I can’t claim I planned it this way: I had a job interview in Kalispell on Thursday, and with little official stuff left to do around the home, figured it logical to make the gas money count for more. I decided to bring the raft, fishing gear, and test the new pack on an overnight up on the North Fork of the Flathead. I could start, finish and hike in Glacier, but camp on the west bank and thus not have to detour to get a permit.
Fortunately this all happened to be on the day of the equinox, and even more fortunately the fall colors were in fine form along the river. It was cold, and had been raining like crazy. The North Fork, usually running around 8-900 cfs in late September, peaked at 3100 the day I was on it. I got soaked from waist to toe tip hiking through dewy brush in the first five miles, and the creek crossings were deep, fast, and cold. Sage Creek near the border was crotch deep, not something I had expected. The need to keep moving to stay warm put a damper on my enthusiasm to hike up and run the creeks, the North Fork was flowing at ~6 mph or more, and the cold silty water made fishing fruitless (though I tried some scuds and streamers anyway). All of which meant that what had been planned as a leisurely overnight got turned into a one dayer. If you look at the spot track you can even see that I floated well past my intended takeout at Kintla Creek, giving myself 90 minutes of bushwacking and roadwalking at the end of the day.
It was pretty darn nice, regardless:
On stream navigation is much trickier than one would think, especially on a river in the middle of a wide, forested valley. The North Fork flows fast enough and meanders often enough that paying attention and paddling is required enough that map reading requires pulling over to the bank, which I’m loath to do. Some surprisingly big riffles came about right around Kintla Creek, and the big standing wave and hole avoidance apparantly caused me to miss that seemingly obvious landmark. I’ll be much more likely to bring a GPS on river trips in the future.
On the job front, I’m back to playing the waiting game, contemplating options. The organization up north seemed great, and the position pays poorly. A good tradeoff? I’m not sure. For today, I need to prep for the MESSS: by this time tomorrow I should be in a world of hurt. But the forecast is great, and an equally great crew is on tap for various legs. Missoula and autumn, I must enjoy them while they last.