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moving downstream

May 4, 2011

So I’ve moved. The lucky lease on the Georgetown cabin ran out and I left that pretty little piece of paradise on Sunday, in the snow. The third straight day of snow. Spring hadn’t quite gotten there yet. The day before I left I got visited by something I’m sure I’ve never really seen before—a great gray owl. I know it was a great gray owl, as opposed to some other sort of owl, even though I don’t know birds from squat, because I got to stand on the porch for close to 15 minutes with a bird book in my hand and positively ID it. It had the white bowtie, the dished-in face and the characteristic lack of pointy ears. It was a great gray and it was huge and it just sat there looking at me and collecting snow on its head. Later in the afternoon it came back to the same perch and stayed a couple minutes more. I never saw it coming or going. Never saw it on the wing.

Got some pictures of it though. This one probably turned out best:

So I moved into Bonner, though the mailing address is Missoula, and it’s hard to tell Bonner from Milltown. But the place I’m living has the lower Blackfoot River valley in its backyard, and about a 10-minute walk brings you to this view of the defunct Stimson timber mill. It just closed for good a few years ago, after waffling about it for years before. They’re doing remediation work at the mill site. Just downstream from here is where the Blackfoot, visible at lower right, looking downstream, joins the Clark Fork where Milltown Reservoir used to be and no longer is. The fabled free confluence.

This is the mill viewed from across the Blackfoot, as taken this afternoon:

The confluence is closed. Which is to say you’re not supposed to mess around on either the Clark Fork or the Blackfoot in this area for possibly as long as two years. There’s a lot of work still going on out there. The local newspaper runs regular stories about the closure’s status, because people keep “trespassing” and running it anyway. The rumor is they confiscate boats, if they catch you. And it would be easy to get caught. But even if you missed the news, you’ll be warned en route:

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