Jerry Schuster

The reason this article is untitled is that if you knew the topic at a glance you probably wouldn’t read it. Why? Well, there are approximately 749 books, publications, articles and other resources available locally on the subject. So, to get you to read this, I really can’t announce what it is about. We will call it “Untitled” and you will soon figure it out. If you don’t know by the end of the article, go have some bubble tea and a nice nap and then re-read.

It seems that few people want to expose the real deal and truth about this subject matter. This article will not bore you with the usual trail descriptions, difficulty ratings and highlights to see while on your hike. For those of you who are really keen, you have now figured out the topic, but continue reading anyway. I will discuss all of those items which are quietly talked about, but never discussed in public, as that would not be polite. Do I have to explain this further, or are you going to continue reading? Your choice, but you will later regret not reading this to completion.    

When those friends from California come to visit you in Bozeman this summer, it is mandatory to take them on some local hikes. After you have read all the hiking guides and studied the maps, GPS locators, weather forecasts and the like, you are now ready to proceed with this article to understand the quintessence of the matter. Here are the untopics which should be given your undivided attention.

Dogs on trails - While hiking the beautiful local trails, know that you will encounter 5.36 dogs for every human you meet. Do not worry. Some of these dogs are just out for their veterinary-prescribed therapeutic walk for the day. Be quiet and respectful and give them wide berth when passing, as they have the right of way on the trail. Also, please keep your thoughts about all the dog poop on the trail to yourself. After all, this is Montana. Just watch your step. When you get home, place your hiking boots in a remote corner of the garage for six weeks and they will be fine.

Note to self—quit being so dour! Okay, well…it is a pleasure to come upon dogs on the trail who are properly trained and disciplined. When you experience this, as we have often, take the time to compliment the owners. In case I missed someone, thanks for taking the time to train your dog.

Mountain bikes and horses on trails - I am lumping these together, since you will rarely encounter either, as the trails are pretty well occupied by the animals mentioned in item 1 above. There is only one important thing to know about mountain bikes on trails. Go get yourself another cup of bubble tea, as this is something you must remember. Are you relaxed and ready now? Okay, here it is…these vehicles come down the hill a lot faster than they go up! Oh, there is one more thing. They generally travel in groups of 20 bikes. When you encounter one bike, leave the trail and go have a nice lunch and read your pocket addition of Joyce’s “Ulysses”. When finished with the book, the trail will be clear.

As to horses, the issue here is the same as with the animals mentioned in item 1 above. Only bigger piles…a lot bigger. All you need to do here is take a detour around the piles. Bring you GPS navigation system, as finding your way back to the trail after dark can be quite difficult. We will discuss appropriate gear below.

Bears on trails - This is one of those real dilemmas. The reason our out of town guests want to go hiking is to see a live bear or two up close. However, when you actually get to the hiking area, their tone changes. They want to make sure there are no bears near the actual trail being hiked. If someone reported a bear sighting on this trail during the last 46 years, they will not leave their Hummer. So, what you want to do is go home and watch a rerun of “ Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” which features Yellowstone Park bears. Have a copy of this program available for your VCR. After watching the bear special, you can then all go for a nice hike in the Gallatin Valley Mall parking lot, as it has been some time since a sighting there. Do not mention that there was a bear in the hallway of Bozeman High School last year! Do not carry food, as it attracts bears, so you will want to have a nice lunch at a downtown establishment.

You will want to carry bear spray when hiking in these mountains. My wife Theresa carries several sizes, being mini, regular, large and mega-jumbo large. In case you have forgotten the story of “Goldilocks and The Three Bears,” the mini is used for small bears, the regular is for medium bears …you do not want to meet the bear requiring the use of the mega-jumbo. This one comes in a three gallon canister and is worn on your back in place of a pack. It comes with a number of detachable spray hoses and nozzles. The pack also has a nice variety of prayer and spiritual books in several languages. These can be useful if the nozzle is plugged on attempted use.

Backpacks and hiking gear - Forget your old ways and repent! Do not hike near Bozeman in your 1945 style boots and heavy canvas backpack. Do this: first, go to your local bank and secure a hiking gear loan. You can get one which is amortized out for 7 to 15 years, with low monthly payments of under $350.00. Then, loan secured, you are ready to shop for your gear. There are some real deals out there. For example, I bought a good used, reconditioned pack for under $2,438.00 recently. As to items needed for the pack, I will defer to Theresa’s advice, because she is quite knowledgeable on this topic.

Here is a partial list of items and equipment you must have for hiking: poncho, raincoat, extra hiking shoes and snow boots just in case, six-person tent with detachable side entry shelter, water purifier and several redundant systems, flashlight, headlamp, case of batteries for each member in your group as no one else will remember these; emergency radio receiver and transmitter, night flares, waterproof matches, variety of dried and canned food, check the labels for no GMO, locally sourced, gluten free, etc., a good GPS system and folders for approximately 114 maps. The side pocket must contain 14 pairs of socks, a first aid kit, and a complete medical box which contains a collapsible stretcher. Also, have a high-end camera with detachable lenses, tripod, and camera batteries since they always fail the moment you reach the trailhead.

Now, let me stress, these items will get you by for a day outing to, let’s say, the “M” hike. If you are going further, please refer to one of the 749 hiking-related publications available at Country Bookshelf. If your hike will include an overnight stop, read a psychiatric journal on the topic first to see if you can handle the stress. If you do pass the stress portion, then camp in your back yard for three nights during June or January. No, you cannot use the house bathroom facilities. I know what you are thinking. Don’t ask.

There you go. Since this is an un-article, it is both in a state of existence and nonexistence until you reveal it to others in accordance with quantum mechanics theories. Remember, we do not want to be discussing these things in public. Just give your guests a knowing smile when they ask about local hiking and enjoy the journey.  

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