So our pack trip into Black Bear went well. The weather held and the fishing was great. It was a pretty interesting experience for Kevin to go over the bridge at Meadow Creek. It’s a solid bridge, but the railing is at hip height when you are walking across it. So when you are riding, the railing is at the top of your foot. The bridge is narrow enough that you can look over either side to see the river raging 50 feet below you. The crossing can be tough on those who have a fear of heights.
We camped in Black Bear on the South Fork of the Flathead River. We had one problem in camp because I had somehow forgotten half the legs for my HorsePac panniers. The lids on these panniers can be set up to convert them to a table and the legs raise the boxes to a nice height for working. Without the legs, we still had a flat working surface, just not at a very convenient height. Thank goodness we also brought a Roll-A-Table. That camp table with a pair of Roll-A-Chairs was perfect for eating, prepping meals and playing cards and visiting at night.
We took a ride up the east side of the river one day, which was quite enjoyable. The horses behaved themselves for the most part, although Marley, my new trail horse, was startled by a dog at one point. He jumped, spun 180 degrees and started off the other way. Kevin got him under control pretty quick and he was fine after that. Marley has always been a pretty level-headed horse, so I suspect he just didn’t expect to see a dog where we did and it spooked him.
The next day, we hiked up the west side of the river for a while. On the way back, we saw that the Forest Service had stopped their string at the Black Bear cabin, which is a lay over point for them between Meadow Creek and the Administrative Center at Big Prairie. We went up and knocked on the door, which surprised them more than getting visitors, because they said they don’t remember anyone ever knocking on the door. We visited with the packers for a while. They were bringing in just general supplies – food and propane – this time, but they are working on a big project right now that they occasionally bring supplies for as well. The last remaining remnant of the original phone system between the lookout towers in the Bob Marshall Wilderness runs for 22 miles between Black Bear Cabin and Big Prairie. There was a fire in that area last year and the dead trees are now falling down on the phone cable in parts. The Forest Service has a big job ahead of them to repair that line and keep it running. But tradition and usefulness make it worth their while.
Other than those two side trips, we really spent most of the time fly fishing and visiting with the other folks camping on our area as we knew most of them. One of our neighbors in there owns the fly fishing shop across the street from us at home. Bob came down at one point to tell us that we were using the wrong flies. Fortunately he volunteered some of the right flies to match the hatch and our catch greatly improved. It was all catch and release for Cutthroat trout and we caught some nice ones with Bob’s flies.
Bob also chased a black bear out of his camp, which then proceeded to visit ours. We were very diligent about keeping our food in the bear-resistant panniers we brought so the bear was not rewarded for his trouble. Our supplies were a little scrambled, but otherwise he did no damage to the camp.
Kevin and I tried out a new lightweight canvas tent that we had found and it worked great for the two of us. Gave us plenty of room for both of our Roll-A-Cots and we still had room to get dressed and store some gear. I was pleased with it so far, but would like to try it in some more adverse weather conditions before I really make up my mind.
Overall, it was a terrific trip – really relaxing and loads of fun. Makes it hard to come back to work! Now, we just have to start planning our next one.