Yesterday I attended a rally in Helena, the Montana state capital, to protest the failures of our junior senator, Steve Daines, to adequately represent the people of Montana. The shutting down of Elizabeth Warren is probably his most infamous recent example. He also supported Betsy DeVos (of course he did — she contributed $46,800.00 to his campaign) for Unites States Secretary of Education. Ugh, I want to hurl for having just written that. Haines has voted in favor of everything Trump has done. Essentially, he’s the worst.
Daines was scheduled to address the Montana legislature yesterday, but he pushed it back to today because he didn’t want to face the protests. From what I hear the good people of Helena and surrounding areas will be waiting for him today as well. I have mixed feelings about these rallies, but still, I wish I could join them. Here are some shots from the afternoon.
This is why I hate people, summertime, and nice weather.
The last two evenings I’ve been down to the river with my dog, the main beach has been overrun by loud, sunburned meatheads and their hangers-on. Not the same groups, just two different versions of the same basic mouth breather. I skirt the beach when that happens, just to avoid whatever is going on. Today I ventured out in the morning before the place gets overrun just to have some peace, which is the reason I go there in the first place. This is what I found there.
Illegal fire built using logs and branches torn from the surrounding area. Charred beer cans in and around the scorched patch. Cigarette butts. Various assorted other bits and pieces of trash. I wish these people would just set themselves on fire instead.
It’s why I love cold and clouds and shitty weather. It keeps people like this inside watching television and ruining their own shit. As if I wasn’t enough of a seething cauldron of rage as it is, for crissakes. I think I am going to retire socially until the weather matches my demeanor.
Drove up to Polebridge Wednesday afternoon, our home away from home. Unless you’re living on another planet, you likely know that the West is essentially on fire. Leaving Missoula around 4:00 it was pretty smoky and gross, but 35 miles north in the Mission Valley it was even worse. Headed toward Glacier on Highway 93, we couldn’t even see the Mission Mountains through the smoke, and they rise up from the valley floor impressively just a couple miles to the east. By the time we got to Polebridge though, on the western edge of Glacier National Park, it wasn’t too bad. We settled in to the Goat Chalet, and all was right with the world. I want to live there with the weirdos and hippies and dirtbag through-hikers and all the other rabble that pass through there. We even have our lot all picked out for when our ship comes in and we check out.
Hanging out in the kitchen of the North Fork Hostel, as we are wont to do whenever we stay there, we had a little conversation with a young couple from Virginia Beach who were in the area hiking around Glacier. I admire them for that. The young woman urged her boyfriend to share an idea he had — he is a self-admitted “idea guy” — for the Appalachian Trail. He would like to restore a bunch of old Airstream trailers and locate them along that trail at specific intervals for hikers to rent to sleep in. I can’t think of a worse idea. Comfort and kitschy ease are the last thing these trails need. I think the AP could use a little more danger, like introducing some man-eating predators, to keep those people out there on their toes.
Even full of smoke, Glacier Park is gorgeous. Pictures from a drive up Going to the Sun Highway will be posted as soon as I pull them off my camera. Also, a picture of and the story of our friend Amie, whom we met last year at the hostel and was there again this year.
Coming back down out of the mountains (and back onto the grid) Friday night was a shock. It always is. They love Jesus in Kalispell and Columbia Falls. There must be eight or ten signs listing the ten commandments scattered throughout the area, and there is a big “Ten Commandments Park” as well. It freaks me out, man. There was a faction with boots on the ground we drove past too. A valley choked with smoke and enraged Christian freaks waving signs on street corners makes the Flathead even more frighteningly apocalyptic than usual.
