Walking Daydream on Table Mountain

(story and photos by Aaron Schultz)

It’s 8:30 am on a Sunday. I am hiking up Deer Creek, across Table MoTable Mountainuntain, down it's ridge and finishing out past Lava Lake. According to the topo it’s about sixteen miles, not including elevation. Cyber-weather calls for high of 85 with a 40% chance of thunderstorms. A little rain, a little sun, lot’s of miles and a beer hiding under a rock in the Gallatin makes for my version of a perfect day.

Extra camera batteries, check. Flip flops, check. Dog treats, check. Grab the poles and go.

First, the senses tune into the birds and the wind, tickled occasionally by a single strand of a spider web acrossTable Mountain Hike my face. Then the lungs breathe deep but not labored, absorbing air mixed with humidity and pine. The mind and body loosening up, but something’s not quite right…

Stop, dig for the TP. Then back on the trail. My body now fully liberated and my mind free to wander, I hit my pace for the day. It’s a warm, humid and steady climb. I put a bandana on to catch the sweat dripping off my eyebrows and daydream about a breezy ridge, not wanting the heat or the rain.

Summer sausage and pepper jack tastes better on top of a mountain. Sitting cross-egged behind a juniper the hail pelts my hood and the dog wiggles deeper. Mount Jumbo to the west holds back true darkness and Table’s wide, grassy ridge flows north, the far half in the sunshine. I am content. Then, directly above my head, thunder and a flash of lightening. Time to go.

Two hours of sunshine, grassy meadows, wilWild flowers and a mountain laked flowers and cairns dance with my walking daydream. I often find a camera or a map in my hand as I take bearings on everything but my life. A massive, dark bully of a storm stays trapped one canyon west. From its mouth to the north, I watch it spill down pour after down pour over Bozeman and into the Bridgers.

Feeling every rock and root in the soles of my feet Lava Lake switchbacks larger and larger. I find a secluded spot, dig out the flops and jump naked into the lake. My heart skips a couple beats. My lungs contract. My skin sings three octaves higher. As I surface I whoop at the thrilling lack of excess and do it again. Sitting naked, on a rock, in the sun, next to a lake, is to know God. Or, it’s a good way to dry off, at least.

The image of my PBR pounder stashed in the river comforts my raw soles. Thunder and lightening dance and sing over the ridge to my left but keep the drama away. Sporadic spray from the storm hits my shoulders and bare forearms like little water balloons, soothing my skin.

Then, hissing car tires on wet pavement. Squealing college kids, packed like clowns in the bathroom, avoiding the warm summer rain. And, Subaru’s, so many Subaru’s.
Mountain Lake
My treasure sits safely under the rock that acted as camouflage and anchor. I’ll hitch a ride back to Deer Creek in about sixteen swallows.

(Aaron Schultz is a writer, photographer, marketing intern and chronic wanderer)