Isaac in the Highlands

Isaac in the Highlands

Last night Isaac and I spent the night at Hells Canyon Guard Station in the Highland Mountains south of Butte. Originally built as a line cabin for local ranchers in 1906, the cabin has been owned by the Forest Service since 1910. It was first used as a guard station (a remote location where work crews lived while working in the forest), and in recent years it has been made available to the general public as a rental.

As a young pup, Isaac took trips to Fleecer Guard Station and Miller Cabin with Jamie, and he also joined the whole pack in outings to Fleecer and Diamond Butte Lookout over in southeast Montana, but this was Isaac's first time at a cabin without Jamie there to show him the ropes. He had a great time.

Getting There

Hells Canyon Guard Station is just 24 miles from our house as the crow flies, but it takes over two hours to get there because you have to drive around the Highlands down to the small town of Twin Bridges, and then drive an extremely rough dirt road 15 miles up into the Highlands from there.

I never explored this southeast quadrant of the Highlands with Jamie, but we passed many Jamie memories on the way there, such as Fish Creek Road and the Beaver Ponds Trailhead.

At the cabin

After an hour of slow rough driving, this was our first glimpse of our destination: Hells Canyon Guard Station.

Off-leash Isaac

It seems many Samoyed owners have had the same experience we've had with our four (or five including the one I had before Megan and I met): the males can learn to be relatively trustworthy off leash, but the females are too independent-minded to be trusted off leash in wilderness areas. Alice scared the hell out of us that day at the Beaver Ponds Trail when she was younger, and Nancy has made it repeatedly clear in the last year that she can't be off leash in these situations either.

That's why I only took Jamie for these sorts of solo dog cabin outings in the past, and Isaac will likely be my most common companion for them in the future. We can take the girls, of course, but it's stressful to know what could happen if I dropped the leash, and with Isaac, like Jamie before him, he'll come back if I call him with a sense of urgency.

Under the stars

We only had an hour of daylight after we arrived, and then it was time to settle in for the night. The cabin had a nice wood stove, but I didn't bother with that because I thought the temperature wouldn't get much below the 40s. My mistake: it got slightly below freezing. But with Isaac joining me on the bunk we kept each other warm enough to get some sleep between short walks through the night.

After the partial moon rose, this was the view of Table Mountain from our bunk.
I finally got my first star photo with Jamie's tripod, the tripod I bought after cancelling the trip to Monument Valley that Jamie and I had planned for this fall.

I kept Isaac on leash for our outings in the dark, just to be extra careful. If he heard a large animal out in the woods, I'm not certain I could get him to stay close to me and not go check it out. With Jamie, I was certain I could trust him in that situation, but it took many years before I felt that way. Isaac will probably get there, too, but he's still too young for off-leash time at night in the woods.

Heading home

We went to bed very early, so even with several night outings we were ready to get on the road as soon as the sun came up around 7:30.

Isaac watching me pack up the truck to leave. I always walked Jamie and then put him in the truck before packing up, and have decided to teach Isaac the same routine.
We stopped a few miles down the road for Isaac's breakfast in a clearing near the Cherry Creek trailhead.
Isaac has his first line on our map of Highlands backroads we've explored. We have many more planned.