Monday, July 11, 2016

A Reunion in Missoula

Canoe Paddle to Lake Seeley
Roger here....  The story behind this post actually began in 1978.  I was a seventh grade science teacher and high school swimming coach in a small rural school corporation (that is now gigantic) outside of Indianapolis.  Mike was one of my students.  He was bright, friendly, and inquisitive.  He attended the 7th grade outdoor education program that I organized (his first time canoeing).  The next year, as an eighth grader, he and a few other classmates accompanied Dianne and me (and another Mike who actually knew what he was doing) on an overnight backpacking trip (Mike's first time backpacking).  When he graduated from high school, Mike went to Purdue University (an obvious good choice).  He graduated with a degree in science education.  As a junior high school principal (at the time) I hired him to teach -- (what else) -- seventh grade science.  He was an excellent teacher, beloved by his students.  He was an integral teacher of the outdoor education program that was still (and still is) in existence.  Unfortunately for my school, Mike married and moved to Missoula, Montana where he is raising his two daughters and still teaches seventh grade science.  This post is about a long overdue reunion with Mike.  But first...

Our drive from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho (hopefully the last time I have to spell this) to Missoula brought our motor home,  Dianne, and our menagerie to Montana for the first time.  The only blank white space on our U.S. travel map (except for New England, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey) is now blue.  We've covered some ground since December 2009!

Our campground just outside of Missoula is among the very best private campgrounds that we have enjoyed --- Jim and Mary's RV Park.

There was a lot of space between sites.  It was a quiet campground that brought out restful and peaceful feelings.  I will let Dianne talk about the flower gardens --- too many to count.

Dianne here -- someone at Jim and Mary's RV Park really has a green thumb!   There are flower gardens everywhere throughout the park.   Here are just a few of my favorites:

We were very impressed with the well-maintained, quiet, spacious park and friendly staff.   We would definitely recommend this park!

Back to the Mike story...  I had contacted Mike in February to let him know we would be nearby in July.  He dropped by in the early evening with a growler of local beer so that we could catch up.  Sandy, who is also a teacher, was out of town at a math conference.  We caught up on each other's lives and relived so many stories.

Dianne joined us, as well --- thus the glass of wine.  

The next morning he picked me up.  He had  a canoe strapped to the top of his vehicle. He drove for an hour to a canoe trail.  (Dianne, ho hum, stayed behind to work on, ho hum, genealogy).

We paddled (Mike did most of the paddling) along a quiet stream that connected two lakes for about an hour and a half.  Serene views and amazing reflections in the water were prominent around every bend.

The paddle ended at Lake Seeley.  More tranquil reflections in the water.

As we paddled to our take-out point on the side of the lake, the ever-present clouds turned darker, but the coming rain waited for us to get off the water.

The reflections of dark clouds in the lake seemed to be darker than the actual clouds in the sky.  

We left the canoe along the shore, then hiked through  towering pine trees back to the car.  

The pine forest gave way to a vast green bog with a wildlife blind.  We did see an American Redstart flitting around, but not much else.  I tried to photograph it, but it was too quick.

A gentle rain greeted us as we approach the car and continued as Mike drove back to Seeley Lake to retrieve his canoe.  After renewing our canoeing and hiking fun from many years ago on our drive back to Jim and Mary's RV Park, we agreed to have dinner that evening in Missoula with Sandy and Dianne.

By the way, what a delightful person Sandy is!  It was so much fun meeting her.   

We ate at The Depot, a pub that once housed the old Missoula train station.  The food was delicious.  We argued over the check which Sandy grabbed after she threatened the waitress. :-)  We now owe Mike and Sandy a canoe trip, a hike, dinner, and a growler of beer.  Thanks Mike and Sandy!

After dinner Mike drove us around Missoula.  We saw the schools where he and Sandy teach.  We saw the schools that Sandy's sons and Mike's daughters attend.  We drove through the University of Montana where Mike and Sandy both work security for home football games.  They had some good stories from that sideline job!  I wonder how effective the teacher look is with inebriated college students (and adults)?

A highlight of the tour was viewing the man-made whitewater rapids called "Brennan's Wave" in the Clark Fork River that runs through the city.  The rapids were built for kayakers.  However, look carefully at the center of the picture.  What is that teeny guy in the wetsuit carrying?  So entertaining to watch these two take turns surfing "The Wave."  

What a wonderful (and nostalgic) time we had with Mike and Sandy.  I know that our paths will cross again.

We left Missoula the next morning, heading for Glacier National Park.  The road signs along the way were in Native American with an English translation.  The "Animals' Bridge" over the highway made me smile.  I have seen these before (not often enough), and they always lift my mood.

This particular travel day was especially scenic.

The first view of 27-mile-long Flathead Lake was jaw-dropping.  We have seen some magnificent lakes on this trip (Tahoe, Coeur d'Alene, McCall, Mono, and others), but this may be our favorite.  The picture below is only one of many that Dianne took from the scenic overlook.  Thanks to Sandy for giving us the heads-up to watch for this awesome view as we topped the hill!

Our campsite in Hungry Horse, Montana also turned out to be something special.  It is in a private, wooded setting.  The view that is ever-present from our front windshield is amazing.

View looking out our front windshield at Mountain Meadows RV Park and Cabins
Our next post will be from Glacier National Park.

I took a picture of Bandido after he climbed onto the picnic table at our new campsite.  He was looking down at me as I sat in my recliner. It is the Pet Picture of the Day.

"Hey Dad!  Get out of the chair!  It is time for a walk!

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