Freedom Calling… Holter Lake, Montana Rings the Bell

by R. McKinnon Baxter

Dear Montana… thank you for reminding me of the gift we’ve all been giving here in America… Freedom. Lord knows, we take that word for granted here in the US. We have it, and we don’t realize what we have. No, I am going to take that a little further. We have it, we don’t realize what we have… and therefore we squander it and cover it up with the distractions of work, television, emailing, texting, Facebooking, Tweeting, and all those other responsibilities we bestow upon ourselves. Why? It’s a good question. If I had to answer it right here and now, I would say it’s because we are so free, that we are afraid of missing out on something, some opportunity, some “option”. See we like options in life… but much like a menu with too many, it can overwhelm, it can complicate and it have quite the opposite effect of its intent. And so… what we are missing the most, as we are lost in a sea of man-made distractions… is simple beauty, and yours has perhaps saved me from getting forever lost in the minutiae.

Jenny, Hahnna and I regrouped in Bozeman, worked on Jenny’s door and brakes, and then set out for what would be three weeks of travel. First stop would be Holter Lake, where we would spend a few days visiting some friends of mine; Liam and Karen who own a nice little cabin on the lake… accessed only by boat.

When we left Bozeman, this trip was clearly different… knowing we would be gone for three weeks minimum… there was a new sense of freedom that we all felt. This was no Mickey Mouse three day weekend trip… this was now officially an adventure, a journey into the relative unknown.

We pulled into Wolf Creek to clean Jenny’s windshield and get an iced tea, and there was a guy sitting out in front on a bench, having a smoke. “Couldn’t help but notice the first three numbers on your plate are 666…” I had noticed this when I registered Jenny with the State of Montana, and did not question it. When we set out on this journey, we said, the three of us… “look, let’s not sweat the small stuff”… let’s not worry about dents, dirt and minor issues… let’s be cool guys… let’s have fun… let’s explore our world, and let the rest slide off. “Well, I’ll tell you, I’m certainly no saint,” I replied with a wink to the ol’ feller. The fact that I am not the devil was certainly implied, but I figured I would let him draw his own conclusion. Jenny, Hahnna and I were certainly not going out of our way to attend church services on our trip, but we believed in some way, traveling through God’s country… we were no strangers and were closer to this realm than we had ever been before.

When we left Wolf Creek it was magic hour, which in Montana in the middle of July is about 9:30pm. Listening to a little retro Nirvana, I was inspired to turn on my video camera and capture our arrival at Holter… and a sneak peek at Jenny’s interior… the beauty of this short drive alone, Montana, was a gift in itself.

When we reached the top of the hill, overlooking the Lake, we were met with a beautiful rainbow and view of the lake.

Holter Lake Montana from Hill

Holter Lake Montana from Hill

We pulled into what was to be the last spot available on the lake. It was lucky, and it was just the kind of luck we needed. We looked right out on the lake, and it beckoned for a nice swim.

That night, we learned a little RV’ing 101. Two lessons really… the first… if you cook in an RV… there will be mess, and when living in a home or apartment, there are a number of things we take for granted… One is running water and the other is sewer. Yeah, no problem to boil a pot of water and cook some spaghetti with my propane stove, which I did, and enjoyed my meal… but then… since I don’t have a holding tank for my “gray water” as they say… where was I to dispose of my spaghetti water, my spaghetti sauce “waste” when I washed the pot? Another freedom just taken for granted by most here in the US… we just put our pots, pans and dishes in an automatic dishwasher, push a few buttons and voila, wake up in the morning and the problem is automatically solved for us. But in our case, we can’t, nor do we want to just wash our pan and dump the dirty “gray” water on the ground… So what do you do? You contain it and dispose of it at an RV dump, along with your “brown” water… which, if you don’t know what that is… you can do the color analysis yourself. Thankfully we had a water container to capture the water and we avoided the wrath of the campground host, this time.

Lesson number two came in the middle of the night, when we realized that RV batteries don’t last as long as you’d hope, and thus refrigerators stop working and so do often much needed rooftop fans. Not to mention our need to keep working on the road with computer, cell phone and internet. Wonderful thought to have at 3am when the whir of the white noise machines slow and then come to a dead stop… Half asleep, the thought fundamentally goes like this. “I’m screwed”.

