Paradise and Paddling

We went to Paradise, literally and figuratively!

Zenna and her husband Dusk have a group of friends and family with whom they go camping and rafting every summer on the last weekend in July. When Dusk texted John back in the spring and invited us, we said “Yes!


Our friends Eric and Sandy live only a few miles from us.  They have experience with animals, and they are Grit’s parents, whom I mentioned in a previous post.  So they kept Belle at their house, and Sandy came over morning and evening to take care of the animals—what a friend, right?

Strapped down and ready to go!

We headed out Friday afternoon, kayaks strapped onto the top of the Tahoe.  Literally, our destination was just a few miles from the town of Paradise, about 2 1/2 hours from here, near Idaho.  We drove south on Highway 93, and as soon as we turned west on Highway 28, the familiar landscape disappeared, and we entered the Flathead Indian Reservation, which is a land of dry, rolling hills.  It is breathtaking in its own natural beauty.

Here’s where a camera phone is woefully inadequate; the country is so expansive, it’s impossible to capture it without special lenses. On the way home I tried, though, and will give you a glimpse of the grandeur.

Miles of Montana’s “big sky” on the reservation.

We arrived at Muchwater Campground early in the evening and set up camp.  We were right on the Clark Fork River!

We decided to keep it simple and sleep in our Tahoe.  We brought John’s hunting cot with us, and when we set it up, we could slide most of our gear under it.  We put our box of food and our cooler in the front seats.  I slept on a thermarest mattress and sleeping bag.  It was quite cozy!

A view from our campsite. Yes, the horizontal line is railroad tracks; very busy railroad tracks!

We had a good time sitting by the river around the campfire, making some new friends.  There were twelve of us in our party, a mixture of Zenna and Dusk’s friends and family.

Dusk and Zenna, post float

Over the years, Zenna and Dusk have been very generous about including us in family gatherings, for which we are so grateful.  When you live 2500 miles from your family, being invited into someone else’s family circle takes on special meaning.

Rafts and inner tubes are ready to launch.

One thing I liked about this group right away was that no one was in a hurry to do anything.  Super chill.  We took our time waking up Saturday morning (around 8:30) and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast.  Everyone else was going down the river using inflatable rafts or inner tubes, so those had to be inflated, the guys had to drive a few vehicles to our take-out spot, and then we launched from the campsite!  We floated about nine miles over four hours.  What a blast!!

River kayaking is so much FUN!! Most of the way there is a fair current.  Even so, we were paddling to stay where we wanted to be in the river.  There was one stretch of rapids, about which I was fairly apprehensive, having never shot any rapids before.  They weren’t huge, and it turned out to be great fun!

One of my happy places; in a kayak, on the water.

It was also exhausting, partly because we were busy paddling much of the time and partly because of being in the wind and the sun.

John has an “eagle eye”; he spotted these two eagles in this tree.

Sunday morning some of our group left, and those who remained planned to relax in camp.  John and I had planned to kayak again, but I woke up with a headache.   As the morning wore on, I began feeling worse.  I was hot and very tired.  When talking with John and Zenna, I was brain fogged and was even having a hard time pronouncing a few words.

Turns out that I was badly dehydrated.  I had packed plenty of water the day before, but had not drunk it all.  John and I agreed that it was probably not a smart idea for me to be out on the water in the wind and sunshine, so we opted to rest in camp.

Another camp site view.

I still feel bad about this, because John’s back was actually feeling pretty good, and I hated to miss the chance for more fun. Zenna had packed an electrolyte powder, and I drank three servings of that in big red solo cups of water.

We headed out of camp around 3:30, and we took a different highway part of the way home. If possible, it was even more spectacular than the drive in. The highway took us through a stretch of land known as the Camas Prairie, where again, the big sky views defy a camera phone.  We stopped at a scenic overlook and learned about the Camas Ripples.

The Camas Prairie; not what I expected to see in Western Montana!

During the Ice Age flooding, there was a huge ice dam holding back the waters of glacial lake Missoula.  When the dam burst, the flooding was enormous. Giant boulders were carried from the Central Western Montana into Idaho, Washington, even as far away as the Columbia River gorge in Oregon.  It left ripples in the Camas Prairie that range from 13-30 feet high.  You have to fly overhead to actually see them; they weren’t even identified until 1942. Amazing.

Also amazing was how few cars we passed.  Miles and miles without seeing another car on the road and very few houses.

This is how many vehicles we saw while driving through the Camas Prairie.

We crested the last hill, and the majesty of the Flathead Valley opened before us.  The instant change in topography and plant life is remarkable.  It’s re-entry into civilization.

We soon pulled into a watercraft inspection station and were reminded that we were still on the reservation.  There were two natives waiting for us, standing beside a large truck with an official seal and the words “CSKT Game Warden.” The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (of the Flathead Nation) are a sovereign nation, but it did not occur to me that they’d have their own game wardens, who work in conjunction with the Montana FWP.

A large guy with long dark hair streaked with silver greeted us with a broad smile.  His belly was covered with a faded red tee shirt that proclaimed, “I don’t get drunk, I get awesome!” He inspected our kayaks and gave us certification that they were clean and dry.

A few years ago, an invasive species of mussel was discovered in the Tiber Reservoir in Eastern MT, and Montanans are taking serious measures to assure that these non-native zebra mussels don’t spread to other waters.

We stopped briefly in Lakeside to buy some fresh cherries, then headed home. We were so tired that we debated going home to take a nap before picking up Belle, but then we agreed that neither one of us wanted to drive down and back up the mountain to pick her up, so we swung by Eric and Sandy’s place, where we were greeted by an overjoyed Belle!

We have our calendar marked for river rafting in July of 2019, and we are already looking forward to it….


2 Replies to “Paradise and Paddling”

  1. nice post! That’s such a great pic of you and John! I am so happy that you and john were able to join us and that you had a good time! And, in case i haven’t told you this… you are like family to me <3

    1. Back atcha, girlfriend!

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