Through Kalispell and up to Whitefish, just west of Glacier National Park.  I arrive during the weekly farmer’s market, and there are people everywhere.  I park in the library lot and briefly chat with a woman while I’m pulling out my guitar.  “How long have you been here?”  She asks.  “About…two or three minutes.”  She laughs and tells me about Whitefish.  “There are lots of transients here…mostly because of the train yard.  You’ll have no problem making money.  You can sit downtown and play, and then find a spot to camp, and—well, you’ve probably got your routine down.”

I’ve got a cardboard sign tucked into my guitar case that says almost the same thing as what I flew in Jackson Hole:


As I walk into town, I overhear a couple behind me reading my sign.  “Need $25 for Glacier—it’s crazy that it costs that much!”  I turn around.  “I know!  I feel like we shouldn’t have to pay to experience the natural wonders of our own country…”  We chat as we walk together, and at a corner when we part ways, they hand me a 5.

On the main drag, I sit down on ledge outside a restaurant and immediately meet Jacqui and Liam.  We chat as I take out my guitar, and I lay it down across my case next to the sign.  I haven’t even started playing yet, and a woman walks up and hands me a card—it’s a free pass into Glacier.  I jump up and ask if I can hug her.  A few minutes later, as I’m still talking to Jacqui and Liam, a guy walks up, stops, takes out his wallet, and hands me a 20 dollar bill.  A girl drops a 5 into my case as she passes by.  A girl in her early 20s and her mother come by.  “I used to do this in the 70’s,” she says, and the five of us discuss the role of the traveler in our modern world, how to most effectively spread positive energy, and some ideas of Daniel Quinn on society.

We all part ways, I drop off my bag and guitar and grab a jacket, and I meet back up with Jacqui and Liam.  We sit on a park bench in the chilly evening and hang out until 11, then walk over to the pizza place where Liam and one of their friends works.  We chill in one of the booths until the places closes, and then we eat all of the leftover pizza we can stuff down.  I carry out a box with a full pizza inside. This will last me a few days.

I hop in my car and follow them up to the spot where they sleep.  It’s about a 15 minute drive up the mountain, and they finally pull off on an unmarked gravel track that leads to a beautiful hidden spot tucked in the mountainside and overlooking the entire city below.  We lay out our sleeping bags, build a fire, pass around a guitar and a banjo, and talk about travel, faith, drugs, relationships, money, life, simplicity.  The lights of the city glitter below; the constellations above, and the moon weeps into the lake.

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3 Responses to Whitefish

  1. Kathi says:

    You have now experienced what we so love about wonderful Montana ~ The Big Sky (and big heart) county.

  2. Charlie says:

    Out of curiosity, did you feel a little uneasy about accepting the money of those people after you already got the free pass into Glacier? It seems like your cardboard sign encouraged the man to drop the 20 and the girl to drop the 5 in your case.

    I only ask because I struggle with this as well, sometimes. People will do kind things for me when I don’t need it, but sometimes I feel like they get more out of the act than I do (such as the reassurance that they are kind-hearted, or the satisfaction of doing a random act of kindness).

    And, of course, sometimes these things happen so fast that I don’t even realize what happens initially. Then, by the time I start asking myself, “Should I chase after them, and offer something in return, or at least express my gratitude with something more than a ‘thank you,'” the moment has passed and I tell myself I’ll be quicker next time.

    • Dave Korn says:

      Ah, this is a great question.

      The answer is, no, I didn’t feel uneasy about it, any more than I do about accepting any kind of money or gifts in the first place. Because the reality of it is, though I wasn’t going to use that $20 for what I had written on the sign, that money was still going to be very helpful for other related things. If another person had come up to offer me a free pass, I obviously would have thanked them but turned it down, because it was not something I need.

      These past few weeks have been marked by an extensive amount of receiving and giving. I am trusting that the universe will work out the balance. When people offer me something that I can use, I have been accepting it. And when people ask for something I have, or when I can tell that they could use something I have more than me, then I have been giving. I am currently carrying a new pair of shoes, a baggie of dog biscuits, more cans of food than I need, and several other things that I won’t use. I am waiting for the right moment to give these things away to someone who can use them.

      I do of course agree with the idea that people get something very important out of giving. I wondered this during my gas jugging experiences too–just sitting there making it obvious that I could use the help allowed a certain kind of person to find me–the people who have been feeling the need to do something generous for a stranger. Receiving is just as important as giving–when we receive, we allow other people to have the feeling of doing something kind.

      Ultimately, as I said, I am trusting that the universe will keep things in balance. I try to not accept more than I need, and I try to share whatever I have.

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