Bats in Montana (The Lost Month part 3)

Greetings Fam-fans! I know most of us have at least someone headed or already “back to school”, and the seasons are already shifting away from the long languid days of sun and play, but I’m here today to wax photographic once more in celebration of all the fun we had this Summer. And if you thought the last post had a gratuitous number of photos — well, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

Every Summer, we get together with my parents for what has become known as Bats at the Beach. Usually we do that down at the Gulf Coast of Alabama and/or Florida, near where they live. This year, however, they were already planning to come up to Montana for my cousin’s wedding and decided to make a family vacation of it. What follows is a mere smattering of the almost 2-week adventure:

The morning after they arrived, the whole kit and caboodle of us, including three kids, two parents, two grandparents, our yellow lab, Henry, all the gear and food and entertainment (meaning movies and music and cameras and i-Whatevers) — loaded into both Sylvia (the minivan) and Cherry (the Subaru wagon) and flew the 90 minutes up to and part way around the western shore of Flathead Lake, and to this gorgeous lake house my parents rented for us all.Bats2014v Here’s the view from inside the living room with those giant picture windows above.Bats2014c Pretty much as soon as we arrived, we partially unpacked, and then began exploring and photographing.Bats2014a And then we got to taking pictures of each other taking pictures…Bats2014dBelow, is the shot Bella is taking above… And yes, we were still really enjoying “fun with photo filters!” which is why I look like I’m straight out of an old Polaroid.Bats2014e Echo, checking out the view with those trusty binoculars… We had some Bald Eagle neighbors with a fledgeling that were a nearly constant source of interest.Bats2014bThe girls explored the whole place, climbing on everything they were allowed. Here, we caught Xi during some picturesque footstool leaping.

For the first two days of the trip, we rented this little beauty of a vessel and were suddenly a sea- (okay, lake-) faring family. We were instantly tying knots, and leaping on and off docks, and pushing away or guiding to this aquatic vessel!Bats2014gAnd then, navigating smooth, and/or choppy, and/or potentially tree-littered waters, and/or foreign shorelines;
Bats2014jbracing and bouncing as we plotted and re-plotted course(s) and adjusted velocity and trim and grip(s)Bats2014i Boat life…
Nana gets it.Bats2014h

The first night, we boated half an hour across the enormous, mountain-tooth-rimmed lake to a dock restaurant recommended to us by the boat rental guy. First time I (or any of us, I’ll wager) had boated up to a parking spot — fitting in like a minivan in a compact spot between to other bigger and no doubt more deftly-parked vessels, feeling the eyes of everyone at dinner on the deck glued to us as we struggled to gracefully slip into place without crushing the bow, or hitting something with the propeller. We laughed and cursed a lot, but we made it.Bats2014lWhile waiting for dinner, the girls played chess and drank virgin piña coladas — the latter, a long-standing Bats at the Beach tradition that made it’s way to Montana this year…Bats2014kNana and I “grew up” at the lake in Alabama, often on my grandfather’s boat. I had at least one birthday at my grandparents’ permanently parked camper there. My mom, her brothers, sister, and both parents (though I don’t recall ever seeing my grandma do it) all waterskied. I, myself, was an aquatic mammal for what feels in memory like the majority of every Summer; and also eventually learned to ski as well as any of them. And yet, in nearly 18 years of lake experience, I think I only drove a boat a couple of times. I, now, totally see the appeal…
Bats2014nMy girls planted themselves in the bow and looked just like I did when I was their age — maybe a little hairier…Bats2014m

Flathead Lake is crowned with gorgeous vistas in every direction. I could easily have filled this post solely with shots of the various views.
Bats2014r Look at the shot below and hear ZZTop blaring at “11”, and imagine the wind tearing passed your face, and the boat pounding rhythmically on the broken surface of the lake, and the warm liquid gold sunlight on your forearms and thighs, and nothing in the world breaking the concentrated bliss of the instant. It’s a choice moment, like eating perfect Key Lime pie, or seeing your baby smile, or sinking into the precision pitch of Coltraine’s Lush Life — they’re all different but the quality is the same, am I right? The aliveness is the thing. And that’s what I can still see, silver-lined in the expression on my face, below, written in the light glinting on the waves before the bow…Bats2014o The boat guy — wish I could do him a little better justice than that title, but it’s absolutely apropos — also clued us in to this little spot along our route toward the southern end of the lake; petroglyphs preserved in a cliff at the water’s edge. They may not look like much to you, but we were able to boat right up to them, and that was pretty cool…Bats2014pWe continued on our way south, flying over the waves and rocking out to ZZTop, watching the mountain range cradling the lake slowly drift by for over half an hour. We curved along the western shoreline, winding between tiny islands, swaying inland as far as we could without having to slow down. We did loop-the-loops and jumped our own wake. We laughed as hard as we could and hooted and whistled and fist-pumped the stiff gale smacking around us while singing the off-hand verse of 80’s gut rock. We were “Nation Wide”.Bats2014zpDown at the end of Flathead Lake, it squeezes off into a wide river that snakes it’s meandering way along high whittled cliffs like these for a couple miles or so passed “civilization”.Bats2014zsGrandpa George took the helm and the tunes to The Delicate Sound of Thunder.Bats2014zrBella has recently slipped seamlessly into her spot in the third generation of Pink Floyd lovers in our family, so she was only too pleased for the switch in tunes… Bats2014zqHenry’s fine with anything so long as he’s with his pack.Bats2014zo

