The day had been set,
And we were all ready--
The crunchy snow was waiting too—
The frigid sky watched us overhead.
Anticipation was building
like steam in the pit of my stomach
We leapt out of the truck
And sunk right into the snow.
After a few kids slid down
The rollercoastering hill,
I went down screaming,
Blurred colors rushed into my eyes.
My tube detached from my butt,
Snow went everywhere:
In my face, down my back
My cheeks were frozen in place.
I arrived at the bottom,
Quicker than I expected,
And waited in the powder
For a snowmobile boy
The contraption roared and sped
I dropped the tube,
And held on for my life,
Then dropped myself too.
We tried again,
With the tube around my middle,
The tube a giant donut
I was the creamy center.
I made up to the top,
Triumphantly soaked from my outside in,
Cheers resounded and bounced
In the valley and off the frozen lake.
A Somewhat-Sassily-Written Assignment for a Mentor in my Senior Year of High School
I am most certainly over-thinking this. How do I tell a story about myself? There's so much to tell, yet at the same time, so little. I could tell you about a specific event. But is something that happened to me, me?
What is with this assignment?
If you wanted a biography of my life, factual, absolute, concrete, you could have just asked. Instead of making me struggle to figure out what you want.
I'm not in the cheery-type, improvise-easily kind of mood.
And I have absolutely no idea where to begin. Once upon a time seems too corny. As if my life could be compared to a fairy tale... I'm not much of a damsel in distress, if you hadn't noticed. If I was expected to wait in a tower for some Prince, so-called Charming, to come and rescue me, I'd state a resounding "fuck that" and climb down to be off gallivanting in the forest before one day was up. Who needs a knight in shining armour?
Rescue your god-damn self, ladies.
And what's with the shining armour? Isn't it better for a knight (and his armour) to have seen the ravages of battle? I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm all for peaceful resolution of conflict and that, but isn't the point of wearing armour to use it?
But I digress.
You want a story about me.
No one particular day jumps to mind as being remarkable. Would you believe me if I said I have lived an unremarkable, ordinary life?
You probably wouldn't. I wouldn't either. I'm not exactly an ordinary person, am I.
Ok. Fine. I'll write about something ordinary in context to my non-ordinary life. That's what you want, right? For me to make the ordinary extraordinary?
I love to take the bus home. Which is weird, considering you'd think it would be awkward speaking with several people with whom you don't have much in common and one ex-boyfriend, but for some reason our unexpected combination just makes for some very interesting conversations. And hey, if the conversation isn't stimulating, I can always take a nap. It gets me home early too--all in all, the bus is just great. I step off at my stop and shuffle up my driveway. (It's icy; the shuffling is a necessary though perhaps slightly degrading mode of personal bipedal transportation). On Thursdays I bring the garbage in, resulting in an acrobatic balancing of garbage cans and recycle bins as I complete said shuffling. I unlock the door, my key dressed in a key-cover shaped like a hotdog--I don't know why it is, but it is. My dog comes to meet me, grinning like a fool. She is a fool. I grab some mittens and my hat, and depending on the weather I put on a warmer coat and snow pants. My dog, at this point, is wailing; anyone outside the house would think I was abusing her. She just gets excited, is all. When I put on my boots, she knocks over everything in the vicinity with her tail. When I clip on her leash, she immediately grabs it from my hands and runs out the door with it in her mouth. (This would be clever of her if she didn't trip herself up with the trailing ends and faceplant). We shuffle back down the driveway, and turn onto the road. This is where I catch her and get her leash before she wipes out again. She stops at a place in the snowbank where I know there is a dead bird beneath the snow; but I, having been very sad to have seen a creature that is born to be in the sky quite ungracefully dead on the ground, do not want to see it further along in its decomposition and therefore pull her away before she digs it up.
At my neighbour's house, I shuffle up their driveway and let myself in the garage. Their dog is waiting for me, but he won't come to see me until he's sure it's me. He's terrified of people. And loud noises. And bags. And his shadow, buses, trucks, cars, snowmobiles, the hiccups, running water, babies, and basically everything. I let him out the door, he sprints down to the road. My dog picks up her leash in her mouth and tries to follow him but only ends up faceplanting again. I pick up her leash and then catch up with Psycho Dog as he's taking his daily ten-minute pee. The three of us start our walk, rarely making it out of the neighbourhood without a mental breakdown from Psycho Dog. Once we're on Copeland Road amongst the fields, I let my dog off her leash, and occasionally I relent and let Psycho Dog off. But he doesn't listen, ever, so I tend to not trust him, ever. We walk, him in front, her behind me. She likes to follow me and headbutt the back of my knees. This is fine unless in combination with Psycho Dog circling me with his leash; a fall is inevitable in such situations.
The best part about these walks is, everything. The sky--wide and open--the fields stretching away, the straight dirt road, the peaceful feeling of being alone with the world. One of my favourite things is the colour of outside. I've never really been a huge fan of winter, but this year more than any other I've fallen in love with it. You think it's grey and white, snow-covered and barren, but you look closer and it's not. There is nothing grey or white about winter; every single naked branch, every single bulrush sticking up above the snow, every single pine tree, is a colour. Every glimmer of light refracts off the snow, creating endless prisms. The dogs, always such thoughtful creatures, contribute to the palette by turning the snow yellow.
