My buddy Chad and I have been camping off and on since I moved back to Montana. He lives in Western Montana, I live in Central Montana. He likes camping in the mountains, I like camping in the high desert/prairie. So we trade off. Copper Creek, (the one by Georgetown Lake, not Lincoln,) is one of his favorite spots, so one day last August I loaded up the camper and headed West to camp with Chad and his family.
Let’s go back to 2018 first. I didn’t have a camper, but the dog and I were content to sleep in the back of the truck (under the topper.)
We met Chad at East Fork Reservoir and set up the truck. It was pouring rain, but I set the tarp up off the back of the truck and borrowed Chad’s Mr. Buddy heater. Long story short, it was cold and wet, and the dog and I ended up spending the second night in Chad’s camper. Which is actually one of the main reasons I ended up buying a camper. I guess I’m admitting that I’m too damn old to sleep in the back of my truck.
At any rate, we took a drive up to Copper Creek so he could show me where he usually camps. His spot was already taken, (which was why we were camping at East Fork,) but I quickly realized why it was his favorite place to camp. Awesome open areas bordering a small creek, dispersed camping so no nearby neighbors, great scenery. Burn scars from a relatively recent forest fire swept through parts of the landscape. It was fascinating to me that one tree could be burnt to a crisp, but another tree ten feet away was just fine.
The rain poured all weekend, but I promised I’d come back to camp the following summer.
Back to 2019
A few days before I was scheduled to leave for Copper Creek, an old high school girlfriend called to say that she was taking her kids on a road trip in her RV. Based on her route, it looked like our paths would cross right around Deer Lodge, so we planned to grab lunch. Plans didn’t quite work out perfectly, so we ended up meeting in Drummond, instead.
After lunch at the Rough Stock Saloon, (great place, by the way,) her kids asked if they could do some camping, so the whole crew caravanned to the Copper Creek camping spot with me. We met up with Chad and his family–not at the spot he had shown me the year before because it was occupied–but at an equally awesome spot just down stream.
That night was full of campfires, s’mores, stories and a wickedly awesome full moon.
The next morning, our camp guests left, so Chad and I decided to do some exploring. We ran into Philipsburg to grab some dinner and check out the brewery. Dinner was at Bricks Pizzeria and Pub, and we weren’t overly impressed. Everyone was friendly and the food was good, but it was slow. So slow, in fact, that after watching his drink sit on the bar for 10 minutes, Chad finally walked over from our table to grab it himself. The brewery was awesome. I grabbed a growler of something or other, and we headed back to camp. We toyed with the idea of coming back for some kind of festival that was going on that night, but decided we’d just end up getting ourselves in trouble.
Back even further
Way back when–I’d say back when I was in my 20s–my best friend’s parents owned a gallery in Philipsburg. I only visited once or twice, but I’ve heard stories. So many stories of shenanigans that went on in that little town. If I remember correctly, there were two bars, and I’m pretty sure my buddy managed to get temporarily kicked out of both of them. Good times. It’s an awesome little town.
Back to 2019, again
The small creek by our campsite was full of tiny brook trout, so we spent a little time fly fishing it. We must’ve caught and released 20 or more fish in one morning. Hoping to catch something more substantial, we drove over to Moose Lake to see what we could catch on worms. The short answer? Nothing. And it didn’t matter. Just getting out of town to sit by a lake for a bit was rewarding enough. (That’s something people tell themselves when they don’t catch fish.)
The rest of the weekend was spent exploring, fishing, and target shooting. The dogs wore each other out on a daily basis, and the camp cooking was delicious.
And the wrap up
Copper Creek, (again, the one by Georgetown Lake, not Lincoln,) is an awesome place to spend some time. Plenty of dispersed camp sites, and an actual campground if that’s more your style. Moose Lake would be great to paddle around on in a canoe, but it’s surrounded by private residences, so it’s not the idyllic beauty I’d prefer to see in the mountains. Philipsburg is the closest town, so you can pick up groceries, fill a growler with local beer, or grab some gas. Get there early, as there are no reserved camping spots. Keep your fires in the fire pits, and make damn sure they’re out before you leave.