We were sitting, M and I, this past Friday outside our favorite pizza place when our favorite, and very harried looking, bringer of spinach and garlic calzones introduced us to angry August. The time, right now, when local businesses make their year, there are lines everywhere, Alberta plates turn slowly across traffic; in short when the rest of the world finds out why we live here.
A few days ago, to distract from tired and warn off the bears while hiking through thick brush at the end of a long day, M and I had the prototypical western conversation: where would we want to live. Or to put it a different way, what would we want to change about here? In short, we want more sun, less snow, more exposed rock, and ideally better food (eating out in the Flathead is easy, there are only about four decent choices). Lots of places fulfill that, all of whom are south and most of which we’ve already lived in or near. The problem is they all have no many people. I complain, here, about crowds milder than a slow September day in RMNP or the Sierras.
So, New Mexico here we come?
In every state there is one outdoor activity which, at it’s seasonal height, is the best thing to do, period. In southern Arizona it is mountain biking in the winter. In southern Utah, canyoneering in autumn. In Montana, it is fly fishing in high and late summer. Therefore, when in the past few weeks I’ve contemplated the myriad options available for leisure time, I always choose to fish a new creek. We might be here, in northwest Montana, for another year or more, but we won’t be here forever. The desert calls, and when we answer for once and for all I won’t regret not having mountain biked more Montana trails, nor having “climbed” fewer Glacier choss piles. I will miss the summer fishing, so that it what I do while it is still available, so nearby, and so good.
Avoiding the crowds is fairly easy this time of year, with modest effort and a few hurdles that are harder to jump. Hiking, fishing and packrafting the Kishenehn loop on Saturday I saw no people until early afternoon on the river when the rafters finally caught up with me, and hiking Gunsight on Monday we saw only the normal assortment of hikers, with nothing odd (except all the people combining minimalist shoes and huge packs) or unctuous until the usual circus at Logan Pass.
And with lakes like these, and weather so good you needn’t pack pants, it’s hard to blame anyone for an excess of exuberance. On the one hand there’s little good in our smug, complacent local contempt. On the other hand it seems the most obvious of assumptions that people only act like that on vacation, and that disingenuity I find bothersome. What so badly needs escaping from in every aspect of your life, every fiber of your personhood?
Tragedy though it may be, it’s not hard to understand why most people think the park is closed 9 months of the year. With scarcity comes fondness and perspective. I’m still honking at people when they do dumb shit though, will continue to complain about the hot weather, hike as much as my foot will allow, and catch at least two fish from every pool I come across.
That’s what you do in August.