But the incredible range of colours of branches fascinates me. It's not something you notice in the summer, the leaves distract you. But get to the heart of the tree and you see how unique each skeletal arrangement of branches is. My favourite little bush is bright red. I mean bright red. And the one right beside it is bright orange. This makes a beautiful contrast with the pale blue of the sky and the dark blue of the tree line in the distance. Another favourite bush is one with little tiny blue berries on it; the bush itself is dark purple, which contrasts the yellow tall grass sticking up out of the snow. Maybe it's just the artist in me that sees every natural colour as part of an artwork. Maybe it's just the artist in me that sees the world as an artwork.
The dogs and I reach a farm road that goes between two fields. I clamber over the snowbank and take them up it for a little while. It crosses a snowmobile trail. To be honest, I think snowmobiles have to be the most pointless things ever; Psycho Dog thinks they are the most terrifying things ever. My dog probably doesn't even notice them–she's clueless like that. We reach a stand of trees; I don't always walk this far, just when it's nice out or when there are vague writing assignments I have to get done at home that I'm avoiding. The dogs love it here because turkeys cross at this stand of trees all the time, leaving tantalizing scents, I'm sure. Turkey tracks in the snow look like little velociraptor tracks, by the way.
I take them home. I drop Psycho Dog off and give him some food, but he just jumps up on the couch and chews the frozen snow out from between his toes (something I consider a design flaw in golden retrievers; my labrador never has this problem). On the homestretch, the few hundred feet between our driveways, my dog lags; she gave too much in the warm up with her wailing and wagging--she is quite old now. When we finally get home, though, she perks up enough to accept a treat from me. Of course.
I do this every weekday, my little moment of sanity amidst the rush of the rest of the day. I can feel the stress leaving me as soon as I step outside, and I spend the whole time on Copeland singing to myself; I sincerely hope that no one hears me, for the sake of their eardrums. The dogs don't seem to mind. But I wouldn't take their opinion into account; they do eat their own feces, after all.
Remembering these walks puts me in a good mood. Does that count as a story about myself? Or were you looking for a memorable childhood incident?
I can't help feeling you could have been more descriptive for this project. Then again, I'm not such a huge fan of restrictions when I'm writing, because it happens so often that things that I start don't end up how I expected them to end and therefore no longer meet the requirements of the assignment. Which causes many grievances time-wise for myself. I think the crux of what I'm complaining about is that you didn't simultaneously do a better and worse job planning this assignment, to avoid obviously undue blame to myself, of course.
The dog is barking. I’ve come up the hill
For lunch. She never used to bark – only
At the walkers. Now there is something in
The air, particularly during meals. I’ve gotten
Used to it. I’m not sure about the neighbors,
Though. I walk down stairs, past the Abercrombie
Bag that sits atop the upper landing, showcasing
On its outer packaging a shirtless young man who
Represents what we are all today to represent,
Namely a well sculpted physique to showcase to
All up and comers. This is unfortunate as men
Know themselves. The family keeps the package
Atop the stairs, nonetheless.
Saturday was a trip to Butte for a soccer tournament.
It was the typical blustery day. Early in the morning,
Prior to driving over, I purchased on the Blackberry
A Moody Blues compilation. I listened to the old
Melodies driving east and found myself drifting off
To days’ long gone by. Trips to North Carolina beaches
With friends. Also childhood soccer excursions. It was
Good to not listen to contemporary tunes. Better days
Perhaps having past? Hard to say.
During the afternoon, my son Todd sat out the final game
Due to an injury. During this period I found myself reaching
Again to the device, ordering "Kuhnuv Dutsky Sobr" by the
the Czech Philharmonic Children’s Choir along with "England
My England" by the King’s College Choir. These seemed
The perfect accompaniment for the afternoon drizzle and
For my activities the next day. They also would be in
Addition to Brahms’ "Requiem" which is a masterpiece I’ve
Been particularly enjoying the last few years. Music is poetic.
During the ho-hum of mountain bike race days, my excuse
To spend more days in the mountains, I had drifted
Largely into the alternative circuit for added juice.
Many of the works in that vain still resonate, but the
Lowered tempo of late, and being off the race pace,
Has been quite delightful.
Sunday, my favorite morning over the years, usually
Started off with cream in the coffee. A treat I often
Reserved for the day, often prior to church, should I
Happen to go. Those days are past; but Sunday this past
Week, I did decide to take a spin on my cross bicycle. Once
More down memory lane. During this glorious exercise, I
Chose to listen to the King College Choir whose work has
Been occasionally cited below, reflecting the ride’s
"Zadok the Priest"
I started the euphonic concert at KT’s, an old Lolo
Watering hole where I parked the vehicle. Cycling west
Mid morning I thought of past days at KT’s with former
Lolo neighbors and one particular golf buddy, Mike. Playing
Pool and swapping baloney related to the day. This day
I chose my green pack which holds more water than my
Other options. I took along two spare tubes, following
Friday’s hike out of Pattee Canyon when my spare had a hole.
