Friday, August 21, 2009

Vacation Part 1

The next few days I will post my vacation blog, as I wrote it (more or less) during the week we were away. Our pictures are on my picasaweb site: If you look at the albums "Summer Vacation 2008" and "Vacation 2009," you'll get a pretty good idea of this place we love.

And now.....

Day 1
Today is day 1 of our Montana vacation. It’s cloudy and breezy and not particularly warm. We don’t care. Yes, we’d like to be out on the lake, but we also like just hanging out. Tim is napping (actually, he’s snoring in my ear right now), Doug is playing a game on his laptop, and I’m writing the first of my vacation blog entries. The dog is snoozing after a hard morning of exploring his territory.

We arrived yesterday (Day 0 of the trip) after a 3+ hours’ drive from Pocatello. No traffic and no problems with the RV this year (last year we blew a tire on the way and had to stop for a new set in Idaho Falls). The campground is seven miles from the main highway, down a dirt road that has the topography of a washboard. It’s also open range territory, so there are Black Angus cattle to contend with. After traversing five and a half miles of the road, you begin a rather steep descent that rattles me with our big 5th wheel camper behind us. I’m sure it’s perfectly safe, but it makes me nervous nonetheless to have that huge vehicle attached to our behind as we make our way down, down, down into the valley.

This year I was so excited to arrive that I didn’t much care about the descent (well, just a little). My thirteen-year-old stuck his head out the window, inhaled deeply and noisily, and announced, “Smell that pine!” Indeed the valley is thickly forested with pine, with a carpet of wildflowers and loads of interesting birds -- and the lake that is so clear you can see 15 feet down. We love this spot and that’s why we’re so excited to return here.

We’d hoped for the same campsite as last year, which we considered perfect in its proximity to the lake and its privacy screen of trees on three sides, but, alas it was taken. We continued further up the hill and found what I think might be an even better spot. Definitely a better view of the lake, and there is a set of stairs made from railroad ties that leads from the camping area down to the fire pit/picnic table area of the campsite. This morning I sat on those stairs and savored a cup of tea and the tranquility of the lake view through the trees.

I woke at first light this morning, which wasn’t what I intended. It takes a while for me to wind down when on vacation, so each day I’ll probably sleep a little bit longer. I’m sure my husband will be happier about that – for some reason he doesn’t like to hear me banging around the camper at dawn.

The first activity after breakfast -- for me, that is -- was to walk back out from our campsite to a high point where I have cell phone signal. Normally I am very happy to spend a week without my cell phone, but this year, with my mother’s health situation, I decided that the only way I could take a vacation is if I check messages each day and periodically check in with my mother herself. So, each morning I’ll walk to the high point and turn on my cell phone for a few minutes.

Did I mention that it’s a mile and a half up to that point? “Up” being the operative word in that sentence. Uphill. All the way. A mile and a half. I made it, but I was a bit winded when I got there. Just before the top, there is a cattle guard – a metal grid laid down on the road, with the bars of the grid laid so far apart that animals can’t cross it. In fact, human crossing it was tricky – I had to hop from bar to bar of the grid (obviously, vehicles with tires have no trouble with it). This guard keeps the open range cattle from going down into the valley. It also just about kept my dog from accompanying me that last 300 yards to the point of cell phone signal. We finally figured out a spot for him to sneak underneath the wooden fence on the side of the gate.

I called my mother – mostly to test the signal since I’d spoken to her just yesterday and she’s actually feeling fine. It worked quite nicely. The cows seemed mildly interested, but mostly left me alone. Thank goodness, because it suddenly occurred to me that these weren’t just cows. There were young bulls in this herd, too – calves, still, but old enough to have figured out their mission in life (judging by what I observed). That gave me pause because four of those young bulls, plus one cow, had ranged themselves in a line across the road, staring straight at me and my dog. It was like a bovine version of Shootout at the OK Corral. They barely blinked. And I wondered how we were going to get past them to go back down the road.

I whooped. I yelled. I wildly waved my arms.

They stood there.

Finally, they moved somewhat to one side, so Hank and I made a break for it. I had Hank on a leash by this time, and I pushed him through the spot in the fence by the gate – whereupon his leash got hung up and he couldn’t quite make it through. I quickly released him from the leash, then I hopped back across the grid and unhooked his leash from the fence post where it was stuck.

Later I asked my husband if I need to be worried about the young bulls. He asked me if they were pawing the ground. When I said no, he nonchalantly said, “nothing to worry about.” I should probably ask him if young bulls have good days and bad days – maybe they were just in a good mood today.

On the walk this morning I saw a Western Tanager, which was cool. I’m not an avid bird watcher, but I do like to identify the different birds when we are out camping. Last year I saw osprey, bald eagles, and cormorants, to name a few. The Western Tanager is very pretty – golden yellow, with a blush-rose colored head.

(No, I didn't take that picture -- it's from

Later – the sun came out and we spent the afternoon drifting on the lake. Doug and Hank were in the raft (Hank loves boating), and I was in my tube. Tim had a long nap and then finally joined us, so there we four were – Tim and Hank in the raft, Doug on one tube and me on another, all of us hanging on or tethered to each other. Very serene and non-stressful, just lazing in the sun. The water is a wee bit colder than last year, due to all the rain they’ve had up here (not unlike the rest of the country, it seems), but in the hot sun, my butt and feet can take a little cold water. There were actually quite a few people swimming as well, although that would have been more than I’d have enjoyed.

Tonight’s dinner was Italian sausage cooked on the grill with onions and then immersed in marinara sauce; we also heated up some leftover corn. The entire dinner was cooked on my charcoal grill, leaving little to clean up at the end (that’s how I like it when we’re camping!). After dinner, we took a walk, meeting our new campsite neighbors, who are from Idaho Falls, and also some people who were launching their boat (they are from Utah, near where I used to live).

The campground is more crowded this year than last, but it is still a wonderful place to be. The campsites are very private and very far apart.

I walked the lakeshore for a while this afternoon, sitting for a time on a sun-warmed log that extended from the shore about 30 feet into the lake. I saw the osprey combing the shore on the other side, along the valley wall, looking for fish. I saw the cormorants bobbing under the surface and then rising off the water and into the air. I thought about everything and nothing. I prayed for a time, too. A good day.

So, that’s the news from Wade Lake, day 1.

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