Clear water has a way of distilling the hours into a stream of sensual moments, indifferent to time. The Dearborn River could easily be a portal into a world free of hours. My friend, Annette, and I spent one night near Devil’s Glen and our return left me feeling like a visitor in the human realm.
Devil’s Glen is on the fringe of the Scapegoat Wilderness. Travel approximately 100 miles east on Route 200 from Milltown, take a left on 434 and another left past Bean Lake Reservoir, and you will encounter the Devil’s Glen trailhead, not far beyond a summer camp for the religiously inclined. (Sorry, I couldn’t help but note the irony).
You will walk a mellow, mostly shaded trail that runs along a private road, peppered with houses. It might seem silly to walk the trail when there is a perfectly good road, but local signage makes it clear: stay on the trail. About half a mile in, you will cross the river and start a slow incline that hooks and loops through open meadows. It’s hot and you can’t access the river yet, because you are still walking through private land, for about another mile and a half. But rather quickly, the rules of society are swallowed by a view of bare canyon rock and glimpses of jade pools below.
After entering public land, we came to a split in the trail, where an old wooden trail sign stood splintered by bullets and time. We took the left fork and descended to the water, where we waded across. Refreshing temperatures and gold, brown, rust and white stone hues greeted our feet. On the other side, there were ample places to set up camp. So, we did.
We spent the evening strolling up the trail, which climbs significantly above the river canyon and introduces long views up the valley—with aspen groves and pine bringing some lushness to an otherwise dry haze.
The next morning, we chose to walk up the river. We spent hours meandering among bleached boulders and salmon-colored stone—marveling at the crispness and clarity that hid nothing from us. The river was quiet where we walked—more like a creek, split at times around islands covered in sand, blanket flower, woodsy rose and old orphaned branches. Before turning around, we waded across to the shady side of the river—less than gracefully—and sat in the moss for lunch.
We barely saw anyone during our two-day venture, until we arrived at the trailhead on our way out. Nearly 20 horses and as many people had just returned from a trip up to Blacktail and the motion and laughter seemed unreal after our languid wanderings. As we shared a drink and picked out the horses we liked best, a father and son walked by with a BIG beautiful trout they planned to eat for dinner. That’s when our stomachs overpowered our reluctance to leave.