I might have mentioned that Julia and I are in a contest at our Bikram Yoga studio. We had to go at least 3x/week all summer. At the end of the season, everyone left standing is entered into a drawing to win a free year. This week just completed was the second-to-last week, and we seemed to do everything we could to sabotage ourselves. Basically we cornered ourselves into having to find a class in Kalispell or Whitefish on Friday, since we wouldn’t be home on Saturday until after the two Missoula class options had passed. We found one in Kalispell, and, after a day inhaling smoke and not really eating anything, it destroyed us. “Our room gets kind of dry,” the instructor said, “so we run it a little hot.” I chose a spot in front of two fans, assuming that, like in our studio, they would kick on to blow cool air when things got too hot from all the working bodies. I was wrong. They kicked on to blow hot air. I was right next to the thermostat. It was 115° when we started, and when it dipped down to like 112° the heat would kick on back to 115°. Nightmare. At least we got our note saying we did it and are still in the running to win the damn contest.
After talking to my mom, who suggested that maybe the willows had been cut intentionally, I called the local FWP office and talked to the manager who handles Council Grove, Mike Hathaway. Turns out they did indeed do the cutting, or at least it was done in their name via an Americorps volunteer, who also performed the initial planting. The tops of the trees were starting to die, and they were being damaged by the wind, so they were cut in hopes of encouraging root growth. Mike and I also discussed the fact that people were still obviously accessing the river via that closed spot, even though there is available access about twenty feet away. He asked my opinion as to what I thought should be done next, etc. So it was a good conversation. I told him I felt a little guilty for feeling the outrage, and he told me I shouldn’t. “Get a group of us managers together,” he said, “and you’ll hear plenty of stories of just the kind of vandalism you suspected here.” So while I briefly thought that maybe people DON’T suck, it turns out they actually still do.
Whenever I’m not traveling, every day I take Darla the Adventure Dog for a walk at a river access location nearby called Council Grove. It is actually a primitive state park. During poor weather, or cold weather, we practically have it all to ourselves. As summer rolls in, it sees more and more use. It’s beautiful, with copious wildlife, primarily birds. It is an easy place to love, and sauntering there is often the highlight of my day. I know it is for Little D as well.
A few weeks ago, along about a 40-50 foot stretch of riverbank, where the edge has broken off and collapsed into the flow of the river when it runs higher than normal, the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks people posted several signs that read as follows:
Willows have been planted in this area to restore natural habitat, prevent flooding, and stabilize the river banks. Help keep Council Grove a great place for both wildlife and people by not disturbing the vegetation on the banks, keeping your dogs on leash, and accessing the river at suggested river access points only. Thank you for your cooperation.
I’ve spoken with the game warden a couple times when I’ve encountered him down there, and he’s a nice enough guy. He realizes most people don’t keep their dogs on leashes, and isn’t really a hard-ass about it. But as it gets busier, he needs to enforce it. I understand. Most people take the risk. It isn’t a big deal.
They planted at least 20 or 30 willows along that bank. There is a perfect access spot right adjacent to the closed area, with a sign indicating it as such. I was out there Monday the 15th, and the new growth looked good. The next day I left on a work trip, and wasn’t out there again until the afternoon/evening of my return on the 19th. In the intervening time some fucking asshole had come along and cut off all the willows and absconded with them. They range in size from a bit bigger than my thumb to as small as my little finger. All gone.
Who the hell does something like that? Some jerk-off mad at MFWP? And they’re too dumb to realize it’s everyone else they’re hurting too? It is the kind of senseless vandalism I just don’t get. Leaving cigarette butts and beer and soda cans and shit like that pisses me off because it’s lazy. This fills me with rage. What sucks is they will likely never be caught either. What a waste. I’m making tons of effort these days to try and get my head straight and be a better person and all that, but stuff like this (not to mention racism and mass shootings and free trade agreements and oil rigs headed to Alaska and on and on… ) really makes me wish for a freakin’ pandemic or something. Truly.
Well. Rather than close on a bad note, here is a collection of Darla the Adventure Dog in action at Council Grove. She’s always happy so long as some rambunctious puppy isn’t all up in her grill.
And here are just a couple other shots I’ve taken there recently.