My first trip to Montana left me with a few lasting impressions. I was lucky enough to have Jim as a host and guide in a place he loves so much. I was excited from the beginning as we headed out in the Ridgeline straight for Yellowstone. What first struck me about Montana, looking out the window as we headed down US-89, was the vastness of it. Not only the open space, but a sense of the history of the land that surrounds you. It’s not often that you can picture a place that dinosaurs walked and native Americans peoples lived and horse and carriages traveled. The ability to picture history happening around you so vividly gives you a perspective on your time in that place. It makes you feel your own insignificance in the grand scheme, and for some reason that awareness is comforting.
My time in Montana also imbued me with an appetite for adventure and a sense of possibility. There are seemingly endless trails to hike and wildlife to see, and each experience made me hungry for more. Seeing how energized Jim was to get up every day and take a jog and start the day’s adventures really inspired me. It was very apparent how renewing a new stage of life in a new place could be. Montana gave me a sense of hope for a time when I might be lucky enough to work on hobbies, enjoy time outdoors and to pursue cultivating a sense of peace and contentment without the pressure of productivity. Montana is a truly unique place, and I can’t wait for my next adventure there.
An unusually early and large snowfall in Montana flushed me out at the end of September. The weather was so derelict, I ended up driving 1100 miles from Gillette, WY to Naperville, IL in one day. Arriving scruffy and smelly, a shave, a hot shower and a stay in my home for the first time in a month was very welcome.
However, there were friends and adventures waiting on either side of the country. The first weekend in October saw me off to Philadelphia and New York to visit parents and play in a golf tournament with old fraternity brothers, facilitated as always by our Stackloaf commissioner, Dave Marren.
It was good to be with old friends from back in the day. Many were footballers, wrestlers or rugby players at Bucknell. They had weathered the years well were often below their “playing weight”. A bunch had been to Wall Street during the hay day when volume exploded and traders weren’t electronic. They had also been there when the pits were automated and broker fees and markets crashed. Those tales brought home how innovation can be personal and hugely disruptive from rags to riches and back. It also confirmed my belief that there are lots of talented hard working people out there but luck is a big factor that creates a subset of those who gain great success. We unearthed long forgotten hilarious stories and enjoyed brotherhood. The young guys, my team, prevailed over the old guys. Remember what I said about luck.
I left the old brothers in New York and joined family and youth in Aptos, California. We stayed a few blocks from the beach and got to see a few after dinner ocean sunsets.
Golf, kayaking, and hiking filled the days and the barbecue, foosball and billiards at the house made for spirited evenings. Lots of knowledge transferred from the young folks to the old folks and I really enjoyed listening to America’s future.
Then time to get back on the plane home for a couple days and then on to Naples, FL, three coasts in three weeks. Lori and I joined my good friends, Roger and Katie, and Roger’s brother and his wife, Pete and Patty, who have also become good friends.
We golfed, relaxed poolside and beachside, and took a rented boat down the intercostal for a day. The team humored me and let me fly fish off the boat for 40 minutes. I managed a small snook on the fly.
So I crammed in all I could going coast to coast to coast before getting my shoulder repaired November 1. The operation was a success; now six months of healing and rehabilitation before I can swing a club.
The shoulder was a put-off repair from a fall in Sun Valley in February. Thanks to a few jars of pain killers I didn’t miss the spring, summer and early fall. Look for a guest blog from my son Jack’s girlfriend, Shelby, with some insight on the last week we spent in Montana.
I was an avid reader when I was a kid (still am today). I was a huge fan of Ernest Hemingway; I mean who wasn’t. So naturally I was exposed to the beauty and allure of fly fishing early on as a kid. Those of you who have read Hemingway know it’s a recurring theme in his novels. The way he described fly fishing brought all of the magic of the sport alive to me. So, I started to fly fish as a kid and really loved the sport. My dad took us on many trips to far away streams and rivers in both Canada and the US. I was hooked, so to speak, until my adult life caught up and got in the way. Don’t get me wrong, I am still an active fisherman and have been my entire adult life. But most of what I’ve done has centered around offshore fishing for big game. I really hadn’t gone fly fishing in many years. So, I was really excited when Slim (Jim) contacted me and said a bunch of old buddies were going to be heading to Montana for a fly-fishing expedition. He’d seen all my posts on social media of all the large pelagic fish I’ve been catching over the years, and he tempted me to return to the challenge and simple beauty of throwing a fly into a river in search of the ever-elusive trout.
