The entire trip I've been vaguely intrigued by what I can't see of the park without leaving the paved roads. The vastness just off the beaten path tugs insistently at the corners of my mind, and today I welcome the chance to turn around and take it in.
To get to Bowman lake we leave the paved road quite decidedly. Dirt roads are nothing new. They're my way home, to the places I feel most at home. This dirt road is longer and more winding, though. And stranger.
The dust billows up around us and the cars that pass us, hiding the mountains and the forest to either side. We drive through the bare matchstick trees, killed in the 2003 fire, that stand on the north side of Lake McDonald. The road winds and jumps and shakes itself beneath us for miles. Suddenly we begin to see signs.
The road smoothes into pavement beneath us, and we pass driveways and the cafe that contains these advertised wonders. Some of the driveways have for sale signs. For an amount of money that won't buy more than a postage stamp of land in West University Place, here I can buy myself 51.3 acres of at the foot of the mountains. I begin to seriously consider my ability to tough out the winters and escape potential forest fires. The pavement doesn't last for long, and we're back on the wilder side.
We pass through Polebridge, where gas from the large above ground tank is bought on the honor system, and a sign says "Slow, People Breathing." The dust from the road is thick on our cars.
We reach Bowman Lake, park, and walk to the waterside. It lies like a small turquoise in mountains' lap, nestled there like a child. It seems like such a little lake, after Lake McDonald. But like all the lakes here, the water stretches out and down, still, peaceful, magical.
But the bugs are terrible.
Lunch, a short hike, sitting in the sun and skipping rocks. I spend a lazy day on the edges of this gem. The group splits up. Will rests in the shade, not feeling well. Amy walks back to Polebridge, later met by Erik, Kerri, and Will in the car.
Mark, Joanna, Teebs, and I finally start back. We stop in Polebridge for cookies. Very very *good* cookies. Because I ask, we stop in Apgar Village, where Lake McDonald empties itself back into a creek. It does so with a nonchalance that seems strange. But then I live in Texas, where lakes are mostly what happens when you dam a river. Instead of any dramatic break between still and streaming waters, there is simply lake, then creek. More impressive is the large water spider and its sprawling web among the rocks.
My curiosity about the beginnings of things and the roots of things satisfied, we get back in the minivan and head to the cabin. Our last day in the park is slow and relaxed, just as it should be, and I'm sad to be leaving soon.
We begin to pack up our things, and to eat as much of the food that's left as we can. It feels, at the end, like a day of endings.