Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day Sixty-Two, High Plains Drifter

There was a good thunder storm last night. I slept through the best of it. But I woke up into a wide wet world and started my long day sopping. It wasn't raining but that did not matter. There was moisture in the grass and the trees. My tent rolled up with a gallon of water. It weighed twice as much as it should. I was packing a number of spiders, as well. They do not weigh much at all.

I met some fisherman and asked them about their boat. I have been seeing these things all up and down the highway. They are squat and curved up on both ends and powered only by oars. They look for all the world like the dories you see on the Oregon coast--and throughout the Western world--but they are known locally as drift boats. They are the best option, I am told, for fly fishermen. The oarsman sits in the middle and two of his friends stand--stand--on either end and fish.

"The guy who owns the boat don't get to do much fishing," complained the guy who owned the boat. He still seemed to be having fun.

From there it was back to the fifties cafe for a not too spectacular breakfast. It seems the place is owned by some character who helped start Home Depot and went on to buy the Atlanta Falcons. His portfolio looks like this: Home Depot, the Atlanta Falcons, and one not too awfully seedy burger joint outside of Livingston, Montana. The key to preserving wealth, he understands, is diversification.

I then limped into Livingston and bought shoes, which involved visiting every shoe store in town at least twice. Fortunately there were not many. I am not entirely pleased with my purchase but the folks at the shops were kind. Then it was on to the city park to spread out and dry my gear. I met a not too pushy Christian and a very nice dog called Molly. She'd come up one leg short. It didn't seem to bother her, though. I pretended not to notice.

I then took in the railway museum. Livingston, it seems, used to have the biggest passenger depot between Minneapolis and Seattle. You had to jump off there to get the excursion train for Yellowstone. They've restored it beautifully. It is full of cool old train junk. You aren't alowed to touch anything, though. That sort of ruined it for me.

I didn't get out of town until well after five. Applaud me for leaving at all. But the restaurants are pricey and I guess the motels are too, owing to the flood of tourists. You can see license plates from every state but Hawaii. Hawaiians are frightened of bears.

Me, I am frightened of everything, but still somehow I persist. I have heard bravery so defined. Maybe I'm the bravest man alive. I was, nevertheless, not at all looking forward to setting out from Livingston. I'm again on a dirt road, far from anywhere, carrying a fifty pound pack. In new and untested shoes, no less, with my next town a day and a half away.

I hiked up to something called Convict Grade Road. It should take me almost to Big Timber. It was built during the Depression by, you guessed it, convicts. I am glad they are being remembered. Too often these things are named for the warden or some turd of a senator.

It is a pretty little road, the first half anyway, running right along the Yellowstone River. The convicts blasted it right out of the rock. I hope they had a nice time. I suppose they got the job because this whole area is home to "the biggest--I mean huge--meanest rattlesnakes in the world."

So said a fat man I flagged down and asked directions. "You ain't gonna sack out there, are ya?" I assured him I was and he laughed in my face and told me I was going to die. What a prick.

I was somewhat heartened, some miles later, to meet a man and his two small children. He appeared to be an intelligent fellow, a skilled outdoorsman, and a loving father. They had been up among the rocks, looking for crystals or something. I had been walking down the dead center of the road, scared out of my girlish wits.

Find me now camped at another fishing access. DAY USE ONLY says the sign. CAMPING PROHIBITED they go on to say. I am truly sorry, Montana. You are a bit gun nuts and your politics, frankly, appall me. But you're an awfully nice state and I respect your laws, even the stupid ones. But in my own defense, what harm am I doing, throwing up my tent on a flat spot by a river in the absolute middle of nowhere? I ain't hurting no one and I pick up my own trash. I usually take a token bit of other people's too.

"Leave your campsite cleaner than you found it." It is my Meaning of Life and the one thing I learned in the Boy Scouts. That and how to spot a Mormon at a glance.

I could too point out that every Montanan I meet either assumes I am camping at "fishing accesses" or suggests that I do so. This very spot was recommended to me by a half dozen people. I will but apologise for breaking the law. That's more than Gandhi ever did.

Gandhi, I'll remind you, was also a walker. He was shot three times in the chest.

Tomorrow my road leads away from the river. It is going to be hot and dry. I've got the beginnings of blisters on my two big toes. There is Beauty in symmetry.

GOD I HATE trail mix and all other portable, energy rich foods. I can't believe I used to sort of like the stuff. Blech.

TWO CARS AND a quad rolled up while I typed this. From where, I could not say. I put on my headlamp in each case to let them know I was here. I thought it was polite and probably a good idea in a state where people enjoy nothing more than shooting their guns into the woods. But every time the people panicked and zoomed away. "Someone's there!" they'd shout and then they were gone. Just who is afraid of whom.

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