We puttered merrily down to the toe of the lake where the Kerr Dam sifts the power of the water’s flow back into a creek some 24o feet below that slides off into the Montana wilderness. Then we turned around to cruise on back.

The girls did the traditional water sport activity.Bats2014qAnd after filling the boat up with gas at the marina (which, incidentally, involved Natalie leaping, goggle-clad, into the lake to go diving for Grandpa George’s credit card which was nonchalantly dropped in by the gas attendant — who, in her defense, did have to help us park the boat without crashing into the dock and help us get to the gas and keep us from floating away…), I did the traditional water sport activity for “older kids”. It was quite a mind- and body-ful to be back out there, after a few years at least now, zipping over the splattering surface, hopping the boat wake, sliding out beside the boat on wide turns, and seeing the world from the back of speeding water-vessel once (twice…!) again. I could get used to this whole boat thing…

The hot tub on site at the Eagle Palace (that’s the name our girls gave lake house…) made it so that we could go back and forth between the cozy warm water and the decidedly less warm lake. It was also nice for soothing those waterskiing muscles that I forgot I had…

The moon was ripening into fullness while we were there, and each night, it rose like a mythical giant peach over the indigo peaks beyond the eastern shore of the lake. It reflected that same shimmering yellow flame across the water into the cove, and at us it seemed, each night, before climbing the sky and heading west. Bats2014zu From the spot above, Grandpa George shot a similar picture (which is lovely though not shown here), then turned around and caught this little gem, below. You can see the moon reflected on the far left of the window, Nana napping in the middle of the room within, and me making some sort of concoction to the right, with the field of blue light and the tree shadows overlaying… mmm-mmm, a perfectly delicious representation of that moment!Bats2014zf And first thing in the morning Grandpa was back at it! Here’s the little bridge that led to the local island in the dawning light.Bats2014zg And one of the namesakes of The Palace — a Bald Eagle — on a tree on the island.Bats2014zh The tree with the eagles’ humungous nest was actually on the property, right next to the caretaker’s house and in full view from our porch at all times. Here, one of the parents is back, either trying to coax the youngster out for a test flight, or simply resting after the latest food delivery. Remember this bird is about 3.5-4 feet tall from top to tail-tip, so you can really get a sense of the hobbit-home that is the nest nearby. It’s a studio apartment up there waggling at the top of that wobbly pine!Bats2014y One morning, the fledgling did emerge. Bats2014zj And while she didn’t take flight yet, she did give her wings a mighty s t r e t c hBats2014zi

Another day, on our third boat tour, we stopped and disembarked on Wild Horse Island (no, we didn’t name it that, though, it does sound like one we’d come up with…); which does actually still have currently on it a few wild horses, and a few wild goats, and “a donkey-or-something” according to local rumor. Though, I did go for a brief hike up the hill, I saw no wild things whatsoever. Except for these characters…

So many of the lakes in Montana have this kind of shoreline, which is just so very incredibly different from the silty, muddy, clay banks of every lake I grew up in. It draws me into a stone-sifting daze every time.Bats2014zt

One of the other lovely offerings at Eagle Palace was the paddle-boards. We’d never really had much experience with them before, so it was super fun for us to have some unlimited access to explore “the Cove at Angel Point” and get a sense of paddle-board life. It’s got nothing on boat life, but it ain’t bad.Bats2014w At all.Bats2014xThe girls did almost every conceivable variation of giving each other rides.Bats2014za Xi, in fact, turned out to be quite the ferrywoman. Here, she’s taking Echo out to the island and back.Bats2014z Bella also scored a good long ride…Bats2014zb One of our other major pastimes at the dock was lake-jumping.Bats2014zc We all got in on it at one moment or another. Here, Natalie’s trying to get Henry to jump in with her.Bats2014zd Neither that nor the stick we threw in for him were convincing enough. We eventually kinda had to shove him awkwardly off the end of the dock, or toss him kersplashing in — both seemed too harsh to continue for long. But he did go for the stick once he was in…Bats2014zeHere’s the one leap that Grandpa George was able to capture on video:

The camera-shake, and the reason he only got the one video was because he was otherwise occupied… As he should be on vacation! That’s “float life”.Bats2014zzd