I will admit I was nervous to pick up where I’d left off, after all it had been decades since I tried my hand at fly fishing. But I bit the bullet and met the challenge and headed to Big Sky country to meet my friends in late September. Boy am I glad I went. As I floated down the Madison and Yellowstone rivers, I was reminded of all I had missed. The beauty of the landscape, the stillness of the moment and the rush of the crystal-clear waters. While I still love the thrill of targeting the massively large predators I fish for on the ocean on a regular basis, I forgot just how much a thrill it is to have an 18-inch trout rise to your fly. But fly fishing is so much more than that. Matching the hatch, tying the knots, communing with your guides, perfecting your cast and basking in the awesome solitude that is the majestic fishing haunts of our beautiful country. That is what fly fishing is really about. All of it is easily as satisfying and fun as actually landing the fish. Spending hours with my comrades, reliving stories from almost 40 years of friendship, cooking meals and sitting around the fire…that is what it is all about. Who knows what the future holds, but I can tell you honestly, my trip to Montana to fish the Yellowstone and Madison rivers are now a special memory. A memory that I will always look back on and smile. It was a special trip, and, in the end, it has reignited the passion I have for standing waist deep in a chilly river and hoping the fish will rise up to meet me.
One thing about getting old is considering whether you will ever get the chance and be able to do something ever again. That came into play at Waltstock this year. At 58, how many more times will you ride a dirt bike up a boulder strewn mountain?
My great friend, Pete with the cozy Big Sky home, and my other great friend, Pete who is the best fly fisherman I know, are good friends with Walt who owns a cool ranch in the Big Lost Valley of Idaho. Every September, Walt invites a group to his ranch for fly fishing, horse riding and socializing. I have become a regular attendee over the past several years. This year the group included some talented musicians so the get together was dubbed Waltstock.
Every evening after dinner, the group dons cowboy hats and socializes under the stars around a large campfire. Guitars, mandolins, keyboard and harmonicas are manned by the musicians and various percussion instruments are given to the inept to keep them occupied. Pete, the best fisherman, is among the musicians and has a new album on Spotify, “Better Late than Never by Peter Perkins”. It’s easy to listen to and very professionally done so check it out.
At one of these campfires, Idaho Wildlife manager and mountain of a man, Pat, suggested we ride motorcycles to catch some rare trout species in high alpine lakes. Pete, Big Sky house owner, another, Scott, and I agreed it sounded like an exciting expedition. And when would I get a chance like this again? Probably never!
So Pat gathered 3 motorcycles and loaded them into his giant Doge Ram Hemi pickup. I would drive the pick up to the trail head and he would ride the fourth motorcycle there. It was a challenge to take a six speed manual up 20 miles of mountainous dirt road with over a 1000 pounds of dirt bikes in the back. But it certainly wasn’t as challenging as actually riding the motorcycles.
Well, we greatly underestimated the difficulty of riding up to the lakes. The trail was steep, switchbacked and boulder strewn. Pat, an expert rider, spent his time getting us beginners up the mountain. He helped us right and position our bikes as we went down multiple times. It took all my childhood motorcycle riding experience and all my focus and still there were terrifying moments. Pete and Scott were without experience so I can’t imaging what they went through. Eventually I came around a turn and saw Pete lying still in the middle of the trail.
It seemed odd that there was no motorcycle just Pete lying still. But no limbs were bent in the wrong direction and eventually Pete began to stir. I then spotted Pete’s cycle higher up a switchback. Pete had high sided and fallen 10 to 20 feet down knocking the wind out of himself, bruising shoulder and hip, and cracking a couple of ribs. Pete toughly gritted out getting to the lakes and getting down the hill but could not fish.
On the way back, I managed to get a flat tire on the pick up and unwittingly drove on it until it was shredded. Pat ended up having to change a tire in the middle of nowhere. He had a long day taking care of us tenderfoots. We got a little too far outside our comfort zones. However, my son Chris says, if you never missed a flight you have spent too much time waiting in airports. So I don’t regret our decision.
