The trains were clear on the other side of my river and I figured it was good they were making so much noise. Keep the bears away. There is a concensus among the folk I meet on the road that I am gong to be eaten. This ain't just them ribbing the city kid. They are unanimous and sincere. I am going to be eaten.
I got to tell you, it's getting to me. But it's a new kind of fear. It's primal. It's real. It's pretty much out of my hands. I take what precautions I'm aware of. I follow conflicting advice. I pee around my tent in a great broad circle to let everyone know I'm there.
I am heartened that there is still some disagreement over which species will get me. The smart money these days is, of course, on bears. But a growing contingent prefers the cougar's chances. Some people like the wolf's. I am hearing less and less about my being stomped by a moose. Maybe that was an Idaho thing.
Because, get this, I am in Montana. It seems so very far away. I was greeted at the border by Eleanor and Sue, mother and daughter, who live together in a charming wooden house, made from boards Eleanor's late husband had milled himself. They had acres and acres, stretching all the way from the highway to the river. It was my dream house, only maybe I would rather build closer to the river.
But then I wouldn't be able to wave to passersby and give them shade and cold water and let them play with my dog. And I wouldn't be able to tell them stories and invite them in for a meatloaf sandwich and potater salad and a little bucket full of fresh radishes. And coffee. Thank-you, ladies!
I've been doing pretty well for food lately. The towns were getting further and further apart and I was thinking I was going to starve to death so I bought a half ton of trail mix and whatnot. And I still got a couple of protein bars but they are unspeakably foul. And this morning this guy Ron who I met yesterday on my island came by and gave me a buttload of camping food. And beef jerky which I kind of like but it costs too much. And he gave me a water bottle and told me that all those people who said I was going to be eaten were "full of shit." A very nice man.
He is a sort of mountain man with a long beard and Slavic eyes. He is fishing across America. He lost his wife a few years back and was really sad and fell into a sort of funk and decided he'd save himself by buying a cabover camper and fishing wherever the fishing is best. He started in Utah and is fishing his way to Alaska. It may take him years. He travels with a dog called Hatchet and a nickel-plated .44.
"For grizzlies," he explains. "I want to leave it behind as a present for whoever buries me. They're much too fast to shoot. You'll be alright, though."
I am carrying quite a lot of water these days, as well, so my pack is very heavy. And I'm taking it easy on my foot. I think this might be my last big blister I have for a while and I really want to enjoy it. So I didn't walk so very far. I did manage a ten mile stretch in the middle which means I'm getting back to fighting form. I got sunburnt and skeeter-bit but I didn't much mind. I was happy to finally be walking.
I stopped at a shop in Heron, or very near by, to fill up my water bottles. It's my last civilisation for two nights. I should be able to find water somewhere, but I'll have enough if I don't. There I met Amy, a girl with pink hair and tattoos in Japanese, some of which I could read and others I could not. She let me recharge my computer so I loitered there a long time but was nonetheless made welcome.
There seemed to be a man living in the parking lot in a Toyota Winnebago. Piece of crap, not like mine. He had a hat like Jed Clampett and very few teeth and no shirt and no shoes and he was staggeringly drunk and seemingly handicapped by years of sustained meth abuse. I heard he played the banjo so I went over and intoduced myself.
He was a fairly imprecise coversationalist, and I more than once wondered if I wasn't going to have to punch him in the face, but you've got to understand. I am just nutty for banjo music. I guess I always sort of thought rural America would be stinky with banjo players but he was the first one I had met.
So I finally get through to him that I want a banjo concert, there next to the pumps, just like in Deliverance, and he digs through his camper and comes up with a ratty-looking Fender bottlecap and just sort of strums on it while calling out the chords to himself. Great showmanship, though. He had us all dancing.
Creepy guy, though. I was ready to blow town. He followed me for a while in his truck and we chatted of this and that. I was glad when he left because I don't want some meth fiend to have any idea where I'm camping.
As it was I did not go far. A mile or two out of Heron I found a National Forest campsite. This the first time I have paid to camp. $10. Pretty steep, I think, but that is on the low end these days. There aren't even showers. I just wanted to see what official camping was like.
I had to fill out a form and pay money so that was a drag. It's a pretty spot but not as pretty as the one I had last night. The place for my tent is perfectly flat but it is covered with pointy pointy rocks. I talked to some the other campers but apparently this is unusual. They like the solitude of the outdoors, fifteen feet from their neighbors, snug in their shiny RV. In kind of sucks here, actually. I can say I do feel perfectly safe. There are edible people all around me.
As I was digging out my gear for the evening, I found an unfamiliar envelope and in it I found $18 bucks. It must have come from Ron this morning, bundled with all the food. I can sure use the cash but I get the feeling he rather could, as well. Happy fishing, friend.
CHEERS! to another Ron who sported me two jumbo sodas in Heron.
PURCHASED new bugspray. Chemical, pesticidal, death in a bottle. Cunningly engineered poison. I keep it in a sort of holster on the side of my pack. Skeeters, bring it on. I use my old organic bugspray as Binaca.
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