Zero day in Big Fork. Yesterday evening we realized that we’d made a significant miscalculation in the plan for today. We only looked at the distance marked on the map for the first leg between Swan River and Swan Lake Camground: thought it was about 10 miles, actual distance closer to 28 miles with a 2500 foot climb. We decided to revector and move from the hotel to Wayfarers Campground on Flathead Lake. There was an attempt to try out a local host from warmshowers.org, but that option entailed camping in her yard, and she suggested this option would be at least as nice. This popular camping area has a section of walk up sites reserved for hikers and bikers only. I’m incredibly grateful for this policy as we are discovering what high season in northern Montana means: very little lodging available at extremely high prices. I was naive as to how popular this area is. From the license plates I’m observing it it appears to be largely other Montanans with some Texans and Californians here and there. It is wildly lush and beautiful country abounding with clear glacial lakes and rivers, so it’s not a mystery why people would flock to this region. It complicates an already challenging undertaking though, and makes planning more difficult.
The day was far busier than anticipated with the chores and tasks to be done. It was luxurious to sleep in at the air conditioned hotel. We were packed up and off to breakfast around 9. Ate at a cute cafe in town. There seems to be a high density of skilled baristas around here because the kids had beautiful chai teas and I was thrilled with a gorgeous cappuccino - again. Feeling a little spoiled I admit. After breakfast we headed to the laundromat up the street. The kids hung there and managed the laundry while Tom and I rode up the hill for groceries. We met the kids back at the laundromat, feeling we’d lucked out with our timing because the entire little place filled up with other travelers as we finished up. It’s great doing this with the kids this age because they are as helpful as they are capable. Off to a shady gazebo by the river to sort food and pull out extraneous gear to send home.
Spreading out the food on the picnic table to distribute between Tom, Andrew and I reminded me viscerslly of our AT thru- hike experiences. It’s this sense of being simultaneously untethered in that we are sort of temporarily homeless, and completely grounded in that we are connected to each other, our goal and the simple agenda of rmovi g our bodies and essentials to the next place to rest, eat and laugh together.
Andrew and Tom jumped from the bridge into the deep river, and we swam and played in the river until lunch time. Lunch was at Flathead brewing co. The main restaurant was closed, and just the “cellar” was open with a long line ahead of us. We waited a bit to be seated, then sat with a beautiful view of Flathead lake. It eas the first we’d really seen just how enormous the lake really is. It’s the biggest lake east of the Mississippi. Tom and I each enjoyed a cold Zero Day IPA, because, well - it is a zero day after all! We played Gin Rummy with the kids until food arrived.
Although I’d envision a leisurely day swimming and relaxing at the campground, we didn’t roll in until after 4pm. Settled into a nice shady site, set up tents then went for a refreshing swim in the lake. Tom generously rode up the steep hill back to town to get pizza for dinner. He was a sight rolling back into camp with a pizza strapped to the back of his bike! We chatted with two other bike backers - a young couple from Denver out to ride a section of the divide trail. One last dip in the lake to cool off, then bed time.
The next stretch is looking pretty challenging. I’m hopeful the say we are planning to break it up makes it feel doable. I really hope as we get farther south it won’t be do hectic with tourists, but I don’t know. So far, everything seems to work out just the way we need it to. I’ll just have to keep faith it stays that way.