Wolves and Hot Springs in Bozeman, Montana

For the last several days of our house sit in Boise, I had to fly out to Chicago for a family funeral, and my return flight to Idaho actually landed only a few hours before the home owners returned from their own trip.  While in Chicago, it seemed that everyone was getting sick with either some type of strep throat or the ever pleasant norovirus.  I was one of the lucky ones to get norovirus.  So, after a mostly sleepless night, and with absolutely nothing in my stomach, I flew the three hour flight back west.  When I got back to Boise, I felt both physically and emotionally drained.  Not the best way to say farewell to somewhere I had never been before.  When Chuck and Kathy returned, they took Ian out to a local Mexican restaurant, while I napped on the couch with Tami.  After dinner, Chuck and Kathy headed for bed, exhausted from their 16 hour flight from Australia, and Ian and I packed for our early departure the next morning.

Still feeling weak, and unable to eat the next day, I was kind of looking forward to the 7 hour drive to Bozeman, Montana.  Ian and I said our farewells to Chuck, Kathy, and Tami Fe, and we hit the road.  A cold front had blown in the night before, and the fog we drove through was eerie and had an otherworldly feel to it.  As the sun rose in earnest, the fog dissipated, and was replaced by high speed crosswinds.  As soon as we got into the shadow of the mountains of Wyoming and Montana though, the winds died down.  Driving through West Yellowstone, we got our first true glimpse of wilderness.  Where Boise had received a cold front in the form of frost and fog, Montana received several inches of snow.  Because we left so early in the morning, this was the first drive we managed to complete before the sun set.  With the mountains so close on either side however, the sun was already behind the mountains as we pulled up to Howlers Inn Bed & Breakfast and Wolf Sanctuary.

As we parked, we got our first look at the wolves, and they stopped to check us out as well.  Walking upstairs to the entrance to the B&B, we were met by the owner and operator of the Inn, and she showed us around.  Though there were two rooms in the main house, they were both booked before we managed to make our reservation, so we were staying in the separate Carriage House.  The carriage house was way larger than we needed, with two large bedrooms, a living area, a full kitchen and bathroom.  We used one of the two bedrooms as a storage room for our luggage, for lack of a better purpose.

With the extra food we had left over from staying in Boise, we made a simple dinner of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and curled up on the futon to watch some of our shows.  As the first thing I had eaten in almost two days, the sandwich was just what I needed to start feeling better again, and a full night’s sleep made great strides in getting me back on my feet.

In the morning, we got our first close up glimpse of the wolves.  Although I thought that the sanctuary would be larger, the five wolves were separated into two enclosures.  In one, there was the former alpha male Comanche, an enormous and beautiful white wolf, and Shasta a smaller black and grey female.  In the other, there were the new alpha brother duo Chinook and Tahoe, both grey and white (and extremely difficult to tell apart), as well as the most sociable little girl of the pack, Sekani, also white, but much smaller than Comanche.

We walked around the perimeter of the enclosures, and got some amazing shots of all five of the wolves.  As the oldest, Comanche spent most of his time lounging on top of his hill in the snow, looking out over all of his surroundings; while Shasta stalked us along the fence of the enclosure, keeping several paces behind us, and pretending she wasn’t interested in us when we looked back at her.  In the other enclosure, we found Sekani the friendliest; she would even lean up against the fence, pressing as close to us as she could get.  Chinook and Tahoe on the other hand, were very weary of us, and kept their distance.  Trekking through the ankle to knee-deep snow, our pants and shoes were soaked, so we headed back inside to warm up for a while, and watch some more of our shows.

Finally, for the first time in days, I had a real appetite for a full meal, so we took the 30 minute excursion into downtown Bozeman to find some food.  After checking out our options, we settled on MacKenzie River Pizza Company.  Best first meal I could have chosen.  We started off with some of their Lodgepoles (mozzarella breadsticks), and some hot apple cider.  For dinner, I ordered the Willow Creek turkey sandwich, and Ian got the Stockman (meat lovers) pizza.  Finishing off the meal, we shared the Holiday Mack Lovin’ chocolate skillet cookie, with peppermint ice-cream.  After a solid meal, I finally began to feel human again.

After dinner, we went out into the streets of downtown, and got some pictures of the Christmas lights crisscrossed over Main Street.  Ian even played with doing some longer exposures, to get the light trails from passing cars.  At one point, a bartender from a nearby restaurant ran out to ask Ian about the camera and equipment he was using, and we showed him how to see some of the other photos Ian had taken on our Instagram page.  Even in the less than 10 degree weather, we had a fun night checking out Bozeman.

The next night was our final night in Montana, and we wanted to do something special.  So, after hanging out with the wolves for a bit around sunset, we drove back down through town, past downtown, to Bozeman Hot Springs Spa.  For about $10 each, we received admission, rented a towel, and a locker, and we were warming up in the 103 degree Fahrenheit water, out in a 9 degree Fahrenheit night.  Thick clouds of steam rose from the water, and the Christmas lights and fires lighting the paths made them glow in colorful bursts.  After a rough week, the warm water helped my body and mind relax.

Driving back to the Inn, we passed a game store called Rook’s Games and More, and stopped to check it out.  Expecting a small game store, with a limited variety, we were pleasantly surprised to find Rook’s stocked with everything from small independently made games, to highly rated, mainstream games.  There was even a wide variety of Games Workshop products.  Upstairs, the entire floor was a dedicated play room, with a huge library of games which could be tested out.  Having purchased a small library in Boise, we left the store empty handed, and went back to the warmth of the Inn.

That night, we huddled up on the couch, made a fire in the fireplace, and watched a movie I had been looking forward to for months; Better Watch Out.  Though the trailer was extremely misleading, the movie was actually really good.  If I had not watched the trailer and been expecting something completely different, I wouldn’t have had any qualms with it at all.  As it was, the trailer made me hopeful for something more like an R-rated Home Alone, when what I got was something closer to a Jeffrey Dahmer Christmas.  All in all, it was a good movie.  Funny, with a fair amount of psychological horror.  Just the way I like it.

We were met with another early morning the next day, and another 7 hour drive from Montana, down through Wyoming, to Colorado.  With the car packed, we took one last stroll around the wolf enclosure, and said our farewells to the wolves.  Sekani, always the most affectionate, came over to the fence to say goodbye.  Driving off as the sun rose over the tops of the mountains, we started the final leg of our month long round trip, with Christmas in Colorado set as our next destination.

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