Nora and I put in for 4 days and 3 nights of canoe camping on Lake McDonald.  Being in a National Park made things tricky.  I had to get a 3 day backcountry permit saying I would stay in a very specific campsite up off the lakeshore.  I did my best to explain that I would be staying in the canoe, completely, for all four days.  Guaranteed they had never heard of a guy requesting to be on the lake, in a canoe, for that long of a period.  The national park guys were kind, and we basically agreed I’d be floating somewhere close to the campsite, which I didn’t.  Also, they let me watch this awesome video on avoiding being killed by a bear.  Evidently your not suppose to stare into the eyes of a bear.  I asked the park guy why, he explained “you’ll turn to stone”.  I headed for the launch ramp and a few nice fellows taking their ladies on a power boat cruise put my canoe in the lake.  I carried all my stuff down to the docks, climbed in the canoe, then a sweet old man offered to take my wheelchair up to the van.  I shoved off the docks, rowed for a bit, then caught a nice breeze.  It had taken me all day to be afloat, immediately I began looking for a place to anchor.   Fortunately I found the the top of a drowned tree offering a place to tie up.  It was the beginning of October in the Montana Mountains and I was grateful to be sleeping on the soon to be sunny side of the lake, that would come after the full moon night in the thirties.  I never sleep the first night out.  Although, I did have this awesome dream of the bear from the pamphlet barreling down the mountainside before submerging my canoe and roasting me over an open campfire.  But come morning, there had been no bear and no campfire.  Just freezing cold weather and a canoe tangling itself up with a log.  Day two on the lake was good.  We rowed along the north shore that had accidentally been burned by firefighters trying to stop a campsite fire.  Poor forest. Could you imagine being a hundred year old, fifty foot tall tree, and the little noisy fleshy things that live below you decide they are going to protect you from harm.  Anyways,  we awoke and rowed along this mysteriously beautiful burnt down shoreline.  I was complaining to myself about the lack of wind when instantly the lake went from dead calm to blowing.  It blew at least thirty, or I was in a tiny boat and it blew about twenty.  Either way it was strong.   Surprise to me was how well the boat handled the conditions.  At the end of the blow the biggest wind waves were three feet tall and yet the boat was dry.  I sailed across wind and wave.  The canoe ama would take the wave first, allowing for a nice comfortable roll over the wave tops.  Sailing downwind was awesome, the boat flew and even had moments of surf.  The wind became scary strong, and I found a nice little cove with a few empty moorings, abandoned for the winter.  Evidently mountain lake people have different customs than coastline dwellers.  Before taking one of the balls for some necessary protection I decided to ask a kind looking lady on the shoreline, just to be polite.  As a shock to me, she said NO. This lit me up and off I took screaming across the lake, tiny canoe in a mountain sized gale.  I now appreciate her forcing me to go out in those conditions.  I gained a ton of confidence in the boat and really had a blast jumping across the waves from one side of the lake to the other.  Just before reaching the other side of the lake a power boat came skipping down on me.  It’s never fun to see a boat approaching so fast, especially not when your hanging on to the oars/tiller for life.   Some guy was driving the boat and was kind enough to pull up on my leeward side so some lady could pop up and yell at me.  It was the lady that had denied me mooring, she wanted to make sure I was surviving the blow.  There was plenty I wanted to say at the moment, but instead I looked at her with bewilderment and continued on my way.   Ended up finding a good spot to drop hook for the night, where the rich folks in the giant cabins over the beach didn’t  care about me and the dog sleeping in a little metal canoe on their lake.  I fell asleep early and woke up even earlier.  There was a full moon rising, probably about midnight.  I decided to tear down the tarps, sleeping bags and start rowing back towards the van.  I had 11 miles to go and figured the flat calm of night would be good for rowing.  I pulled up to the shoreline for Nora’s shore leave, and could smell the lakeside resort preparing bacon and eggs for Sunday morning brunch, I would later eat some oatmeal.   Having an entire lake all to myself during a full moon night will forever impress me.  I rowed and rowed while the moon crossed over from one oar to the other, setting just before the rising sun.  By the time the sun had risen I had sight of the buildings around where I launched and decided to jump back over to the sunny side of the lake to tie up for one more night.  My best nights sleep come with a stern line tied to shore.  I didn’t catch any fish, but did a sunset, moonrise and then sunrise.  This was my last night on the lake.  Next morning I calmly rowed back to the launch ramp with absolutely no concerns about how I would get the canoe back on top of the van or anything else for that matter.  Experience out on the water makes life on land seem comfortable.

 

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