Woman Overboard, or Rafting on the Clark Fork River

Last summer was a bit of back and forth and there again. I drove from Austin, Texas, to Bridger, Montana in June, flew back down to Austin for a week in July, then back up to Montana from July into mid-August. In the midst of all that, I managed to make three trips from Bridger up to Missoula to see Laurie and Bobo, my aunt and uncle.

Laurie and Bobo have the perfect house. They welcome dogs and people alike, have a great kitchen, and a fire pit out back. Friends are often over for dinner, and then retire for wine and conversation around the fire pit. It doesn’t get much better than that. The only problem is finding the bacon pan. I nearly tore the kitchen apart one morning, looking for the sacred chalice of deliciousness in order to start Sunday breakfast. There are many things to hide in life, but trust me, that ain’t one.

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Gosh, I Wonder Why Eleanor and Beatrice Like Staying at Laurie and Bobo’s House

That second trip to Missoula was when we decided to float the Clark Fork River. Locals call it the “city float” as it takes you from eastern Missoula, through Milltown and Hellgate Canyon, and then through Missoula itself. Laurie and Bobo have done it several times, and with good reason: it’s a beautiful way to spend a day in northwest Montana. It’s peaceful, calm, a great chance to talk and catch up, and a heck of a lot of fun.

And no, we did not bring the dogs, but we did think about it.

It was a glorious day on the Clark Fork. The sun was high and the wind was higher. College students on summer break festooned the river, floating in tubes with coolers tied between them. We saw a few people in kayaks, others on paddle boards, and people throwing water toys for ecstatic retrievers that were only too happy to fling themselves in the river to bring back their toys.

Remember that high wind that I mentioned? As luck would have it, we chose the very windiest of days to do the city float down the Clark Fork River through Missoula, Montana. Bobo battled the wind and current for quite some time, Laurie and I each took turns at the oars, and then we passed captainship back to Bobo. At one point the wind was so strong that the raft could not move forward with the current, drifting backwards. Clearly, drastic action was needed, but Laurie and I were women enough for the task. We bailed out of the raft into water up to our chest and then towed the raft downriver until we were able to pick up a current strong enough to propel us forward. Bobo remained in his swivel seat, accepting the compliments and salutes of everyone. There may have been some heckling, but it was clearly made by parties who did not understand why their own raft mates were not as committed as Laurie and I were to forward progress.

And sadly, no photos exist of the Woman Overboard moment. Laurie and I were too busy pulling the raft downstream to think of the photographic goldmine that we clearly presented. We all still laugh over that afternoon, and shared laughter is often the best remembrance.

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