pages fly away 17

While it had been cold and overcast outside of Spokane, while traveling down the 95 through Idaho, it actually started getting hot, up to eighty degrees.  I thought I’d probably drive to Boise, but then saw that it was over three hundred miles to get there.  The other option was to get on the 12 once I reached the Nez Perce Reservation and head towards Missoula and the Flathead Reservation in Montana.  Up until the very last second, I didn’t know what I’d do, but once I reached the Lewistown Lookout, with a view of the first capital of Idaho, along with all the hills and Clearwater River below, I instinctively followed the river east and got on the 12.

Nez Perce means pierced nose, a name bestowed on them by the French, perhaps erroneously, as it better described the Chinook tribe.  The Nez Perce call themselves the Nimiipuu, or the People.  Although their ancestral territory is in Oregon, a treaty in 1863, that came to be known as the Steal Treaty, saw them relocated to reservations in Idaho, Washington, and Oklahoma.  The privatization of the reservations yielded subsequent losses, so that today a majority of the occupants of the reservation in Idaho are non-Natives.

As I drove along the Clearwater River, I pulled over at an archaeological site, that of a Nez Perce Village where pit houses were discovered that date back at least five thousand years.  A few miles from there I came across a signpost telling the legend of Coyote’s Fishnet.  Exasperated by nosy Black Bear, Coyote threw his fishing net upon one mountain, then turned Black Bear to stone, and cast him upon another.  They became landmarks that natives can easily identify.  Coyote also used the same magic powers to turn a quarreling ant and yellowjacket into a stone arch.  I read about that legend a few miles down the road.

It had been a week of manic driving and I was starting to crack a bit.  I’d started the day off by worrying, and was falling into a depression, beginning to fret about everything, even though the road I was on at the moment, running parallel to the river, with a sky up above, stacked with white clouds, was like something out of a vision.  I knew I was tired and kept reminding myself that was why.  It would be a good day to find a campground earlier than later and try to catch up on some sleep.

After driving about an hour, I came across a town called Kooskia.  A mural on the side of a bar proclaimed into to be the Gateway to the Wilderness and pictured Bigfoot stepping around the corner.  I was so tired at that point I thought of looking for a hotel, but instead filled up with gas, got a microwave cheeseburger, and kept driving.

Just a few miles down the road, there was a bridge that crossed the river and an arrow pointing to a campground.  I crossed the bridge and ended up driving a long way down a dirt road to reach it.  It was a good thing that I did, as it was nearly perfect, with many open spots beside the bank.  No reservations required.  It was the good old-fashioned camping that I was used to, grabbing an envelope from the registration site, filling it out, stuffing the money inside, not much money either, maybe ten or fifteen bucks, then sticking the tab on the post to let people know the spot was taken.

It was perfect camping weather.  Not too hot and not too cold yet.  The only problem was the flies.  I went to sit on the picnic table and play ukelele and they attacked me.  If I would’ve tried meditating, they would’ve carried me off.  It was too early to zip myself up in the tent.  I sought cover in the river, changing into shorts and hobbling over the stones to get to it.  It was ice cold, but incredible.  I hadn’t bathed in a week.  The stink that came off me stopped the flies in their tracks.  The water was shallow where I was at.  I lay on my belly and pushed myself towards the small rapids with my hands.  Then I was off zooming forward, plunging headfirst into a waist-high pool. 

A little of that went a long way.  I got out freezing, with a big ice cream headache, and walked like a mime stepping on glass.  It took about ten minutes to get back to the car.  After changing back into my clothes, I went back to my ukelele trance.  Either the flies had learned their lesson, or I was just too blissed-out to care.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s