All the News from Lake Koocanusa

It’s been a quiet week here at Lake Koocanusa. Wait, wrong part of the country! Plus it’s been only a weekend since I posted last. But we’ve enjoyed the weekend, and it’s worth sharing, especially with real-world news depressing enough to need a reprieve from.

Weekend Neighbors Cause Scare

The scare is that we had them at all. Well, there’s still the amorphous camp of locals across the way who come and go in various vehicles day and night, fishing and blaring heavy-bass music. But we’ve gotten used to them. (Our tent is in the yellow circle.)

In all campgrounds and so far in national forests, as well, other people show up on Thursday nights and Fridays, raise a ruckus, then leave on Sunday, and we weren’t spared here.

On Thursday, a dude parked his trailer to reserve for himself the little fishing pull-off right up the road from us, and when he showed up on Friday, he brought three off-leash, barking dogs plus his very pregnant partner. The dogs prevented us from walking Banjo down that road at all, but the pregnant partner (I’m guessing) prevented the whole crew from staying more than two nights. They did march in their own private dog parade right by our trailer before they left, looking proud as can be to show off everyone. Luckily, Banjo was inside at the time.

Why was she inside? Because a different couple with their own off-leash dog parked in the pull off just a stones’ throw below us, and that dog ambled around our campsite while they set up their grill. It looked like an ancient, totally harmless dog, but Banjo wasn’t thrilled to see it sniffing all our stuff outside. They were gone that night though. The dude was wearing a Steal Your Face t-shirt so of course I had to say Hi as I kayaked by them before they left, and they told me they’d come just for a band playing in the tiny town over. We missed that band entirely.

(We have got to get better at researching what local events are happening in the towns we’re nearby! We used to use the Bands in Town app when we were stationary, but even then we’d miss bands because they have to submit their tour dates to the app, and not many do. I’ll need to take on this job of doing the research when I have cell service.)

Back to the weekend neighbors, though. A handful of trucks pulling trailers drove in and out (and had to turn around awkwardly), looking for a weekend spot, and several people came by and parked just to fish or look out at the water for a bit. I reminded myself that this too shall pass (and by “this” I mean having to keep Banjo in the trailer or the tent, and me having to wear a bra, *gasp*). Indeed, come Sunday, everyone had gone back to Kalispell where the majority of license plates told us they’d come from. I’m thinking, with so many tourists visiting Glacier National Park this summer, Kalispell is like a metropolis that anyone would want to escape from.

Local Grizzly Less Fearsome After Eating Deer

Another reason Banjo was extra prickly about the weekend dogs was that we were startled by our second-ever knock on the trailer door one morning. Seriously, we’ve lived in this trailer for about a year and a half, and only two people have ever knocked on our door unexpectedly: the game warden near Missoula, and now this.

This knock was the camphost who lives where the forest service road branches from the main road; there’s an official campground on a spur in another direction, which I’m guessing merits a host. In any case, she had biked down to us and was holding her dog by the collar right at our steps, the dog who runs out to bark at Banj when Tracy and she walk in that direction. We just stayed in the trailer holding Banjo’s collar and spoke with the woman through the screen door.

Her news was that a grizzly bear had been spotted off the Rails to Trails bike path into Eureka, and the Forest Service is urging caution. She said, “It ate a fawn recently, so it’s not hungry.” Grizzlies are here this time fo year for the berries, but salmon spawning could start as soon as September. I’ve never seen that—it’s definitely on my to-do list.

However, off my list is walking the bike trail as I’d planned. Even with bear spray, I don’t want to risk meeting this grizzly while on foot. We’d planned on biking the trail to town on Monday to buy beer and groceries, which seems safe enough to me (we can bike fast!). I’ll report back.