This is always disconcerting, flat spare tubes. Similar to
The dog’s barking, it had me wondering “What the world
is coming to?”
The music continued its soothing balm as I cycled.
The sun was sporadically revealing itself, and I found
Myself looking at Lolo Creek when able to do so. It
Was still running high with the spring runoff, but no longer
Off color. As I passed the Morman bridge, I recalled days
Driving over the bridge and up to the access of Lolo Peak.
I’d taken this route deer hunting in the fall with Mike
Who lived below the Mormon road. One particular fall season,
Without a scope, he shot a nice whitetail with his iron
Sighted .30-30. Not a caliber one generally thinks of for
Hunting the wide open expanses of Montana,
But this was his method and his locale. A Youngstown transplant
Who like so many found the University of Montana, came out
From Ohio and never left. An old Missoula Maggot and die hard
snowboarder as well. Cycling by Mormon Creek, Mike was on the brain.
"Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven"
The Elk Meadows road had my mind drifting off to the East
Fork of Lolo. Another access to the Peak, only lower. Once
Cycling this section, a lion crossed the road in front of me.
The memory of a long tail remains vivid. The East Fork,
I thought while continuing my journey west, is a tranquil area.
Its trails are frequented by the local horsemen. One year, not
Too long ago, a local skier was killed dropping off the north
face. He was later found by his friends in the lower talus.
Lolo is a popular area for the backcountry crowd who don’t mind
A little work skinning up the hill.
"Spem In Alium Nunquam Habul"
Listening to this piece of choral medicine, I rode by the Woodman
School, home of the Woodman Wildcats. This is perhaps the most
Picturesque little school in the nation. It rests on a small bench
in a flowing green field. A lone white structure above the creek
With views of Lolo Peak. I had posted a photo on my old journal
Of the school, taken during a prior ride. It was a fairly popular
Photograph. A recent timber fire had occurred, scorching the pines
in areas above the school. In certain sections of the drainage, the
Fire had crossed the highway and creek to the south as well. It had
Been a while since I’d last cycled though this valley, but I noticed
Two residential homes on the valley floor had been destroyed. One I
Recalled being a nice red brick structure
"Psalm 23: The Lord is My Shepherd"
I recalled the days above Elk Meadows with the children,
Hiking into Moose Lake above Skookum, where we sometimes
Camped. Through late June, the snow often still covered
The peaks above the clear lakes. Lilies were often found on
Skookum. Bud Moore covered the history of the region’s well
in his work "The Lochsa Story." While cycling, my fingers
Were lacking blood, so I waved my arms for a bit, listening to
The choir and recollecting. I never put in for tags in Idaho.
Montana always seemed to offer enough – more than enough, actually.
The sport of hunting has waned somewhat for me. This probably
Occurs as men get older and gradually see things in a different
Light. I immensely enjoy the time hiking in the mountains and the
Medicinal nature of Montana’s wooded areas. Particularly so with
Our children who are now almost all in their teen years and thus
Perhaps no longer worthy of the heading. They will have the
Memories of the Lolo area as well. I also enjoyed the occasional
companion while hunting, who I found resourceful during the
work post harvest. This, of course, often went both ways. Game
Remains a healthy palate pleasing option. I recalled my father
At one point when I was quite young having dropped hunting all
Together, skeet as well. This followed having to get rid of one
Of his pointers which was constantly getting loose and tearing
Out neighbors’ screen doors chasing their house cats. Do dogs
Influence man? I recalled the article in the Charleston Gazette
A year or so later when same the English Setter won the West Virginia
State Ruffed Grouse pointing dog championship, recollecting my
Father’s profound sadness as well. He came round to the under-
Standing, however, that the talented dog was in a better place
Where its potential was being recognized. Bird dogs require the
Outdoors which requires time and commitment; though they also like
The hearth and occasionally sitting in their master’s lap as well!
I drank still cool water from the pack hose. I occasionally drank
A concentrated electrolyte from a bottle as well. As I continued
West up the valley, I noticed the contrast of the black charred
Lodgepole and Ponderosa above the green grasses and flowers at the
Base. Rebirth was gradually occurring, Bear Grass, bobbing along
Sections. Nature is remarkable. “Fires should be allowed to burn,”
I thought to myself. “Particularly those in the wilderness.”
Granted structures should be protected if possible, but communities
Should question protecting highly remote homes. The cost of such
Protection perhaps should be borne by the residents of remote sites.
“Entire industries have been created around fire seasons,” I thought
To myself having photographed large camp operations in the past.
Bear Creek was the next feeder stream, to the north. Another former
college days hunting area where one morning prior to dawn a companion
Accidentally discharged his weapon during loading. This occurred in
The early morning darkness, just following his having gotten out of
The passenger side door. I was still fiddling behind the wheel,
Probably drinking coffee. Fortunately he had the barrel pointed down
In a safe manner. He explained the make had an awkward action. I
Don’t recall what action it was; however, the discharge was certainly
Disconcerting, jarring the entire region prior to dawn. Anyone who
Has been around firearms realizes that occasionally such preventable
"Requiem: 3. Pie Jesu"
There’s a moose crossing sign below Graves Creek which
Always gets my attention. I’ve never seen a moose
Actually cross in the area, but know they are around.
