We had a glorious campfire last night. That seasoned cedar burned long and hot with little smoke. The air was still and not quite as chilly as it’s been, so we had to retreat from the heat a couple of times, but we reveled in the humble pleasure of our campfire.
When I woke up this morning around 6am I was feeling a bit groggy. No good reason for that, really, just the product of age and a deep sleep that ended way too soon. I threw my legs over the side of the bed and fumbled for the clothes and shoes I’d taken off six hours earlier.
Pulling a sweater over my head, I drew a deep breath and the caught the smell of last night’s campfire.
It’s a camping thing. Either you’ve experienced that or you haven’t. If you have, either it appeals to you or it doesn’t.
Personally, I’ve never tired of it. The earthy fragrance campfire smoke leaves behind — on clothes and hair (which I have a lot of these days) and pretty much everything else it reaches — is, for me, the simplicity of childhood, the air of adventure, the memory of nights spent outdoors. It transports me back to my very first campfire, every time.
Each Sunday morning during the camping season, this park throws a pancake breakfast on the deck overlooking Flathead Lake. All you can eat for nine bucks, including sausage or bacon and coffee or juice.
Huckleberry pancakes, of course.
This would be the year’s last breakfast. The mood of the camp hosts reflected that — they’d been doing this every week all summer, and they seemed to put a little more fun and generosity into today’s final feed.
The food was delicious. Our fellow campers were upbeat and chatty. The view, unfortunately, was obscured by wildfire smoke — so thick this morning that we couldn’t see the other side of the lake, much less the Mission Mountains beyond.
Still, we logged yet another great experience in this Campground Life. Afterward we returned to the coach to get ready for the shortest move of our journey.
The camp host who’d guided us to our site when we arrived on Thursday rolled up in his golf cart shortly before 11am today, letting us know that our new spot was ready for us. By that time all we had to do was pull in the slides and disconnect the 50A line.
Just like I did before, I tailed him around the perimeter of the park and up the hill to our new digs. We connected and nested once again, the whole process taking less than 45 minutes.
While this spot is missing an unobstructed view of Flathead Lake, it’s a fine site. There’s a nice breeze, though too strong right now for deploying the awning. Next to our pad are weeping silver birch trees, and across from us is an American mountain ash with its clusters of bright-orange berries. Behind us we have a front-row seat for sunset over the foothills.
Deb and I got to talking this afternoon about perspective — that is, if we’d never had that “premium” site with the postcard view the last few days, we would’ve been over-the-moon thrilled with this spot.
And we are, by the way. It has a great yard, a picnic table, a fire pit and full hookups. Level, too. It’s all we need.
I don’t believe I mentioned yesterday exactly why we drove to Kalispell. Sure, pre-running most of our next travel leg was valuable (though not necessary). And yeah, it was great for me to re-visit old stomping grounds (but we could’ve done that more easily from Glacier).
No, we went for two reasons. First, we needed some dog stuff that we haven’t been able to find elsewhere, and we located a PetSmart on the north end of Kalispell. Second, right next door was a Cabela’s Outpost where Deb hoped to find comfortable trail shoes. And she did, 40% off on clearance.
While at Cabela’s we bought two cans of bear spray. The good stuff. Not cheap.
We don’t view a can of pepper spray as some sort of talisman, of course. It’s no different than carrying lethal or less-than-lethal tools in everyday life — it doesn’t come with a guarantee, nor is it a substitute for not being stupid in the first place.
In a few days, however, we’ll be entering an area that’s home to the largest populations of black bears and grizzlies in The Lower 48. I’ve been there and I’ve seen both, including two grizzly encounters at pucker-prompting proximity. Carrying bear spray is the right thing to do.
I sure have come a long way since hanging a small bell from my pack frame and plunging into the Montana wilderness alone.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.