Our adventure continues as we enter the Seeley-Swan Valley. This gem of Montana is a popular four season recreation playground. Nestled between the Swan Mountains to the east and the Mission Mountains to the west is a wonderland of unspoiled nature. Dozens of natural lakes linked together by streams and rivers rest within this narrow, thickly forested valley. The drive alone is well worth the trip.
We set up camp at River Point Campground on Seeley Lake in the Lolo National Forest. With no hookups provided, we carried extra water in 6 gallon cans and ran the generator when we needed to. We felt a sense of seclusion tucked back in a forest of towering larch trees, but the charming town of Seeley was just three miles away. Not surprising, there was no cellular service at the campground.
We stayed for three nights enjoying the quiet of the forest. That’s not to say we didn’t get out and do a little exploring and adventures seeking. We cruised through the town of Seeley and went for a drive around some of the forest backroads. We went looking for Gus — the world’s largest larch tree. We found it off of Boy Scout Road near our campground and boy was it impressive. Not sequoia impressive, but for a 1000 year old tree at over 7 feet in diameter and 153 feet tall, it was quite the sight.
Driving back to camp, we came upon a scene of activity and slowed down to see what all the commotion was. Cars were pulled to the side of the road and people were standing around looking up. It turned out a bear cub was up a tree and the game warden was trying to capture it. We lowered the truck window to talk with a man that said the cub was on his front porch before it ran up the tree. The man continued to tell us all the sad details. It was bear hunting season in Montana. They believe the mother bear was shot leaving two small cubs behind. When the orphaned cubs started wandering around near homes looking for food the authorities were called.
One cub was caught a day ago and now this one was up a tree. The poor thing looked scared and weak as it clutched the bark. The game warden set a trap and placed food in it before stepping back. The cub climbed down and stared at the food. I couldn’t stand to watch anymore and drove on to the campground. I can’t help but wonder what would become of the orphaned bear cubs.
We spent a day down by the lake. A few sunbathers and swimmers gathered at the shore. The lake was abuzz with motorboats, jet skis, kayaks and canoes. It was a perfect warm and sunny day for being on the water. The people of Montana were celebrating summer.
We called an outfitter in town and they delivered a canoe to us. We slowly paddled down the river for a mile or two. Away from the noise of the busy lake we could hear the clucks and moans of the geese swimming near the bank. The water was so clear we could easily see fish swim under the canoe. Near where the river meets the lake, we saw a beaver lodge. It looked like a dome shaped island made of sticks.
We took off across the lake, then stopped and drifted in the breeze. We were in awe of the beauty surrounding us. An eagle soared over head. Screams of laughter rang out from the children riding an inner tube behind a speeding boat. Jet skis raced across the wake.
We paddled back to shore and sat in our chairs by the edge of the water. We did some people watching — always a fun activity — and we ate the lunch Grammi packed for us. We had a lovely day.
We can’t say as much for the evening. My how things can change so fast. Storm clouds rolled in and the wind began to blow. Grammi and I, having experience with storms in campgrounds, didn’t stick around. We got in the truck and headed for town — away from the forest — away from the trees. It got a little crazy for a while as we waited in a parking lot until the storm subsided. We had cellular service in town so it wasn’t all bad.
We were shocked by all the down trees we saw on the way back to the campground. Limbs littered the road and I had to carefully weave around them as we made our way back. We saw some houses with trees on them and people walking around looking at the damage. I say “some” because I am sure I saw more than one…more than two houses with trees on them. Back at the campsite, we saw our camper had suffered no damage, just some small branches and a blanket of pine needles across the top. A tree fell in the campsite across from us but there was no one in that site. It was occupied the night before. The tree landed right where they were parked. I’m glad no one was there.
We left the next morning. We waved good-bye to the campground host raking up debris from the storm. We needed to empty our holding tanks. There was not a dump station at the campground but there was one in town. A collection box is there to deposit the five dollar fee. It’s the honor system. There is something about the honor system that compels me to pay even when no one is watching. The word — honor — means something to me. I don’t want to know what I might feel like if I didn’t pay up.
With a full tank of fuel and empty holding tanks, we headed north. The drive away from Seeley seemed to be more magnificent than the drive there. We were lost in all its beauty when a loud alarm went off startling us both. “What is that”, Grammi screamed? “That’s the tire pressure monitor. I think we are getting a flat”, I said as I looked for a place to pull over. The display on the monitor showed the right front camper tire was slowly losing pressure.
I turned on the four-way flashers, put out the reflective orange emergency triangles and proceeded to change the tire. We were back on the road in less than thirty minutes. “That wasn’t so bad” I said as I turned to look at Grammi for her reaction. “Nope, not at all. You were prepared. You had everything you needed to get us back on the road”, she replied with a smile. Whoa! Was that a compliment? I think it was.
When traveling as much as we do, it is not a matter of if things will go wrong but rather when things go wrong. Being prepared for whatever can go wrong goes a long way to make it less stressful. I’d like to say I learned to be prepared from the Boy Scouts, but actually I learned from not being prepared and then figuring out that being prepared is much better.
I think I should mention that I liked having the TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system). The alarm gave me enough time to stop before a deflated tire shredded and caused damage to the trailer. I have the TST 507 that I bought off of Amazon. It wasn’t cheap at around $350.00, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it just may of saved me more than that in potential repairs. I recommend all campers and RV’s have one.
Well until next time — happy days and safe travels.