By Dominic Vautier

My sister-in-law used to live in Hamilton, Montana and I promised her we would go there some time in the summer.  The quiet little town of Hamilton is about 50 miles south of Missoula.  Hamilton is nestled snuggly and securely in the Bitterroot Valley which lies between the Bitterroot mountains to the west and the gentile Sapphire Mountains to the east.

Here is a view of Hamilton looking west.


 In case you don't know Montana, the Bitterroot Mountains consist of that practically impenetrable array of hills, precipices, jagged peaks and towering cliffs that make up the northwestern Rockies and most of Western Montana as well.  With good reason it delineates the jagged state line between Montana and Idaho because there's just no way to get through " them dar hills".  So you wind up going around (as Lewis & Clark eventually had to do).  In fact L&C almost died in the winter cold of western Montana while they were trying to get out of the place.  If it were not for some friendly Indians (who said "um-pa -wa-kai -wa- klattua -sai -ya" which means "you ain't gonna get there from here, dude"),  perhaps L&C would still be there.





Our first stop was a station in George, Washington--by George.



Everybody piled into our big van and off we went, stopping a few times along the way (mostly at Safeway).

We arrived in Missoula around dusk.  Hwy 93 to Hamilton is just too dangerous to drive at night (too many deer--deer me), so we got a room in a motel.  My sister-in-law and I sat out in the Safeway parking lot seriously drinking beer while Cyn did some shopping.  Cyn cannot pass a Safeway without stopping.

The next morning there was lots of time to check out the town and cruise Reserve Street.    


The Bitterroot Valley is indeed  beautiful in summer.  Traveling down hwy 93 from Missoula is like peeling an artichoke one leaf at a time never knowing what you will find next.  The big mountains sort of creep up on you and pretty soon they're right in your face.

Here's Val in Hamilton.  I'm looking west.  Temp is about 100 and dry---love it.

Chris has a good size place just south of town.  the house has a good well so the grass can stay green.  Her friend Don has all sorts of gadgets, like cameras and telescopes.  What fun.  when the stars come out, you can reach up and touch them.

The 4th of July was on and Val brought a bunch of fireworks.  He had to shoot them down by the road away from any structure.








Just about then Cyn was really starting to relax with a cool orange juice and the latest issue of "House Beautiful".  I too was all settled down with a number of cold beers, mixed nuts and some good conversation.  Don was showing me all his GPS units, telescopes, cameras, lenses, gadgets, photographic stuff, etc.  Val was busy with the satellite TV watching a robot destruction derby, where these machines beat the hell out of each other.  Is this heaven or what!

then Gabe calls:

Gabe: Mom is that you?

Cyn: Yes, Gabriel,  It's me.  How's it going back there?  Staying out of trouble?

Gabe: Mom, Are you sitting down?

Cyn: [in worried shock] What's wrong Gabriel.  Tell me.

Gabe: A truck ran into the house.

Cyn: [in obvious disbelief] Er, right, yah.

Gabe: Really Mom, a truck ran into the house.

Cyn: What?  There must be something wrong with the connection here.  It sounded like you said that a truck ran into the house.  You mean our house!

Gabe: Right.  A truck ran into your house.

Trucks are definitely not supposed to run into houses, especially when you're far away from home and having a real good time.


We had to immediately pack and start the long drive back to Bellevue, not knowing just what condition our house would be in when we got home.  Our  vacation in Hamilton had lasted but a mere 14 hours, and had come to a sudden and unexpected end.

Life can be surprising.


Here is what we found when we got home.


More about this on the crash page.