was good eating during the rain. The combination of paddling and sleeping on a slant in the ground on my side gave me a stiff neck when I woke up. It wasn't bad until night when I was trying the fireplow (like what Tom Hanks did in Castaway). That's when my neck seized. Ouch!!! I had a hard time moving after that, but paddling the next day loosened it up a lot.

      We trudged on, paddling through storms in the distance and what not. On our last day it rained for the last hour of our paddling. I was soaked and having a blast!

      We set up camp that night and in the morning we finished our 110-mile float at Toston Dam, where Tom's wife, Renee and her mom picked us up. We went out for sandwiches afterwards.

      Nicko was sick during the trip and Tom and I both got it a day after we got back. I was laid out in my sleeping bag for two days only getting up to drink tea and eat.

      Two students from Texas, Phillip and Colleen, came for a hide tanning class. Brian taught the class and I chatted with them while we ate and what not. Pretty nice people for being right-wing Republicans!!! Renee made soup and brought it over. Colleen brought it to my room while I was laid out in bed; how sweet. Later, Renee came in and felt my forehead and gave me some medicine. I'm so loved.


Drying deer jerky over fire. July 14th
      We need to have five pounds of dried food per person for the stone age trip in August, and there are five of us going. We plan on having jerky for the bulk of our food, so we made some in the oven, some in a dehydrator and put a lot of meat on a rack we made with willow sticks in the yard. It looked kind of like a four-sided pyramid with rungs all along it.

      We just got back from a basketball game at the Harrison School gym, just outside of Pony. I am sweating profusely, as if anyone who knows me didn't already know... but it was a lot of fun.

      Friday we are going to hike up to the peak of Hollowtop Mountain (el. 10,604 feet) Then we're going to hike down to the lake and try out some primitive fishing. We are going with a blanket and poncho only; it should be fun.


July 21st
      We got back from our hike to Hollowtop Mountain a few days ago and I figured I could let you know what's happening.

On top of Hollowtop Mountain in Tobacco Roots.       We parked the truck at around 8,000 feet and made the hike to 10,604 feet by lunchtime and ate pb and j sandwiches. Then we hiked down to Sky Top Lake, Deep Lake and Hollowtop Lake. Becky and Jeff left us there and hiked back down four miles to their car. Brian, Tom and I went sucker fishing in the streams around the lake, but my feet were really sore from wandering around in the swamps earlier in the week gathering cattail pollen for the August trip, so I quickly went to shore. Instead, I got the job of bashing the sucker's heads in with a rock. Pretty easy work, but also unnerving, because they keep twitching afterwards. I was scared they weren't dead, and I was causing them undue pain... :(

      We ate about four suckers each--just enough to barely satisfy us. Then we went to bed on a coalbed with just a blanket and I was HOT! We made the coalbed in an existing fire pit, so as not to leave a scar. We hiked out in the morning back over the top to the truck, about six miles. We had a really, really steep climb to get started and after about an hour we went from 8,200 feet to about 10,000. All in all it was pretty fun and drinking out of creeks and lakes is great!


August 7th
      We were in Three Forks a couple of weeks ago for the Lewis and Clark Festival of Discovery. It was basically a sellerama of crap, people trying to hock off trinkets and the like. (But we had books and good stuff for sale.) I did bowdrill fire demos and chatted it up.

      Since then we've been working on hides almost constantly trying to get ready for the trip on the 14th. However, the Butte newspaper is doing a story on us, so we are going on an overnight campout on Tuesday to have our pictures taken and to be interviewed for the newspaper. I am not overly excited about it as I loathe the idea of being a part of the newspaper spectacle.

      Our jerky content is up to 15 pounds; that leaves us shy of our goal of 25, so we hope to get a lot of pine cones and process the nuts en route to the Kootenai River in NW Montana. My moc's need only laces to be ready and my shorts are ready except for a belt. I will be making my shirt on the campout and then tying up loose ends the day before we go.


