Although the curtains blocked out the morning sun, our eyes fluttered awake. You can take the hiker off of the trail but you cannot take the trail out of the hiker... or something like that. On trail, you synchronize with the sun. Even on zero days in town, you follow the sun. The sun was coming up, and we were slowly waking up. Fortunately, this morning there was no rush, no necessity to race out of the sheets and into our shoes. This morning we danced in and out of sleep, until a more reasonable time chimed on the clock.
Sally wandered into the kitchen. Wishing us a good morning, she followed her greeting with whether or not we wanted French Toast. Once Ray woke up, he joined us at the kitchen table for a delicious breakfast and coffee. We sat around the table continuing conversation and enjoying each other's company. It was another blue bird day, and the idea of going fishing was mentioned. There was no turning it down.
We were thrilled to be able to tag along back up to the mountains and this time to turn our attention to the river. We loaded up in the car, grabbed bread, peanut butter, jelly, and a bag of apples from the store and headed back to Park Creek. The water was roaring, but the day was beautiful and our spirits were high. We arrived at a field of dandelions and possible access to more fishable water. Ray stepped into his waders, boots, and vest, and we extended our tenkara rod for its first taste of the mountain air and ice cold water. We spent some time here burrowing back into the brush to get to the perfect bend in the river. The water was high and muddy, but there were fish there. That was enough motivation to fight the current to run a seam.
All three of us got hits but due to the power of the water all it took was one look downstream and off the line the fish swam. The beauty of it all was that we could not even be frustrated. The company and the day were more than enough to have us all feeling just perfectly content. We hopped back into the car and headed down the road, stopping at one more area where the water calmed, if just slightly. No bites.
That night we cooked stir-fry with Sally in the kitchen and then together, we enjoyed dinner and conversation around the table. We discussed everything from the outdoor activities we love to do all the way to past careers. We learned that they owned a house and some land in Montana that they had once used and operated a program for troubled youth. We were fortunate to listen to story after story of hiking and rafting trips Ray had guided with these kids. One of our favorite things about Ray and Sally is that they both understood the healing power of the outdoors. While love and support go a long way, the feeling that fills your body after climbing your first mountain or tackling your first class four rapid is a huge boost to self esteem and it is very empowering. The mountains demand respect yet demonstrate gratitude with their calm alpine lakes. Ray told stories of trips he took the young men on to Glacier National Park and stories of true alterations in their lives from these trips. Unlike so many other youth programs, they did not create a hostile boot camp for these boys, but demonstrated how life could be and opened their eyes to the world of nature.
The following morning we shared breakfast around the same table, before packing our things to head back to trail. Meals at home, not in the openness of a restaurant, are very special to us. They are rare to nonexistent unless someone welcomes you into their home and sets a place at their dinner table for you. Sally and Ray did just that. They not only welcomed us into their space, but shared the day with us, getting to know us, letting us get to know them, and sharing with us the experience of a day on the river. By the time they dropped us off at the Post Office, we felt like they were apart of our family and us apart of theirs. Quickly, over our time together, they became a very special stepping stone on our path that we are building North.
Garbelly sight fishing a Brookie in calmer waters.
Their river lodge is now available to be rented out for fishing trips, mountain getaways and corporate trips. This is no small lodge, in fact it has capacity to sleep up to thirty people! Nestled amidst state forest ground, their house is truly secluded and promises Montana fishing without pressure from thousands of anglers. If you are ever planning a huge fishing trip with all of your buddies (call and invite us too), check out the Montana River Lodge. http://montanariverlodge.com
Garbelly & Critter