Well, the universe definitely led me to the most beautiful campsite ever on the shore of Flathead Lake in Wayfarer’s State Park near Kalispell, Montana.
My boys and I had the best adventure. And it all started with pulling into the campground on a rainy, grey, Sunday afternoon. It had only been a short drive from Missoula, where we had been so I could find a place for the upcoming school term.
I have been to Flathead Lake before, so I knew where we were going. But we didn’t know what we would find when we arrived at the campground, except that I knew there were some sites that wouldn’t be reserved. After driving along Flathead Lake for the fifteen or twenty minutes it takes to drive down the length of the lake (it’s huge; and clear, and beautiful – not like the lakes around home), we arrived at the entry to Wayfarer’s State Park. Once we were in the campground, I noticed that most sites were taken, but there was the occasional site with an “Available” sticker posted. As we drove up to site no. 10, all three of us were bent forward looking at the large site with the lake in the background. “Oh my God it’s amazing!” I think we all said in unison. The campground is on a hill above the lake, and some of the sites are on the edge of a subtle hill, and most of them surrounded by trees. Site number 10 was such a site, with a view of the lake from the tent pad, and the firepit and picnic table surrounded on three sides: not just with trees, but with Saskatoon berries! Apparently Montanans aren’t interested in Saskatoon berries, because the trees laden with them all around the campground looked virtually untouched.
And I have somehow, miraculously, raised two teenaged boys who love picking berries. I know, weird, right? I guess that`s what happens when you don’t drag them out into a mosquito-plagued berry patch on a hot July day that you could have been swimming over at your friend`s house – 10 years in a row. But I digress.
So after rushing to make our mystical union with site number 10 official with the Camp Host, we began to set up the tent. Again, I have somehow, miraculously, raised two teenaged boys who are helpful setting up camp, and within a couple of hours we were walking about, investigating the alluring foot trails leading off in three directions from our site.
When we camp, we camp. We have a tent, and a cooler, and a box full of cooking equipment, bug spray, and citronella candles. And that`s about it. And thus began a glorious two days in Bigfork, Montana.
I drove into Bigfork the next morning for a coffee, as the boys were still sleeping (only teenagers can sleep in past 8 in a tent). Bigfork is a quaint, gorgeous town, obviously brimming over with money, from the looks of the “cottages” I drove past. If you have been to Disneyland you will recall what Mainstreet U.S.A. looks like: full of beautiful shop fronts, shops teeming with useless souvenirs, mostly style and not much substance.
Bigfork is like that, but without Walt Disney’s hand with a death grip on your wallet. The downtown has all the obligatory shops in a lake town: watercraft rentals, real estate office, cafes, sporting goods, and outdoorsy clothing shops. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It made me think “this is what people must be talking about when they talk about how amazing Banff was before it got commercialized.”
So I settled in at one of the cafes, with a fresh-baked blueberry scone and a brewed coffee. They had espresso but it felt like a cuppa-coffee kind of a morning. As it turns out, my waitress was from my home town in Saskatchewan (weird, I know), and we chatted about Saskatoon berries (“Dune” berries in Montana, evidently), and the benefits of living in Montana, and various other things. She bought me my scone, which by the way was the best scone I have ever tasted. The avalanche of coincidences and mystical moments that takes place when I travel to Montana is starting to seem, not normal, but comfortable, to me. So later in the day, when my boys and I went swimming with the couple staying in the campsite across from us, I wasn’t even surprised to learn that their daughter had gotten a Creative Writing degree at the University of Montana. Of course she had. Because that is how small the world really is when you let the universe guide you.
Best. Camping. Trip. Ever.