Sunday, July 16, 2017

Big Creek Gathering

The morning we left on this trip was the first morning that I didn’t ride my recumbent for almost a week. It started to be a habit to get up, walk outside and find Steve, our neighbor, futzing with his new tricycle. We have been riding together and Steve is a very early riser. If I am not up-and-about by 7:00 AM, he is beeping my phone to get me going, asking where we are riding and when. It has been fun and I have really enjoyed the exercise. Now that I am riding, I have noticed that 2:00 PM has become my mandatory nap time. A good thing about that is that it has been in the high 90’s so sleeping is a good way to avoid those hot hours.

Flathead Lake
Our trek this week took us into Montana and north to a campground just outside Glacier National Park. Big Creek Campground has a large group camping site and two friends, Julie and Pat, reserved it after they visited the area and came up with the group camping idea.  We were invited along with a large number of our friends:  John and Loretta Sutherland, Tom and Sarah Husby, Mike and Caroline Beckwith, Ben and Sherma Higgs and several others. It looked to be an interesting week of boating, fishing, hiking and exploring.

Our caravan at Flathead Lake. 
We left Post Falls at about 10:00 AM on Saturday the 8th and drove over Lookout Pass into Montana. There was a lot of highway work being done which extended our driving time a bit, but I was OK with going the 45 MPH most of the way. This trip we were towing the Jeep with its load of recreational toys. We were packed for adventure! Our expedition gear included two mountain bikes, my fishing cat, and of course, Stinky Jeep. We brought along all my fishing gear, camp games, lounge lizards (reclining chairs), our outhouse tent, and everything but the kitchen sink. Oh, we have that in the camper.

Resting at Big Creek.
At St. Regis MT., we turned northeast on Highway 135 and followed the Clark Fork River.  Our plan was to grab a campsite for the Husbys and ourselves at Peninsula Campground for the first night. This did not work out and we had to drive on to a Forest Service Campground called Cascade.

Once we were all set up, Linda and I walked down a trail and crossed the highway to the river. We both took a swim and cooled off. While Linda sat out on the beach, I went up to the truck and grabbed my fishing gear.  As I fished, Linda relaxed. I caught a couple nice fish.

Sarah and Tom arrived and got their trailer set up. Tom and I went down to the river again and fished. I caught a real nice cutthroat; it measured in the 17-inch range.  The sun was setting and we called it a day.

The next day we caravanned up through Kalispell, MT to the Big Creek Campground where everyone would gather. Big Creek is located on the North Fork of the Flathead River. It is not in Glacier National Park, but the park is very close. It is a very good location for everyone to float, ride bikes, hike and explore the beauty of the park.

We arrived! The last 15 miles or so of the trip was over a very dusty washboard road. We drove the entire way at 10 to 15 miles per hour. It shook the truck so hard we figured everything in the camper would be on the floor when we arrived.

Tom and Pat telling tall tails.
At Big Creek group site, we chose our spot in the shade. It was about 3 PM when we got settled and the spot we chose looked like it would be shady most of the day. We chose correctly and all week we had shade to keep our camper cooler.

As the afternoon progressed into evening, people started arriving. We all took our chairs to a spot overlooking the river and welcomed each camper as they wandered in. Eventually, everyone separated and cooked their dinners. By dark, the area had cooled off and folks went to bed.

Using the Geezer Pass for the first time.
The next day Tom and I took his drift boat and fished from the Polebridge put-in (48.782600, -114.282375) back to our camp. It was a great float and we caught some really nice fish. Linda spent her day running shuttles for other boaters from our group and reading her book.

The second day in camp, Tom, Sarah, Linda and I drove into the park and tried to take the road up to Kintla Lake. Tom used his Wisdom Pass (Geezer Pass) entry into the park. It was his first official use of the new pass and we celebrated with photos and cheers.

We were informed at the park entrance that we could not get into Kintla Lake because it was already full. Changing plans, we drove the Inside North Fork Creek Road up to the washout at Logging Creek. It was a beautiful drive and the wild flowers were in bloom everywhere. 

Wild flowers were everywhere!
A highlight for all of us was our stops at the Polebridge Mercantile & Bakery. We bought very expensive bakery items and on our third day of fun, we even splurged for some $10.00 drinks from the saloon. Hey, it’s the experience that counts, right?

The next day Tom and I fished from Big Creek down river to Glacier Rim. Once again we caught some great Cutthroat Trout and Rainbows. Tom even accidentally hooked a Bull Trout which was huge! We carefully released it, making sure we didn’t touch it or remove it from the water.

While we were fishing, Linda, Sarah and Sherma drove up to Kintla Lake and explored that area. They got there early enough to snag a place to park.  All three agreed that it was a beautiful adventure and they had a wonderful time.

On the morning of the fourth day in camp, we got up early and went on what we called an early morning critter sightseeing drive.  We headed into the park in search of game. We saw the usual deer, rabbits, and squirrels. No bears, no cougars, no elk, just a lot of rabbits.

Our drive took us to Lake McDonald and up the Going to the Sun Highway. The drive is spectacular and I think you could never get tired of the views. We found a parking spot at Logan Pass Visitor Center (48.696059, -113.717791) and took a short hike. Sitting on a rock in the upper meadow was a large mountain goat, totally unconcerned by the people stopping to stare and take its picture. By the time we were ready to leave, the crowds had gotten huge. We loaded up for the drive down and Linda suddenly realized she had left the binoculars in the restroom. Off she scampered to see if they were still there. We got into the circling pattern of the parking space searchers and drove around and around waiting for Linda.

Sarah & Tom @ the Saloon @ Polebridge Mercantile & Bakery.
She returned empty handed.  There was nothing we could do but exit the holding pattern and head back down the mountain. We ended our trip with a drive into Hungry Horse for supplies, ice and huckleberry ice cream.

Back at camp we unloaded the rig and started dinner. Tom came over to Linda and handed her the binoculars. Turns out she had set them down in the back of the truck when she was petting Sal, Sarah’s dog, and Tom found them when he straightened up the back.

$10 drinks at the Saloon.
That evening I was beat. We had been going every day since we arrived and had not gotten to bed before 11:30 PM any night. Getting up early had done me in so I had to forgo the evening fireside and get some rest.

The next morning we loaded up, said our good byes and departed. We back over Thompson Pass avoiding all the chip seal work on I-90. It was a great week up at the group camp. This might just become an annual event. 




Kintla Lake
Sherma, Sarah and Sal.
Fishing the North Fork Flathead River.
Sunrise over the North Fork Flathead River.

Long days caught up with this guy.
Going to the Sun Highway vistas.






Goat.