The Morning After

Rolling out of bed, safely at home, after driving the better part of a day straight-through from southwest Montana, is remarkably disorienting.

The sun set as our land yacht sailed eastward through North Dakota. The sky was huge and limitless the last time I saw it. The largest cumulus nimbus clouds I’ve ever seen failed to consume the great expanse. Behind us, the West was lit in an array of pink, which I could only steal glances at while steadily piloting our craft east at 80 mph.

We crossed the Red River into Minnesota shortly after dark, and while I was aware of the growing encroachment of trees on either side, there was only faint comprehension of anything beyond the slim span of illuminated roadway before us and our twin children slumbering in the back, as Shawna and I hung upon every word of a 31-hour audiobook.

The first thing I thought of after waking up and letting out the chickens (who now seem fully grown) was coffee. Ambling out to the van to retrieve the whole beans procured at the general store in Fishtail,MT, felt reassuring, but my bleary eyes were stunned by the presence of trees everywhere. The sky is so small here!

And the humidity. Nearly 100%! Overcast. Foggy. Damp. This was the opposite of our home out on rangeland.

Compulsively, I opened my email. The first message read, “Your credit score has changed. Keep up the good work!”

Who really cares? I closed it, and picked up the writing tablet to jot down these observations.

Coffee now brewed, I poured a cup into my favorite mug, molded by Barb’s own hands of Barb’s Jugs fame, and who I suppose must have gone on to her reward by now. Purchased early in our marriage on the way home from Bayfield, this had an anchoring effect. The biblical notion of pouring new wine into old wineskins came to mind, but my addled brain was incapable of peering through the fog to indulge the analogy.

The phone rang at 10 am after that first sip of java. It was my Aunt, whom I haven’t spoken to in years. Her husband died exactly a week ago after 61 years of marriage. She was only 18 years old when she married him. Can you imagine that? Could be my daughter in just 10 months. Crazy, but it sure seemed to work out for them. They loved each other dearly, travelled, and enjoyed life and kids and grandchildren together. Bill was the first to go of four siblings. Time is relentless.

My son charges down the stairs, even as we’re talking, ravenous for that ubiquitous morning bowl of cereal. He paces the house, leaving a trail of cheerios and a barrage of questions. Details all, the answer to each was, “I don’t know. Let me enjoy my coffee.”

To retrieve this journal for writing these impressions down I grabbed my backpack full of books, pulled out those thousands of pages, and a can of bear spray tumbled onto the hardwood floor. Strange world.

The bundle of mail then thumps into the porch, which Shawna retrieves. Noticing a check arrive from her gallery in Grand Marais, she says, “It pays to go away.”

Indeed, it does.

Our AirBnb was quite remote. I snapped this picture during Golden Hour en route. Minutes later we saw the bridge was out only a couple miles from our cabin, a victim of flooding earlier this summer. An hour of meandering around on gravel roads finally brought us to paradise.

Our neighbors were of the sort who scratch one another’s backs.

My favorite thing is probably reading quietly alongside my kids. Joey was introduced to westerns on this trip. By the way, I spotted one mosquito the entire time, which I promptly smashed beside my bare leg at sunset in this very spot.

I was grateful to have purchased $100 of bear spray. It helped we flatlanders feel more comfortable.

We stayed on the edge of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, which adjoins the national park to the north. While Yellowstone was essentially closed off, this suited us fine. There were no crowds to contend with.

Those mountains are inside Yellowstone, but we were able to enjoy plenty enough outside the park.

On our horseback ride we saw the real Jeremiah Johnson’s log cabin from a plateau we rode atop. Pretty neat.

That road in the background, the Beartooth Highway, conjoined with the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, carried us through some of the most varied terrain I’ve ever witnessed. The most challenging element of a family vacation like this, perhaps, is resisting the temptation to spend all your time in the car in a vain attempt to see everything.

Our favorite moments were spent right here beside the Stillwater River, soaking up peace and tranquility like a sponge.

I look forward to sharing one more story about an incredible hike our family enjoyed. It’ll be titled something along the lines of, “The problem is the solution.” I recorded an 8-minute podcast about it in that hammock as well, which I’ll release at the same time.

By the way, the usual places should be running out of our microgreens right about now. The grow room is absolutely cleaned out and empty for the first time, and it feels great. This vacation meant the world to our little family, so I appreciate your kind understanding. Right now, at the very moment of publishing this post, I begin planting for deliveries taking place on Monday, August 29th.


The Gilmore’s

4 thoughts on “The Morning After

    1. Thanks friend. Still in this feeling a whole day later. For some reason I rather enjoy it. Perhaps it’s like hanging out at the airport after a long trip, reluctant to hop into a taxi cab and return to concerns of the big city. All ambition has evaporated. I just want to stare out the window.

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this post from what sounds like a swift & remarkable trip. Those western vistas always make me want to stay a little longer – then a little longer still.

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