Part I of V

We are three outdoors women with a shared love of the wilderness: Carolyn, Cheryl and me. We paddle in the spring, hike the high ranges in the summer and fall, in the rivers and the frozen lakes, we fish for giant trout in winter.

It’s spring. We slide into the river in our kayaks, let the current catch us, and swing us downstream. It is a cracking spring day, bright, clear, crisp.  The sun is warm on our faces and occasional white clouds float in the broad blue sky.

We dip our paddles and swing into the bends, gazing upwards at the passing view. Red cliffs, bluffs,

spires and hoodoos of tall sculpted stone stand mighty above us as we slip by. Ponderosas, Douglas Fir and junipers perch on ledges and in gullies, wearing bright new growth. Lush grass greens the hillsides and river banks and budding willows wave stems of yellow and red.  This is the Dearborn River and the water is the blue-green of melted snow, swift and clear and, in the shallow places, showing the gold of large submerged boulders and the many hues of bright pebbles on the bottom.

In the bends, the current throws us at the cliffs, and, as we graze past them, I see embedded giant ancient stones caught in a conglomerate of former ocean beds–sedimentary rock, put down when Montana sported palm trees and an endless silence of empty ocean beaches.

Under the overhanging ledges are clusters of swallows’ nests, empty still, but ready for the first arrivals  in a week or two. A tall dead Ponderosa, topless from a lightning strike, cradles a huge nest on its crest and a bald eagle watches impassively as we pass. Bluebirds flicker in the meadows and stocky, dark gray ouzels fly from rock to rock along the bank, bobbing and dipping when they land, making me want to bob along with them.

Ouzel: The American Dipper

Ouzel: The American Dipper


             A Canada goose family feeds in long grass on the right bank. As we approach, we see yellow chicks peeking out from under Mama. She sees us and tells them to lie down. They do and she flattens herself also and pretends to be a rock. If we hadn’t seen her movements earlier, we would surely have missed her.

(To be continued.)

            Sandy (Feb. ‘14) adds, “When the worst flooding from the spring snowmelt is over, I am anxious to get to my friends and ‘go for a float’-a euphemism for paddling like mad. I have hiked and climbed all over the world, and I am getting a few years on my body, but I cannot resist the call of swift flowing water.”

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