Sometimes a person looks at a map, sees something odd or curious, and metaphorically sticks a pin in it and says, “There’s someplace I’ve never seen!”
BJ and I have done that many times and one of those trips centered on a place called “Giant Cedars” in the Ross Creek Scenic Area on the western border of Montana and Idaho.
From Kalispell we drove to Libby on Hwy. 2. We paused briefly, only to sail on with an eye toward exploring Troy, MT., which broadens the highway a few miles west of Libby. After all, we were in the neighborhood.
Troy is a slumbering mountain town with a certain charm to it. The one thing we discovered that few towns could boast was a bridge over the Kootenai River that sported an eagle’s nest on top of it. We’re used to seeing osprey and eagle’s nests perched on top of phone poles or specially built nesting poles, but this was the first on a bridge.
The tenant must have been off fishing in the river because we never saw our nation’s feathered mascot.
Taking our cue from the absent eagle, we turned around and drove back to catch Hwy. 56 south. We made a leisurely drive of it since we had no agenda other than to see the Giant Cedars.
We passed small communities, scattered willy-nilly around equally small lakes. Deep blue waters lapped shorelines while pines scented the air strongly enough to imitate a car freshener. We were content to talk of common sights on the roadsides, like the occasional deer or a hawk riding the thermals.
We knew we were getting close. The Cabinet Mountains rose on the east side of the road. Heavy timber darkened the western roadside, growing thicker than it had a few miles north.
We made the turn-off to Ross Creek Scenic Area almost as an afterthought. Within a few hundred yards a lumber mill loomed on the left, in a valley away from the road. Further on the road split; the right fork led to a campground, the left fork led to our intended destination. It ended in a parking lot nestled in a shaded bowl within the forest.
Silence bombarded our ears as we got out of the car. A sense of peace had descended, allowing us to see western cedars that could rival those in Glacier Park without having to dodge hundreds of tourists. Down a short trail from the car an arched bridge spanned Ross Creek.
Sunlight streaked through the canopy throwing spotlights on the undergrowth. Regardless of the few other visitors, everything was still, undisturbed. It felt as if we had the whole forest to ourselves, where we could explore the tiny rivulets, mossy stones, and towering giants.
It is a humbling place, this corner of the Kootenai National Forest. It is a place where poetry is written and paintings created in the stillness of the mind. Music from one’s heart can find expression here within the birdsong and rippling waters. And the sighing of the breezes will deliver messages from these Giants that have prospered here for so long.
We took a chance on an unknown road and destination. We came away with something unique and purely our own. If you get a chance, pull out a map. You don’t have to go far to explore the unknown (to you) and discover marvels.