TRYOUTS FOR THE MIDDLE FORK SWIM TEAM
According to Amy, a guide at Montana Raft Company, any day on the Middle Fork is a good day. On a weather perfect day in July, 50 people ready to enjoy the upper part of this beautiful river were in total agreement. The Montana Woman Foundation hosted its annual raft fundraiser on July 17, 2010. The journey began at the Montana Raft Company located in West Glacier at 9:00 a.m. It is amazing how sunshine, the promise of a fun day spent on the river and laughter can morph even the most “not a morning person” into a bubbly early bird.
The fifty fast-forming friends loaded a bus ready for their 45-mile drive along scenic Highway 2 that parallels the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. After reaching their destination, they unloaded, politely listened to the safety talk, and then digressed into talking “smack” about water fights and not becoming the newest member of the Middle Fork’s swim team.
However, Steve Middlesworth decided he not only wanted to be a new member, but was aiming higher, i.e., the position of team captain, qualifying with two trips over the side of the raft and into the clear water. Judy Shaffer decided once was enough for her and remained glued to her seat for most of the journey. We discovered that the person the farthest from home (Florida) and the person closest to home (Essex) were one in the same: Sherri Conover resides in Florida for most of the year, but spends summers and holidays in Essex. The runner-up for greatest distance was Dwight Hawley from Seattle.
For those not familiar with the upper section of the river, I am truly sorry. You see, the trip between Bear Creek and Paola Creek is my absolute favorite. Yes, the lower section is more action-packed with “Bone Crusher” and other notable rapids. However, the upper portion allows you to float past the Walton Goat Lick and under huge train trestles. As we had eagerly anticipated, goats were spotted high up on the mountainside; however, they were a bit more elusive around the riverbanks. Rafters enjoyed views of bald eagles perched in trees, red tailed hawks flying along the river in search of lunch and osprey in nests teetering high on fragile looking trees. The wonderful sunshine quickly chased away the chill of the spraying water each time the boat encountered a rapid. Everyone ended up equally soaked... our guides made sure of it. Every rafter had a paddle and spent the day trying to keep in sync with everyone else in the boat. It’s not an easy task to stay focused on paddling commands while being constantly distracted by the natural beauty of Glacier’s southern tip.
A hearty lunch was donated by Great Harvest of Kalispell. The sandwiches were wonderful, but the cookies stole the show. Lunch was enjoyed at the Walton Ranger Station where laughter was shared and adventurous moments relived. Overheard were enthusiastic comments like: “Did you see the fish in the water?” “Wow, the water is so clear.” “We got stuck on the rocks and had to bounce up and down to get dislodged!” “It was awesome floating under the train trestles and seeing the trains go through the snowshed.” “Watch out for that group of women... they have water cannons.” After about an hour of great eats and camaraderie, everyone reloaded onto the rafts ready for the rest of the adventure that includes remarkable geological viewing opportunities between the Ranger Station and Paola Creek.
The journey ended around 4 p.m. at Paola. A water fight between two good friends provided the group with entertainment while the rafts were being loaded on the trailer. Thank you, Sylvia and Rhonda, for putting on a great show! With a group of happily tired rafters, the bus was somewhat quieter on the trip back to West Glacier. Everyone was in total agreement that the day had been perfect and plans were already being made to participate in next year’s trip.
The trip was a huge success in many ways.
- We returned with the same number of folks that began the trip, thanks to the professional, highly trained and just plain fun guides of Montana Raft Company. Thank you, Randy of Montana Raft, for helping make this trip possible.
- Bee Broadcasting and the Daily Interlake did a great job getting the word out about this year’s fundraiser. Thank you.
- Good food makes for satisfied tummies that make for happy rafters. Again, thank you, Nanci, owner of Great Harvest, for the great sack lunches. (For anyone looking for a convenient and satisfying way to provide lunch to a group, check out Great Harvest's sack lunches. They ROCK!!) And last but certainly not least...
- We had a wonderful, delightful group of men and women ready to have fun and willing to get wet. Thank you to everyone who participated. We hope to see you next year!