The Graves drainage is filled with memories. Starting
Well to the north when as a college student I got lost hunting
And dropped into the West Fork of Petty. Twice, in frigid
Temperatures, I attempted to correct my error, hiking back up
A double ridge in deep snow, only to drop back down in the
Dense forest’s darkness once more. Fortunately I hitched a
Ride out with a local that night and reconnected with my
Companions, suffering only frozen extremities while having
Learned a valuable lesson during college at the University in
Missoula. The Wagon Mountain road was alway interesting,
Especially in poor conditions while without chains. It runs
Above Hwy 12, west off of Graves. There always seemed to be a
Regular fellow driving the section season after season in his
Light blue 1970s vintage work truck. He had pulled many a
Hunter out of the ditch over the years. Much of the section
Was over logged following W.W.II. The elk during the last few
Decades have been pretty sparse, though they’re around. I
Used to ride the mountain bike across Graves Creek Range, where
Without fail there was a large Blue Grouse at some point along the
Route, usually hiding among the Huckleberry patches in a slow,
Steep climbing section. The bird’s explosive drumming during
Its initial flight shattered the tranquility of the woods,
Unnerving the climbing cyclist, but eventually somehow relieving
The pain of longer climbs. I always welcomed the sighting of Blues,
Franklins and other game birds. Montana is fortunate to have many
Species and an early fall season. Just above the mouth of Graves
Is the Lumberjack, a local bar that has for many years accommodated
Outdoorsmen following a long day in the field. An old establishment
Built initially for the loggers.
"Come Down, O Love Divine"
Between Graves Creek and Howard Creek, I cycled below Hungry
Gulch. This has been a fun section to hunt over the years
As well. Pointed out to me by a former Lolo next door neighbor
Who had retired from the University Maintenance Department.
Meryl mentioned he’d gotten tired of the dangers of driving on
High elevation logging roads covered in snow and ice and had
Settled on the numerous opportunities available along the Lolo
Trail (Hwy 12) at lower elevations. Given some of the wild
Scenarios of my own in the past, this grew on me as well.
One year in the mid-1990s the two of us watched two mature bull
Elk across a draw spar with one another. It was early in the
Season and something I’d never seen. I was not using a scope,
so I declined the shot. He took a shot with his .280 and missed.
We hiked over and looked for sign of blood but found nothing.
The animals had scarred the whole hillside with their early fall
Antics. It was remarkable and something I’ve not witnessed
since. Post the day, I’ve always hunted with a scope. Riding
along, I also recalled skinning up into the area on old AT gear
One year during big game season. Snow was lightly falling and
I was moving along fairly slowly. I glanced up into the
Depths of an old skid trail and a magnificent whitetail
Quickly got the best of me. It was one of those moments
Engrained in my memory of the place. Another season
I stood not 20 yards from two mature bull moose. They
Were completely indifferent, chewing the grass and their
Cuds while looking at the oddball wearing an orange
Vest. One season I had the remarkable experience
Of seeing a bobcat perched atop a whitetail’s head feeding.
The surrounding snow was blood speckled and covered with patches
Of hollow brown deer hair A bear once pursued me from the
Bottom while I was hiking out in the dark following a weekday
Evening hunt. It took the discharge of the rifle to ward the
Angry bear off. Other hunters later in the season mentioned
That a black bear had been feeding in the bottom on a dead
"O Nata Lux De Lumine"
Howard Creek is where my youngest caught his first trout. There’s
Not much to the place, simply a beautiful meadow with Howard
Creek eventually feeding into the West Fork of Lolo. While cycling by,
I thought of times past, camping in the area. The creek is one or two
Poles in width in most sections. Clear with a small lake or body of
Water in the upper meadow. Fingerlings of Cutthroat are in the section.
Recollections of driving an old Jeep pickup over the top through a
Connector saddle while the throttle raced. For some reason the throttle
Would stick or accelerate on its own. I eventually got used to this,
Working the Comanche’s clutch. None of the local mechanics seemed to
Be able to correct it, so finally, with a broomstick holding the driver’s
Side ceiling cloth in place above, I traded the vehicle. It was my first
Montana rig during the college days and was tough to let go, but the local
Jeep dealer offered me $2,000.00 on trade in – a gift. It was a remarkable
Little vehicle though, going through ugly sections with ease throughout the
Bitterroot, Upper Willow in Rock Creek, Swan sections and countless other
Haunts. Just a few sand bags in the bed and she’d go. Howard Creek rests
Not far south the Lupine area, another picturesque region popular with the
Horse crowd. Two of my retired hunting companions grew up hunting this area
With their father in the Sixties and Seventies. The brothers always
Had wonderful stories tell of their time together hunting elk with their
Father “when there was game in the region.”