With 20 excellent people having the time of their lives at the beautiful Three Sisters Ranch, the experience is unique. I anxiously look forward to it every year.
My name is Cris Kenny. Jim asked me to write a blog post about our recent trip to Montana. The trip included best friends since 6th grade, Lori, Denise and myself including our husbands Jim Darrin and Ron.
Many songs have been written over the years to tell a story. During this trip, one of our favorite things to do after each day’s action-packed adventure was to lounge about Pete’s cozy cabin. We would sing along with requested favorite songs (most often from the seventies), on Spotify, managed by D.J. Jim. We would like to attempt to use some of those songs to tell our story.
Our first Big Sky adventure was to the Gallitin National Forest. We were definitely not Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay (Otis Redding) when we went fly fishing on the Madison River. Each couple had a boat and guide and competed to catch more fish than the master fisherman, Jim Dickens. At the end of the day, Jim got 20 plus while the rest of us caught 2-5. The winding river and vast vistas more than made up for our paltry catch. After a long day we worked up a “Big Sky” hunger and thirst and headed to the Gallatin Riverhouse Grill where Jim touted the best $7 Fried Chicken dinner we would ever have. Nobody got the chicken but Jim. We all Drank Another Beer (Luke Bryant) and became best friends with our waiter Sean.
Our next full day found us driving The Long and Winding Road (The Beatles) in our ATV’s up Buck Ridge Trail. The trails were definitely windy and bumpy. Once again, Big Sky did not disappoint. The views were incredible including the sighting of a black bear running through a meadow. We wrapped up the night at Olive B’s where we dined on local delicacies including bison (fresh off the range).
Speaking of bison, our third and final day was spent In a Daydream (Freddie Jones Band) meandering through Yellowstone National Park. Soon after entering the park, we came eye to eye with a big bull bison walking down the road causing a massive traffic jam behind him. While we couldn’t miss a visit to the iconic Old Faithful, we all marveled at the beauty and grandeur of Artist Point, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Our newer visitors were surprised and impressed with the piping hot geothermal pools. We saw some of the best Yellowstone had to offer, but all agreed another visit would definitely be in our future. We headed back to Big Sky and decided to finish our trip at the Gallitin Riverhouse Grill where they serve the best $7 chicken. Jim was the only one who got the chicken . . . again.
We ended the night back at Pete’s cozy cabin snuggled up to each other making our requests of our favorite songs to D.J. Jim and realizing, Life’s Been Good To Us So Far (Joe Walsh).
In August 2019, Sue and Mark Glenn and Jim and Lori Dickens met up to explore the Pacific Northwest in an end of summer adventure.
The fun began in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA. The Glenns ferried in from Seattle and the Dickens ferried the next day from Anacortes. After dropping our luggage at the Tucker House Inn (wonderful staff, unbelievable breakfast, perfect location) we headed out to explore the island in a clockwise manner from Friday Harbor. We began with the American Camp (not very impressive), 4th of July beach (where we ran into Tom Lodge, Bucknell ’82 and his wife), Jackle’s Lagoon, Cattle Point Lighthouse and a hike to Mt. Finlayson. Spectacular views of the ocean all around! We then drove to the “resort” area of Roche Harbor and had a well-deserved lunch outside at the Roche Harbor Marina. On the way back to Friday Harbor, we visited the Westcott Bay Sculpture Park in an effort to satisfy our artistic cravings.
The next day was all about orcas! We kayaked in the morning at Jackson Beach where Lori and Slim got very up close and personal with a transient orca. Since transient orcas like to feast on seals and since Lori was pretty much dressed like a seal, there were a few tense moments (at least for Lori)! Sue and Mark kayaked close to shore and so were completely oblivious to what was going on. That afternoon, we drove up the West side of the island stopping along the side of the road where we saw several people gathered. For an hour we were treated to a spectacular show of a dozen resident orcas just off shore. And we learned a TON of information from some folks who were REALLY into orcas in kind of a cool and slightly geeky way. Once the orcas headed south, we headed to the Lime Kiln State Park where we had a fabulous picnic with many bees followed by a nice walk to the lighthouse. Before heading back to Friday Harbor we stopped at the English camp (WAY better than the American camp that we saw the day before) and had a lovely hike on the Bell Point Trail. The day ended with drinks outside at the Friday Harbor House (where we once again ran into Tom Lodge and wife).