The girls got some photos for their next album cover(s).
Bats2014zm Bats2014zn

And though Grandpa took 100 shots of the interior, exterior, and every angle of Eagle Palace (and we kept a bunch of them for our own enjoyment), I just wanted to share with you this one in particular because I think it most captures the feel of the Palace itself. It was either this shot, or the one of the steam shower…Bats2014zk

After several lovely days and nights, we left the Eagle Palace and went back to the Gus Palace for a couple days to regroup. Then we set off for and found our way to another luxury cabin at another wonderful Montana hotspot. This time in the namesake of the Big Sky Country — Big Sky, Montana, itself. Nana’s one brother, “Big Jim Handsome” as my girls teasingly call him, and “Aunt Sue” were throwing a wedding for their twin daughter, Erin. So we, and Nana’s other brother, Rich (who’s the tallest in the family, but still is just called “Uncle Rich”), all convened at this cabin to be on hand for what I guess was really a “destination wedding” though we all live somewhat near the destination…Bats2014zl I love this shot of Nana, below, right out of the 70’s… Except, notice the groovy modern hot tub (that’s 2 and 0 for “hot tubs on site”!).Bats2014zv Bella, much like other times we’ve been out in the woods together, availed herself of the opportunity to borrow a phone and do some photography. The next several shots are from a hike we took out the back door of the cabin…Bats2014zw through the woods…Bats2014zx and out intoBats2014zy

the movie location for Heidi.
Bats2014zz Bella paused for another band photo, above (that’s Lone Peak fading into the distance, by the way), before she went back to clicking off more rounds, herself. The flowers in the meadow were something out of a Dali-Matisse painting (if such a thing could exist without utterly rupturing humanity’s understanding of color and form, of course…)Bats2014zza Bats2014zzb The Echo that Bella captured in the field was pretty lovely as well.Bats2014zzc Wild Garlic and Yarrow and what I think are Northern Green Bog Orchids, among myriad others.Bats2014zzf Bats2014zze Bats2014zzg A few more family band photos…Bats2014zzj Bats2014zzk Bats2014zzlWe had a wonderful, and beautiful time at my cousin’s perfectly quaint mountain wedding. The girls blew bubbles and danced at the reception. My uncle gave a stellar toast to the newlyweds. We all marveled at the happy spectacle.

It was interestingly strange for me, because, when I very first came out to Montana to work and live, 20 years ago (!), I worked and lived at the hotel in Big Sky where my cousin got married; and I suddenly realized as we entered the banquet hall for the reception — “this was where I sat in relative silence and read Leaves of Grass while I was on break from washing dishes in the restaurant!”. I’d never seen the room in any other state than deserted and vacant. I’d never been back there since I left. And here, all at once, I was back at my Montanan beginning, with all this family grown up around me, and these deep roots set down a few valleys over, and this sense of the state and the very wilderness for miles around as my own, my home… It was an eerie, lovely, heart-swelling feeling just perfect for a wedding.Bats2014zziAnother Bella-shot.
Bats2014zzmBesties feeling beautiful.Bats2014zznAfter the wedding, we hung around a couple more days, relaxing, putting together this insane two-sidereversible puzzle, hot-tubbing, hiking, and eating excellent food.Bats2014zzhI made another Goldsworthy-ism with found sticks in the woods near the cabin. On our last morning, the girls and Grandpa George all came down to take a quick look. It’s a little difficult to discern in the band photo, below, but I laid 100 or more barkless, bleached, grey sticks, branch-bits, and twigs parallel to each other in a 12-foot arc from one fallen tree to another, passing and curving around a stump near the mid-point between the felled timbers. Around the stump I made rays of orangey bark-lining radiating outward. On the dead trees laying at each end, I put small piles — of lichen at one end, and old dry elk droppings at the other (you can just barely make out the elk pile at the bottom-right of the photo…).Bats2014zzoAnd that was that. We dropped Nana and Grandpa George off at the airport outside Bozeman (and had a snack with them before leaving) on our way over the passes back to Missoula and home. Our yard was hot and happy and waiting for us. But we only had a couple more days before we took off again for the week to Santa Cruz (as you saw in the last installment of Summer shots).

Which, basically, brings you up-to-date on how amazingly fantastic our Summer was this year. The only other thing you’ve yet to see of what’s been going on around here lately is this:Unschool2014aIt’s officially back to (home)school for us now. And Xi is re-joining the ranks for this year. We’re all super excited to see how it works out — so far, so excellent. She’s even started her own blog to keep track of and share her progress. And she’s having a blast!Unschool2014bIt was sincerely the best Summer on record around here. Part of the continuing saga of our “best year yet”! And we’ve got loads of exciting things coming up!

We’ll keep you informed…


Be well.

About Nathan M McTague, CPCC, CPDPE

I am a full-time parent of three, Writer, Life Coach, Lecturer, Parenting Mentor, and Shamanic Practitioner. In all of the above, I am seeking to assist my fellow humans in their processes of claiming and unleashing their highest potentials.
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