Tuesday, July 8, 2014
I haven't blogged on this road trip up until now. Nonetheless, it is time to report that it has been a spectacular journey through Eastern Oregon, the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, through Western Montana, Southeastern British Columbia and here to Kamloops. I have been focused entirely on the scenery and fishing and have not had the inclination to stop and record my impressions. My fortune has been remarkable as I have found breathtaking isolated campsites along idyllic streams,rivers and adjacent mountain lakes. However, by last weekend, my endeavor became more challenging. It was Thursday, the fourth of July weekend and, where last year along the Madison River I had felt like a hermit in my tent, this time I found myself fighting hoards of vacationers. Finally, I resigned myself to finding a room fifty miles away in Bozeman. Friday evening was a better night for me. I found the last available site in a small remote campground along the Blackfoot River.
By late Saturday afternoon I felt uneasy, as I left Whitefish Montana and headed further North on U.S.93. I began to feel increasingly anxious as the afternoon slipped on. After all these years of travel I have not fully overcome the fear of not knowing where I would to stay. It is primal. I spied a sign which announced a lake five miles up a dirt road. I turned off and bumped my way up a mountainside, only to discover when I arrived, that there were many warnings which told that overnight camping was prohibited. I had lost valuable time, had gotten hungry as well and felt misfortune. I began to feel genuinely discouraged and frustrated. I returned to the main road and drove further. After twenty minutes, the highway coursed through a narrow valley and announced the beginning of Stillwater State Forest. Large pine trees lined the road and snow covered peaks turning pink from the alpenglow portended the coming evening. I resolved that I would look for some isolated forest road to turn down in order to squat and find my own site, I spied the glimmer of what appeared to be a large lake through the foliage. Perhaps I could find my way to its edge, overnight there and even be able to fish. Then, as I slowed, looking for perhaps a jeep trail, I spotted several colorful tents through the trees and rolled past a driveway with a large open gate with a sign over the top which said Stillwater. Wow, I thought, how cool, a state campground. I hope it isn't full. I hung a u-turn and went to the open gate and rolled down the driveway. To my amazement it was a private road leading to acres of luxurious lakefront property. I was greeted by a woman in a long flowery dress who immediately pointed me to a spot to park and welcomed me to the "Stillwater Festival". Without asking me who I was or what I was doing there, she said I could put down my tent anywhere and added the music would begin shortly. Along the lake's edge before me was a state of the art outdoor band shelter and stage equipped with speakers situated before a grass amphitheater. More cars and vans began arriving filled with young people, mainly in their twenties, some holding small children. I learned it was a free concert for anyone and sponsored by the property owner, some aging hippie who believed in fostering love through music. Also there was much buzz that one of the guest bands would arrive by helicopter. I realized that I had time for me to put my pontoon boat in the lake and so I began to fish. Soon the sounds of excellent live electric and acoustical guitar, drums and vocal echoed across the water. I rowed and kicked relaxed and even hooked a huge trout. By the time I returned to the shore it had grown dark. There were probably not more than fifty people at the concert. Many were on the stage with the band dancing and singing to popular songs from 1990 to the present. I had never heard these tunes before, but felt gladdened to be exposed to this rhythm and to be part of the scene. The people were enthusiastic, incredibly energetic, and danced so well. Incidentally, I saw no inappropriate behavior due to drugs or alchohol and every effort was made to maintain a sense of joy at the event. I took off my sandals and danced along. I was, of course, the oldest person there and no one seemed to mind. Then the host made an appearance on stage to thank everyone for coming. He had a large white beard, twinkling eyes and was clearly someone of my generation and curiously looked like Jerry Garcia. The well-known Whitefish or Kalispell group played until midnight. The party broke and I returned to my tent to sleep. I shut my eyes and felt amazement. I had been struck by another episode of magical events composing my daily adventure.
(I am sorry about the poor picture quality. I had to take the photos from my phone rather than my normal digital camera and at that hour I couldn't find the right technique.to take good night photos.)