Every Woman has a Story to Tell & Inside Each there is Wisdom
This happened to me and my dear friend Kristina while on a hike, Summer 2021.
by Cindy Frost
Please, allow me to introduce to you one of my dearest friends, Kristina. We are encouragers, truth tellers, sisters in Christ, family to one another. We are running this race of Life together and she is precious to me.
Kristina has been battling an aggressive form of cancer since September 2020. The spot on her skin just above her eyebrow didn’t seem like much at the time, a small spot of peeling skin. Her doctor said it should be biopsied. She began cutting and it required more than either the doctor, Kristina, or anyone had realized it would to remove it. It left a large wound, the kind that hurts your heart too when you see it on account of love.
In time, and with artfully placed makeup, it healed. Though Kristina has had to return for follow up again and again.
Another spot emerged on her arm along her bicep. It too was removed and again, more needed to be taken to ensure proper margins, etc. That took a while longer to heal. By last spring Kristina was ready for a change of focus, needing to get outside. I am the friend that is always up for an outdoor adventure.
It is my desire to equip women with confidence and skill to venture out to see that pristine Creation. My soul finds rest there at the top of the mountains carved by His Hand.
Kristina said she would like to go for a hike with me to such a place. After a season of recovery, a shorter hike is what she is needing. I recommend we do Camas Lake; it will challenge her but shouldn’t be overly fatiguing.
Huckleberries would be ripe. The route offers variety, stunning geographical textures and vastly different micro ecosystems. (I geek out over flora and fauna, jfyi!)
Camas Lake would be a great spot to cool ourselves after the trek too. Those cold-water plunges are restorative and re-energizing for mid hike, tired legs!
Finally, the day for our outing has arrived.
I allow the rise of excitement to bubble up inside me. It replaces the stress I was feeling over the preparations to get here. Factor in drivers, unaccustomed to sharing an undivided dirt road along a steep mountain, it can be a sketchy drive up to this trailhead!
This being a day hike, under six miles out and back, a small pack with first aid kit would suffice. I layer a front carry rig to accommodate a Glock 40; 10 mm bear load ammunition nestled inside magazines. I verify that I am chambered, have ease of access, an unencumbered draw.
In my mind’s eye, I begin reviewing the environment ahead of us as I have traveled this trail before.
I chug some water from a large canteen that will remain at the vehicle due to its impracticality and then check in with Kristina regarding her carry equipment. She tells me she has bear spray. But it is one of the holster types that require you to first wrestle it out before you can make use of it… all the while a grizzly bear comes charging at you?! … No bueno!
I demonstrate a quick release holster that is truly the best carry choice and hand it to her. She tells me she has a 9 mm Glock inside her front carry pack. Good. Though experience has taught me this method takes too long to access when time is of the essence. (That is a story for another day!)
She snaps in and clips on the rapid release bear spray. Between the two of us, we are equipped with tools to defend.
A quick study of the parking lot indicates we will probably encounter only one other group enroute. Quad cab truck with attached large stock trailer and our vehicle are all that are tucked into the small make-shift parking lot. Pack goats, horses, or mules? I wondered what we will meet along the way.
At the start of our outings together, excitement has us talking over one another. It is a whirl of words and hand gesturing as we catch up with one another about the goings on within each of our lives and our families. Our voices rise and fall, joyful cadence of eager steps.
The trail begins easy, allowing the stream of dialogue to flow between us. An old service road with elevation over a mile high is our starting point; we will hike up to over 7k.
Two worn paths make for easy walking. Yellow rocket, white yarrow, and pink clover blossom from the middle space between our two trails.
Lodgepole stands the perimeter, allowing easy line of sight as we travel northwesterly. Nearing the end of July, the snow melt that gathered in its flow down the mountain still babbles but the loud rush has subsided. Wood and debris remnants reveal evidence of once forceful and fast water.
A steeper incline marks the next segment. Covered with dense layers of pine needles and boulders, the path narrows to a single lane. Conversation is a bit more difficult in this stretch. The pine forest presents as thick walls on both sides.
It is a darker stretch due to the density of trees, and it’s more humid. Ferns unfurl their fronds along the now trickling stream, cut into the edge of the trail’s high side. Moss creates a dampening effect to the sound of our feet’s determined steps.
As we complete that stretch of northward travel, the trail opens up and we are rewarded for the labor of our climb. Fat ripe hucks cause bushes to bend in a patch above us on the very steep high side. It is worth the extra effort to get to them!
A tremendous view of the valley floor opens up to the east.
We jam huckleberries into our mouths and far fewer into our bags for later. The question I had wondered at regarding who we would encounter is answered as line of adults, children and llamas are spotted, making their way off the mountain on the trail below us. One of the group’s members, a little girl, has fallen asleep and is being carried by her mom. It’s a beautiful sight. The girl, probably three years old, is completely zonked out– mouth wide open and dreaming, wrapped in the security of her mama’s strong arms.
High-country air often does that to littles. It makes me smile thinking of our sons, too big to be carried like that now, but times we did the same. Those memories are treasures of my heart. No other work on earth is as precious, this raising up and training up our future generations.
