Carol Northcut | Wednesday, 12 October 2022
The night we returned home from our first exploratory trip, I was awakened at 3:30 a.m. by a BOOM! Pop Pop! It sounded like someone shooting from the dirt road 300 yards from the house with a semi-automatic. With the previous day’s experience of an illegal hunter shooting from the back of his truck fresh in my mind, I was royally pissed but finally slept again. At 5:45 a.m. I was awakened again by another BOOM!
Again, this sounded like it was on the road. The piss from 2 hours ago was fully fermented now. “What the F*&K!? Is Montana filled with nothing but yahoos?!” I called 800-TipMont (the game warden) and reported the incidents. Steve slept through it all with ear plugs, not hearing a thing, either time. When he got up and heard that I’d called TipMont, he opened the freezer and said. “Ooops! I forgot the beer I’d put in the freezer to cool.” Frozen beer was everywhere and he had a huge mess to clean while I called the game warden to sheepishly ask them to pull the call.
Later in the day, we took an exploratory trip up the North Fork of the Flathead River, stopping at a campground to speak with its host. The colorfully-tatooed, energetic hippy in her late 60’s lived in a camper van during the summer with her cat. “We’re closing today, but there’s a place you can camp in the day-use area with others. Just be sure you always have bear spray on you and put all your food in the bear boxes.” “You mean you can’t keep it in a hard-sided camper?” Steve asked. She responded,“You could … but …. There are a lot of bears around here.” She proceeded to tell us about a guy who, two years earlier came to camp in May just as the campground was about to open for the year. The guy was making some oatmeal for breakfast, left it on the picnic table, and made the short walk to the bathroom. As he came out of the bathroom, a large boar was finishing the oatmeal and proceeded to rip through his tent. The guy was locked in the bathroom for hours before anyone came around to frighten off the bear. The moral of her story was, don’t even go to the bathroom without bear spray.
Up the road we found a good place to fish, caught a couple of nice fish on terrestrials, and then it was time to go. We walked back to the car as I sang the chorus to Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over as “Hey bear, hey bear, don’t dream we’re dinner. Hey bear, hey bear, when the boar comes crashing in. I’ll try, I’ll try, to spray a wall between us, cuz I know we won’t win.”
Yesterday I chatted with Justin, the owner of our new home fly shop. He’s been guiding in the area since 1995. We’d gone out with him in April of 2014 on a rare (for us) guided trip. He had us on so many doubles that day we gave him the nickname of “Deuce Doublé” (pronounced Doo-blay’). “It’s good fishing on the North Fork with terrestrials nearly year-round because there’s not much food in the water. Wild trout will rise to them nearly year round,” he said, and told me the best places to go and what he likes to use. He also warned that “The North Fork has the highest concentration of grizzlies in the lower 48, so always keep bear spray on you and make lots of noise. … It’s best to fish from a boat.” On our last exploratory hike in Squatchterritory, we figured out that downloaded podcasts and music are great for making human-noise when you’re tired of talking, singing (badly) and coughing. It kind-of wrecks the serenity of nature, but a surprised bear would wreck it more.
I’m making this article short to go practice pick-up-and-lay-down. We had nine trees taken down two days ago and have to pick up the slash and lay it down in the borrowed wagon to haul it to the burn pile.