Memories of a Nanny: Montana 2010 Day 2 (part 1)

Waking up was easier than I thought it would be and, for the amount of sleep I had received, I felt fairly rested (this would be proven wrong later in the day, but at the moment sleep was the last thing I needed).

Because of where I slept, it didn’t take long for me to realize how gorgeous the land around us was. It was so green. There were other colors, but the green is what I remember most vividly. And not far from the patio was a river… I had heard the water the night before but I didn’t realize how close it was. When Kara woke up, she walked past me to the sliding glass door, plopped down on her knees and just stared out the window.

This is an accurate interpretation of how I felt about my surroundings.

If you recall, I mentioned we had a 7 am wake up call. This was because we were going on a Jet Boat trip on the Rogue River, and had to be there at a certain time (for the life of me I cannot remember what that time was, but I know we had to leave the house by 8-ish). We made good time, because once we reached Hell’s Gate, we had time to take a group picture and still waited in line.

The walls along where we waited were painted with a rather large wilderness mural. There were streams, trees, and various animals, and Kara and Camden and I spent a good amount of time walking up and down the length of the wall and looking at the different wildlife areas.

This is one of the precious memories I mentioned before. I can’t remember what animal I had seen, but I pointed it out to Cam and he got very excited about it (I want to say it was a beaver or a weasel. Something small). Off the cuff, I tried to make the sound the animal made, and Camden immediately attempted to mimic me. This quickly deteriorated into us blowing raspberries at each other for a good 5 minutes and laughing hysterically. We also managed to go on a walk up and around the area where we were waiting, but that was cut short by the boat arriving.

Once we were all seated on the boat, the driver began to let us know a bit about it. It’s name was the Miss Grant’s Pass, and we were about to embark on a 36 mile, 4 hour round trip ride. Being the astute student that I am, I zoned out most of the other instructions. I did, however, hear him mention that fishermen may attempt to hitchhike with the wrong finger. The boat started up, and I have to admit it was going much faster than I thought it would. This was punctuated on even more when we stopped, and everyone got soaked.

Let me stop for a second, because I forgot to mention the weather. The day was beautiful, but it started out slightly overcast and pretty cold. The speeds we were going made the air feel even colder, and once that water hit us, I started shivering. I had picked a bad day to wear shorts.

Stopping became an aerobic exercise, with people all throughout the boat ducking and holding up whatever they could if the vessel so much as slowed down (we would not realize till the entirety of the trip was over that the first time was the only instance we would get soaked, save for a few spins ). As we proceeded down the river, the driver continued to tell us the history of certain areas along the banks, like some land that was in the civil war, and at what point the land was protected by a water ways act… it was all very fascinating. Until he started talking about how spinning the boat picks up centrifugal force.

My area of the boat got pretty wet on the first spin, and the driver was absolutely not joking. There was some definite force. But none of us were flung from the boat and the trip continued without a hitch.

I’m at a loss as to how it started, but when we were a good distance down the river, talk started of alligators in the water. Alligators, lions, and – worst of all – rabid skunks owned the waters and liked to jump into boats. It wasn’t long after those tales were woven that stories of wolves joined the tapestry as well. We were able to dispose of some of the alligators by running over them, as evidenced by the harsh bumping the boat experienced. We left the rest of them to the Bald Eagles, because everyone knows Bald Eagles eat alligators. That’s why they’re our national bird. Somehow, we had managed to create our very own history of the Rogue River, and I have to admit I was slightly shocked and offended that anyone would allow children in such a death trap. I never would have let them even board the boat had I known what lie in wait.

At one point I turned to Sandy and said, “What happened on the jet boat trip? Oh, we made up history and animal lore. I couldn’t tell you what actually happened, but I can tell you what didn’t happen.” When we were deep in Water Ways Act territory, the oat came to an idle so we could keep an eye out for a black tail deer fawn. I’m not entirely sure what it was, but something about the area we stopped at, combined with the sound of the birds and the water sloshing lazily against the side of the boat reminded me of Jurassic Park. This added dinosaurs to the list of animals that inhabited the riverside.

We passed the OK Coral, which would be our final destination before heading back to dock. We were to stay there for about an hour and a half and enjoy a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and biscuits and gravy. All we could eat. The boat came to life as faces lit up, and murmurs could be heard as people discussed the food we would be eating. Everyone was cold, some of us were still damp, and the thought of warm food was so promising, the crowd was fairly alert for the remainder of the ride.

We proceeded down the river, into the Hell’s Gate Canyon. One could tell at first glance why it was named such. The rapids crashed against large, foreboding rocks, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit nervous. I held Kara a little tighter - she had opted to sit with me earlier on and had since fallen asleep - as the driver informed us of the celebrity status the canyon held. Before long we turned around and headed back to the OK Coral, where we docked and started our long trek up to the restaurant. The air was thin, and it wasn't long before lungs were gasping for air and muscles were crying for rest.