Then it was time to explore British Columbia! We caught a morning ferry from Friday Harbor to beautiful Victoria! Dropped our things off at the fabulous Hotel Rialto (lovely staff, perfect location, incredible muffins/banana bread for breakfast). We spent the afternoon and evening exploring Victoria – enjoying the harbor, the flowers, the architecture, the food, the drinks! Found the perfect pub patio to hang out at for many hours of eating, drinking and people-watching!
The next morning we rented a car and headed out of the city. First stop was the East Sooke Regional Park where hiked to Beechy Head, partly through the woods and partly along the coast. From there we headed to Sooke Potholes Provincial Park and then to the amazing Butchard Gardens (even Slim and Mark agreed they were incredible). That evening, we enjoyed a relaxing, fabulous dinner at the Collective Wine Bar in the Cook Street Village area of Victoria.
Sand Bar Dinner with Mark and Sue expertly navigating our return to the Sutton Hotel.
Our final stop was Vancouver! We took the very convenient BFI (bus/ferry) Connector from Victoria to Vancouver – definitely the best way to make that trip. And well worth it to spend the extra $5CAD for the up-front seats! Arriving in Vancouver, stopped at The Sutton Hotel (great location, mediocre staff, no breakfast) and then headed to Granville Island for a wonderful dinner on the patio of the lively Sandbar Restaurant. After a walk back to the hotel we sadly had to say good-bye as Lori and Slim were flying home early the next morning and then on to other adventures later in the week. Sue and Mark stayed on for one more day which was spent in beautiful Stanley Park followed by dinner at the Cactus Club on the beach at English Bay.
Here are some of the great discussions from the trip:
Did Slim pressure Lori to dress in seal colors before going kayaking in an effort to attract transient orcas?
Which are superior: LLBean “shants” (Mark) or Lulu ABC pants (Slim)?
Is San Juan Island in WA or BC? And what WAS the name of the town we stayed in?
Is Deschutes fresh squeezed IPA just something that Slim made up? If not, why has no one else heard of it?
Are drones REALLY not allowed in US State Parks or did the park ranger just not like Slim? Was she even a park ranger?
What are the statistical odds of 4 Bucknell graduates being on the same random beach on San Juan Island at the same time?
Is there any better vehicle than a 2013 Toyota Camry, even if its key fob does not work thus making it very annoying to get into the car or trunk?
Who had the more impressive leg length to walking speed ratio – Sue and Lori….or Mark and Slim?
Who was the favorite Canadian? (1) Bill who drove the BFI bus from Victoria to Vancouver and entertained us with stories, (2) The British guy in Sidney who called the cab to take us to Victoria and kept checking for us to make sure it was really coming, (3) Bjorn the East Sooke Regional Park guy who directed us to our hike and became Mark’s new best friend, or (5) the guy who escaped from the Vancouver hospital and was roaming the streets attached to an I.V. according to Lori and Mark. (Slim and Sue were in the middle of an intellectual conversation and can not confirm the existence of said guy.)
Our Pacific Northwest trip was fabulous, and made even better by being with such old, dear friends – can’t wait to travel with you again soon!
After over 30 years of comfortable sleeping in a bed, my wife agreed to sleep on the ground. To say she is tolerant and kind is an understatement.
By Jim Dickens
I am getting better at cadence now and we drove over two thousand miles without exhaustion. I am now learning flexible planning which allows you to more easily exceed expectations. Having a great vehicle like the Honda Ridgeline and your lovely wife with you helps a great deal as well.
Lori and I were married 31 years ago by her Uncle Dick a revered member of the Presbyterian clergy. He brought calm and confidence to the tense marriage process and Lori and I have a special place in our hearts for him. He and his wife Nancy and some of their family live way up northwest of Duluth. We visited there first, an easy traffic free 9 hour drive.
We stayed at son, Steve’s, and wife, Joanie’s, lake house. Son, Tim, showed us his fishing expertise. Uncle Dick and Aunt Nancy are still reassuring and wonderful. A big thanks to the Steve and Joanie for their warm hospitality of cousins they haven’t seen for years. I am now a big fan of cruising on a pontoon boat. I hope we keep in touch and we can return the hospitality, perhaps in Switzerland.