It surprises us when a woman from the group asks us what we are picking. It’s a pity that you might visit this forest and not know the taste of a juicy ripe huckleberry!
We were in a nice patch and could have remained content there for quite a while. Kristina mentioned wanting to get back to help her son, Levi, get home from a friend’s house by a certain time. So, we drop back down onto the trail and proceed on. Our path cuts west deeper into the canyon.
Camas Creek has scoured a path, clearing the topsoil. Boulders and deadfall remain. Shallow root systems, large trees and intense Spring winds is the recipe for massive blow downs. The trees’ extensive root systems have formed only shallow anchors and that doesn’t suffice here. Even uprooted, the roots still grasp gigantic boulders. They will until the roots become dry and brittle. Here they will remain, undersides exposed disintegrating with time.
A closer look at the network of roots from massive to miniscule and observing that without depth they were not capable to stand. I am humbled. The size and heft of this mess is noteworthy. We stand witness.
It seems we’ve entered mid-play, a game of pick-up sticks for giants. Thimbleberry and fireweed provide juxtaposition, a more delicate touch to the decor. It causes me to smile at the thought.
The trail winds around this scene.
A little further up from this stretch with a wander to the high side of the trail, you will find an outcropping of rock slabs concealed well by the thick forest of trees. In drier months, the slabs have functioned for me, a steep granite sidewalk while off trail trekking to the lake. During Spring runoff, it would provide as hard surface, an impressive natural spillway. Water carved basins, bird bath size, dot its surface.
But the plan for today is that Kristina and I will stick to the main trail, ensuring we don’t overdo it by adding on several more miles to our hike.
Ahead, a log bridge is still the best place to cross the diverging stream now redirected by deadfall.
Thimbleberries are grabbed up quickly, gently, because they are delicate. They are better than raspberries to my tastebuds. They grow lush, well nourished by creek and acidic decaying pine.
Narrowing and splitting, the path has become game trail size. Wander left (south) and you enter a thick understory. Floating deadfall, snake grass bog and boulders for the more adventurous type! A route less traveled for several reasons but brilliant, nonetheless… Ha! I digress…
Keeping with the more direct route we stay to the north side. Climbing over fallen logs, Kristina says she needs a snack to help fuel her. We settle right there on a log and face towards the lake roughly forty yards from the water. A squirrel sprints into the silence as we eat. Tiny claws scratch lightly over log bark. Each passing moment, it inches closer to us. Evidently it is accustomed to such lunch breaks here in its forest, circling in towards us with little nose drawing in our peculiar scents.
Finished, we step back out toward the trail that will take us to a small strip of open shoreline.
We navigate around a primitive fire site. It holds no heat.
Scanning this site and looking up, it appears that perhaps a child has hung a food cache line into a small tree.
The mistakes of it being so close to the sleeping area coupled with its low placement… which would not prevent a bear from reaching it, makes me think; it must be the work of a child learning the technique? or someone lacking proper understanding… With a little effort, even I could reach the paracord lines as it hangs empty, twisting in the breeze.
The limb used to elevate the line is also too low to effectively serve in this capacity. Hmm, this too has struck my curiosity and I wonder who did this and why.
What would a person tie up this low?
Kristina and I pick our way towards the lake. An enormous rockslide has come to temporary rest further down the shore. It appears as if the mountain has shed rocks in an action resembling a snow avalanche. Rapid erosion due to a harsh climate seems likely.
We carefully tread around tiny tree seedlings and large rocks to drink it all in.
The clarity of the green hued water is mesmerizing.
Thoughts we had to take a swim have departed from us. Heat gained during the 1,350 feet climb to this point is rapidly stripped off us by gusts of winds that seem out of nowhere. Kristina has goose bumps.
Conversation has become difficult as the wind whips the clarity from our words before landing garbled in the other’s ears. We have lost the ability to comprehend one another.
We turn our feet towards the path we’ve just completed. This tiny plot of shore did not impart the respite we were looking for, we were stirred to leave instead.
Turning my attention back to the huckleberries that would once again refresh, we step our way from the windy shoreline and back toward the sun-soaked patches.
From there, as I often do, I turn to examine the view of the path just covered.
In a depression near the water where we were just standing, closer in proximity to the swinging paracord, there is a mountain bike laying on the ground. It has been stowed recently and with some haste as the top pedal is still rotating.
I scan the area and observe no one.
The rider has vanished.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Surprise Encounter in the Back Country of Montana…
It gets dicey.
Thoughts to consider:
How do we enjoy big, adventure filled lives in light of possible threats?
Preparedness, Determination, Readiness and underlying Faith is my best answer. Because even in the indescribable beauty of the back country, a threat may emerge in your path.
I pray you are ready. If you are not prepared, please seek out appropriate training. Like three strands of rope braided together, we are much stronger with support from one another.
I am motivated to help you find solutions, confidence through skill and discernment. I consider it an honor of high responsibility to assist you in becoming a capable defender.
Do you have a story to share from which others might glean knowledge through your experience? Please, share!
Be smart and carry on,
Text or phone (406) 961-5375
Thank you, Kristina, for amazing friendship. I look forward to the adventures still ahead of us!