Still in the neighborhood

“If I had any sense, I would’ve put on a sports bra this morning.”

Deb, while driving up the rough-and-tumble Kintla Lake Road yesterday

Three things are certain in this life  — death, taxes and me continuing to talk about yesterday’s pilgrimage to Kintla Lake. Few days in my 64-plus years compare to the experience that Deb and I shared. The memories will last as long as I do.

The trek up the Kintla Lake Road established new northern and western extremes as far as we’re likely to push them. We reached 48.935908° N, just 4.5 miles south of the Canadian border, at the apex of a right-hand curve as the road bent east toward the foot of the lake. On a cut bank above the North Fork of the Flathead River, two miles southwest of Kintla Lake, we reached 114.375308° W.

Over the 43 miles between campsite and destination we gained 900 feet of elevation — from around 3,200 feet in West Glacier, to 3,500 at Polebridge, ending at 4,100 feet by the shore of the lake, with countless climbs and descents along the way. We know we crossed passes and saddles that took us higher, if only briefly.

You may have noticed in yesterday’s photos that the leaves — and the needles, in some cases — start showing their colors early up here. Birches and aspens and ground-hugging ferns glowed yellow, signaling that Fall has arrived in northern Montana.

I’m sure you also saw that the skies were flat and gray, and that the mountains were shrouded in wildfire smoke. So it wasn’t a picture-perfect day. It happens.

I didn’t so much as give it a second thought, honestly, while we were there. It would’ve made no sense to fret about conditions beyond my control, or to color my memory of the day with disappointment. That was the moment presented to us, and it was perfect,

We relocated this morning to a smaller, older, less expensive campground 20 miles west. With such a short drive ahead of us, we waited until the last second to roll — the stroke of 11am, checkout time. We stopped for diesel at the halfway point and still it took us less than 45 minutes to get from Point A to Point B.

Our route passed by Packers Roost and Bad Rock Canyon, intersecting the road we’d traveled on our way up from Flathead Lake. Last night’s rain knocked down most of the smoky haze, bringing the mountains into clear view once again, but skies remained gray and threatening.

We landed at one of dozens of commercial parks on the west side of Glacier and, with the exception of a few “resorts,” they’re all about the same. We have a solid site with full hookups. Ernie is shaded by tall pines. We have no direct views of the mountains here, but it’ll do just fine for a few days.

Even though it was a short move, it occupied more than half the day. We found our site and planted Ernie, made our hookups and fluffed up the living space. Hungry by then, we drove up to Whitefish for pizza, then relaxed the rest of the day back at the campground. We’ll return to Glacier tomorrow.

I was reminded again today, by the way, that the locals say “Glacier Park.” They chafe against the word “national” — the mountains and lakes and majesty belong to Montanans, who share them gladly. There’s nothing federal about the place. It’s a point of pride.

Lots of shops sell t-shirts and other souvenirs emblazoned with “Glacier Park.” I think I’ll pick up a couple before we leave here.

September 11th is a somber and sacred day for me, as it should be for all Americans. We pause to remember the thousands who were murdered in 2001, as well as the four who were left to die in Benghazi on this date in 2012.

It’s at once poignant and infuriating that the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our homeland coincides with the current administration’s shameful failure to protect and defend Americans during the “evacuation” of Afghanistan.

I will never forget. I will never forgive. I will never surrender.

And that goes for enemies both foreign and domestic.

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

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

(Parked in Polebridge yesterday morning on our way to Kintla Lake)