Today was shitty. But tonight was unexpectedly lovely.
A friend in Wyoming told me he’s nervous about my hiking alone in Big Sky Country because of the grizzly bears…but I can’t just manifest hiking companions (though I’m definitely on the lookout!), and hiking is what I DO out here. Still, he’s gotten in my head, and I’m feeling more nervous about grizzly bears than I did about rattlesnakes… So, the last few days have been mostly driving days (blech). I’m heading to Glacier National Park, and I WILL find fellow-hikers there (update since initial writing: THREE hiking companions found and SCHEDULED!)!
On top of that, some people are just mean, and that messed up my day.
So I decided to cut my road time short and look for a spot in the national forest by afternoon…but when the only spot I found in my first 7 miles of searching had what looked to be a coyote jaw in it, alongside a bunch of mangled fur, I thought I better take my chances finding another spot up the way (cuz…grizzly bears!?). Then, of course, I realized I was nearly out of gas…so I hurried to find the closest gas station and wound up in the tiny town of Ovando, Montana. Google Ovando, and you’ll find it had a population of 71 people at the time of the 2000 Census. I’m afraid the count-takers may have missed the place in 2010…and I almost missed it myself, but I needed gas, so I followed the signs and found myself at Blackfoot Commercial Company.
When I asked the gal at the check-out (Christine) for camping recommendations, she pointed me in the direction of the owner, Fred, and he said “How about that spot of grass over there?” I laughed…but he was completely serious, so I “set up” camp in what was essentially the town square. Nearby my “site” I saw some folks Fred told me were cycling the Great Divide Trail and introduced myself. They invited me for drinks up the way at Trixi’s, the local “watering hole,” and I turned them down to go to bed early and read like a hermit…then reneged on that and walked with them up the way to the very country, very Montana, very small town spot.
The bartender didn’t have much use for us travelers, very evidently favoring the locals…but I felt very privileged to get to be in the company of fellow wanderers – Harry from England, Adam from Canada, Gloria and Craig/Greg from Spain and New Zealand respectively, by way of Australia. I’m a talker, but when I find myself in the company of strangers from all walks of life and corners of the world, I ask lots of questions and soak up their knowledge and experience and cultural variety. That’s what I did at Trixi’s – over a bottle of Big Sky Brewing’s Summer Honey, against a backdrop of mounted big game heads and locals wearing cowboy hats and sticking close to their own.
Then I slept restfully in the town square with bicyclists from all over the globe.