Friday, September 17, 2010

Connecting to nature (the last days in Idaho and Montana)

The last few days in Idaho were very special. Again, we had sunny weather and said farewell to Cathy and Chet and Carol and Grams (Judy) went off to work. That left Gramps with nothing to do but play (or so it seemed). I loved watching the boys and Gramps pull fish and after fish outta their back pond. Without complaining, Charlie stayed on his knees most of the time doing all the dirty work: worming the hook and then taking the bloody thing back out of the little sucker's jaws. The boys had all the glee and none of the mess. It was delightful for us.
Then they got to ride on Gramps quad and that was another treat. That night we got to go to a favorite restaurant of Gramps and Grams: Brick 39 (I think that's its name.) There was a special chef there who designed "food made with love" as Dave calls it. It was a great way to end our time together.
The next day, we drove, drove, drove through some of the most beautiful countryside I've ever seen in the US. --Mountains and trees and rivers and windy roads with little evidence of civilization except log cabins tucked away along the trees at the river's bend. Oh, Dave and I kept sighing with longing to live there in one of those beautiful wood houses by the water. The boys were watching Star Wars and could hardly be persuaded to glance at the lovely stone patterns in the churning river, for fear of missing some of the action on the tiny screen. Alas.
I drove through 98 miles of curves -- tight curves-- and started to go a bit crazy with my contacts when it got dark. I pulled over right after the summit into Montana on the #12 and got a bit of fresh air and took in the INCREDIBLE full moon that had just surfaced. Stunning.
By the time Dave drove us into the hot springs, the workers had decided to close the pool early and they wouldn't let us swim. I was so disappointed. We had pushed to get there in time, only to encounter two bitter employees who chose to regale us with all the management problems they had encountered, as well as their plans to desert the joint that very night and never return. Nonetheless, they assured us we could swim in the morning, and gave us a deal on a "no-frills" cabin.
Even though it was cold and dark, we scrounged up some firewood (not seeing the bin full of it until the next morning) and had the campfire that Weston had been craving since we left home. The marshmellows, however, having lived in a bag in a hot van for too long, were glommed together in one unfortunate mass and made for sticky, unappealing smores. Dave and I choked some down out of duty, but when it came time for Weston to enjoy the treat he had been craving for days, he said: "No thanks. I don't think it's good for me to eat sweets so late at night." Silence as the gloop in our guts sat there and we quietly asserted that we felt the same way, and why hadn't he said so sooner, and now I wish I hadn't eaten anything but water...
We definitely stayed in a "no frills" cabin. It lacked a mother's touch in every way except the little heater that clicked and hissed off and on all night. Frost covered everything the next morning so we were at least grateful to sleep indoors and not have to pull out the tent again. I spent half the night fretting whether the boys would fall off the top bunk, as there were NO RAILS! -- Why do they make top bunks without rails? It's enough to give a mom insomnia.
The boys hated the bathrooms "Very stinky" they said, but the woman's wasn't too bad. I just had to ignore the toothpaste colored walls and the spiders in the corners.
Thankfully the sun came out and right away we spotted steam coming up from a stream by some of the most interesting rock formations I'd ever seen. We followed it, looking for the source, only to keep bumping into the swimming pool area that we were told would not open until 10am.
So... we went out to breakfast at the restaurant there called "The Bear Cave." I spent most of the time waiting for my breakfast gazing and reading all the captions to all the black and white photos scattered around the walls depicting the history of the resort and the original white owners and trappers who had travelled there. There were also paintings of many American Indians enjoying the hot springs. These lovely portraits contrasted sharply with the pictures of the 8 bear hides, 86 lynx hides in another picture with two white dudes in mustaches and rifles. I felt sick. It seemed such a waste of beautiful animals. The hot springs was a spiritual center for many tribes before a family from Missoula decided it was theirs and set up a resort for wealthy travellers. Of which, I had to admit, I was now one.
I saw pictures of a small cave at the base of one of the sculpted rock towers and asked where the BEAR CAVE was, thinking maybe we could go there on a short hike while we waited for the pool to open. I was given a blank stare. "What cave?" asked the bewildered server (it was his first week), "the Bear Cave-- in the photo." "Oh... I don't know." Later, after some of the best bacon I've had in months, I sauntered over to the fancy lodge (as opposed to the no frills cabins we had stayed in across the highway) I snooped around the store and bought a book on Indian legends from the area, then I asked the man behind the counter: "Where's the Bear Cave?"
"It's right next door."
"Right there. The Restaurant."
"No, I mean the actual cave."
"The cave called the Bear Cave"
"I don't know of any bear cave."
"There's a picture of it in the restaurant."
"Hmmm. Never heard of it."
I was vexed. --This guy, coupled with the startled looking server, and the two complaining pool workers who threw in the towel the night before -- seemed to know diddlysquat about the history and significance of the place where they worked! Well if they were silent, the stones themselves seemed to shriek with ecstasy about the glory of their Creator. I walked up to them anyway, family in tow, and longed to go further up and further in along the horse trails I saw winding up through the trees into the mountains. I kept thinking at any turn I'd find the famous BEAR CAVE and be mystically inspired, but Dave's practical voice of time and safety called me back and I never found it. Maybe I'll go back some day.
The pool was nice. We had it all to ourselves until another family joined us. Hoping to meet some friendly Americans, we asked where they were from.
"Calgary" they said.
I laughed.
Inside the building was a smaller pool, and again, despite the awful toothpaste color they chose to paint the walls, it was the real thing. A little greenhouse type room built over the hot spring itself. My favorite part was a the corner they couldn't paint -- where the rough natural rock jutted into the pool and you could see it's opening into the earth. I was thrilled. Again the significance of this miracle... water travelling down through the rock, warming at the earth's core, and returning to the surface at slightly warmer than a hot bath, on the top of a chilly mountain. Incredible. I knew it was spiritual somehow, even if some ignorant humans weren't conscious of it. I lay in the water right at the mouth of the springs and closed my eyes. Imagining myself (I must confess) like one of the beautiful Indian princesses I'd seen slipping her naked brown foot in the water from the painting in the restaurant. It felt like a gathering place of elders and ancestors. It felt holy.
Wow. I have gone on and on. I haven't thought about that day for awhile because SO MUCH has happened since then.
I see now I will have to write about the rest of the journey home on yet another blog. {And I still haven't caught up about school starting and Vancouver and .... sigh.} Right now I will sign off, thanking GOD for the sunny skies (so desperately needed for the farmers) and the golden leaves and bright blue all around above.

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