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The Long Lake
Lake Koocanusa, Montana
Day 102: Sept. 13, 2002

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I had been following the Old Highway to Eureka, which wound along the Tobacco River. The day was growing lighter and warmer. Green hills rose above the town. Finally the river opened into a wide mouth where it had gathered all the wandering waters together, and they rushed into a turquoise lake with great stony walls on either side. It looked like it had been an ancient river valley carved by glacier once upon a time. Now it reminded me of the lochs of Scotland. The lake was long, and the road skirted the rolling and windy shoreline. Its waters glinted from the sun and stretched beyond my vision winding past whimsical roots of mountains to either side. It was a lonely road and a long lake. The day was bright but it passed uneasy. Except for the great red pines standing like mute sentinels, the day was lifeless, not even the quick moving shadows of buzzards broke the shimmering glare of the tarmac. Only the occasional passing RV, the paved road, and a great bridge of steel spanning to the other side of the lake were signs that I was not the first to pass through here.

When the sun was high above and the rolling hills seemed to oppress me I turned off the main road and found myself on a shore shadowed by the forested banks. I knelt upon the rocky edge where violet wild flowers with white leaves swayed gently with the lake breeze. There I dipped my hands into the turquoise waters and washed the sweat from my brow. The sun reflected off the lake, and I was tempted to go for a swim to cool my overheated body. Around this time I began to feel a heaviness that made me want to lay down and rest here forever, as if the things I carried were heavier than the load in my trailer. I told myself that there would be rest in Seattle. There, I would rest, and catch a flight to Michigan to attend the wedding of my cousin Derek and his fiancée Lindsay. I shook off the heaviness and went on. That night I camped along the lakeshore, falling asleep to the sound of coyote howls, then waking up, chilled to the marrow. It was a cycle that repeated itself many times, until I broke out the space blanket.

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