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Listen to the River: An Adventure and an Escape from a Wildfire

Friends explore the wilderness of Montana, rafting down the Flathead River in an experience that brings them closer together and closer to nature.

Five friends take the time to enjoy the ebb and flow of the South Fork of the Flathead River, in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness. The wilderness area sits in the northwest corner of Montana and is the third largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states, at 1.5 million acres. It’s a pristine area, home to grizzly and black bear, elk, moose, wolves, mountain lion, mountain goat, and mountain sheep.

It’s home, also, to some of the most beautiful, crystal clear rivers that flow in America. Teeming with cutthroat trout, the Flathead River is a fisherman’s paradise.

As Luke Kantola narrates, “On the river we can camp wherever we want to. And the sound of the water is our constant companion. Each night, we eat the fish that we catch. We share drinks and stories. And when we run out of fish, we just go out and catch some more.”

The adventure wasn’t over. Reaching what they assumed was their last night of camping and only five miles from their parked vehicles, the group is confronted by a park ranger who tells them that they are dangerously close to the growing threat of an out of control wildfire.

What had begun as a 40-acre fire in the Bear Creek area had escalated and spread to consume 4,000 acres in just four hours. The group hiked back three miles to a ranger station, where it was determined that the fire was too close to effect a helicopter evacuation.

And so the only option was to break camp and begin hiking 30 miles in the opposite direction over a high western pass.

They did it. In fact, they crushed the hike back through the wilderness, 30 miles in one day.

Kantola reflected on the experience:

“It would be easy to feel sorry for our group for suffering through the fire and needing to reroute out of the area, but hold back from doing this. My overwhelming feeling leaving this trip is gratitude for being able to spend two extra days in such a beautiful place with such a good group of people.”



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Listen to the River: An Adventure and an Escape from a Wildfire