Big Sky!

BY DAN ROGERS - DIAMOND LAKE, WASHINGTON - USA

Jim said, “Why dontcha’ come over for the weekend?”  I said, “See you Thursday.”  Like, I’ve been saying.  Simple.  Just hook up, and head out.  Adventure is where you find it.  It does, however, help if you go looking for it.  And, I do admit, that Montana is not only a long way from just about any place, once you get going; it’s a long way from just about any place, once you get there.   Like those folks say, it’s Big Sky country.  And, big water.

Flathead Lake has been on my “list” for the longest time.  Real damn big, and deep at the top end.  Pretty damn big, and pretty shallow at the bottom.  Kinda’ round, and not a lot of places to tuck into.  And, surrounded by more mountains than just about any place this side of Prince William Sound.  So, I gassed up Big Red, hooked up Miss Kathleen, tossed a few changes of sox into an AWOL bag, figured there’s “something to eat in the locker,” and took onboard the First Mate.  Head ‘em up, move ‘em out!

Phil said he’d meet up with me some place along the way, or maybe “when we get there.”  These things don’t really take a whole lot of planning.

There are quite a few nifty places along the trail east.  In fact, the route I took is called “Road to the Buffalo.”  Pretty much the same ancient route the Nez Perce and other indigenous peoples were walking centuries before Lewis and Clark came along and put Anglo names on every rock and puddle.  It’s tall timber, dramatic hills, and big horn sheep country.

And, then most of the way into a long day’s drive, Phil appeared in Wild Horse Plains.  So, one Frankenbot, and one factory-stock sailboat joined up and headed for the municipality of Somers, MT.  It’s what’s left of a long-ago mill town.  They cut ties for the railroad there.  Logs were floated in from both river drives and booms formed along the lake.  The town itself pretty much remains in the original format.  The houses burrow into the hillsides.  No urban sprawl for this little community.  Speaking of hillsides, Jim had us parked in terraces.

Mrs. Jim, Janel, had other plans for the weekend.  That left just us boys.  A non-stop discussion of boats, boasts, and the occasional lie.

We swatted mosquitoes, and drank beer, on Jim’s deck.  Inspected his boats-in-progress.  And, then told more lies, and drank more beer.

Jamie-the-sea-dog and I took a couple walks around the neighborhood.  We even got to talk to the “Scarecrow Lady,” a local artisan of eclectic tastes.

Her Northwest Indian art is literally spread all over the neighborhood.

And scarecrow-central is pretty interesting. What fun, huh?

But, we did come a long ways, to put boats in the water. And come morning, that was Job-one.

Phil left his Potter on the hard, and crewed for Jim in his Mike’s Boat, Desdemona. We launched in Somers, and tooled around the small collection of islands and here and there along the north shore.

Jamie, Miss Kathleen, and I provided photoboat services.

And, speaking of Jamie. He kept asking me, “Who’s this Captain Spillow, and why does he care where I sit?…”

Noon came, and the nearest restaurant was about 8 miles down-lake. We pulled into a “still closed for the season” marina complex and made ourselves at home.

Being the Montana resident, Jim, demonstrated the “cowboy toss” with his stern line, around the piling.

Several times, in fact.  Then, after another nightly round of beer and lies, we were off to the south end of the lake.  Destination, Finley Point State Park.

The run down the lake was by truck and trailer.  A twisty, turney, high up, and narrow road.  The sign read, at one point, “Limited passing opportunities for next 20 miles.”  I’ve never seen a sign like that.  I had Phil (Ennis) following with his full-sized rig also; and I needed to find places where the both of us could pull over and let traffic by.  That’s a bit of a feat of legerdemain for me—the acrophobic—to focus on, with one eye on the right trailer wheel/no-shoulder interface.  And, the other eye on the port side mirror judging when traffic had reached the “critical mass” moment.  Sheesh!

Another not-yet-open-for-the-season kinda’ place.  But the camp hosts told us we could use the docks “at our own risk” and we didn’t even have to pay the going tariff.  Soooooo, whip me, beat me, make me write bad checks…”

A pretty nice setup. And, the view of the sunset was superb.

But, with two boats and four sailors. We headed out to see the sights. Quite a few islands. Many sparsely inhabited. Some of the mainland peninsulas were a bit more upscale.

Some of the local folk seem to be a bit more upscale than others.

And, like just about everyplace up in this corner of the country, this spring.  Pollen, pollen, everywhere.  Much of this big, big lake is speckled in yellow rafts of pollen globs.  I suppose even the fish are sneezing, and complaining about watery eyes.

Phil, Jamie and I, spent the night moored in the basin.  The wind did kick up, and we pretty much can describe how the worm in a well-shook-up, almost empty bottle of tequila must feel.  The surge comes in that concrete enclosure and gets everything to pitching and rolling.  As it continued to build, I found myself wondering if we might have to pull the boats out at zero-dark-thirty.  The concrete seawall and the surf at the ramp gave new meaning to “at your own risk.”  We added scope, spring lines, and slept fitfully.  By daylight, all was forgiven.

Besides. There was more lake to take a gander at. Wild Horse Island is about 12 miles to the northwest, and it seemed like a reasonable turn-around point.

I guess the horses had the day off. None sighted. Even with the First Mate taking his turn at lookout.

From his very-own helm seat, no less. We did sight some members of the local tribe out on a voyage of their own.

Adventurous? Oh-my-God-yes! Prudent? Not so much. That water hurt my feet just to wade in at the ramp for about a minute. We’re all young once. And, most of us who do get to get old, do it pretty much by accident.

Then, it was time to head for the ramp, and the highway home. After about 50 or 60 miles by water; we made a just about perfect landing along that concrete wall. Nobody there to cheer. But, Jamie did a great job of calling in ranges to the bridge watch standers. (From the forward conn.)

Yep. Adventure is where you look for it. We really didn’t have to look all that hard. You really aughta’ come along with us next time. Never know what you’ll find, eh?




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