Monday, December 06, 2021

One for the campfire

| October 17, 2021 12:00 AM

The plan a couple of weeks ago was to meet the Flathead Paddlers group I belong to at the Glacier Park boat inspection station, then drive up to Sprague Creek campground to launch our kayaks on Lake McDonald — at least that’s what I thought the plan was.

The poor ranger was the lone ranger inspecting boats as we all converged at once on her. Hatches and hulls all needed examined, paperwork filled out and tags attached to the stern of our kayaks.

Everyone else had pulled away, except me and one other member with a large SUV parked between me and Apgar Loop Road, her boat the last to be inspected. I pulled out ahead of her, hung a right and then turned left onto Going-to-the Sun Road. When I reached Sprague, there was a chain across the entrance with a “closed for the season” sign hanging from it. Hmmm. I drove on.

I didn’t pass any cars with kayaks heading back to Apgar. Maybe they drove up to Lake McDonald Lodge to wait for the rest of us and regroup, so I circled that parking lot ... but no boats, and no cell service.

I reviewed the last group email from a week prior to verify it was Sprague we were launching from, then tossed my phone on the passenger seat. Maybe they headed up to the Upper Lake McDonald ranger station a few miles up the road. We’d launched from there in the past, so I drove up. No boats.

I should have looked for a note at Sprague. I drove back. No note. I went to grab my phone to see if I had cell service there. My phone was nowhere to be found. I looked under, between and behind the seats and checked my purse again. No phone.

Frustrated — by now an hour had passed — I drove back to Apgar, on the way spotting the member — who was the last to have her boat inspected and who was heading up to Logan Pass first and possibly kayaking later that day — as she passed me unawares. I pulled back into the boat inspection station at Apgar and asked the ranger if she had cell service there because I needed someone to call my phone. She said it was spotty but she’d try when she was done inspecting three kayaks.

We heard it ring; it was underneath my WeatherTech floor mat, the kind that hug the space of the particular make and model of a car and have a two-inch lip on three sides. I have no idea how my phone managed to slide under there.

By now, I was resigned to kayak solo from Apgar’s dock, remotely hoping I’d bump into my paddler pals somehow on the 6,823-acre Lake McDonald.

Well, I didn’t. There were few boats on the lake. I did talk to people onshore here and there because I was keeping close to it since the wind had picked up out of the south. I’ve kayaked alone many times, but mainly on smaller waters. I returned safely and paddled on past the Apgar dock, found a quiet spot on shore to eat my lunch, and watched as the burnished aspen leaves peacefully floated down to the beach and dappled the lake.

It had been a lovely, if solitary, outing. As I was loading my boat atop my car, I spotted the same member who’d previously passed me on her way to Logan Pass, go by — again unawares — heading for home I supposed.

Once home, I got a text from one of my friends, explaining that the group had learned Sprague Creek campground was closed for the season so they’d changed the launch to Apgar and shared that information on the group’s Facebook page, however, I don’t use Facebook. They thought I’d just see them from the boat inspection station and head their way. I realized that big SUV I was parked next to at the station had perfectly obscured my view in their direction the entire time I was there.

So it goes. After I texted her how my day went, I signed off with “All’s well that ends well!” ... in this comedy of errors.

Community editor Carol Marino may be reached at 406-758-4440 or