We left Minnesota after a couple of days and struck out for South Dakota’s Badlands and Black hills. My wife camped with me and even helped set up the tent. The Badlands were thankfully more lush and cooler than last time I was there. The hiking was good and we got to see lots of large mammals which Lori likes most. Her favorite is the sea otter and she has decided prairie dogs are land otters.
We arrived just as the Sturgis Biker Rally was beginning and the parks were filled with unmuffled motorcycle engines blasting the wildlife away from the road. We’d avoid that next time. In the Black Hills, Mt Rushmore was under construction but still worth viewing including childhood nostalgia from previous vacations. Camping got us going to bed at dark and awakening at sunrise avoiding a lot of traffic and noise. However, we did have dinner at a biker filled bar, the Wagon Wheel, served by a tender with a Bucket of Blood Bar t-shirt. Good people and good pizza!
Earlier this year, I purchased an Annual Pass to the national parks. So on our way to Cody Wyoming we took a detour to the Devil’s Tower National Monument for quick look. Because we had the Annual Pass it was no problem just to stop in.
On to Cody, WY and then Yellowstone. No grizzlies but bison, deer, elk, prong horn, wolves, black bear and river otters.
One great thing for me happened as I’m a little green. Forty four years ago when I first visited, Yellowstone’s fishing bridge had numerous large cutthroat trout rising. When I returned as an adult they were gone due to invasive species. This year, because of intense conservation some returned, fantastic!
We stayed in Gardiner and Big Sky then headed to see our brother in law, niece and nephew in Boise. We used our Annual Pass to do a fly by at the Craters of the Moon National Park.
In Boise, our brother in-law was was a gracious host. I took his son, our nephew out for a day’s fishing on the Owyhee river. Very cold water, very hot air and three golden eagles added to fishing for very large and strong brown trout. Meanwhile, Lori joined our nephew’s wife and their four children, keeping them cool and happy on a 100 degree day. Only one injury required treatment, a split lip. A thank you again for warm hospitality from our family.
Lori flew home from Boise and I drove the truck to Bozeman to store until I returned in September. I camped along the way in the Gallatin National Forest. Camping by yourself takes some getting used to and camping by yourself not in a campground in grizzly country is even more intense. I awoke at 4:30 in the dark to great horned owls calling to each other. Before I drifted back to sleep an animal larger than a squirrel walked near the tent. No more sleep and out at first light. I intend to stay in campgrounds from now on although I bet the stats say humans are more dangerous.
Off the hook is a term that older people have coopted from the younger. We tend to over use it but it is what I think when describing the Ridgeline Tour in July.
Just before July 4, Lori and I went with 4 other couples for a week in Sonoma County, CA. We rented a home with bedrooms and bathrooms for each couple, a pool, a hot tub, a bocce court, a steam room, a sauna and a full indoor outdoor sound system. Great views, chamber of commerce weather and lifelong friends made the stay.
We biked the Dry Creek Valley and stopped at a couple of wineries, Capo and Dry Creek. Capo was built over the last couple of years by two Naperville sisters, one who sold a radiology practice and the other left an engineering manager career. We liked their wine and really liked them, a great experience. I would recommend only visiting one winery while biking. People started getting lost and wrecking after the second winery. However, it did make for interesting stories.
We paddled canoes down the clear sandy Russian River with redwoods and wineries on the banks. We hiked the scenic coast line where the river enters with eagles and harbor seals resting.
Jersey Tom took us to 5 wineries while giving the history of Sonoma County. It was 2 too many wineries but very fun. And we completed the World Cup of Bocce playing at different wineries with the finals at home. We also had a chef come in and do dinner for us and masseuse man the extra bedroom for an afternoon. It was perfect and just short of decadent.
Upon returning from wine country we unpacked then repacked and headed to Philly for my niece Teresa’s wedding to Matt.
I would describe Teresa’s wedding as tastefully lavish while being totally comfortable. There was no drama, the toasts were thoughtful, entertaining and well spoken. The reception music had broad appeal. The wedding party was elegantly dressed. The venue, the food, the string quartet were special in a good way. Lobster, crab and champagne at the reception cocktail hour and filet for dinner. We had a string quartet during the reception cocktail hour that had a little backbeat or a syncopated jazzy style. It was all hosted at The Ben in downtown Philadelphia, a room featured in the 2018 hit movie Silver Linings dance competition scene. It was a three story vaulted roof beautifully lit with lavender highlights and decorated immaculately.