I did not think much about the West Fork Butte Rd, South of Lolo
Creek from Howard, as I rode past. It’s a cutoff road I’ve
Traveled and occasionally hunted. It connects eventually with
Elk Meadows. One thought which occurred to me while the wind
Gently blew in my face was the beauty of the wild flowers this time
Of year along the West Fork Butte section and throughout the
Entire Elk Meadows and Lolo area. The mountains of Idaho and
Montana are still snow covered in June. Casting their white peaks and
Emerging grey and blue colored talus, against a lush green base filled
With spring’s blooming flora. The scene often topped off with a glacial
Green lake somewhere in the picture. Bitterroot, American Vetch and
Lupine cast their purple hue against the yellow of Old Man of the
Mountain (Tetraneuris grandiflora), Arrowleaf Balsamroot and Glacier
Lilies. The red glow of Common Paintbrush, the white shoots of
Beargrass and Water Hemlock are common this time of year as well.
Following a quarter of a century in the area, one has to focus
To not take for granted all that is offered in the backyard. I always
Make an attempt to take in the simple things and this is an easier
Task while on a bicycle or hiking rather than driving a vehicle. Cycling
Westward towards the Pass continued to be most pleasant
With sporadic sunshine and the choral music drowning out the occasional
Diesel truck driving by, followed usually by other vehicles with
Oregon, Washington or Idaho plates. I found myself entering
The curves below Lolo Hot Springs, a popular contemporary snowmobile
Destination during the winter and recent home of the Love Your Mother
Earth Festival, something I’ve yet to attend. The Hot Springs were also
A stop in September, 1805, for captain Meriwether Lewis and his co-captain
Clark during their “Voyage of Discovery,” commissioned by then President Thomas
Jefferson, the great Virginian. The Springs were a regular bath for the Nez Perce.
The tribe traveled throughout the region along the “buffalo road” while riding
Their Sikums. I could not cycle by the Springs and not recall my having sought
Refuge there one spring. Cycling east one year down the pass I had succumbed
To the poor elements, snow wind and rain. Numb extremities and partial
Dehydration. I ducked into the Hot Springs and waited for Molly who
Drove out and salvaged what was left. I reckon cyclist go through these
Travails. At least that incident was on a main highway rather than a trail
Somewhere high in the mountains. The Hot Springs sit adjacent to the
Southern access point to Fish Creek, where I can never cycle by without
Thinking of the many camping episodes with our children in the past.
“Pancakes on a Stick,” I had titled one old online journal post. Erin’s, our
Daughter’s, favorite breakfast meal when camping. She enjoys all Fish Creek
Has to offer; nymphing, though difficult, included. Children sustain
Us when all else fails.
"Ave Verum Corpus"
Climbing up the Montana side of the Pass, I thought of the past. One year
While working my way up, I for some reason stopped and picked up a wrench
Someone had tossed into the westbound lane. It was a large wrench, but I
Threw it in the pack anyway. I thought Max, of a bike mechanic friend I
Used to cycle with who subsequently moved to Salt Lake to be closer to his
Children while also patrolling for a local hill and running its avy program.
“Why are you going to carry that wrench into Idaho and then all the way back
To Missoula?” He had asked during that particular ride. Again, it was a heavy
Wrench and seemed odd, but I guess I didn’t mind. The conditions Sunday were
Fine climbing up and I found myself curious about the odd rock structure near
The Lee Creek campground below. Large, overhanging circular rocks which seem
Perfect for a predator’s perch. I thought about how the Lolo drainage in its
Upper section along Lee reminded me of the upper Brushy Fork in Idaho.
Relatively shallow and not wide in most areas, with intermittent dark deep
Pockets surrounded by Douglas Fir, Ponderosa and Lodgepole. Of course, the
Solitude does not apply in the Lee area as it does along sections of the Brushy
"When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"
The grade climbing the Montana section of the pass is not
Too steep. Looking into the hillsides, one can notice the
Occasional mule deer as I happened to notice on Sunday. Two
Or three bounced rapidly up from the side of the road into
A skid trail and then the shelter of the forest’s canopy. No
Velvety horns, all ears. I thought, upon reaching the summit,
Of the cross country skiing that we’ve occasionally done in the
Area. When we first arrived in 1990, the facilities now found
On the pass were not in existence. The back country users find
The facilities quite resourceful today, however. The area
Is very popular with the Missoula outdoors crowd. I kept riding
Over the top, looking into western Idaho, noticing distant
Snow covered peaks and feeling somewhat elated. It is always
Invigorating descending into the headwaters of the Lochsa. I
Listened to the music and enjoyed the time off of the pedals.
"Three Motets Op. 38"
Descending west I noticed a large pocket knife along the west
Bound side of the road which I almost ran over. Due to the
Speed, I kept going, hoping to recall the item on the return
Climb. Both sides of the canyon had little snow, which was a
Bit surprising given the significant snowfall in the area
During the winter months and early spring. I noticed the
Crooked Fork was still a shade off color above where it merges
With Colt Killed to form the river. It is in this section that
The woods begin to take on a grander, almost tropical existence,
Dark and lush with massive cedars hovering over the upper reaches.
Lewis and Clark documented the area remarkably well in their journals
Which were edited by historian Bernard DeVoto, The Journals of
Lewis and Clark. I had noticed small white markers where modern
Trail makers have attempted to mark the explorers route along the Lolo
Trail through the region. Still descending, I rode past the DeVoto
Memorial, a memorial dedicated to the above noted historian. I figured
I’d stop there on the return, as has been typical during past rides.
