We arrived in Bigfork, Montana on Friday, July 5th, settled in and headed down to the Tall Pine Lounge, a bar and casino owned by our friend, and one-time neighbor, Tom Beaubien. As is typical for a business owner, Tom was busy stamping out fires, but still he gave us a bit of his time while we had a bite to eat. We looked forward to meeting Tom's wife, Janine, and a bar-be-que planned for Sunday afternoon at their house.
Our friend, Teresa Beaubien, drove down from Kalispell on Saturday to spend a couple of hours with us. We thought we'd see her again by stopping by the shop where she works on our way to Glacier National Park. We never did go as you'll soon find out why.
On Sunday afternoon, Rob and I drove over to Tom and Janine's, which is a house the two of them bought together prior to their marriage seven years ago. It is a lovely home situated in a park-like setting. As beautiful and nicely laid out as it is, I am so grateful to have my tiny, little, mobile home to clean. I remember a time when I would've loved to own a 3700 square foot home, but not now. No way, no how. The yard, however, is another story. If I could roll out Tom and Janine's yard around the Beast wherever we went, I'd be in heaven. I wish I had taken more photographs featuring the yard, but I was too busy drinking margaritas, catching up with Tom and getting to know Janine, who is a delight. I'm hoping we can visit them again on our way back to the lower 48 from Alaska next summer.
Tom and Janine were really sweet to think up a way for us to spend time together as well as have some fun. They suggested tubing down the Swan River, to which we responded with a resounding yes! So Tuesday afternoon we met with swimsuits on and sunscreen in hand, but we forgot our towels. Thank you, Janine, for providing them for us. No cameras, though. They told us not to bring anything we didn't want to get wet. A friend of theirs, Kathleen, also joined us for the trip downstream.
Tom tied rope from one river tube to the next (like an inner tube but meant for river tubing), attached the floating ice chest filled with beer and Mike's hard drinks and off we went after plopping our butts down in the middle of the tubes. We drifted down the river slowly and, at some points, more quickly over the shallow rapids. We had to keep a watch out for rocks in the shallows so we could lift our bottoms to avoid hitting them. I managed to connect with two such rocks during the float, one of which left a bruise. I kept finding myself with my back to everyone, so I kept adjusting myself in the tube so I could contribute to the conversations without shouting over my shoulder. As soon as I did, the river would turn me right around again. I finally gave up. I just stared at all the large, rustic homes and cabins that lined the river—and shouted over my shoulder.
The river was running a little faster than normal and we had to be careful going under two bridges. The first bridge was no big deal and we floated between the supports successfully; however, the second bridge was a different story. It seemed as though the current was being sucked into one support in particular. We were talking too much and hadn't gotten ourselves pulled tightly together enough to create a mass that would maybe bump one side of the bridge support and then allow the water to guide us past. Instead, Rob, Janine, Kathleen and I ended up on one side of the support and Tom was propelled onto the other. As the rope pulled more and more taut, the force of the current rushing over small boulders at the upstream edge of the support caused Rob's tube to flip as he was taking the brunt of the eddy. About the same time, Tom's tube dumped him into the water as well. As I was trying to get Rob's tube out of the water so he could surface, he was pushed by the current and bumped first under one of our tubes, then another. He finally decided to open his eyes so he could find sunlight and headed to the surface. The water was only about two feet deep, but it took floating downstream a bit before the current would allow him to stand. Thankfully, Rob is a strong swimmer but, even so, he was a bit unnerved from the scare and the surge of adrenaline through his bloodstream. Tom is not such a strong swimmer and he called for help as soon as he surfaced, which was probably just the thing to get others on shore to scramble to assist. We were not the only ones caught up on the bridge that day.
Janine, Kathleen and I could do nothing. I was facing the bridge support and had my feet against the center of it, which seemed to stabilize us as I pulled the rope tight to keep the three of us together. There really was nothing Janine or Kathleen could do. We were in a triangle configuration and they were behind me and away from the bridge support. I really believe we would have been dumped in the river had I loosened my grip on the rope or removed my feet from the support. We had to wait to be 'rescued' because we had no knife to cut loose the end of the rope securing Tom's tube which was flailing on the other side.
During our float down, we were accompanied off and on by a couple of fellows who were free-floating with nothing but their bodies and snorkel gear. After a while, we saw one of them swimming toward us with a bowie knife in his mouth. He cut the rope and soon we girls were floating down the river. Rob had made it to the river bank and Tom recovered his tube. We floated about a half mile or so before we made it to the right bank and to an old dock onto which we held until the men floated to meet us. Poor Tom was especially exhausted because they got dumped in the drink again on their way down.
Janine was calling our knife-bearing savior the 'Swan River Seal.' It turns out that he was a military man after all, but Army not Navy.
Rob lost his hat, water shoes and his brand new prescription sunglasses. Rob was concerned about his head getting sunburned, so I offered him my wide brimmed hat. It was an appropriate color (kind of army green), but didn't he look so cute with the bow in back! Tom lost his prescription eyeglasses and a pair of flip-flops. In fact, Tom said after losing one of his flip-flops, he tossed the other. Then a couple minutes later, his flip-flop came floating by. If only he hadn't tossed the one, he'd still have a pair! Doh!
Also part of the Tuesday tangle was a gal who Tom has known for several years. She was there with her son and others and, I think, was also cut loose by our Army man. And, believe it or not, Jack Hanna, the famous Columbus Zoo Director, his wife, Suzi, and some of their party shared in the drama as well. All in all, it was a harrowing experience for the guys, but all's well that ends well.
That evening we enjoyed delicious burgers, fruit salad, potato chips and Janine's totally awesome garlic dip at their house. Two of Tom's neighbors joined us—a couple of retired cops from San Jose and Santa Clara. Nice people, and funny, too.
The rest of our stay in Bigfork was uneventful. Rob was pretty sore for the next couple of days, so our drive up to Glacier never happened. But I did get to see a couple beautiful horses thanks to Kathleen, who works at a stable and kindly invited me to visit.
Now we are in Butte, Montana, for a two night stopover on our way to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Of course, I have a few photographs.
Until next time…
|On our way to Sula, MT.|
|Our campsite at Indian Trees Campground, Bitterroot National Forest.|
|Can you see the dust on the car?|
|Interesting dust pattern on the back of the Beast.|
|Poor Louis. Pooped out from the drive to Sula. He got carsick again.|
|Always an education.|
|According to the sign, the indians peeled the bark from this tree sometime between 1835 and 1890.|
|Louis enjoying the mountain air.|
|We need more animal bridges in this country.|
|Old downtown Bigfork.|
|Tom and Janine's miniature Husky, Mischa.|
|Tom and Rob catching up. Check out the backyard!|
|Tom, and the glasses he lost in the river.|
|Sweet Janine. The hostess with the most-est.|
|We caught a woodpecker pecking by Echo Lake.|
|I can't remember this horse's name, but he was sweet. He snuffled my cheek a couple of times.|
|A picturesque scene from the stables.|
|The yellow is rape seed growing for making canola oil.|
|Meet Chloe, our campground neighbor's cat, who had herself smashed up against the window.|