Still Tuned . . . ?

Sorry about that. I meant to get back to my Plan B post in a few days, but things got away from me. Good things.

Like a week spent on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, in Idaho, a trip many paddlers list in their top 5 expeditions. A trip we’ve had on our list for decades, but never managed, until now, to pull a permit or have the time to go on. Now we have, and we understand why it’s on everyone’s top tier of river trip experiences. Our time was typified by low water, great weather, sterling company, and nearby forest fires. In a nutshell – fun, busy water for inflatable canoes, hot springs along the way, persistent good weather and a group of friends who have known each other for decades.

Then we got back and got pulled in to being the support crew for two of the kids (Ruby and Sawyer) and a friend who were competing in a 24-hour mountain bike race near Kalispell, MT. When was the last time I pulled an all-nighter?? I don’t know, but I don’t need another one in the next decade. Fun to be part of the crazy scene, and doubly so because our team, Punk Rock Ev, won the day, but it’s one of those activities like the 100-mile runs that make you ask . . . why???

Enough excuses. Back to the early summer and what became of our thwarted northern expedition plans. The fact that we needed a Plan B was due to an earlier decision to rent our house for the 5-6 weeks that we’d be gone. Those renters were still planning on moving in, and a deal is a deal, so we had to vacate between June 24 and August 1.

The Plan was pretty loose and required us to render our Toyota Prius into a recreational vehicle, loaded down with the inflatable canoe and paddling gear, two mountain bikes and their equipment, backpacking supplies, and general camping outfit. Nothing the Prius, with the addition of a roof rack, rocket box, bike rack and some creative packing, couldn’t accomplish. Off we drove, after giving the renters the run-through on our quirky home.

Honestly, we didn’t know how far we’d range, from Canada to the Pacific coast. We were flexible and unplanned. In the end, we never left the confines of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The organizing theme was to do things and go places we hadn’t indulged before – paddle streams we’d always meant to get to, hike in mountains we’d never explored, visit folks we’d lost touch with, check out communities we were curious about. Above all, to be flexible enough to take in a matinee movie that seemed intriguing, or detour 100 miles to see an old friend, or take up the suggestion of a local about a nice ride/paddle/event to experience.

Some highlights:

– New rivers . . . the Popo Agie, the Grays, the Buffalo Fork, the upper Snake, the upper Green, the upper Stillwater, and more.
– New hikes . . . Italian Peaks (Montana), the Big Snowies (Montana), the Pioneers (Montana), Table Mountain (Wyoming), Timberline Lake (MT).
– Bike rides . . . Red Canyon (Wyo), 200 miles of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail between Ashton, Id. and Pinedale, Wyo., assorted river shuttles.
– Other notable events – a tour of Tippet Rise in Fishtail, Mont. (look it up – pretty incredible), a matinee viewing of RBG in Jackson Hole, Wyo. (worth seeing!), 4th of July in Dillon with family and friends, an overnight return to a favorite stretch of the Yellowstone River – (God I love that piece of water!).

The Upshot:

– Yeah, I guess we could be vagabonds for a while. With a few tweaks and a different rig, we could go a long time and stay pretty occupied.
– Not only did we get the satisfaction of checking off a list of places we’ve long wanted to experience, the list only got longer because in those visits, we kept uncovering more cool places to get to next time.
– It was really nice to come home. It is good to have a home base and community of friends, even if we get away for extended periods. Nothing replaces that.

Summer is waning now in Montana, as sure as the rivers ebb toward fall trickles. School and teaching gigs begin in a week. Life will resume a work, home, play pattern tethered to our long-standing community. But inevitably, plans are afoot – next year’s summer expedition in the north, our dance with retirement (can we???) and what we might do with it, decisions about downsizing our life, making the most of our dwindling time, watching the kids grow into their futures, and always, aware of the unexpected turns which loom on the horizon, inevitable as they are unpredictable.

So yeah, stay tuned, stay ready, love life.

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