Well, we had our first rain storm last night. We were nervous, but when we got up this morning, everything was dry! Our bike bags and our tent don't leak at all. Hooray!
Our tent's rain fly was all wet from the rain, and we tried to lay it out to dry while we packed up, but the sky was overcast and the sun never came out, so we ended up having to pack it up wet. That's a bummer because it makes it heavier, and it will be messy to put up tonight. Here's a video of us in the morning talking about our trip the previous day and what the weather is like. I think Nathan looks like a body guard or something. :-)
Right before we were ready to leave camp this morning, I heard some bangs and explosions. Honestly, my first thought was that a volcano was exploding! My second thought was that someone was cutting down a REALLY big tree. Then, my thoughts were interrupted when I saw a helicopter in the sky. It was the only think moving that I could see. And as I watched it, it tipped to one side, then to the other, then it went down pretty fast and disappeared behind a hill across the Clearwater river.
I couldn't believe it - did that helicopter just fall from the sky?! I listed for a crash and watched for smoke, but I never heard or saw anything. I was confused. I wasn't sure what had happened. The bangs had stopped too.
Then, all of the sudden, something sounding like weather sirens started to go off. They lasted for a few minutes and quit. The weather never did anything though. I asked Chris, the camp director, what the sirens meant, and he said it was probably emergency response for the helicopter crash, but he wasn't sure. Crash?! I asked if he was sure - he said no.
Nathan and I were both a little shaken up, but everything was quiet and we couldn't see where the helicopter was, so we decided to bike to the next town. By the time we got there, we had forgotten about the helicopter, and we were now thinking about how to prepare for the next few days. We were about to leave civilization for a few days...again. We were entering a multi-day stretch of no electricity, no cell phone signal, and no water. We went to the grocery store, got an agonizingly heavy load of groceries, and packed our panniers full. While we shopped, we noticed that it kind-of looked like rain.
Then we decided to head across the street and treat ourselves to a restaurant meal. We got two ENORMOUS plates full of delicious, warm food for the fabulous price of $15. I was happy, full, and warm. While we were asking our waitress to fill up our water bottles, two men sitting in a booth nearby started talking pretty loudly about how bicyclist on the road really annoy them. We were still on 12, and the road was still very narrow and twisty with no shoulder, so it's true that cars and bikes needed to share the road more now than ever, but these guys didn't like it one bit. I think they wanted us to hear them, but it didn't really scare or intimidate us at all. Instead, it actually made Nathan and I more sad for their lack of kindness on the road.
When we left, we headed to the ranger station to ask about the weather and camping options up the road. While we were in the ranger station, the ranger got a phone call. He said something like "Yeah, it hit my camper. No, no one was in it. Hey, I gotta go...I've got some people here." I asked if he was talking about the helicopter. He said yes. Then he proceeded to tell us that the helicopter had crashed, and that it crashed in his front yard and landed on top of his camper right outside of his house!
I asked if the people in the helicopter were OK. He looked at me for a bit, and then said "no". He told us there were 3 people in the helicopter. Two died, and one was in critical condition in the hospital right now.
I was stunned...shocked...filled with an indescribable feeling...almost overwhelmed...
I told him that Nathan and I had heard some bangs, and then we watched the helicopter fall from the sky, but we weren't sure what happened because we didn't hear a crash or see any smoke.
He told us the helicopter had lost its tail rotor, and that's what the bangs were about. Then he told us it was a touring helicopter from a local business, and that this was the 2nd crash they had this year. Oh my gosh.
He shook his head with sadness. We all stood in silence for a while.
After a bit, we started talking about camping and Route 12 again. He showed us some camping options and told us a cold front was coming in. It was supposed to be a dry front though, so the rain we got last night was unexpected, and we shouldn't see any more. We thanked him for the information and headed back out to Route 12.
It was hard to ride because I kept thinking about watching the helicopter fall and how those people had died. I needed to concentrate because the road was so narrow and full of turns, but the helicopter falling just replayed over and over in my mind. I was filled with the realization that we just don't know what the future holds. I am so glad I am a Christian - it takes so much of the fear out of not knowing about the future, and even out of death. And I am so glad that Nathan is a Christian, too.
I kept thinking about how I wish I could do something to help ease the pain and shock of the families and friends of the people in the helicopter. I prayed and prayed, and then I realized what I could do - I could ask all of you to pray too. So right now, will you please stop for a moment and pray for the friends and relatives of the 2 people who died and the one person who went to the hospital. We are called to live in relationship with each other and to have love and mercy for each other.
After realizing I could ask you all to pray, I felt the burden start to lift and it was easier to ride and concentrate on the road. It was a good lesson - being reminded how fragile life is and how don't know how long our lives will be - a hard lesson, but a good one to learn on the road, I think. Reminds me how growing up is tough and the only constant is God.
Nathan and I followed 12, and it started going uphill. We knew we were approaching Lolo Pass - a mountain pass at 5,000 ft elevation. We wouldn't hit it for a few days, but it was coming, and our trail started going uphill as we got closer to it.
About 15 miles before we reached our campground for the night, we passed through a city called Lowell. It was tiny - only two general stores. But it did have a phone and a comical town sign.
After calling our parents from Lowell to tell them we wouldn't have any kind of communication for the next few days, we arrived at our campsite, Knife Edge campground. There was no water and no electricity, but it was free, and free is good. :-) Almost immediately after we got to camp, it started sprinkling. The ranger said it was supposed to be a dry cold front, so we were fairly optimistic it wouldn't rain, but it just kept on sprinkling.
Before we got into bed, we thought it was time to start being concerned about bears and other wildlife getting into our food since we were in the middle of nowhere now. We're not quite sure how to string our food up in trees, so we decided to ask some of our neighbors if they could help us. We met John and Laura, and they loaned us their cooler to put our food in. We put our food, toothpaste, deodorant, and anything else that had a scent in the cooler, and then put the cooler as far from us as we could get without going into someone else's camp site.
Then we got into our tent to go to bed...and just in time too, because it started pouring! This is definitely NOT a dry front. So now this is our second rainstorm in two days, but we're not too concerned because everything stayed dry last time. Here's hoping it stays dry again!