August 12th
      Well, it's the night before we are headed out to Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River for our stone age trip. We are hard at work and things are pretty hectic, exciting and stressful. I think it will all cool down once we get on the road. I'm going to contemplate what it is that I want out of this outing, as I believe that the mental aspect will be a lot tougher then the physical for staying focused and maintaining a party-on attitude.

      Tom is taking his digital camera to document the trip and Lynx is using slide film which will be shown at Rabbitstick Rendezvous(more on that in a second). My clothes are done, except for a few finishing touches. I will work on it Saturday, since we leave Sunday for the journey.

I am worried that I may get pretty cold. We went on an overnight trip in the mountains for a trial run with the photojournalist and reporter, and I was cold. I am still wary of being a part of the news spectacle.

      Anyway, I've worked on my elk hides again today so I hope to be able to wrap up better in them now that they are less crinkly. Also, we will be 5,000 feet lower than we were for the overnight trip, so I'm hoping it will be warmer.

      Upon our return I will be busy with more trips with students and Rabbitstick Rendezvous. Rabbitstick is a primitive gathering in Idaho where all the crazy people get together and share skills and good times. There should be about 300 people total. I look forward to that, but I am trying to stay focused on the upcoming trip for now.


August 26th
      Well our trip is over. For me it ended a few days ago. After a week out on Lake Koocanusa, Tom and the kids decided to head out, and I contracted quite the throat thing so I opted out as well. Lynx had a cold before we left--then Tony got it, and then me. I had a hard time keeping warm and spent my last three nights by a fire. Then there was the rain--by God the rain!!! There has been more rain here in the past week then in four months.

Twig baskets with harvested berries.       The day before the trip we pulled into Lynx's place with our canoes in tow and bedded down for the night. The next day we finished some last minute projects and made our way to the beach for our campout/going-away party and to get ready for our trip.

      I was feeling a bit of apprehension over our preparedness for the trip, but my worries were quickly soothed upon realizing that we were all a little unprepared. We all had skills that others did not possess, and as such, we were able to share all of our collective knowledge.

      A guy on a jet ski came up and mocked us on the beach. From then on it seemed that there was a duality of "us versus them" which unfortunately seeped into the trip more and more as time went on. There seemed to be a feeling that our lifestyle was better then everyone else's among some of the members of our group. It made me a bit uncomfortable because how can one decide that there is only one right way to live for everybody?

      Anyway, the night before we started out we had a talking circle, which became a staple for the trip, so that we could each have our say about what we thought of the trip and so on. That was really a lot of fun. It came out I think, as a good way of introduction between both of our groups to get to know one another a little bit better.

Canoeing in buckskin, cattail hat and mud sunscreen.       In the morning the sun came over the mountaintops and shone off the lake, signaling it was our time to leave. Over the course of the next several days we did a lot of paddling, and we ate a lot of cattail roots, Oregon grapes, kinickinick and rosehips to supplement to our jerky. I felt a bit malnourished, but it was manageable.

      Fear of hypothermia set in every time a drip of water got on my buckskins, since buckskins are like a sponge to water. Then I fell right into the lake the first time I got out of the canoe! Letting all apprehension go to the wind, I stripped down naked and wrung them out with the help of Lily, so that my clothes were just damp instead of dripping wet.

      It was fairly warm over the first part of our trip, although we still used coalbeds for a few of the nights. The latter part of the trip was very rainy and overcast, with myself having a sore throat and chills after a few days. Fear of hypothermia set in every time it rained. For the last few nights that I was on the trip I slept, or more laid, by the fire catching glimpses of sleep while trying to keep the fire built up enough to keep warm and avoid chills.

Primitive camping group.       I did also develop a hole in my pants after a few days, and I had to use a bone awl to punch holes into my pants to get some sinew through to tie up the hole. I feel as though I would have been better off using a thong and lacing my clothes instead of sewing them because my stitching became loose after my clothes got wet. I think I will someday go over my clothes and lace them for a more secure feeling when I am in my buckskins.

