When I was in junior high or thereabouts, we had a little trailer and we took these long family vacations. When I say little trailer, I mean it - I think it was thirteen feet long. Now, you will say, "no way! Six people could not have stayed in a trailer that small." But we did. It had one pull out bed for two in the back, with another above, and then about five feet of floor space in front of the pump sink and little stove, and then a table that created a single bed. So add that up, and I think it's about 13 feet.
Dad had constructed a canvas sling cot that could be pulled out over the small table bed, so usually Greg slept below, Melinda was on the cot, Mom and Dad had the bed at the back and Becky and I would share the bed above them. I do recall that the upper bunk HAD to be two of us girls, because Greg's shoulders were too wide to allow him to get up there and clear the roof!
Anyway, for a period of three or four years, we took these long vacations around the US. One year we went to Colorado and other parts west; the next year we went to Florida. And then we did the trip of trips - the vacation to end all vacations, really - and took that little trailer all the way to the Columbian ice fields of Canada. I think our trip was about five weeks long. The time we spent traveling with that little trailer were among the most memorable times of my life. I believe that my love of the outdoors and ardent conservationist nature stem from those days, and I am so grateful that we had a chance to see and experience so much of our beautiful nation in our travels.
|Flathead Lake, from east side|
Well, five weeks is a very long time for four teenagers to spend so close together, but we did okay. Of course we squabbled about who got to sit where, and Becky, who was old enough to be in a relationship, was pining away for her boyfriend. It was tough on her to miss so much of the summer when she really wanted to be back home with him. I recall that things finally came to a head (maybe in Yellowstone National Park?) when Mom declared she was going to take Becky to the airport and send her home to Grandma if she didn't get over it. (Now, I realize that some folks might remember all this a bit differently, but it's my blog, so I get to tell the story my way!)
On this trip of trips, we visited the national parks - Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier - and we stayed one night on the shore of Flathead Lake. Now, it's said that you can't go home again, and perhaps that's true. But you can revisit the places of your youth, and when you see them again through older eyes, they may actually reveal more than you saw the first time.
So it is that as we planned our trip, and considered going up to Glacier, I was excited about being here near Flathead Lake. Memories of our prior visit have been swirling in my mind for weeks, and seeing the lake today as we rode down Hwy 35 was very special.
So many years ago, we had a great camp site right on the lake shore. After dinner, Greg got his guitar from the trailer, and entertained us with little ditties named for each of us that he composed on the spot. Dad showed us how to skip stones (the shoreline was littered with hundreds of perfect skipping stones) and we waded in the water, laughed, played and watched the sun set on the lake. And watched the sun set. And watched the sun set. It was a FOREVER sunset, becoming more beautiful moment by moment.
After some long while, Mom said we'd probably better take care of the dishes, and she went into the trailer to get the dishpan. She came out a moment later exclaiming, "it's eleven o'clock!" We couldn't believe it. How could the sunset have lasted so long? How long had we been playing on the beach? We put our things away and got ready for bed, marveling at the light still in the sky.
Whether by virtue of our proximity to the western edge of the time zone, or our latitude, or the time of year, or perhaps just the wide-openness of the Montana skies over the lake, we had landed on the longest day we'd ever experienced. Or maybe it was some miracle of the earth and sky, lining up to grant us all one perfectly perfect experience to remember forever. I don't know how it happened, but I know that the moment was etched on my heart, and the passage of time has done nothing to diminish its splendor, or my wonder at the beauty and the joy of that time we spent together.
So, brother and sisters, Mom and Dad - I hope that you also remember that time with joy and wonder. This is truly a beautiful place, but I believe it is not the natural wonders here that created that moment for us. It was, and is, the love we have for one another.
To all the rest of the clan, those who have been born into it, and those who choose to join it through marriage, I offer a hope that the times we spend together are giving you a chance to make memories like mine that will sustain you always. We are so lucky to have each other.
I love you,
The day's report: Kalispell to Polson, 53.8 miles/2669 to date