Desire for balance (as well as other things that I'll describe later) led me here, to Montana. In the month and a half since I’ve arrived, the pendulum has swung in the other direction, and I haven’t done a single backpacking trip. I’ve been focused on getting up to speed with my work, on getting settled. I resolved to go out this weekend.
Everyone I’ve met in Montana raves about the Jewel Basin. I look out across the Flathead Valley at it several times a day, wondering what all the fuss is about. It’s much earlier in the season to go there, but the snow is melting faster this season. A couple of people say that it’s possible to get up there, maybe.
Eli and I head up the steep winding FS road to the Camp Misery Trailhead. We park where snow blocks the road, and hike up the snow-covered road to the trailhead.
It’s the most stunning country I’ve seen since the High Sierra in California. Maybe even prettier. I stare in disbelief. How could it possibly be this incredible? How can this beauty be less than an hour away from where I live? I am overwhelmed with gratitude for being here. So thankful to Eli for offering to go with me up here because I hadn’t the courage to venture up here alone.
|Views of the Flathead Valley.|
|Glacier lily and spring beauty country.|
|Birch Lake, another angle.|
|Around the other side of Birch Lake.|
|At the edge. Don't fall in!|
|Bursts of wildflowers.|
Eli and I decide to try for a lower elevation trailhead to find a place to camp. I’d been starting longingly at the well-spaced trees for my hammock near the ice-covered lake, but up in that highcountry, Eli found nowhere suitable for his tent.
We get to the Echo Broken Leg trailhead, and follow it into a different world of lushness and wildflowers.
|Where are the campsites?|
Back at home, I gather up soaking wet clothes and head to the laundromat. There is just enough time to do a load but not enough time for them to dry before they close. So, my trailer transforms into a long-distance hiker hotel room, wet laundry and gear hanging from every surface, and despite the washing, hiker aroma filling the air. It smells like long-distance hiking, like sharing a hotel room with a bunch of happy new backpacking buddies and laughing so hard my belly aches--all fond memories associated with the PCT and AZT. The scent of happiness and home.
I curl up in my down top quilt in my little bunkbed and watch the city lights far below twinkling. And that deep inner peace fills me, and I know in my heart that I am tasting that balance. Because I can be here in my little trailer home, and not out in the backcountry, and realize it’s exactly where I want to be. Here in Montana, I have found a place where I can have adventures and be in epic scenery that feels like the most beautiful place in the world, and also be close to my work. If there is anywhere I can discover balance, it is right here.
I didn’t need to go backpacking today to find happiness, I’ve got it right here, just like this. Maybe next week I’ll go backpacking. Maybe.
Jewel Basin Hiking Area
Jewel Basin map
Birch Lake Trail