Edited to add: Tracy has biked into town; my bike, it turns out, got both wheel rims bent while on the bike rack when we were backing the truck and trailer into this spot. I was watching the back of the trailer as Tracy was doing this precarious move down and around the gravel curve, and Tracy was watching where he was backing to as well as the front wheels of the truck so they wouldn’t fall into a dangerous ditch—but that didn’t leave him enough eyes to also watch the edges of the bikes on the front rack as they scraped the ground. Looks like we’ll be hitting a pawn shop in Missoula next time we go so I can get a new (to me) bike. Mine was pretty darned rusty as it was.

Local Beer Scores Low, Ice Cream High

We were very excited to go to the local brewery. Our last brewery, a month ago in Red Lodge, had fine beer but a rushed experience, since neither of us had cell signal at the trailer so we both had long to-do lists on our laptops once we got there. That’s no way to enjoy a beer. I don’t think we’d been to a brewery before that since we saw Finn in June.

This one was a dud: a guy’s house about 15 minutes outside of town, with bad homebrew we drank in his backyard. To give him credit, the inside looked cozy for winter drinking (non-Covid times) and he had a guy on guitar there, which apparently is routine. We tried four different beers just to make sure and enjoyed only the view. We won’t be going back.

We will go back to the ice cream stand we stopped at while out. With easy street parking and picnic tables outside (although Lynyrd Skynard blaring through a speaker nailed to the tree), it’s a good alternative treat.

Tobacco River Provides Relaxation Three Ways

I’ve been kayaking on the river by the trailer and into Lake Koocanusa every day here, which is such a treat. Over the weekend I had to get out early to avoid the Lynyrd-Skynyrd (they’re big here)-playing speed boats wreaking havoc with my calm waters, but then I get the bald eagles, osprey, herons, and kingfishers all to myself.

This lake was created as a reservoir, so it’s long and narrow, filling in the valley. The geology is not what I’m used to in natural water, for sure. Here, rising water has eaten away at the underside of a hill, and when it receded, the dirt above fell down in sheets, I imagine, leaving this stark vertical view.

I’ve also simply walked in the river by the trailer. It’s quite clear with rounded rocks on the bottom, and although it’s deep in many spots, you can carefully walk the edges to get back to shallow areas. I’m too noisy and smelly (I’m guessing) to see the trout I know are in there, but I do see enough floating sticks that look just like snakes to keep me on my toes.

Tracy gets credit for reminding me that we keep two inner-tube-style floats in the back of the truck, duh! I’d forgotten about them since we used them last summer.

The current from the river into the lake is pretty slow right here, and the wind can pick up off the lake, so they compete with each other, pushing me up and down the river, in circles if I lazily put one hand then another in the water.

When my kindle in a ziplock got too hot and turned itself off, I tossed it on the bank and sang to myself for entertainment. I’d been working on how to sing a song I’m terrible at (“Fortune Teller,” as sung by Robert Plant), and while I tapped the sides of the float and closed my eyes against the sun, I thought of a style I could sing in (fast, light-hearted) that might not require actual talent or know-how.

So, of course I jumped out of the river, grabbed my ukulele, and tested it out right there. I took a video (that helps me see and hear where I’m screwing up), but I swear even with my new cheating style I can’t get away with this song, so I won’t post the video, just this still shot from it that shows how much fun I was having trying and what a silly fool I am standing beside a river in my bathing suit playing ukulele.

We’re going to do our best to stay two weeks here, since it’s such a good spot. The weather turns chillier and wet tomorrow, but we can still get the kayaks out, and we can still drive to town for groceries and ice cream. Previously, we’ve lasted ten days before the black (bathroom) waste tank filled and we had to leave to go dump tanks, and we’re even better now at conserving, so I think we can make it.

Ukulele Segment

I won’t share my version of “Fortune Teller” until it’s passable, and ditto with Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” which I’m also laboring over. Both songs are the same three-four chords repeated a million times, which means my singing has to pull me through. Not happening.

But I am improving on this older Dylan song. I taped this outside the tent, looking at where the river runs into the lake. The view’s good even though the fire haze is obscuring the mountain range behind me.

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