Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Just a Year Ago

Time does fly! A year ago my daughter and I went to Montana to care for my mother who had emergency surgery. After a week of recuperating at home, we did what we always do ... get out to explore, shop and have fun. This picture was taken at Skalkaho Falls, between Phillipsburg and Hamilton. We had gone to Phillipsburg for a day of sightseeing, shopping and panning for sapphires (what else does a designer of handcrafted jewelry do when she finds herself surrounded by huge mountains of the rocky kind?) when we decided to head home on a route that is off the beaten path. Well, *I* decided since I was doing all the driving!

I asked my Mom about the road and she said: "It's beautiful, very scenic, but it can be a bit hairy," with a touch of nonchalance in her voice.

Now, mind you, my Mom is afraid of heights, very, very afraid. Her idea of hairy and my idea of hairy are totally different. Besides, I figure if it was white-knuckle hairy she'd have insisted we go back to the interstate.

Traveling from Phillipsburg on this route, you start by following a lovely Rocky Mountain creek through a verdant forest of lodge pole pines. Slowly you notice the elevation change, especially with the ears requiring the hard swallow to pop and relieve the building pressure. Eventually, the pavement stops and you pass a sign that states when the road is seasonally closed. The road is a mountain pass with all the switchbacks that are typical in western Montana.

I was driving relatively slowly enjoying the breath-taking scenery. I, like my Mom, have a fear of heights, but not as bad. Besides, the direction we were traveling had me against the mountain. At one point, I was paying more attention to the sights than the road and found myself veering to my left, into what would have been on-coming traffic if it's a well-traveled road, which thankfully it isn't. I made my quick correction with a mental note to be more cautious. As I was making the correction, I glanced to my left and saw ... OMG, saw practically NOTHING. That's when it dawned on me the road has no guardrails and the drop was about 2,000 feet at about a 45 degree pitch. In other word, death-dealing if one makes a huge mistake.

My knuckles went white as I gripped the steering wheel and got back over to my side of the road, the side with the mountain which I hugged with all my life for the rest of the trip! My Mom and daughter continued their banter until my Mom finally realized I was quiet. When she inquired why I was mute, I confessed I was afraid, very, very afraid! I could have taken their lives with my inattention to the road! I had the anxiety attack under control, barely, but she sensed my disturbance and asked if I wanted her to drive. Less than two weeks after major surgery? With the fear of heights that was greater than mine?? That's OK, I'll get us off this mountain safely. Slowly to be sure ... I was creeping along about 20mph, but I'd get us off.

Once we started on the downhill portion, I felt myself relaxing. On certain portions, one can look across the canyon as see the road cut on the other side. To think that's where we were minutes ago. And would you look at the drop if we fell off the road!! Down, anxiety, down. Can't wait until dinner. I'll be having a double, if you please!

After the hairiest part of the drive was over, I was greeted with these beautiful falls! Absolutely wild, untamed and definitely off the beaten path. I stopped the car and we all got out for a half-hour of cool spray and beautiful mountain scenery. Daughter and I scrambled over the rocks and a very lovely lady with her daughters joined us. She took the picture posted.

Just a year ago, another time and definitely in another place from the same old, same old.

I miss Montana. I miss the mountains.

12 comments:

Kelly said...

what a lovely thing to see at the end of a stressful journey. i just love waterfalls!

Treasures by Tina said...

Great story! Sounds like the destination was worth the trip! :)

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Sara said...

Looks like some beautiful scenery.

Craft Junkie said...

This is beautiful...the story and the photo.

Tammy Warren said...

Waterfalls are beautiful...especially at the end of a rainbow.

Rebecca @ Freaky Frugalite said...

WOW! What a narrative! I would have freaked. But it sounds like you had a memorable time. ;)

Kalilea said...

Wow, when I was reading this, I realized I had my hands clenched as I was picturing that drive. If it had been at me, I think I would have had to pull over after that veering incident. I don't mind heights in most instances, but those mountain roads with no guard rails really freak me out.

Doug Kueffler said...

Nice job on the scary drive. My spouse feels the same way. Now that I know the mountain is on the right driving westward from Philipsburg, I may yet get her up to see the beautiful falls.
Doug in Missoula

Thyme2dream said...

what a lovely story!! Mountain driving is beautiful, but can be terrifying at the same time! My big brave scared of nothing husband is a basket case when we get on a road like this:-)

Mike Golch said...

The waterfalls looke great. I hope that you are having a great day!

lonestar818 said...

Beautiful picture! Even if it was a scary drive... dh and I had some crazy drives through the mountains of Colorado back in our college days, after the first trip we learned not to travel that part at night :/.