There were numerous vehicles pulling rafts, but I noticed no boats or
Rafts on the Lochsa itself. I also, as has generally been the case in
The past, noticed no other cyclists. This, of course, adds to the area’s
"Five Mystical Songs: 5. Antiphon"
Riding by the Powell ranger station, I thought about numerous items.
The one time I roughed it up the Hoodoo lake road to the south and
Above White Sand, noticing many nice camp sites along the way. Stacks
Of the leftover firewood of prior outdoor rec types were in many of the
Sites. Hoodoo itself, at the higher elevation, was beautiful; but the
Horseflies were unbearable. I recalled attempting in the past to catch
Salmon not too far below the small hatchery at White Sand though to no avail.
Occasionally the area has a nice salmon run. I always try to imagine the region
When the wild salmon and steelhead were abundant. It seems the perfect watershed
For such fish. The trout fishing throughout the drainage is wonderful. Standard
Rainbows, Cutthroat and Browns are found in the waters. The south section at
Powell offers initial access to the Elk Summit area with more spectacular
Scenery. I next cycled by Russian Creek which flows in from the north and
Always has me wandering off in thoughts about this single elusive character
So aptly described by Moore in his above mentioned book. The Russian
Trapper seemed to appear off and on as a ghost along distant banks of the Lochsa,
Catching off guard the hardy traders of the day.
"Gradualia, Vol 1/Feast of All Saints"
Not too far east of Colgate, I turned around. The thought of George Colgate
Always brings one to their knees, knowing what the cook in Carlin’s hunting
Party in 1893 suffered, his legs swollen during his time in the drainage,
Having neglecting to bring his “instruments.” Cycling back up stream I felt
Pretty well. I had hydrated significantly prior to departing earlier in the
Morning which always helps. The descent down the Idaho side is a pleasant
And cool relaxer for the legs and system. Riding past the Wendover campground
And the nearby Wendover road, I recalled a time taking the kids into the area
Thinking the road would connect with the Lolo Motor Way and finding out
At the time otherwise. The Lolo Trail stays north of the highway through the
Lochsa region. This fun “motorway” consists principally of an old, scree covered
Jeep trail. The Wendover experience was not too bad, but I still kick myself
Mentally when I drive or cycle by the area. There is a nice little pond there.
"Come Ye Sons of Art Away"
I thought of our oldest son Todd standing in front of a display in the
Papoose Saddle or Post Office Creek along the motorway when traversing
Over to Toboggan Ridge and the airstrip at Cayuse. We had some
Amazing experiences fishing and carrying on in the upper Kelly
Creek region well north of the Lochsa. The water is clear and beautiful
And the fishing is “blue ribbon” for cutthroat. I noticed a new sign
Cycling over Sunday that said Cayuse 22 miles. This was interesting and
Indicates the cat is well out of the bag. Along the route across one may
Find a recently killed moose or calf as there are plenty of wolves in the
Section. This applies to the Selway Bitterroot area to the south as well.
Cycling back east, the quiet music and cool forest, with its old growth
Trees overshadowing the spring melt’s steady flow, was simply magnificent. Traffic was minimal.
"Fair is the Heaven (Spenser)"
One trip across, driving west through this section, during
A cold February, I was drinking Cafe Du Monde coffee, which
Has chicory and thinking back, I must have ordered. My parents
Used to get crates of the stuff mailed from New Orleans and I
Reckon it must have rubbed off on me as well. “How’s that
Chicory!” and “Who puts chicory in coffee?” My friend Neil
Probed from the passenger seat. I just sat there and took it.
“Just pour me another cup, will you?” I probably replied. He
I suppose had a point, though. The old Stanley thermos it was in
Has become quite worn, dented in numerous areas on the exterior
And sporting long grey scratches where there was once a green
Enamel. It still sports a Salmon and Steelhead Trout conservation
Sticker and one for the IMBA as well. The snow was really coming
Down, covering the road which also had ice in spots as well.
It was early morning and dark. We were headed to Kooskia or
Orofino to try our luck on the Clearwater during the winter run.
The Lochsa merges with the Selway and forms the Clearwater at Lowell,
A location where there also typically are abundant numbers of wild
Turkeys. The Clearwater eventually empties into the Snake at Lewiston,
Where Jack O’Connor has a memorial center and I used to occasionally race
The Devil’s Slide on the mountain bike above the cliffs overhanging the Snake,
Todd and other acquaintances racing as well. Things I recall while cycling
The Lochsa. At any rate, while my companion jabbed me about the chicory,
A whitetail bound north across the highway from the river below. In a split
Second I had to decide either to hit the deer or break, risking a skid on the
Ice, sending the old 4Runner and its occupants into the Lochsa. So, I held
The wheel steady and, below the front passenger side headlight, hit the deer.
Fortunately, it had already been slow going. “Well, what did you do that for?”
My used heavy equipment salesman buddy teased. There was no traffic on the
Highway and I quickly pulled over to examine matters. The snow was somberly
Blanketing everything with a wind blowing up the river as well. The lower
Bumper was bent in a bit but the lamp was fine. The deer had continued north
Into the thick underbrush above the highway, surely injured. This episode
Later meant a small amount of work pulling out the dent. Thank you Neil.