So Freedom… freedom to have Power, Water, Sewer. I have to admit… personally I had been taking it all for granted. I wondered for a moment what life would be life in another country, another world, where I did not have these freedoms, these luxuries.

The next morning I packed up and moved to the top of the hill, where I knew I had just enough battery power on my laptop and Mifi device and were able to pick up a strong enough wireless signal to get on the internet and check in on business. Clearly, I realized there was some strategizing in order to meet our needs as a traveling show on the road…

Later that day, I put a small bag together, grabbed my guitar, met up with my friends Liam and Karen who picked me up by boat at Log Gulch and we headed out across the lake to their cabin on the west side of Holter.

Boating on Holter Lake Montana

Boating on Holter Lake Montana

Liam and Karen are both born and raised Montanans, and I’ve learned a great deal from them. Liam, for one, also has that get’r done Montana attitude, very similar to my friend Jack. The greatest lesson I’ve learned from Liam is this… This is not a popularity contest… this is about enjoying your life. Liam has a lake home that he owns free and clear on Holter… He has a boat, he has a four wheeler, he has a few trucks, he has a camper, he has farm equipment, he has a nice home in Bozeman with 60 acres. He’s 52 years old, and he owns it all free and clear. Now granted, none of these things are brand new, and none of them shine or will ever win any awards for beauty. They are functional and when you hang out with Liam and Karen, you realize that they live the good life. Their “things” are functional and they OWN them. They are not overburdened by debt, they don’t have to work their asses off just to stay afloat, or just to “own” these things that would in reality be owned by the bank, and not them anyway… Liam and Karen have not been caught up in the “keep up with the Jones’s” game of life… In fact, I suspect the Jones’s might even be a little jealous if they knew what they really had.

When we arrived at the cabin, Liam and I enjoyed an ice cold beer down on the lake, and talked about his latest improvement plans. See, Liam loves his lake home, but he is also not one to sit on his ass all day and do nothing. He has one of the strongest work ethics I’ve seen in any man, and in spite of his unfortunate height deficiency, he’s another product of your making Montana… and strong as an ox.

Over the course of the next few days, I did a little singing and playing on the guitar, read Jonathon Livingston Seagull again (my favorite short story) and helped Liam with his latest project. Unfortunately I don’t have the before picture, but I do have the aft… of the completed stairway (the railing we built and the wagon wheels we attached while I was there). It was one of those projects that gives one a great feeling of pride. What is so interesting about this enhancement, is that these old Buick wagon wheels were just sitting around in various places at this property… they were there when Liam bought the place, and only about 90 to 100 years old… really unbelievable.

Holter Lake Cabin Stairs

Holter Lake Cabin Stairs

After a few days of fun at the LK cabin…I decided it was time to get on the road and head over to Hamilton… and the Bitterroot Valley. It was late in the day and Jenny and I knew it was probably too late to reach Hamilton without complication… so after a little work and adjustment on Jenny’s brakes…

Adjusting Brakes on 1984 GMC Vandura Campervan

Adjusting Brakes on 1984 GMC Vandura Campervan

…and a ride on Hahnna up into the hills above Holter…

View above Holter Lake Montana

View above Holter Lake Montana

…we set our sights on the Helena Walmart parking lot… (which is a story in itself). On our way though, we noticed a hatch going on along the Missouri River, just north of the lake (and Holter Dam), and took some photos of what was happening.

Missouri River Montana Fly Fishing Holter Dam

Missouri River Montana Fly Fishing Holter Dam

Hatch on Missouri River Holter Dam

Hatch on Missouri River Holter Dam

Hatch North of Holter Dam Missouri River

Hatch North of Holter Dam Missouri River

R. McKinnon Baxter, an Automated Business and Online Marketing Expert, has sold nearly $50 Million in products online over the course of 12 years. Today, he enjoys his life as a Travel Writer along with the freedom of the mobile working lifestyle driven by his automated business model and strategies. To learn more about McKinnon’s principles and methodologies, visit www.AutomatedProducer.com.

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