      On day two I went up on the other side of the hill to go to the bathroom. While coming back I stopped and looked over the lake thinking about how we were eating only what we gathered, that we were wearing completely natural and homemade clothes, and I felt really connected. Upon my return to the group I even sat back a little ways and took on the role of voyeur to attempt to take in what it was we were all doing out here, realizing that this was not just another camping trip.

Canoeing silhouette with mountains.       However, those feelings quickly waned as I became more and more disillusioned by the feeling that we were on any normal camping trip, only with less food and wearing buckskins. I felt more and more that we were surviving out there but we were not sustainable, that our primitive way of life would have to be short-lived since we were using mostly food that we had brought for the bulk of our calories.

      I, along with Tom, Donny and Felicia left the project after day 7 and for myself it was a very emotional and traumatic time. I was pretty sick, mostly with the chills, but equally as disturbing to me was the emotional trauma that I was suffering at the hands of my dreams.

      I really have felt for a long time that a gatherer/hunter way of life was the right one for me and largely for humanity as a whole to live sustainably, happy and free. However, after being on the trip for a little while, along with other influences, I became very aware that that just wasn't the case. I was discovering more and more that my environment does not dictate my happiness or my level of freedom--that those are to be found in the heart.

      Moreover, I came face-to-face with the realization that primitive living is not a completely sustainable lifestyle. It was sustainable in the past only because of the low population at that time. There was so much land and so few people.

      Regardless of my emotional stress, which was in fact a blessing for personal growth and increased happiness in the end, I feel as though the trip became tainted by my stress and I found it more and more difficult to take anything positive from the trip through that mask of disillusionment. I think it was beneficial for me to leave for that reason as much as for my illness.

      In the end I am so grateful at having had the opportunity to participate in the trip, and I learned so much, not only about primitive skills but also about myself. I feel as though it is important to do trips like this to remind ourselves about the life that our ancestors once lived and to be able to incorporate aspects of it into our everyday lives. I doubt it will be the last experience of its kind that I participate in. I will set out in the future with a clearer mind as to what I want and the kind of experience that I choose. This experience may be over but the learning from it has yet to stop, for that and for everything else I am grateful.

      Brian stayed on the trip when we left, and I agreed to drive back to pick him up when he was done. After four days of straight rain everybody else was done with the trip as well, so I made the eight-hour drive up to get him. We left right away and brought along Lily, who was on the trip with us. She was headed to Wyoming. The car broke down about an hour into our drive back to Silver Star. The engine rattled quite a bit so we stopped and a lot of smoke poured out. We discovered a small fire under the engine. Assuming it was oil we didn't want to put water on it, so we just let it burn down.

      We tried starting it again and it sounded like the engine wanted to just fall right out, so we flagged down a van driven by some wonderfully nice old people who brought us into Libby to call Tom. Now, instead of sleeping in the park and waiting for Tom, Marbie and Al (the nice folks who saved us) brought us to their home out of town, fed us and gave us each a bed (which was uncomfortable--my first bed in almost 5 months). They fed us pancakes in the morning and drove us back into town to the library to wait for Tom to come. I am so grateful to them both; they were so kind. Tom drove up to get us, and decided to have the car towed to a junkyard.


August 30th
      Just returned last night at 11:30 pm from a hike up to Table Mountain. Brian and I went with the Elpel's up Hells Canyon and started hiking at around 10:30 am. We stopped for lunch a little ways in. Edwin (their youngest) had a toothache, and the girls had school work to do, so they took the van and went back early, leaving Tom, Donny, Brian, and I to finish the hike. We had to hike to the top of the mountain and down the other side back to Silver Star.

      The hike went pretty well and we made it to the top (el. 10,223 feet) by around 4:00 pm. The descent was where it got interesting. We headed down and up and down along the ridgeline to Cherry Creek to get water and also to follow the stream back to Silver Star. Brian and I were ahead, and seeing as how it was 8:00 pm and getting dark, we decided to just follow the creek back to town. We came across a moose, which was really cool to see so close up. We continued hiking and found a road, which we followed for quite some time. Then we came across a cow, which scared me a bit cause I didn't recognize it in the dark. We walked another twenty steps and as I turned to the right I saw a twenty more cows just staring at us; it was strange.

