Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Huckleberry country

I realized today that driving through the wilderness of Idaho may be one of the better pastimes in the world. With the Selway river still below for company, we marvel. There are moose and elk rumored to be sighted here, if somewhat rarely. I peer out the windows as thoroughly as possible, unsuccessful in that regard. I do spot some bird of prey perched on a crooked tree, still as stone: an osprey?

Most of the settlements we pass appear ghostly. Logging towns with no people. The effect, situated as these are in the dense greenery of misty pines, is almost cinematic. Once, we drive past a line of rusty old pickup trucks in the lot of an abandoned mill, just standing there glumly under the clean blue sky. I jump out to take a picture then try to creep about in case some hardy rustic type appears, in a rage at my having stepped on his property. Almost sadly, no-one does. 

When the sun comes out again, it isn't long before we pass a gigantic sign: Welcome to Montana. There is an impressive bear painted right above the lettering. We have arrived. As if to solidify the welcome, Lake Flathead comes up suddenly before us. It's immense, like the sea, glimpsed beyond a panoramic golden field of grass. 

However, Missoula, the town that we had planned to spend the afternoon in, fails to thrill us. For what reason? Perhaps it is altogether too urban, and we have been spoiled so far and carry romantic images of something else in our heads. Grumpily, we push on after some coffee and a consultation of the map.

We're making good time,we discover, but where is it exactly that we are headed? Since Montana obliges almost all the way by being wide and empty with a mostly straight road, we are zipping along. The speed limit, an outrageous 80 mph, is clearly a mere suggestion for the one or two other cars that pass us. I feel like I have achieved something by driving here: Since it lacks traffic of any kind at all, I can finally think of myself as an expert driver. Memories of L.A's freeways are hazy at best now. We decide to get to West Glacier itself, at the edge of the famed Glacier National Park that had originally been the sole goal of the trip.

Soon, handmade signs promising fresh huckleberry pie and coffee start popping up. Other signs for local produce are ubiquitous too; J makes a crack about 'those famous fresh Montana peaches' but it is true: signs everywhere for peaches, nectarines? Are we somehow back in California? In fact, we are not. We are at West Glacier, where we drive on a whim through a grand arched wooden gate and find ourselves in a delightful little wood with a tiny motel, a tiny shop, and a tiny restaurant behind the Flathead river. We pick one of the tiny wooden cabins for the night and then walk down to the river. Some folks are fishing there in the slow, jade-green water, hip-deep and flicking artistically-made lures.

The tiny shop is stocked full of locally-made huckleberry goodies, so we pick up a couple of gifts for a new friend back home. Later, we chat with the couple next door to our cabin who are heating soup on a baby stove. We take another chilly walk, but the young aspens are so beautiful with their bright leaves glimmering in the wind, that I'm enchanted. This is Montana! I feel starstruck. I hope to see a bear, a desire that elicits a somewhat grim reality-check from J. Never mind. Maybe I will see a moose instead. When we laugh, we can see our breath. Once we go to bed I proceed to stay up a long time, grumpy at the fact that I am being kept up at night, not by a grizzly bear, but by a fussy baby in the next room. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautifully kept me just at the point of wondering if you'd meet the idyllic Montana of your dreams. Alas, it didn't seem to be, but the color of what you DID experience was beautiful and peaceful.

Have you ever been fishing?

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