From Philipsburg, we headed to Missoula, a town I couldn’t get enough of but somehow didn’t photograph in the slightest. (Here’s my biggest Missoula tip: Eat a burger at Missoula Club. And while you’re there, have some fries and a root beer float, as well. Hey, you only live once—you won’t be sorry!) Then, we took the windy road up along Flathead Lake and stayed just outside of Bigfork for two nights, trying to ward off the rain in time for our visit to Glacier National Park.
That didn’t happen.
When it was still pouring on day three, we picked up and headed to the border of Glacier anyway, picking an RV park in Hungry Horse on the fringe of the park. Much of Going-to-the-Sun Road was still closed, and hiking with all the snow and slush that covered the landscape was out of the question. We were booked on a Glacier Guides rafting trip but postponed it on the first day hoping the weather would get better.
It didn’t. So we bucked up and went away.
The thing is with rafting, you’re going to get wet anyway. So what would a little extra water hurt? Well, the 44 degrees outside wasn’t pleasant, and the river temps were in the mid-30s, but that aside, we had an amazing day nonetheless.
Glacier Guides outfitted us with thick wetsuits, booties, life jackets, gloves and rainproof shells. I wore two fleeces under my shell and over the wetsuit top for warmth. This was an excellent move as, aside from my hands and feet which seem never to be warm no matter what, I stayed relatively toasty (until we hit a rapid and a huge wave of water went down the front of my suit, settling in a puddle against my skin near my nether regions…brrrrrr). I was wearing so many layers I stumbled around like a clumsy astronaut.
Don’t I look like a hot piece of bloated neoprene?
Our guide, Mike, an Oregonian, was a gem, and in a coincidence that only seems to happen to me, he knew five people I know from his hometown of McMinnville—a place I’ve never stepped foot in, mind you—all of whom I worked with in Arizona back in 2001 and 2002 during my ranching days. How crazy is that?
And it got even stranger when the only other rafters on our boat—a really fun couple from Washington and their college daughter—were from the same tiny town where SVV spent his first two years. Though he was born in Portland to two San Francisco natives, his family lived just over the border in Washougal for the first two years of his life. And they both actually grew up in the Bay Area, the husband in the Presidio. (We live in Presidio Heights.) OK, life, you’re weird sometimes.
Prior to our trip out with Glacier Guides, I hadn’t been rafting since I was 12. Why? I have absolutely no idea. I’ve jumped out of a plane. I go scuba diving every chance I get. I’ve flung myself off one of the highest towers in the world. And yet something adventurous and outdoorsy like rafting where you can do a lot of places? I’ve now done twice in my life. Though I hope this experience is just the second time of many to come.
We spent about two hours on the river, floating through a series of seven Class II and III rapids. Everyone on the boat was nice enough to give me the front seat—the one that gets the wettest, of course.
Thanks to all the rain the Northwest has been peppered with all year long, the river was cruising along quite nicely. This meant a break for us rafters—we hardly had to paddle at all!
There were a couple times I almost
fell went flying out, but I had listened to Mike and wedged my feet into the edges of the raft, which saved me from hypothermia on more than one occasion.
This little pocket of Montana is full of animals, but I think much of the wildlife was trying to escape the rain while we were in town. Still, we were fortunate enough to see a few beauties like this bald eagle, who watched us wearily from its perch. I imagine he’s thinking, “silly humans, expending so much energy and effort all for the sake of ‘fun.'”
We had a blast on the river that morning, and it made me wonder why we had spent four weeks in rainy conditions and hadn’t embraced it before and gone rafting in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and beyond. Silly novice national park road trippers. Lesson learned.
There was a shower at the rafting center, so SVV hogged all the hot water while the rest of us shivered in our wetsuits and eventually gave up and changed into our dry clothing. After that, we returned to the RV park to warm up and prepare for the evening’s main event. After all, it was rather a big deal in our family: The first birthday of our fur baby! You don’t think being on the road would prevent us from celebrating in style? (Thank God for Party City.)
So what if none of her canine pals could come? She still got a huckleberry chicken breast as a cake.
She did not, however, embrace the party hat. And the balloons rather scared her. But we partied on anyway. After all, birthdays only come once a year.
(Oh, and speaking of Ella, I wrote a post on being a first-timer traveling with a dog over at GoPetFriendly.com. Check it out if you’re about to embark on a similar journey!)
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