Wandering on old, over grown trails and logging roads it’s easy to imagine that, even if you weren’t the first to trod this trail, you just may be the first in many years. That the things you’re seeing might not have been seen by anyone else. Sometimes, you get a surprise.
Not all hikes need a destination, it’s ok just to wander. There are lots of marked trails to choose from around our new neighborhood. They start at a trailhead, which many times is overflowing with cars, and snake through, over or around until they reach some particularly scenic place. The Avalanche Trail in Glacier is a good example. It’s an easy two mile, overly trod trail to a beautiful alpine lake. Unless you get there real early though, it’s hard to be ‘one with nature’ as you are rarely out of site of other hikers.
Those hikes are ok, but sometimes you just need to take the road less traveled. To wander through places that you aren’t going to have to share with the great multitudes of humanity. There are few unexplored places left. Native Americans have been exploring, living, wandering these mountains for thousands of years. Us newcomers have only been here for a relatively few couple of hundred years. In that short time though we’ve managed to sneak into most of the valleys and draws, usually making a mess of the place before either the gold ran out or the winter got too cold.
Old dreams and folies can be found in unexpected places.
There’s no visible trail to this old cabin. An old logging road passes by about fifty heavily forested yards away. The cabin is tucked into the end of a narrow valley between high mountains miles from the nearest paved road. Were they miners, loggers, farmers? Was this the dream that faded into a wilderness of reality? Rusting behind the cabin is what I guess to be a car form the 1920’s? Who drove it there? How it got there and why it was left behind might make a good story.
Last fall we went exploring a piece of property that was a potential sale for one of Kat’s clients. The dirt road/trail stopped in a small valley surrounded by steep hills on either side. We followed a game trail that wound up the hill to see if there was a view from the top. There was. In fact, looking down over the valley was the car above. The tires were long gone, the body was slowly settling into the Montana mountain. Whatever road the driver might have used to get to the overlook was long gone, reclaimed by nature. Its not unusual to find things left behind by people: cans, wrappers, and plastic. But, a car on the top of a very steep hill was a surprise. Must have been a hell of a night.
Not everyone who came west came to settle on a cattle ranch, some came to get rich. They were told there was ‘easy’ money. Gold and silver was just laying around in a land where no one lived. Well, someone did live here and it wasn’t just laying on the ground waiting to be picked up. In the hills above Kalispell, not on any trail and far away from the crowds of Glacier, there’s a hole in the side of a hill. Someone tried to cover it up, but it looks like someone else did some uncovering. The hole burrows into the side of the hill. I don’t know how far it goes. I told Kat I’d watch the dog while she crawled in to see but she hasn’t taken me up on the offer. I don’t know what they were digging for or if they found anything, but, someone’s dream ended up in a deep hole in the side of a hill in Montana.
Each of these rusting, eroding stories had real people attached to them. There’s a story, a history, to each of them. In their past we just might see our own future. How will the house, the city, the country we live in today be remembered a hundred, a thousand or more years from now? There’s an effort today to ‘reimagine’ some of the history I was taught, to put a different spin on the how’s and the whys of the past. Maybe twenty or fifty years from now it will be reimagined again to fit the narrative of those times, the outlook of a different group.
In the end though, it all fades. The passing of time dictates that the struggles and issues of today become the rusty mysteries of tomorrow.