Another good day in Montana

This is the first place we’ve camped in a very long time that hasn’t been under a fire ban, and we’d planned to celebrate by having a campfire last night. We bought a couple of bundles of wood from the campground store and got all the fixins together.

By the time we got around to starting our fire, however, we decided to warm ourselves with bourbon and I burned a cigar instead of firewood. We gazed up at the stars. I played around with my new phone’s camera and came away encouraged.

And I built my fire this morning.

Honestly, there’s no better fire than a morning fire. Few things compare to waking up to a chill in the air and holding it at bay with the crackling warmth of a fire. The smell of wood smoke mingles with the aroma of hot coffee in a way that brings life to those early hours.

Relying on campground firewood is an exercise in frustration. It’s also necessary — most parks don’t permit guests to bring their own or forage the nearby woods.

You can blame that on free enterprise or pest control, either or both may be true, but that’s how it is. And the stuff — usually unseasoned piss oak — always sucks.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the wood we bought here at this campground caught immediately and burned perfectly this morning. It’s cedar, dry and seasoned. Best firewood ever.

We’ll burn more tonight.

Finally, to make the morning that much better, I had breakfast. Specifically, I had a bowl of oatmeal with fresh huckleberries. And no, I don’t much care if you’ve grown tired of me talking about huckleberries — put a sock in it, People, I’m makin’ memories here.

This afternoon we drove up to Kalispell. If you’re keeping score (and we are) that’s the farthest north and west we’ve traveled. I also got a preview, with Deb at the wheel, of one possible route from here to the west side of Glacier.

It takes us up the western shore of Flathead Lake via US Route 93, almost all of it two lanes with a 70mph speed limit. There are numerous short but significant grades.

It’s definitely doable, both for man and machine. The alternative would be to follow Montana Route 35 up the east shore. That course is 15 miles shorter, slower-paced but narrower, hugging the lake level for much of its run.

Come this Wednesday, I believe we’ll be taking Montana 35.

When I worked up here in the late ’70s, Kalispell was the nearest town of any size. That’s where I’d go if I needed something the West Glacier Mercantile didn’t have.

Cruising along Kalispell’s historic Main Street today felt like visiting an old friend. The buildings now are just as they were in 1978. I was tickled to see that my favorite gear store, Rocky Mountain Outfitters, is still in business, still occupying the same storefront.

On our drive back south I saw two active wildfires — one just outside Kalispell and one on the slopes across the lake from Rollins, both small. The first already had crews on scene, with more responding. The other appeared to be in a fairly remote, difficult-to-reach spot, and that was disconcerting.

It’s a different kind of existence out here. The threat of wildfires never goes away completely.

Dinner tonight? We tried a little sandwiches-and-pizza shop in Polson. Not perfect, but perfectly fine.

I’ll spare you the revelation of what flavor my milkshake was.

Now I’ll leave you with an image from an oddball “mall” down the road from the campground. No explanation required.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

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