A month ago I knew we were in trouble. In the dead of winter I had plotted a lookout/packraft/hiking trip, hoping the agency optimism in opening slots so early in the summer would lead to cool isolation. The final road was drifted in, but the scorching days I was there sublimated those into hollow, slushy nothing, and the hot afternoons back up steep bald ridges and over and through one tree per 10 meter deadfall left me hollow, in a way even the most careful retroactive application of salty fries, gatorade, beer, steak, and salad would not cure for a week or more. At two weeks until the solstice my sun-hollowed eyes were those of August.
Summer in Montana, and I imagine in all higher latitudes, is not the same. Sudden, excessive daylight, along with the opening of rivers and mountains via preferred human temperatures and the imminent contrast of short December breeds a mania. A full day can end in a long dinner and still accommodate a decent bike ride or river trip before dark. With the fullness of spring lingering green and brown and fat, there is little incentive towards moderation. Once this June I left a long day in the office, took a non-frantic stop at home to load gear and see everyone, drove an hour, did a 12 mile ride to 10 mile paddle, and was almost back home before turning the lights on. For me there aren’t enough electrolytes or hours of sleep or minutes for processing, and eventually I have to take a pause.
Which is less than ideal when it is this hot outside.
The other weekend that pause was an escape to the mountains and a cabin next to a cool brook. We stopped at the splash park in Dillon, a mandatory kid destination, which was suddenly made too cold by a thick, 30 minute thunderstorm. That night I slept out on the porch, and reveled in being woken by lightning at midnight, and in the dawn being almost too cold for my blanket. That afternoon we launched the family circus on a new-to-us river, wife and big kid in the older big packraft, me and small kid and shuttle bike in the bigger big packraft. Early in the run I committed the first sin of boating and waited too long to decide to not skirt the submerged log that was almost entirely blocking the right slot, and hit the left line too slowly. The boulder drop was sucky at those too low, too early flows, and stopped the boat cold, turned us sideways, and poured in 10 gallons in a second or two. M, whose brace hasn’t been fortified by several months of frantic river trips, spent longer in the embrace and had her boat filled to the virtual gunnels. That afternoon it was warm enough that no human, be they 22 pounds or 170, minded being soaked. Later on I misjudged a tight line and smashed my rear dropouts into a boulder, amazing myself with the abuse aluminum will take, and the passing bank fisherfolk with what exactly we were doing.
Riding back to the car I looked forward to guzzling a beer, not realizing until I started driving that I hadn’t looked for my watch in hours, and that somehow it was already well past the kids bedtime, and we had minimal food left in the car. We drove 40 minutes to civilization for burgers, and the kids stayed awake the whole drive home which took until the very edge of darkness. I cannot fairly blame them.
That evening I fumbled in our mudroom for the alley lightswitch, having in the past 6 weeks of disuse forgotten its location.