I am sitting in a collapsable chair on the banks of Clearwater River. We are on scenic route 12 from northern Idaho to Montana and I have been tracing this river through the passenger side window for the last 136 miles. At points, the river, rushing so fast it echoes, then expanding at the next bend causing the rapids to slow, leaving a gentle rhythm. It stays so clear you can see the shades of every rock lining the bottom. Miles go by in seconds and I can’t believe we have been driving for over 3 hours along this path. Idaho has come with some surprises. Scenery from the south contrasting the north from dry flat to green mountains. The sun is bright, no humidity, a gentle breeze combs through the trees and we are not ready to leave. Colin is in the river before I’m out of the van. He catches a fish on the first cast. Our decision is easy and we spend a couple of days here.
We find ourselves at a crossroads in Missoula, Montana. We need to be heading south in order to meet up with Mark (the shocks guy)* but we are so close to Glacier National Park. Colin gets a text from a good friend and it reads, “going to the sun road, man. Unbelievable.” The van turns north.
Going to the Sun Road is about 50 miles and cuts through the middle of the park. The views come from angles that do not feel safe. The road narrows and the climb continues. Taking a quick moment to look out the window, I immediately shout to Colin, “do not look down!” The stream snaking through the valley looked like a good size a few minutes ago now I can’t even place it. The bigger RVs and pull behinds are not allowed. At times two vehicles can’t pass each other and now I’m holding my breath. There are sections of wall gardens where plants cover the entire side with vines and blooms growing out instead of up. At one bend we stopped, the perfect moment when two mountain goats stick their heads over the rocky ledge to say hello. With their fluffy white bodies and little horns they seem out of place.
A pull off gives us a place for a break and lunch. We are eating sandwiches and thinking about a quick hike when a frantic girl pops her head in the van, “do not take your dog if your thinking of hiking this trail,” she takes a minute to catch her breath, “we were followed by a grizzly for a half mile!” My first thought is GRIZZLY and I am only steps away. Steps, feet, a stones throw…as if the bear is calling me… “come on girl, get on the trail.” I look to Colin for common sense and he says, ” I’ll get the crate out for Sprite and find some shade to park in, let’s go!” As we pack up lunch and scramble to get ourselves ready something changes. I have a flash of all the warning signs. Even the bear spray label says, “do not seek out bears.” Am I losing my nerve or worse, is common sense taking over!? Colin is relieved when I tell him that I’ve changed my mind. This may be the closest I get, but at least I am alive to tell the story about how I almost saw a grizzly. A thought occurs to me later-why was the girl more concerned about the dog than us?
*See our resources page for information on Pop Top Shocks