We scuttle our way back down the mountain and reach the parking lot in time to thrust our way through a fresh bus load of other sight seers, towards our distant car. Once inside, its a game of trying to ease our way back out into the stream of traffic without ramming into anyone jockeying for our position. We narrowly miss several red faced, white knuckled minivan dads trying to cut each other off as if one parking space closer to the main attraction will make a difference
Once we finally get back on the road and underway to our next campsite, it’s like coming up for air when you didn’t know you were drowning. The way down is fairly open aside from a few overly cautious drivers in large trucks making their tedious way down the winding mountain pass into the valley below. The road is serpentine at best and sheer vertical on either side of us. It is very obvious that we are hugging a cliff face and are traveling where nature had never intended anyone to tread. Across the valley on the opposing range, there are huge grooves cut deep into the rock. Erosion has taken its toll and the cliffs covered in rich foliage appear almost prehistoric.
The descent is easy going for the most part except when the roofless red historical park tour busses come lumbering up in the opposite direction. West and I both marvel at the accuracy with which the guides are able to maneuver the great beasts around the bends, all while chatting away happily to their sweaty, gawking cargo.
We come to the bottom of the canyon in one piece and a respectable amount of time. From there it’s a long drive along a river of beautifully clear waters to our campground on the banks of Lake McDonald. Upon reaching it we proceed to set up our outfit with greater ease and agility, having set up and broken down camp the previous day. Our site is at the T of an intersection in the camp and from there we are able to watch the comings and goings of all our fellow campers.
Once camp is set, we grab our swim clothes and head down to the lake which is particularly appealing as our mountain pass hike has left us sticky and hot. Stepping out onto that shore is like having a wash of calm serenity flow over you. I immediately wade in with West and allow the grime of the past two days fall off of me. The wind is up and licks the surface into little white caps which are then exasperated by the skiffs and jet skis and other water toys zipping about. I dive below the surface and open my eyes to see many yards below to the the lake bed. The water is clear and silt free except for the white layers settled on the floor which reflect any light and bounce it back giving the water a brilliant teal hue.
After nearly an hour of paddling myself around while West naps on the shore, I am forced to retire to shore from the numbness that has set in. Getting back to camp we go about creating another unique camp dinner (this time spaghetti with summer sausage).
I look up from my meal to see a doe and two spotted fawns picking their way carefully through the woods opposite us. They seem unaffected by the sights, sounds and smells of the humans, so I grab my camera and approach them. They are uninterested in me and continue their foraging while I happily snap away.
Bedtime rolls around with the final sips of our evening tea and the dimming of light as the sun dips below the horizon. Another day ends and we drift off into our own dreams, warm and snug in our little tent on the shores of Lake McDonald.