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GDMBR Chapter 14

Battleship Island, MT, to Lakeside, MT

Islands in the sun

I woke up on the south point of Battleship Island in my tent, sans rain fly, with the sun streaming in and waves lapping not three feet from my feet.



Close to a new moon, the sky was dark that night which made the stars pop, and I remember drifting off with that rocking sensation that lingers after spending all day on water.


In the morning I packed up camp, hiked back over the island to where the kayak was tied and pushed off for another day of paddling.



Cedar Island

Depending on mileage and weather, I had a couple options of where I could camp the next night.


But that morning I received a message with a tip about another island I could camp on.


I pretended it was a super secret treasure map to the recommended campsite; I mean an "X" did mark the spot on the picture he sent, after all.



So I continued slithering along the west shore of Flathead Lake, past Wild Horse Island where I took a break on an empty beach and made oatmeal on my camp stove.


I didn't see any wild horses or big horn sheep... so I'll just have to come back again soon.


Coming into focus

The morning started out quite rough, with wind whipping from the north causing twelve- to eighteen-inch swells.


Then everything calmed. I put some tunes on, reapplied SPF, relaxed into my paddling posture and continued the thirteen miles to Cedar Island.



Then I saw it in front of me: the island I'd be camping on that night.



A familiar face

After setting up camp, Mark came back with his two corgi pups for another visit; it was nice to talk and enjoy a beer on his pontoon boat after a day of being back in my own head.



Day 3: time for a hot meal

My main motivation that day was the promise of a hot meal at a marina-side restaurant in the northwestern town of Lakeside.


I set forth in the morning to relatively calm waters and stopped by one of the only campgrounds in this stretch, West Shore State Park, to grab a site.


To my dismay, they were fully booked and couldn't make accommodations for boaters/paddlers. But I ended up making friends with a group of thirty-somethings and crashed their party for an hour or so.


They were leaving that day but assured me if I asked nicely, anyone would let me camp on their dock, yard or campsite. This is a sentiment many people shared with me; and so far they're correct.


I got surprisingly tipsy on one White Claw and swam with them and their doggos in the frigid waters.


After resting and warming back up in the sunshine, I was back on the water.


Time is a funny concept

Some stretches seemed to go by faster than anticipated, but the stretch from West Shore to Lakeside seemed to drag. By this point in the trip my core, shoulders and hands were beginning to seize.


Maybe it was the hard seltzer.


But I suspect the real culprit were the hoards of boaters out for the long July 4th weekend.


The wakes created by speed boats, pontoon boats, fishing boats, tour cruise boats and jet skis crashed against each other from every angle, intermingling with the natural current of the lake and reverberating off nearby rocks and retaining walls.


Even with a rudder, it was challenging to maintain a straight line.


But I'm glad I kept with it because boy was that grilled salmon sandwich yummy!


I may or may not have (but 1,000% did) order a slice of Oreo cheesecake to-go.


The party barge


On my way out, I noticed a huge lakeside party had formed, with a live band playing from a massive dock-building dredger (?) that had been pulled off-shore.


There were dozens of boats anchored and hundreds of people watching from the beach and swimming area just behind me.


After hanging out there for another hour or so I started making my way back toward West Shore, where Dave and Greg were picking me up the next morning.


Near the park, around 7:30p, I saw some people outside and asked if I could camp on their dock, to which they graciously agreed.


I was incredibly exhausted. It wasn't until looking at my Garmin on the dock that I realized I had paddled nearly eighteen miles that day.



I sat at the edge of the dock watching a thunderstorm across the lake.


It sprinkled off and on but luckily blew over me for the most part, revealing another starry night.


I didn't bother putting up my tent and opted for just my sleeping pad and bag.


Rain of a different sort

Around 2:00a I awoke to water hitting my face. I looked up and saw the starry sky and stuck my hand out to feel for precipitation.


Nothing.


So I went back to sleep.


A minute or so later I awoke again to water on my face. I looked up; not a cloud in the sky. I felt my sleeping bag and sure enough it was wet on top.


What the heck?


I rolled out of my sleeping bag to investigate and realized the home's irrigation system had turned on and the closest sprinkler head was spinning a full 360 degrees, inadvertently watering the lake and dock.


Sleepily, I dragged my sleeping pad and bag about ten feet closer to the end of the dock, crawled back in and drifted back asleep.



Bittersweet

Now, with 4G connection, I'm sitting at a picnic table at the park watching swimmers brave the cold water on this overcast morning and typing out this post on my phone.


This kayak excursion was such a unique, exciting and unexpected adventure—within an even bigger adventure.


It started as a crazy idea and because of the help of Suz and Dave, and Sue and Greg, developed into something beyond my imagination.


The weather held until the very last day and my arms are now so sore and eager to pass the torch back to my legs.


It will again be hard to leave their warm hospitality and friendship but I'm looking forward to getting back on my bike and exploring northen Montana and eventually crossing into Canada.


Who knows what the next phase will bring!?


Video dispatches from the trail:



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