Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summertime in Montana

Although we have been grieving the departure of Dan, Camp Fancy-Free has moved onward to Montana and is happy to report we are thoroughly and systematically taking summer for all its worth. And it is really summer here. It was really hot last week and kind of humid. Kind of gross, actually. I’m not into that humidity stuff, these days. But, its nice and cool now. Just a little smoky from a nearby wildfire. Anyways, it the weather hardly matter, because I have been having way too much fun the last two weeks to notice.

After dropping Dan at the Portland Airport, we enjoyed a lovely ride along the Columbia River Gorge, through the amber waves of grain of eastern Washington and up and over the alpine splendor of the narrow strip of Idaho. We arrived in Missoula at a decent hour and still light out at 10:00pm. My best friend Sara, who has lived in Missoula a couple of years and is half-way through grad school there welcomed us back to Montana. We spent a couple of fun nights in Missoula, catching up with Sara and her boyfriend, Adam. Our visit was brief, however, because we had to get up to the Whitefish area for the wedding madness that was about to ensue…and I’ll spending more time in Missoula on my way out.

Columbia River Gorge heading out of Portland

After the very scenic drive through the Flathead Valley we made it Whitefish, made a few brief visits with old friends and then caught up with the bride, Rebecca and company. After a couple of drinks we headed up to her home in Eureka, which is about 50 miles north of Whitefish, not far from the Canadian border. We parked Mama on Rebecca and Todd’s land and that is where she remained for the last two weeks.

The Float
The next morning Kali, Rebecca and I left early to drive to Polebridge, Montana for Rebecca’s bachlorette party. Polebridge is a super-small, funky little town way off the beaten path on the western edge of Glacier National Park. The town consists of a restaurant and the Mercantile, known for its pastries. It is also right on the North Fork of the Flathead River, where the bachlorette party would be taking place. Four other women met us there and we dropped a car and headed upstream.

Some genius logistics had already been arranged and we got to our put-in spot just as the bachelor party arrived from a two day float trip that started from the Canadian border. So, the raft was already set to go, we just had to exchange our full coolers for their empty ones and two moms handed their babies off to the dads and we were on our way.
Kali, Me, Rebecca (bride) and Dawn, our trusty rower, in the back

It was a perfect day. Gorgeous weather. Awesome people. And the peaks of Glacier towering over us. There was also a ridiculous amount of pre-mixed drinks and beer. The time flew by as the water slowly carried the raft downstream. We stopped for lunch, jumped in a few times and laughed really hard all day long. Everyone was surprised it was over when we arrived in Polebridge. I think we caused quite a scene at the busy pull-out spot, when seven super-smashed girls arrived and broke down the raft and all the gear. We then had dinner in Polebridge and then set up tents and passed out early. I’m having a hard time thinking of a single day that was more fun.

The Farm
After having way too much fun on the float it was time to get down to business. Not only was the wedding one week away, but Rebecca and Todd also own a small organic farm in the midst of the busiest time of year. With the farm alone, they are the most hard-working people I know, but with the wedding in addition, they are just insane. Kali and I did what we could to help. We spent the week picking peas, carrots and beets and I was hired to do some massive weeding. The two weekly farmers’ markets they attend coincided with the arrival of their families so, we helped sell their bountiful harvest while they visited with their guests.

The Wedding
As the wedding drew closer, they started to get super busy with last-minute plans and entertaining guests. We hung out with their out-of-town family members and helped out where we could. The day of the wedding we helped set everything up at their neighbors where the ceremony and reception took place. Their neighbors have picturesque gardens, the perfect venue a wedding. The wedding itself was fairly traditional considering the not so traditional nature of the couple. Everyone had a blast, and we stayed up late dancing to the rock-a-billyish band they hired.

The Runs
Despite getting caught up in the nuttiness of the week, I managed to get in three awesome trail runs. A friend of Rebecca’s, Sarah, who was in town for the wedding, is into trail running and is familiar with the area. Our first one was on the way back from Polebridge. We took the backroads to get back to Eureka and stopped to climb up the second highest peak in the Whitefish Range and run down. It was maybe a 12-14 mile round-trip, the perfect hang-over cure. From the top you could see peaks forever in all directions.

A few days later, with my downhill muscles still incredibly sore, Sarah took me on a ten mile loop not far from where I’m staying. Once again awesome views and the peak of the wildflowers around here. I feel like my words are inadequate to describe the scenery and unfortunately the mobile camera is broken. :(

A couple of days after the wedding we did a run I wanted to do the whole time I lived here, but could never make it happen logistically. We got up very early one morning and dropped off a car at the Strawberry Lake trailhead, outside of Kalispell, then piled in another car and headed to the Columbia Mountain trailhead, outside of Columbia Falls. Twenty-seven miles later, Sarah, Kali, and I got back to the car at Strawberry Lake. It was big. We didn’t actually know for sure if it was 27 miles. Some guidebooks said 20.5 and others said 27. Turns out it was more like 27. Anyhow, it was great. The first eight miles are a steep climb up Columbia Mountain. At the top, Alpine Trail #7 traverses the ridgeline to Strawberry Lake and beyond. From the ridge, you would be able to see in all directions, on a clear day, but it was too smoky to see much. We got some nice views of the western-most Glacier peaks and, once again, the wildflowers were amazing. It was a nice cool day, with the smoke actually providing some relief from the sun, and we got caught in the rain with seven miles to go. An amazing day…and week. I really appreciated finding someone else who was into the same kind of treks and the same pace that Kali and I are at.

Next ?
Now I really have no plans. Kali and I are planning to finally move Mama today. I think we’ll head into Whitefish and see what happens. There are plenty of people to visit and much fun to be had as we are at the peak of summer. I keep meaning to update this more frequently, but it seems as though I have only been getting a chance every two weeks or so.  Too much fun.

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