I went on a 10 mile hike last summer up the lower Clark’s Fork on the border of Montana and Wyoming.
It was late enough in the summer that the floods of spring and early summer were mostly just a memory except there were large mud flats that made you realize how the river rages down through there during run off.
This is the section of the river as it exits the deepest part of the canyon and runs toward the high desert sage brush country to the east. So you basically walk from the trail head, which sits is still connected to the last vestige of the flat prairie, toward the mountains which rise up higher and higher on both sides as you walk west toward the Clarks Fork Gorge.
It is a beautiful hike but the trail is extremely rough – too many four wheelers going through there on the weekend and they just tear the trail to pieces, lots of medium size boulders to trip on if you aren’t careful.
But the rough trail and the threat of four wheelers can work in your favor sometimes and so I didn’t see another human all day which gave a sense of solitude that you almost never get anywhere anymore. So it was really special and there were beautiful vistas everywhere you looked.
Here is the poem I wrote about the day.
The Canyon Shadows
Walked all afternoon up the lower Clarks Fork
Just me, the canyon walls and the variegated river
One lost cow kept asking me what I was doing there, alone
The sun was bright and the air mugging hot
As I walked the Canyon narrowed, until it was like a coffin you couldn’t climb out of
There were huge boulders that seemed to have washed down in some primordial flood, they stuck up out of the black mud like the helmets of ancient buried soldiers
I thought of an old friend as the hot wind caressed the sagebrush – four years gone and I just found out
I caught one small fish but let it go back into the clear green water – in no mood for any other kind of death today
I heard a hawk screech at me, way up, riding the thermals in broad slow circles as the afternoon started to exhaust itself
Walking out, I saw Hemingway fishing along one turn of the river and he was really nailing the cutthroat
I felt it was important to discuss matters with him but he was focused on his fishing and the shadows were now emphatically pushing me out of the canyon
Later, as my car came out into the bright sunshine on the freshly laid blacktop on the road to Edelweiss, I saw no one and no one saw me –
Heart Mountain, off in the distance towards Cody, was bragging about how pretty she was and I couldn’t disagree
She asked me to dance…
But I was late getting back to Red Lodge, to more familiar favorite earth – and to Connie, My Love
— Mike Blaylock, 2017