Solo Road Saunter

I’ve written before about the merits of not disobeying the call of the road when it summons thee. So this past weekend when it called, I went.

I’ve found that to satiate my “urge for going,” as Joni Mitchell once crafted into a song, I needn’t venture far. I live in Montana for pete’s sake, a truly uncompromisingly beautiful, wild state. And we’ve got a lotta land here, too. A person could spend lifetimes exploring here and never be able to see it all.

And not only do I not need to go far, I don’t need to spend a large swath of time either. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes venturing far and spending extended periods of time off and away from home is a lovely thing to do, but I’ve been finding that even weekend-long trips simply 2-4 hours from my doorstep are not only sufficient but immensely satisfying.

I wrote this on my writer’s Facebook page the night before setting out this past weekend:

For reasons I don’t entirely understand, I want to sleep under the stars in unfamiliar terrain. I want to wake up in a fresh locale and navigate my early morning rituals in a locale where no one knows me. I want to sit in a coffee shop in a small town and write unobstructed by the comfortable air of home.

And perhaps some of this allure has a little something to do with the fact that I know full well – as clear as the sound of a bell – that I grow little, if at all, unless I edge outside of my comfort zone.

So, this past weekend, I went here:

Epic, right? Welcome to the great allure of Glacier National Park in northwestern, Montana. How fortunate am I to live only a short 2.5 hour jaunt from this epic spot?

Here in the mountains, winter is slow to give way to spring. We’ll have snow for a little while longer yet. And with the higher elevation, Glacier NP doesn’t open full throttle until maybe late June, so the full swath of Going-to-the-Sun Road, which weaves all the way through the park from the west entrance to the east, isn’t open until then. Currently, from the west side, you can only travel in by way of vehicle 10-miles into the park. Lake McDonald Lodge is the end point. Considering the limited access, it’s also still relatively expensive to visit the park. Despite the fact that there’s nothing open in the park and access points to the lake are blocked by snow, it still costs $25 to enter, which is only $10 less than their entry fee during the peak season. Still, I found that it’s super worth it. To bask in the glow of the pristine nature of the park cannot be measured in monetary units. How does one put a price tag on this:

Something I am deeply grateful for, is that I’ve managed to become my own best friend and richly enjoy my own company. So I have the loveliest of times on these solo saunters I take. I’m also grateful I’m a writer. Writing is a solo act that travels well. Blank sheets of paper, my Pilot P-500, and tea making supplies (including a backpacking stove and fuel) are the very best travel companions I know.

Here’s something I wrote whilst on the lake in Glacier:

Who am I to settle here beside this pristine stretch of water and stretch myself long beside it
Who am I to gaze upon these snow mountains with compromising eyes that so often have no idea what they see
Who am I to breathe this exhilarating are scented with pine, in company with all my rooted brethren
Who am I to listen to the sounds of winter transferring its reign to springtime

Nature answers my silent inquiries and sings its response:
Who are you not to, my dear

I took my time on my way to Glacier NP – hence the saunter part. I stopped at a state park on the Flathead Lake to do some writing. I stopped to refill my tea. I even stopped at a thrift store and an estate sale before entering the park on Saturday. I spent around 4-hours in the park, in large part at two different writing spots. Then I made my way into Big Fork, MT and then into Somers, where I had an airbnb booked for the night (my first airbnb stay!).

After chatting with my airbnb host, I rallied the courage to go into the local bar in Somers to order some takeout food for dinner. As a lone female traveler, I’m quite tuned into my surroundings and I tend to find it best to avoid certain places when in roam – and bars are definitely on the list of places to avoid. As a non-drinker, I don’t often find myself in the predicament I was in on Saturday night: super tired, super hungry, and out of options on the food front. I’d packed along all my other meals with me but I had planned to eat out Saturday night. Big Fork was a bust for food, which left me scrounging for a plan b. I saw the road sign for Del’s Bar in Somers – which indicated it also served food. I even went to scope it out before heading to my airbnb. But I quickly determined that I was not comfortable heading in on my own, so I left. Thankfully, my airbnb host put my mind at ease, so I went back. Hunger can be a good motivator!

The staff at Del’s bar were great. And the place was chock full of locals watching sports and conversing merrily. It was a fine Montana establishment. I even did a bit of writing at the bar while I waited for my food order:

I woke earlier than usual on Sunday morning. Thankfully so. Had I risen at 5am as planned, I would’ve missed the dazzling display of starshine in full view over the Flathead Lake, which I had a lovely view of on the deck extending directly from my room. After preparing breakfast and tea and doing a bit of writing and reading of Mary Oliver, I set out just as the sky began to alight, en route to Hot Springs, MT.

After checking out Symes Hot Springs at the delightfully rustic Symes Hotel, I decided that was not my cup of tea. So I ventured just a few blocks away to Camas Hot Springs, where I had a front row seat to watch the sun rise from the hot pool. Does it get any better than that?

After an hour-long soak, I enjoyed a lovely stretch of road from Hot Springs to Dixon. So lovely, in fact, that I pulled over to make tea and do some writing (which is when I took the pic at the top of this post). I look forward to when my husband and I can venture back to this highway on our motorcycles.


And because I wanted to be able to say I literally wrote while on the road, I crafted this haiku while sitting in the middle of the road:

On the open road

I find myself in birdsong

Reveling in this

I grabbed some amazing hand-crafted pastries at the Dixon Mercantile in Dixon, MT – wonderfully enjoyed outside while sipping on my freshly brewed cup of tea which I made on the side of highway 382 – and headed home.

Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that I do not have a discerning food pallet. Food is food. It all tastes pretty good to me. AND, the pastries and breads that the owner of the Dixon Merc make, are freakin incredible. So good, in fact, that I’m even going to end here on a food pic :)

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