The bride and groom families were accomplished socially and made everyone welcome, included and comfortable. My 90 year old parents enjoyed. My children and nephew motivated Lori and I to after party on the roof of the Logan Hotel. We closed down that bar looking down the avenue at the museum steps made famous in the movie Rocky. It’s been a long time since I stayed up that late. It was so fun I may do it again soon.
Well, meticulous planning by the experienced with a great eye for style made for two jet setter weeks from California to Pennsylvania. Thank you Denise, Janet, Teresa and Nancy! For me it was truly off the hook. It’s time to shift gears and tone it down a bit by driving out west.
I spent the first two thirds of June doing a little more of the usual. I played golf with great friends in Pittsburgh and Cleveland at their clubs. Thank you Andy and John. Then came home and detoxified myself.
Next, I went with some of the officers of the local Trout Unlimited Chapter, Willie, Dale and Dave to the driftless area of Wisconsin. The driftless area is the area that was not covered with glaciers during the last ice age and has a nice rolling hill topography with cool spring fed streams. We had a great time there catching lots of trout and inspecting some restoration work we were involved in.
So in addition to travel, skiing, fishing, and golf I have been spending some time getting involved with a couple of non profits. It’s something more than the usual. I am currently helping raise funds for Trout Unlimited, TU. TU restores streams flowing out of the mountains and springs improving the water and surrounding habitat making it healthier. Most of the USA is downstream of these initiatives and the water you live on is better because of it.
When I moved to Chicago over 30 years ago, none of the streams we fished would have had trout in them. This is because they used to be polluted, muddy and warm. The introduction of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts combined with improved environmental science, government funds and volunteerism are what keeps us living in a safe clean world unlike many other countries. It is really nice to be part of improvement not just hanging on to what we have.
Farmers, townships, federal grants and contractors catalyzed by TU have improved hundreds of miles of driftless area spring fed streams making them healthy. With the exception of mining pollution, most streams can be turned around. I think we can and should keep improving our environment. And, I think it is high time the USA does much more by adding real climate change mitigation to the Clean Air and Clean Water efforts.
Among the first few non profits I have contacted, TU has turned out to be a good fit for me. I am looking for one more non profit to be involved in and am open to suggestions. Look for a sober account of a drunken week spent in Santa Rosa, CA (wine country) next.
Some people have minds that automatically track where everything is and how to properly do things. They have orderly lives, are almost always in control and things are squared away. I am not one of those people and am thought of as absent minded needing lists and special habits to keep from losing things and missing appointments. My old fishing mentor, Dr. Z is squared away.
Dr Z.’s 4 wheel drive Mitsubishi Outlander is about to eclipse 200K miles. His trailer while the oldest in camp is fully functional and his river boat is self refurbished to last well into the future. His fishing gear is well organized and he is always prepared no matter the conditions. It’s comforting knowing we won’t have delays and a poor outing due to being unprepared or disorganized or unknowledgeable.
The Upper Delaware River flows finally calmed down enough to wade fish, so I made my way out flying through Scranton. As you can see above in addition to my customized Yeti cooler, I have added beginner drone photography. You always need to up your game.
The fishing was difficult as the river was still high with some pretty intense rains limiting the opportunity. Once, the fish started feeding just as it started pouring down, and I could not see my fly as the fish surfaced all around. It was a frustrating lost opportunity. However, we did manage to avoid getting skunked and the fish in the river remain large and rambunctious.
Rolled back home through Philadelphia and flew the drone for my parents at the reservoir behind their house. Took picture of my brother’s house and went to dinner with his family.
Then headed home stopping in Pittsburgh at the home of Marine Colonel Ian Ferguson another squared away guy with a 260,000 mile Ford Five Hundred and a functional flip phone. I highly recommend the pub dinner at the Blawnox Pa, Nox’s Tavern and Grille.
I admire people who are squared away and it’s always good to have someone along who is. They remind you to get your phone charger and keep you out of avoidable danger. The tour is heading out to Viroqua WI, Gibsonia, PA and Mentor, OH next. The tour is in full swing.