The decision, however, made more sense to me at the time than the two of us
Swimming prior to daylight. I think that trip over I caught a Steelhead in
The North Fork which for some odd reason had a large rock in its stomach.
Strange things happen along their journey upstream to reproduce, but this
One was quite odd. Maybe the fish in a fit of chaos, perhaps in a turbine,
Inhaled it? Probably not. I still have the golf ball sized rock on a shelf
In the garage. Steelhead fishing requires a particular type of mentality.
One who is patient and willing to endure harsh elements. Fish catching statistics
Are measured in hours, for example Idaho FWP may post “one fish is being caught per
Twenty hours fished on average on the Clearwater this week. These types of stats
Have me fishing the Missouri more often where the Rainbows are large as well, not to
Mention actually feeding. These typical Cleearwater stats coupled with frozen rod
Eyelets while fishing on Valentines Day make Steelheading not always a good idea. I
Gradually developed a sympathy for the Steelhead and Chinook Salmon actually, knowing their
Journey up the ladders at the many dams throughout the Columbia basin or through the
Turbines, and then avoiding the Tribe’s nets and countless fishermen’s jigs.
However, when one finds the corky, the fight is on. A few times of this and one
Can become hooked. Neil, a crusty Snowbowl volunteer ski Patroller, is always
The first to get a fire going on the bank. I think he likes going over to build
Those fires, spot the quail eating not yet ripe raspberries along the railroad and
To simply count the geese that have already paired as they honk while flying up the
River. Naps on the bank were mandatory. There are quail in Orofino.
"Psalm 67: God Be Merciful Unto Us, And Bless Us"
For some reason cycling through the Lochsa brings back
All of these things journeying along the familiar route.
This trip, rather than visit the lodge at Powell on the way
Back, I cycled by. It is a popular site this time of year
For the raft and kayak crowd and in times past has been an
Invaluable stop for water. One year I bought a Snickers Bar
There to see how it would take for the long ride up the Pass
And out. One learns about one’s metabolism riding for long
Periods on the bike and that day I realized that a Snickers Bar
Was not going to be a part of any future race day nutrition.
Cliff Bars, Shot Bloks and PBs were it.
Once finally upstream of the Lodge on the ride back to Missoula,
I stopped at the DeVoto Memorial site to once again
Take in the grandeur of the cedars. In the past I’ve
Tinkered around on the cross bike in this area on both
Sides of the highway if there happened to be no one
Else about, riding briefly under the massive green cedar
Canopy. This day, there being joyously no rush, I planted
Myself among some ferns, looked at the river, and attempted
To relish the moment. Tranquility of the highest order.
I recalled driving back from a soccer tournament one year in Boise
And stopping along the Lochsa for the kids to have a moment
To cast some spinners while I fly fished. Also, another time
Following a Boise soccer venue, simply doing a fast straight shot
Up the curvy Payette and through the Lochsa’s twisty bends. I used
To love doing so in the 4Runner with the five speed. Quick weekday
Afternoon trips to the South Fork. It’s a fun road. The place has
Changed over the years, however. The Wild and Scenic River designation
Seems to have meant more attention to signage, bright
Yellow center lines, guard rails and reduced speed limits.
"All People That On Earth Do Dwell"
Bernard DeVoto was a historian and conservationist
Who also was a Twain aficionado. He is certainly honored having
This cedar grove site as a memorial. For some reason, as I sat
There Sunday, I did not want to ride back to Missoula. I thought of
His reproduction of "Lewis and Clark’s Journals" while I ate
Half of a peanut butter sandwich and took some photos with
The phone, the Choir of King’s College playing gently in the
Background all the while. I peered deeply into the dark forest
Above the river, noting the sun’s rays occasionally poking through.
Heavenly. One couple was there initially, but only briefly,
Relieving their small dog. Ferns, moss, cedar trees, brown and yellow
Bark shavings along the floor and an old river with an occasional wild
Salmon or steelhead swimming upstream. Glacier Lilies too. All available
A couple of hours west of Lolo on a bicycle.
The above hymn seems to take one back to Liddle’s
Isaiah text reading during the movie Chariots of Fire. I found
Myself visualizing the scene while riding back along a section prior
To the chain up area, “Behold, the nations are as a drop in the bucket.”
How very accurate, indeed. Often on these long rides one’s mind drifts
Off to the issues of the day and I found myself thinking of all of the
Chaos in the world. I attempted to piece together the puzzle of
Mankind. Yeats saw the world in gyres. I’ve often alluded to historical
Circles. Simple patterns. Can man ever reach the state of wisdom where
He sees things clearly enough to recognize the folly of unnecessary conflict?
