July 13, 2006

Montana Reflections

Sam's family, thanks to his great-grandfather's handiness, are the proud owners of a lake cabin in southern Montana. It's shared among a smattering of extended family, so it runs like a timeshare without the swindling or free dinner coupons.

The cabin itself is rather small and rustic. Here it is, posing with my sister-in-law Emily.

This view is not the impressive part of the cabin experience. To be truly impressed, one just needs to turn around:

This is the view from the yard, where the clear glacial lake sneaks closer to the cabin all spring, then gracefully recedes through the summer.

Each afternoon, we'd watch the clouds roll in. They always looked ominous, but the rain never lasted more than a few hours.

So this is how I spent my summer vacation. Far from civilization. No computers. No cell phone reception. No Blackberry. No doctors. No coworkers. No drama.

Just me, my husband, my sisters-in-law, and the scenery.

Here is a picture of the four of us, just after a hike:

I'm not the sort of person who would ever say, "Hey, let's go hiking!"

As far as I'm concerned, "Take a hike" is still an insult.

Reaching the waterfall was no picnic. Well, except for the picnic lunch that we packed, but that's beside the point. A week later, my legs still bear bruises the size of oranges and patterns of scratches that suggest a cult may have been involved in my torture.

And yet, I must say that reaching the waterfall halfway up the mountain was incredibly fulfilling.
It was even kind of exhilirating.

I might even admit that I would hike again.

Nonetheless, I was relieved that much of the trip was relaxing and fairly sedentary.

We played board games. We fished. We roasted marshmallows. We cooked bananas and chocolate on a charcoal grill. We read novels like they were going out of style. (Maybe they are, but I'll fight it)

And, of course, we drove.

Sam and I drove 900 miles in each direction.

About half of these were gentle miles of rolling flatness, where our greatest adversary was an obstinate semi driving below the speed limit on a two-lane road.

The other half were something entirely different. Mountain miles.

The kind of driving with hairpin turns, falling rock warnings, and a sense of awe and impending doom, should you dare peek over a guardrail.

But oh, the scenery.

There is something beautiful and just a bit eerie about venturing above the timber line.

Mountains, but no trees.

No shrubs.

Just grass. Wildflowers. Rocks. Snow, even in July.

Mostly, it was the silence that stuck with me. I can't imagine a quieter place than the top of the Beartooth Mountains.

Not all of the drive was this stunning.

We also had to cross Idaho and Nevada. Each one has its moments, but those moments tend to drag out for six or seven hours each.

But we made it.

Sam and I bought a 10-disc audio book of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" as read by Matt Dillon. We listened to all 11 hours of the book.

We realized that we had little in common with Sal and Dean, but we enjoyed their adventures.

We decided to spend more time pursuing our kicks.

We wondered whatever happened to hitchhiking.

When we weren't listening to the book, we chatted. We listened to music. We reminisced about Oregon Trail.

The game popped into our minds in Idaho, as we crossed the Snake River. We contemplated caulking our Prius and floating it down the river, but neither one of us knew how.

In Yellowstone Park, we were given a flyer warning us that bison can gore people, and they weigh up to 2000 pounds.

"I know," said Sam. "But you can only carry 100 pounds back to your wagon."

It sometimes amazes me how well I, and many others of my generation, remember that computer game. I joined the 5th grade Computer Club just so I could stay after school and make my way to Oregon on an Apple IIe.

We followed our trail all the way to Nevada. Even though it felt good to come home, it was hard to re-acclimate to the daily stresses.

Next week, another visit to the doctor. Maybe another round of treatments. Maybe not. Either way, we'll know in a few days.

In the meantime, I'm just continuing along the trail, getting my kicks, fording the rivers that appear before me.


No comments: