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  • Driving from Butte, MT to Couer d'Alene, along the border of Idaho and

    Low-lying whisps of clouds lingered, suspended in the valleys like heavy
    smoke from a wood fire. It looked as though the mountain were smoldering
    from within. We heard from locals earlier that Montana has had twelve
    avalanches in the past two weeks, unheard of for this area. "I've lived
    here for twenty years, and I've never seen anything like this. They closed
    the highway going both ways," explained a kind-eyed woman ringing up my
    juice at a truck stop. "You're not from around here, are you?"
    "No ma'am, I'm not. Just passing through," I said. She looked me up and
    down and smiled. "Well be safe, now, y'hear?"

    Sure enough, the state closed down highway 95, and we had to take a longer
    route around the mountains. We turned off onto a little two-lane tributary
    that climbed north of the avalanche region.
    We followed a route that snaked around the mountains next to the river,
    opening up into a forest of evergreens that stood straight and tall against
    the snow-covered rock faces. It was early March, still technically Winter,
    but already much of the snow and ice in the rivers had started to melt.
    Tiny icebergs drifted along in a cold, dark stream. Every bend was a new
    picture, a new glorious angle of the mountain lit by a new constantly
    changing light. I squinted for a moment, and the dark trees against the
    blinding-white snow reminded me of a Jackson Pollack they have back in New
    York at the MOMA. This was the real thing though, a work of art on such a
    grand scale, it took thousands of years to form.

    What put everything into perspective were the occasional cabins, tucked
    away into a corner of the valley. They looked like doll houses against the
    miles and miles of wilderness. You could hardly imagine anyone living out
    here, and yet, every so often, there'd pop up a small town seemingly
    uninhabited except for a field of cows and a lone traincar making its way
    from the stockyards.
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