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GDMBR Chapter 13

Butte, MT, to Battleship Island, Flathead Lake, MT

A difficult goodbye

The next morning in Butte, Jens and I met the Copper King Mansion matriarch in the grand dining room for a French toast breakfast.

She grew up and still lives in the house with her daughter, who now manages the B&B.

She had many stories to tell and we sat at the table for well over an hour.

After breakfast, we split up to run errands around town before meeting back up in the mansion garden for lunch.

At noon, I was catching a ride to Polson, MT, to begin the next phase of my adventure: kayaking for several days across Flathead Lake (south to north). And Jens was continuing the official Great Divide Mountain Biking Route.

Stuck around

Some days I expected Jens to have packed up and left me behind in the cover of darkness.

Especially after the spoon incident.

But to my surprise, he was still there when I emerged from my tent each morning.

We got to know each other well and it was fun to have someone to be silly with and to confirm reality in those, is this really happening!? moments.

Falling trees

Over the past couple years I've been fortunate to travel and have a lot of amazing experiences. Most of them were solo.

Similar to the notion of if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it really fall?, I've asked myself if I'm the only one to experience something, did it really happen? Did it really matter?

My current self knows that yes, it did happen and it does matter. And it's not selfish.

But sharing it with someone else makes it that much better.

From our conversations, it's clear how much Jens loves his wife and his kids and the life they've built together in Munich.

He's definitely given me a lot to think about.

Deep breaths

One thing about cycling and trying to talk is that, well, sometimes your lungs can only support one of the two.

It leaves a lot of long awkward pauses and time between statements for processing and contemplation in a way that doesn't happen during normal conversations.

Throw in a slight language barrier and there was also a lot of yelling, "What? I didn't get that," back-and-forth.

Shuttling to Polson

The first time I hitchhiked, for eight miles up highway 287 from Rawlins, WY, I sent the info to my Mom.

That was dumb. Mom, I'm so sorry.

Since then, my dear friend Anna is my designated safety partner and we have established some pretty solid protocols. As of now, I'm happy to report I've only had very positive experiences. It's also something I've only done twice this trip.

For this ride, I tapped into the Butte 411 Facebook group. Within a couple hours nearly a dozen people responded!

I ended up coordinating with a young man named Daniel. We threw my bike into the back of his Subaru and hit the road, stopping for Five Guys burgers in Missoula.

Polson, MT

We were going to Polson—specifically to Suz and Dave's house; one of the couples I met at the Elk Lake Resort a week or so before!

I called Suz that morning with my plan to kayak across Flathead Lake and she invited me to stay with them and offered to help with the launch.

They have a beautiful, warm home overlooking a grassy meadow, yellow canola fields, the lake and mountains. And their sweet pup, Caddis, was a constant opportunity for a pet and a cuddle.

They made an absolutely delicious summery dinner of grilled shrimp, corn and tomatoes, potato salad, watermelon cucumber salad and biscuits.

We sat and talked at their kitchen table for hours and Dave and I looked at a map of the lake together.

He told me about Wild Horse Island, that has big horn sheep, wild horses and probably some bears... with some hiking trails and designated areas to pull up a kayak.

Waffles! Bacon!

The next morning I awoke to the smell of waffles and bacon. I mean, the forest smells pretty great, but it's no waffles and bacon.

After breakfast, Dave headed out for an all-day fishing trip on the Big Hole River and Suz and I set out to run errands, including visiting the kayak I had coordinated to rent for the week.

The kayak debacle

Before even walking up to the kayak, we both knew there was no way it as going to work.

It was a really cheap, basic open kayak—t would have been something akin to masochism (at best) and suicide (at worst) to try take it across a massive lake like Flathead, loaded down with camping gear.

Honestly I'm surprised the people at the rental place thought it was even appropriate.

So... Suz and I stopped by a couple other rental places.

Same deal.

So... then I thought I'd just buy one; it wasn't much more than the cost of a week-long rental.

We went to Murdochs and Ace Hardware. After taking pictures of the available kayaks and doing some research back at the house, I settled on two options from Murdochs.

We went to Murdochs but only one of the options was actually in stock (despite calling ahead to confirm).

We managed to fit it in Suz's Outback! It barely fit—but it fit!

We unloaded it in the garage and I got to doing laundry and repacking my bags for kayaking.

A chance encounter

While at the grocery store, Suz ran into her neighbor, Sue.

After hearing my story, Sue offered that I could borrow her kayak! A gorgeous 14' old Necky sea kayak. It's a dream boat.

So Suze and I loaded the Murdochs kayak back into her Outback and took it back to the store.

It was like being in a real life game of ping pong... things changing so quickly! But in a really fun and beautiful way.

Suz and I kept looking at each other and laughing and shaking our heads in disbelief.

That night she made another scrumptious meal of Jamaican jerk chicken, mango salsa and cilantro and black beans and rice.

We took Caddis for a walk and suddenly it was after 10:00p.

The universe provides

The next morning, Suz made cherry scones and fresh fruit for breakfast. I joked that she's fed me so well, I'll be paddling back to their house every night.

Seriously though, they are just two of the most interesting, delightful people I've met. I'm glad I stayed an extra night to get some fun 1:1 girl time with Suz.

Pushing off

Around 8:30a we met at Sue and Greg's house to load the rig and take it to their neighborhood boat dock.

I popped my dry bags into the hatches, zipped up my PFD and climbed in.

In the excitement I forgot to give Suz a hug and as I was floating away said we'd see each other again soon enough! It'll just be an extra big hug then.

Back on the water

I can't express how good it feels to be back on water. The last couple years I've been making do with an inflatable kayak that at least got me onto my favorite lakes to float around.

When I get back I'm installing a roof rack and getting a proper rig.

This Necky is incredibly zippy and cutting through the chop and gliding through the glassy water of the coves is a sheer joy!

Okay, here's some pictures of the day 1 paddle today, from the shore of East Polson to Battleship Island, which is a private island owned by a famous musician... I'm seriously getting the royal hookup here...

Taking a break for lunch and to study the map more closely.

The outhouse on the island is unlocked—thank you outhouse gods! Apparently this musician likes to read old Transworld Skateboarding and JUICE magazines while on the pot... ha

Hanging out on a stump... enjoying the view.

Oh I forgot! Yesterday morning Suz and I strolled around downtown Polson and went into several art co-op shops... and I treated myself to a little something pretty :)

While hanging out on the stump, a guy pulled up in a pontoon and yelled, "Caity!?" It was Mark, one of Greg's friends. Greg shared my Garmin tracker with him and he tracked me down :)

This is the picture he took of me from his boat

Video dispatches from the trail:

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2 opmerkingen

Brian Syptak
Brian Syptak
01 jul. 2022

Such a great trip you're having! At least from my perspective. Hope you feel the same way!

Caitlyn Milton
Caitlyn Milton
01 jul. 2022
Reageren op

Hi Brian, definitely! I'm glad I decided to do this trip... it has turned into so much more than I could have known or expected <3 Thanks for following along and ope you're doing well!

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