Polebridge, Montana. The next morning I could feel the effects of the hike but was glad to have found a relaxing place to rest and recuperate. The little hostel felt right at home and I spent the next day curled up on the couch writing in my notebook.
I didn't seem to mind the lack of modern conveniences (at least for my brief stay, anyways). The hostel -- actually, the whole village itself -- was very rustic, utilizing backyard generators for electricity, woodburning stoves for heat and oil lamps for nighttime lighting. (There was in fact a computer and a TV/VCR inside the hostel, which the owner would power by firing up a generator for a couple hours each day). The village consisted of small cabins (both rentals and residences) and larger log homes like the ones pictured above. During the day, the hostel staff and crew busied themselves constructing a new house close to the premises.
A short trail through the woods leads to the banks of the North Fork River; its rushing waters often the only sound to be heard in the middle of the night. With no bright lighting for miles , nighttime was especially dark -- an astronomer's dream come true, with the "billions and billions" of stars and galaxies visible even without a telescope (although it would be a good idea to bring one!)

One night we were even treated to an aurora borealis display. (In August, no less.)

Sharing the hostel were a surgeon and a writer, who, together with their teenage sons had made it a their summertime tradition -- "the best kept secret vacation spot" as they described it. They slept in the small cabins out back, the boys often jamming on guitars around a nighttime campfire.
The hostel was filled with books and regionally-inspired artwork; and a collection of casts of various animal prints found around the area (including one of a grizzly and one of a mountain lion). These animals were sometimes sighted from the windows; as mentioned earlier the area has the highest concentration of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states.

"BEAR ON TRAIL!" read the headlines of one of the local newspapers. I actually found that sort of refreshing after having to hear all about the stupid Monica Lewinsky scandal for the duration of the trip.

I got to chatting with one of the staff members -- a fiftyish man with a long, grey beard , who told me stories about the village, its events and its inhabitants. He spoke of the area being a refuge for individualists who wished to escape the restraints of modern-day civilization -- for example, a former gourmet chef from New York City, who, upon a visit to Montana decided to chuck the city life and become "a mountain man", making his living as a fur trapper.

Pamphlets from the hostel.

(Earlier that summer, or so I was told, PBS had been filming a documentary on grizzly bears, narrated by actress Daryl Hannah, who had been spotted sitting at a table outside of the Mercantile having breakfast.

"I didn't recognize her at first," said the local.

"...she had muffin crumbs all over her sweater -- I didn't think Hollywood actresses could be so sloppy!" )

Now the locals were up in arms over a proposal to pave the gravel road leading into the village -- the same washboard road that made driving so slow it took about an hour to cover 15 miles. "We like it this way", he said. "We don't want developers coming through here with their franchises. We came here to get away from all that." He suggested that I draw a sign for them -- a McDonald's logo inside an international "NO" symbol.

"You have to get rid of your connection to the world. You have to get rid of your worldiness" -- (quote found in The Pocket Book of Zen quotations)

Already, yuppie "starter mansions" were being constructed north of the village. The area was being "discovered", and property owners were selling to real estate developers upon the realization that their land was now worth 10-20 times what they originally paid for.

Next: Going-To-The-Sun Road