"Requiem: 1. Requiem Aeternam"
I looked into the west bound lane while climbing up the Idaho
Side, heading back to Traveler’s Rest in Lolo. Climbing the Idaho
Side of the Pass always sparks the admiration for the hardy soles
Who brave the route during the harsh winter months driving their
Grain trucks from the silos in Great Falls to the junction at the
Snake to get their loads shipped to the East. Inevitably during a
January return home from a fishing trip, there would be one or two
Of these large rigs headed back to their Korean or Japanese owned
Wheat elevators in Chester jack knifed, attempting to climb the snow
Covered grade. More memories. The wind was blowing and it was
Starting to rain. I recalled the pocket knife I’d seen cycling over
And kept glancing into the westbound lane, while peddling up the
Section and drinking from the bottle. It was still just above the
Scenic pullout where I had seen it prior and I quickly made my way over
To pick it up. It was a nice buck knife with three blades. I put the
Knife into my jersey’s rear pocket and continued to the rest
Area on top where I stopped to partially fill the pack since I had
Not stopped at the Lodge to do so. There was a Forest Service
Green truck in the area along with a few other travelers. I
Topped off the bottle as well which I had only half finished,
Doing this intentionally given its greater concentration. It was
Now about 3.3o and the rain was coming down pretty steady.
I put on my orange shell for the descent. The rain actually
Felt refreshing, bouncing off of the glasses at the higher speeds.
I had glanced at the cross bike’s detachable rear fender on the shelf
Prior to leaving Missoula, but decided for some reason to leave it in
The garage. So, riding down, the water kicked up from the rear tire
Onto my lower back and I thought to myself “if this is the only problem
Of the day, then it will have been an excellent day!”
"I Vow To Thee, My Country"
I recalled watching families during the Thanksgiving
Holiday cut their Douglas Fir Christmas trees as I hunted
North of the highway at the base of the Montana side’s descent,
Not far below the chain up area. This seems to be a regular affair
In the region, with the State offering permits to do so. Families
Creating memories. We never partook in such a ritual on a formal
Basis. I reckoned as I watched others do so early Thanksgiving morning,
Over time I quietly partook to a lesser extent as well.
"Song For Athene"
The rain let up and above the Hot Springs I removed the shell. Many of
The tents in the area had cleared out. I sent a text home on my status,
There being reception in the area. Then it was back on the bike to wrap
Up the ride. As usual in this section, the wind seemed to be in my face
During the long stretches. One past trip on the return, east of Howard
Creek, while exhausted pedaling hard through rain and afternoon fog,
Suddenly there appeared a half a dozen cow elk standing in the middle of
The highway. Somehow I managed to not hit the animals and, it being like
A dream, I simply continued on my way. In hind sight, and thinking about this
While cycling home Sunday, I should have stopped and enjoyed the
Elk. I suppose at the time, similar to many of the past rides over, I was
Thinking in terms of fitness and tempo rather than enjoying life. As we get
Older, we learn there is a difference, maintaining a certain mature ethos regarding
Such matters. A balancing act principally weighted towards the goodness in life,
Family and community.
"Abide With Me"
I found myself drifting off with the gentle music,
Looking into the clear shallows of Lolo Creek in
Sections and wondering if it would be fishable in
The next week should the temps cooperate in the
Surrounding hills. The stream seemed about ready,
Only marginally up at the moment. “Perhaps I’ll take
The kids to fish the lower sections? Maybe the Rainbows
Will have traveled up through the mouth from the Bitterroot
To spawn,” I was quietly theorizing to myself. Lolo empties
Into the Bitterroot, and the larger fish will swim into the lower
Section of Lolo in the spring and fall to spawn. The Brown trout
Will spawn in the fall. Last season, I never even opened the case
Containing an Oregon made bamboo rod I own. “Come to think of it, I
Hardly fished at all,” I said out loud. Its been a nifty little rod
That was quite reasonable, purchased through an online auction outfit.
Not having fished much last season was tragic as it is something we
Enjoy and is part of the order, living in Maclean’s Missoula. This
Season, post soccer venues, hopefully we’ll wet a few more lines.
"Morning, Communion And Evening Services in G"
There was a couple parked and hiking in a section of the
Recent burn along the creek. I was not certain, but it
May have been that they were looking for Morels. During
The large burns in the past, residents flocked into the
Bitterroot and Gold Creek to find the rare wild fungus.
Morels are hard to beat, with venison or elk seared in a
Cabernet based sauce. The Morel has a unique meat like
Texture of its own and seems to flourish on the black
Decaying logs in the spring. It is a regular staple found
At the Missoula Farmer’s Market among flowers and other fresh
Produce this time of year. I waved hello and rode past,
Thinking again of the charred remains of someone’s
Home to the north of the highway. A little further east,
Ironically, someone had their wood burning stove sitting on
Their lawn with a “for sale” sign tied to it. “Where had that
Stove been?” I wondered. It was a little rusty, but looked
To be in working condition. How many frozen toes and fingers
Had it warmed perhaps in a camp in the woods during past days?
Or, maybe simply in the kitchen of the seller’s home on Lolo?
"Funeral Anthem of Queen Mary 1695; Thou knowest, Lord"
I rode by Fort Fizzle, a popular day picnic area, which
In 1877 served as a brief military post to hinder the Nez
Perce from fleeing the Clearwater and entering into the
Bitterroot. Earlier, it was a section along the Lewis and Clark
Expedition as well. “At least the real-estate collapse of 08/09
Slowed the developments along the lower stretches of the drainage,”
I expounded to myself as I reached Traveler’s Rest and Lolo.