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Brushfire Fairytales

The camera shutter sounds like a cymbal. It clashes and twangs with every shot. Nothing’s wrong with it. It’s just that quiet on the mountain.

I don’t even really know which mountain. I’m somewhere high above several ranges in Montana, car-camping about about a mile from a Ghost Town—not a tourist attraction or a haunted house, an actual, abandoned town that’s been idle since the early 1900s. The Bureau of Land Management owns the place and this peak, thus, with the proper credentials, you can camp for free. If you don’t have the credentials, you can still camp for $3.00.

This is what happens when I hear the symbol crash.

A few hours ago, the scene on the mountain was more grim. Minutes after reaching the ghost town, thunder and hail swept over the nearby peaks in a fury. I hastily made camp in the back of the Escape (which really deserves a name at this point), and bunkered down with an in-and-out 3G signal and an inbox full of mail.

Yes, I do actually have to work. Despite being on the road, I still manage to make it happen. Sometimes that means cranking out columns from a coffee shop. Sometimes, it means conference calls in a parking lot. But the work gets done. The key is to wake up early, get down whatever mountain I am on and into town, then get locked in.

About that…

Sunday night didn’t end well. In my last post, I talked about feelings and vibes, and the forest I attempted to camp in last night—one I found for free on the internet—was straight up spooky land. I can handle the solitude and the seclusion. I can even handle a literal ghost town within easy walking distance of my camp, but something about those particular woods drove me away around midnight.

I don’t have a ghost story here. I didn’t have an experience: just a feeling. That night, for whatever reason, I was not supposed to be there. I was not supposed to camp in the Plum Creek Wilderness. I was not supposed to be on Gold Creek Road. Tonight, I’m in a similar wilderness area, but one or two mountains over.

The vibe is totally different.

This is a good place, a happy place. And so, I will camp here in peace. Despite the hail and the ruins and the limited cell signal, I’ll be fine.

Call it the calm after the storm.

Written by

When my home was sold out from under me, I bought a tent and decided to live outside. Now, I'm a freelance writer for Travel Channel, INSIDER, Nat Geo, and Fodor's Travel and I'm on a never-ending quest to get out of my comfort zones and see the world.

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