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"We love this place. We got married here," Tammy Andie explains. She's flown in from Missoula with her pilot husband, Jim, in a classic refurbished de Havilland Beaver. The couple likes to fly to the lodge for dinner with friends whenever they can.
The excitement over the plane's splashy landing helps stir up an appetite that, as it turns out, we all need. On top of the appetizer, salad and main course, there's dessert—profiteroles filled with huckleberry ice cream drizzled with killer chocolate sauce. It's enough to make me wish for a post-prandial recovery cot.
"I've never had food like this," says Natalie. "I love this place."
Strong praise indeed. By the time we leave the lodge she'll have conquered some milestones, including the amble to Holland Falls and a tougher, steeper, 4.4-mile hike the next day to Holland Creek, on which she never once complained. She also had her kayaking debut and gave me a word in hangman, "biochemical," that completely stumped me for the first time in all the years we've played. But the best is the after-dinner raft ride.
After night falls, we paddle into the lake and lay back to stare at the kind of sky we haven't seen in years. The stars are so thick they're incomprehensible.
We search for shooting stars until I see a tiny one, Don spots a long-tailed one, and Natalie says, "Oh, darn, I never see them." Which isn't true, I don't think, but then moms and daughters often remember life differently.
"Didn't you see one the last time we went camping?" I ask her, but when she turns her head to answer me, Don says "Oooh," and we know we've missed another one.
We're quiet again, peaceful but determined. Natalie and I don't stop scanning the skies. And then Natalie says, "I saw one!" And a few minutes later, "I saw another one!"
The moment enfolds us in the best possible place, together, excited, inspired.
Holland Lake lowdown
Accommodations and activities
Six waterfront cabins and nine lodge rooms for 46 guests. Call ahead for guided fishing trips, whitewater rafting, pack trips, horse rides and more.
Starting at $290, double occupancy; children under age 13, $55; no charge for kids under 2; $75 fee for dogs. Rates include canoe and kayak rentals and gourmet meals.
Guests of the lodge get the all-inclusive treatment to three meals a day from chef Amber Lukas, but day-trippers are welcome, too. Dinner entrées start at $23.
Highway 83 to Holland Lake Road, about 8 miles south of Condon.
Call 406-754-2282 or (toll free) 877-925-6343, or go to www.hollandlakelodge.com. The season runs May through about October