This might just be the most scenic john on the planet. Or at the very least it ranks pretty high up there. Just sayin’.
It has been far too long since I last posted and no doubt my readers are wondering if this blog is dead. Good news, it isn’t! It’s just been a tad out of commission as I’ve been quite the traveler lately. But, never fear, a recounting of those travels is soon to come. More photos and tales of England, photos from the trip to California and photos, like the one above, of a visit from a friend (and her husband) who has been a friend for a very long time. Also to come is an update on the garden and other news.
I’m working on those blog posts now (they’re long, so they’re taking a lot of time), so please enjoy the above photo of the ever-photogenic Livingston Range in the North Fork of the Flathead snapped last week.
Had a wonderful drive up the North Fork yesterday to do some interviews. Though there was some slush for much of the way, which grabbed the tires of my vehicle and made driving occasionally dicey (especially in my low-clearance Honda Civic), the views were spectacular as clouds rolled in and out, revealed snow-covered trees and the beautiful North Fork of the Flathead, which this time of year seems still and placid. I am beginning to know the bends and curves of the road so well I can let my mind wander through the landscape. And since the drive is an hour and a half one way (and only 40 miles), that’s a lot of pondering!
It’s hard to tell in photographs how really colorful winter can be under its snowy mantle. The wet bark on the trees is a deep mahogany color. The green of new growth pine stands out brightly against the drifts. And the occasional critter you might see is a flash of life and color in the landscape.
After a thoroughly enjoyable day (I am always more relaxed up the North Fork — I think it’s because the pace of life up there is what life used to be like; in the summer, people are busy tending their gardens and working on their homes. But in the winter, everyone slows down and enjoys quiet chats with a plate of cookies in front of the fire while watching big, fat snowflakes drift lazily through the lodgepoles. Every home’s host(ess) you go to offers you at the very least some tea or coffee and frequently you find yourself sitting down for lunch (and second lunch and third lunch… I feel like a hobbit!).
This blog is about getting out of my comfort zone, which was nerve-wracking and exhilarating at the same time. I can’t write a lot now, but I wanted to get pictures up, so I’ll post those and update soon!
Akokola Creek. The beautiful green color comes from water running on top of ice. Weird and neat.
I love the stark beauty of the trees and deadfall in this photo. The blurs were accidental, from snow on the lens of my camera after a slippery plunge down the steep hillside. Butt skiing we’ll call it. Though the frosty, foggy lens ruined photos I wish it hadn’t, the effect on this photo is rather splendid if I do say so myself.
Drove up the North Fork with a local last week and enjoyed not only breath-taking views of snow-capped peaks in the Livingston Range, but also North Forker hospitality. Every house we stopped by had hosts falling over themselves to offer us tea, coffee and holiday goodies. Let’s just say I had to use the bathroom a lot after drinking many, many cups of tea. By the last house, Bonnie, our hostess, who knows a little something about North Forker hospitality, asked, “Can I offer you coffee or tea or are you coffee and tea-ed out?” We shared a good laugh over that.
The photo above was shot at Trail Creek.
Here’s a snowy riddle by John Parton:
From Heaven I fall, though from earth I begin.
No lady alive can show such a skin.
I’m bright as an angel, and light as a feather,
But heavy and dark, when you squeeze me together.
Though candor and truth in my aspect I bear,
Yet many poor creatures I help to insnare.
Though so much of Heaven appears in my make,
The foulest impressions I easily take.
My parent and I produce one another,
The mother the daughter, the daughter the mother.
And here’s an excerpt from a poem, because this is just amusing: From “A Severe Lack of Holiday Spirit” by Amy Gerstler.
… People hit
the sauce in a big way all winter.
Amidst blizzards they wrestle
unsuccessfully with the dark comedy
of their lives, laughter trapped
in their frigid gizzards. Meanwhile,
the mercury just plummets,
like a migrating duck blasted
out of the sky by some hunter
in a cap with fur earflaps.
It would appear I’ve got snow on the brain, wouldn’t it?
*Blog title quote from “Now winter nights enlarge” by Thomas Campion.
Yesterday, I hiked with a friend and sportswriter at a sister newspaper in the valley. We hiked the Huckleberry Lookout trail. The first mile is flat and wooded. We crossed a foot bridge suspended over a brook filled with glistening river stones. If there’s something I love about temporal presence, it’s the color of river stones. In water, they’re beautiful: rusty red, chocolate brown, aqua blue. Once dry, the stones are dull, boring. Sometimes it’s better to leave things be. Especially river stones.
After the first mile, the trail begins its ascent. It’s a solid climb until the crest of the Apgar range. More than once Dixie and I found ourselves panting for breath, paused in the shade of hospitable pine trees. A great workout, that hike. It’s 12 miles round-trip.
We met one other person on the hike, a man from east Texas. And boy, y’all, did he sound like he hailed from east Texas. I admire his bravery, though. I dare not hike alone in Glacier National Park for fear of the bears. Dixie and I saw bear scat, but no bears (we like it that way). We might of heard one, but whether it was footfalls in the bushes or just the wind, we’ll never know.
Before climbers can reach the lookout building, they must walk along the ridge of the mountain. Along the spine, the trees bend east, as is knelt in supplication toward the sunrise. It’s windy atop the peak. Downed logs are gnarled with the abuse from weather. Yet even in such precarious places, life remains. Moss grows on the old wood and wildflowers find refuge in the shadows of trees.
A recent college grad named Luke is this year’s fire lookout. He lives in the one-room building. His walls are windows. Gives new meaning to the phrase “a room with a view.” There was not a cloud in the sky Wednesday for as far as the eye could see. Just the blue dome, unreachable and so close.
While I’d part with my right arm for a view like Luke’s, unless I had Shawn to keep me company I’d probably go mad as a lookout. A person can stare all day into the landscape, surrounded by it and totally separate. The wind rustles in the walls of the lookout building. The silence without wind might be overwhelming. Luke said he doesn’t get lonely because 15 people or so come to the lookout every day. He’s got cell phone reception and Internet access. Friends and family visit. A train of pack mules comes to visit every few weeks bearing food. Still, in between the people, I think he has a lot of time alone with his thoughts. Sounded as though he likes it that way. Said he’s writing. Wouldn’t get specific, but he won’t be the first lookout to write a book.
“It’s amazing how much the same view can change every five minutes,” Luke said. “This place is very alive. It’s very dynamic.”
After spending 45 minutes or so on the summit, interviewing Luke and scarfing down our sandwiches, Dixie and I made the descent. The above is a shot from the lookout of the trail down the spine. On the right side of the frame, the North Fork of the Flathead River and the North Fork Road are visible.
The expansive view from the top of Huckleberry Mountain afforded a panorama of the Livingston Range, pictured above, which follows the North Fork river valley up to Canada, about 30 miles distant. Dixie and I could also see Flathead Lake, 50 miles south. So many acres of forest between us and everywhere else. Filled with birds, moose, elk, deer, bears and marmots.
I tell you this: if you need some perspective, climb a mountain. Sit on top for a while and just be. Then walk back down. You’ll feel better, I promise.
Going down was much easier. We munched on huckleberries (ssh! don’t tell!) and stretched out our strides. Cold beer awaited us at the end, which makes every hike even more worth it.