      Eventually we lost all daylight, but with a full moon it was easy enough to see, so we veered off the path heading through sagebrush and prickly pear towards the town lights and the Tobacco Root Mountains. It took a lot longer than we expected, as it is difficult to perceive distances at night. But it was very mild, and with a clear sky it was quite pleasant. It would have been even more pleasant if we had not already hiked 14 miles or more. My legs felt like jelly.

      We were almost back to town when we saw their dog Timber coming towards us. We thought that Tom and Donny were already in bed and asleep, but here they came behind us on the trail!! So, we hiked the last mile together sharing our experiences about the hike.


September 20th
Making bowdrill fire starters at Rabbitstick Rendezvous.       We just came back from Rabbitstick Rendezvous, a gathering of a few hundred people in Rexburg, Idaho in a field with tents, tipis and even a cattail shelter. The group covered the spectrum, ranging from people on the far left to the far right with a lot of skills going on: fire-starting, hide tanning, bow making, survival what-nots and so on.

      I was helping out with a teen program, thus waiving the $250 entry fee, so basically hanging out with all the teens trying to get them interested into classes.

      I managed to get in on all the classes I really wanted to, including two of Cody Lundin's courses. (He is hilarious, and even referred to my tipi-building to start my one-match fire as "bitchin'.) And of course I was at all the Mors Kochanski courses that I could manage. I've developed quite the love for his videos over the past while.

It has been raining for the past couple of days and snowing in the mountains, apparently it is supposed to warm up more into the weekend.


Mountain Lake. September 26
      I have just returned from a four-day campout up in the mountains. There was a little bit of snow, but it wasn't too cold, considering we only had wool blankets and many layers of clothes. I felt ill in the beginning, but managed to pull through and really had an amazing time out there. We didn't hike a whole lot and opted instead for a more sedentary trip. I got to see a whole lot that way, including a pika---a half-mouse half-rabbit looking mountain creature, very cute stuff. I watched the sun come over the mountain peaks on the third morning and watched the sky turn a bright deep blue; it was spectacular. The lake we were camped out at was soooo nice. We hiked to another one and I just had to go into it--it was so beautiful. So in I jumped and out I came to avoid hypothermia at 8000ft. So I lay naked on a boulder in the sun to dry off and feel the heat and the breeze on my body. It was so nice that I had a hard time leaving, or putting clothes back on!!! : )

      We also had some meat on this trip. Tom got a squirrel and we had three trout to eat as well. Squirrel ribs are tough to get the meat off!! All in all, the trip was amazing, an excellent last hurrah!


October 15
      I'm home now and I've begun to settle back into life here in Windsor, Ontario. On my bus ride home from Silver Star, I saw the most amazing sunrise in North Dakota, and along the way some of the saddest inner city scenes I've ever witnessed. Perhaps not the worst, but they affected me the most. I wonder if the difference in perception was due to my isolation from it? A cell phone was the cause of frustration to me in Minneapolis. Chatting on a cell phone then switching to another call and back and back again, when I first went back into cities I found that I felt more sadness and compassion than anger and hate at the way things are. I hope to retain that view, but sometimes it's hard.

      As my parents were driving me back to their house, I thought about what Eustace Conway describes in The Last American Man that the city is all boxes while nature is full of circles. The buildings were all boxes of course, but so were people's lawns and lots-- everything was neatly divided into boxes for people to take care of and own.

      I've been thinking off and on about how I feel now as opposed to how I felt when I left for Montana, but it is hard, very hard. I am finding myself unable to address everything and anything that happened while I was in Silver Star. My impressions of people, my surroundings and the rest are all so different--so much has changed since then. I am still attempting to process it all.

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