Yesterday I put on my big girl panties to brave a solo hike despite the gruesome stories I’ve heard about grizzly attacks. Fred in Ovando says the bears are eating huckleberries right now and aren’t too very interested in humans, and I’m taking his word for it. (I considered investing in a bike helmet so that even if my body gets mauled by a bear, I’ll still have my face and my scalp, unlike the unfortunate guy I saw pictured on a bear spray display at a mountaineering store the other day…)
At the suggestion of the handsome owner of a coffee shop I drove out of my way to visit in Columbia Falls, I headed south to visit the Jewel Basin. I was excited the road to my chosen hike was well-maintained…but, boy did my 4-cylinder struggle making its way up the hill!! Wowza. At any rate, I made it and was in this case grateful there were several other cars at the trailhead (cuz…noise scares bears). I was also grateful to the kind lady who shared her toilet paper at the outhouse…then strategic in following her and her family up the trail, figuring their conversation and noise-making would be my first line of defense against grizzlies. (Smart, eh?)
Soon enough, we were taking pictures of each other at a viewpoint and then I was hiking with them (three cans of bear spray and five voices are way better than one!). Turns out, the couple, in their 50s, had just retired to move to their family vacation home near Big Fork from, of all places, Illinois (Evanston)! Their daughter and her boyfriend were in town visiting from Nashville, where they write music and he tours with up-and-coming country artists. We hit it off right away, and next thing I knew, they invited me to spend the night at their house. I love the way this talking to strangers thing works for me!
When I found out there was a town in northwestern Montana called Libby, I knew I had to visit, and the night of the full moon was perfect timing. My grandma’s name was Carrie Elizabeth, but she hated the name Carrie (none of us quite understand why…), so she chose to go by her middle name and shortened it to Libby. A few family members have called me “Lib” over the years, but no one outside the family ever really has – until Jim in Jackson learned of the family nickname…and he’s called me Libby every since. Gma always called me her Libby 2 (Libby “two-two-two,” actually). And when I told the Supellsas (Candus, Mark, and Ava from Evanston, and b.f. Jeremy from Texas by way of Nashville) the story of Gma and her moon and my plans to visit Libby for it, they called me by her name the rest of our time together, and my heart swelled every time.
As I drove two hours out of my way to the little town of Libby, population ~2,000, after an afternoon of strenuous hiking up the side of a mountain, I wondered if it was really worth the drive, if I’d feel Gma there or even see her moon at all, given my driving into more and more smoke all the way…but I couldn’t have been happier I took the time to make the journey. The drive gave me all the evening to think of and remember her, and without a doubt I felt her presence with me in that little town. I found a lovely local restaurant with delicious pizza, a delightful waitress, and friendly locals at the bar, and I took my time soaking in the feel and the flavor of the place before driving back to Big Fork…then sure enough as I drove a ways from Libby, I saw that most beautiful Gma moon shining down on me from behind the clouds, and all I felt was love (not coincidentally, one of the only words Gma muttered in her final days with us).
Candus and Marc were delightful, and I’m so thankful again to get to spend my time with really good people doing things that I love. The climb up Mt. Aneus (not Mt. Anus, as I initially thought…) was so much more enjoyable with company, and we went all the way to the peak, which I might not have done on my own. Plus, we didn’t get eaten by bears! This morning, we shared breakfast, stories, conversation, and goodness, and I left Echo Lake with my love cup filled to brimming.