But the pain wasn't for nothing. The winding uphill path dumped us out at a large cabin like structure, where dozens of tables lined the walls. Each table had an array of fruit, champagne, ciders, and juices that would not have been nearly as appetizing had we not just walked as far as we did (it wasn’t really that far, nor was it like climbing a mountain, but it was a pretty steep climb, and a number of things was leaving me tired to begin with). We took to the tables quickly, pouring cider and mimosas for the appropriate ages. As we settled in, we started on the fruit. I am not lying when I say it was close to the best fruit I've ever tasted. The strawberries were superb, the melons fantastic (even watermelon, a fruit that I would go s far as to say I hate, was quite tasty), and the pineapple was just the right amount of tangy. We laughed and talked and ate as we waited for the warmer food.

The first warm food was gravy and different breads. I'm pretty sure my stomach leapt with joy when it was placed on the table. We took to it with great enthusiasm. The food felt good in my stomach, and tasted great as well. After a little while, an array of sausage, bacon, potatoes and eggs were placed in front of us, and were immediately dished out. The children were all but bursting with excitement, no doubt overjoyed to not have to sit and be strapped in.

Again I’m going to have to stop to share another amusing memory. Near the end of our meal, as things began to slow down a bit, Bria began to entertain herself with a piece of bacon. For some reason, she seemed perfectly content placing said piece of bacon in a water glass. She would then clap, look at me with a look that can only be described as mischievous accomplishment, and then smile. The piece of bacon would be removed from the glass, picked at, and the process was repeated. Her little face always looked so mischievous, as if her constant placing and removing of the bacon would somehow trigger an event none of us knew anything about. One of the most precious pictures I have from this trip is of her giving me one of those looks. You can see her glassed bacon in the background.

The rest of the brunch was exquisite, the food warm and fresh. And the more food we put away, the brighter our moods became. We talked about the trip back, and spoke of naps and rest with large smiles on our faces and choruses of laughter. But, while the food was fantastic and warmed our bellies, the wind got to be a bit much, so we opted to move into the sun. Once out there, the conversation gave way to tons of laughter as photos were attempted to be taken. Getting caught up in the moment and thus not backing my actions with any type of substantial thought, I engaged Camden and Kara in a game. I pretended I was a monster and chased them down the hill, much like I did at home. They ran screaming and laughing away from me, constantly losing their balance and falling or rolling a short distance before regaining their feet and repeating the process.

Near the bottom of the hill (I say near, I really should say at. There was no longer a downward slope when we reached this point) there were a few trees, and I snapped another precious picture of Camden and Kara standing on the stump of an old tree, after which we decided to head back up the hill. We got a few feet when Kara requested I hold her and run up the hill. I agreed.

It was not long before I regretted this decision. The hill was far steeper on the way up than it was on the way down, and the added weight of a nearly 3 year old child did not help the situation. I was even more worn out when I reached the top of the hill than I had been when we made the trek up before breakfast. After a little while, we decided to head back to the dock for the return trip. This trip was much faster, because we stopped less for sight seeing and spent time doing spins and getting soaked. The Miss Grant’s Pass spent the trip weaving in and out of the path of another jet boat.

I have to take a moment and express the awe and respect I have for jet boat drivers. I used to think it was difficult controlling a car; I can’t imagine having to cut and turn like they do. It truly is a skill.

Like the trip up, I spent a portion of the return voyage with a child on my knee. It’s a great way to experience something like that, because children do a great job of sharing their excitement. Holding Camden and seeing the smile on his face while we bounced along the water was so fantastic, and I got fairly good at sliding him onto the seat next to me to prepare him the spins. One quick note: the spins were interesting, because you were always warned before hand, but due to the roar of the engine and the rush of the water, it was very difficult to hear. Sitting by yourself, it’s not a big deal to simply feel when a turn is starting and hold on for dear life. But when you’ve got a child with you, your senses need to be heightened. You need to feel the turn before it starts, and you need to be able to tune out the other sounds so you can hear the driver when he announces turns. This gives you the time you need to slide the child onto the seat next to you and hold onto them as well. It was quite a test of one’s listening skills, and it was amazing how quickly people adjusted.

I’m afraid I’d regret it if I concluded the Jet Boat memory without recounting one of the most memorable experiences. I stated earlier that we had spotted bald eagles on the way to the OK Coral. These eagles were merely sitting in trees, though, not doing much else. As we were heading back, we spotted yet another bald eagle, and the boat slid to a stop.

“While you were brunching,” the driver announced, “I went fishing to kill some time. I caught some fish, and we’re gonna throw one out and see if the Eagle will get it.” I was thinking what I’m sure everyone else was thinking: Yeah, right. Still, I watched as they tossed the fish out and… nothing happened.

“Can anyone whistle real loud?” A bit of murmuring broke out, and one man let loose with a whistle – the kind my dad used to do when I was a child… that sound usually meant I was in trouble – and everyone stared in awe as the bald eagle spread its wings and swooped down to get the fish. It circled the boat a few times, before grabbing the fish and heading back to the tree. I had never seen anything like it, it truly was amazing.

As we piled into the van to head back to the house, I checked the clock. It was hard to believe that all of that had happened before 1.

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