New Adventures in Southwestern Montana

My personal blog has been dedicated mostly to philosophy, economics and entrepreneurship. These areas of focus are a significant part of who I am but not exhaustive by any means. As an attempt to make this personal blog a better reflection of my worldview and personality I plan on expanding the content to include other parts of my life that are core to who I am. Below is a fun blog about one of my recent adventures, adventure and the mountains being one of the primary drivers and motivations in my life. I hope you enjoy…

The summer of 2021 has been all about wildfires and heat waves in Southwester Montana.  Smoke filled skies and extreme heat put the brakes on our typical adventure filled summer plans. But staying inside is just not an option for our family so we decided to mix it up with a new adventure recently.  This last weekend we bought an inflatable stand-up paddle board and decided to head up high in the mountains to get out of the smoke and heat.  Our destination, Lave Lake.

Lava Lake is nestled between Big Sky and Bozmean in Southwestern Montana.  A picturesque drive from Bozeman to the Lava Lake trailhead winds up a narrow canyon with the famous Gallatin River carving its way relentlessly through the narrow valley. Recreational white-water rafters seeking the next thrill are framed by patient fly fisherman trying to land their next 20-inch brown trout on an elk caddis fly. Southwestern Montana is truly and American gem of rugged beauty and adventure.

The Lava Lake trailhead is hidden just off a sharp bend on Highway 191, if you blink you will miss it.  At the trailhead you are met with a lush green landscape filled with wildflowers.  The trail is approximately 2.7 miles to Lave Lake carving its way up the Southern slope ascending 1,600 feet.  My wife readied her bag with our lunch, water, and survival gear.

I awkwardly threw the new NRS inflatable stand-up paddle board, often referred to as SUP by the cool kids.  I’m used to carrying large loads while mountaineering, but this was definitely a different type of load to carry.  But it didn’t matter because all I could think about was cruising on that paddle board on the perfect glass water high in the mountains.  Well worth the suffering.

We did our last check, and my wife grabbed her bear spray, and I holstered my Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan 44 magnum to my chest harness.  It is Montana and the casual encounter with a Grizzly Bear is an everyday reality here, better safe than sorry.  Our 15-pound King Charles & Japanese Chin adventure Dog, Kingston, led the way as excited as we were for this new type of adventure.

The anticipation built as we patiently made our way up the mountainside stopping occasionally to pick a few wild berries or snap a picture of a wildflower.  Thankfully we had cloud cover and the higher elevation was giving us some reprieve from the heat.  After about an hour we crest the mountainside and laid our eyes on the magnificent Lave Lake.  A perfectly formed mountain lake surrounded by beautiful peaks and alpine trees.  We had the lake to ourselves and there wasn’t a single ripple in the water except for the occasional trout grabbing an afternoon snack. 

I threw the SUP off my back and immediately went to pumping up the paddle board with the excitement of a young child.  After frantically pumping to the point of exhaustion with little results I realized this was another part of the backcountry SUP experience that required patience. My wife and I rotated on the pump until the board was ready and that magical moment of launch was finally here. 

We put on Kingston’s Ruff Wear life jacket and carefully placed him on the board, not knowing what to expect.  He is an adventure dog with limits, especially when it comes to water.  But we quickly found out that floating on a board on an alpine mountain lake was right up his alley.  Kingston and I were officially off giving the SUP its maiden voyage on Lava Lake. 

It was everything I had thought it would be as we glided along the mountain lake seeing every fish and boulder below with perfect clarity.  As we got to the middle of the lake and its deepest point the water went from translucent to pitch black giving me a sense of uneasiness and mystery.  Each stroke of the paddle was oddly meditative and created a sense of tranquility unlike anything I’ve done in the mountains before. Kingston and I were immediately hooked on this new type of adventure.  My wife and I took turns taking Kingston on cruises around the lake for hours, time stood still in that moment.

Just as we finished our last paddle and started breaking down our gear the mountains gave us another show, the skies burst open with rain. We took cover under the trees and watched the rain play a symphony on Lava Lake. It was truly a sight to see and a sound to hear, such perfection in nature.

Once the storm subsided, we made our way down the mountainside, the fresh rain completely transformed the forest around us. Kingston was on sensory overload stopping to sniff every other object on the trail.  I can’t blame him as we were also taking our time soaking it all in and making plenty of wild berry stops. 

Our backcountry SUP adventure was one of those perfect days in the mountains.  That is the beauty of adventure and trying new things, you never know when you are going to have those perfect days you will never forget. It keeps you coming back for more adventure.