It was cool and cloudy morning in Big Timber, Montana, and after the long road trip, we were in no hurry to get out of bed. Neither was Tripper, who’s quite fond of burrowing in, or laying on, the Therm-a-rest blankets and enjoying the window show. One of the things I love about the West is the accessibility of primitive campsites with easy river or trail access, and Tripper also enjoys a quiet morning walk through them.
After leaving the campground, our first stop was downtown Bozeman for a quick lunch a little shopping. The compact maneuverability of the Travato really shined there, successfully executing my RV parallel parking skills: even in a crowded main street, even with a hitch rack and Orion 85 on the back.
After lunch in town, I had two business stops to make. First was to say hello to some friends at Sitka, second was a stop at the Simms factory. Montana is famous for their world-class hunting and trout fisheries, so it’s fitting that the premium manufacturers of Gore-Tex hunting gear and fishing waders are also there.
When you enter the Simms facility, behind you is a large glass window where you can watch their employees hand cutting, sewing, manufacturing and testing their waders. It was a really cool tour, and working for a company that also works very hard to keep and create American jobs by making premium products, it was great to see the effort and hand care each and every product receives.
After the tour and adding a few more logos on the Travato, it was time to keep moving South to one of those famous Montana trout fishing destinations – The Madison River.
Located outside of ‘Trout Town USA’, Ennis, MT, the Madison is famous for it’s abundance of healthy trout, fishing well all the way to the confluence with the also famous Missouri River. With abnormally hot summer temps and low water conditions still prevailing in the region, and restrictions on fishing some rivers as result, we were heading high, to colder sections that remained open.
In Ennis we stopped into Trout Stalkers fly shop to pick up some local flies, and with pints flowing next door and the smell of irresistible burgers, we ended up staying for dinner on the dog-friendly deck next door at the Gravel Bar. After our fill on the Gravel Bar, we were off to our home for the evening, another BLM campground, this time on the banks of the Madison River.
My friend Corey met us on a cold morning with his drift boat for our Madison float. Ashley was excited for her first river trip in a drift boat, and Tripper was excited, to, well, do anything with us and be in a boat. We packed our lunches from the Travato in the Orion 25, loaded the boat and headed down the river.
Fishing was slow by Madison standards, but as the sun came out and the day warmed, we didn’t care. The float was beautiful, with snow capped mountains in the distance, clear water, and a few trout coming to hand. Tripper napped, or assumed the ever-ready gunnel surfing pose, ready to lend a paw with any unruly trout.
With all that excitement built up, he could hardly contain himself when Corey hooked into a nice rainbow at our lunch stop. He gets very worked up when a trout comes to hand, loves to lick them, and very stressed and confused once you let them go. He’s even jumped in after them a time or two. Fly fishing is apparently very exhausting for little dogs.
By the evening, we were off the river, and continuing our way South. Destination for the evening, another BLM campground at Cliff and Wade Lakes. On our way in, we passed a few pronghorn antelope – a lone buck at one point, and then a buck rounding up his does.
The campgrounds at Cliff and Wade Lakes are primitive, but an incredible scene. Wildflowers blooming, crystal clear water with trout swimming around, and plenty of paddling opportunities. We wished we had more time to spend there. For now, waders were hung to dry, and it was time to crawl back in the sleeping bags…..
Winners of numerous awards, Simms G3 Guide waders use an incredibly durable 5-layer Gore-Tex Pro Shell fabric on the legs to keep you dry and comfortable, and hold up to hiking/trail abuse. I particularly like how the leg seems have been moved the face vs the inside, to prevent chafing and wear while hiking. The upper uses a more breathable 3-layer Gore-Tex for added breathability, and has a clever chest pocket/hand warmer system to organize your gear and keeps the fingers warm. When dry, I store these in the Plano trunks under the Travato that I mentioned in another recent post.
When wet, I either store them in the Orion 85 on the back of the Travato (if it’s empty), or hang them in the shower area.
We’ve really fallen in love with the Auriga down blankets from Therm-a-rest. Think of them as half of a down sleeping bag — they are basically meant to be used alone like a down comforter, or they can be paired with an inflatable Therm-a-rest sleeping pad, and used in your tent on the trail, utilizing the pad to insulate your back. They are very warm, highly compressible, light, and keep us warm in a variety of conditions. We keep them stored in the Travato overhead storage bin, or just leave them on the bed when we fold it up. Weighing just over a pound, they then serve double duty if we camp a night away from the Travato, easily packing into backpacks, preventing us from needing to store extra sleeping bags to take with us on the trail. As an active, tossing sleeper, I can still move around a lot just like I would at home or in the Travato. Tripper loves to call them home too.