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On Wednesday, I started driving again. Along the way, I found my joy.

To be honest, I hadn’t realized I’d lost it until it was back. It’s not that I’ve been down — I’m quite upbeat most of the time. In fact, the terms “ray of sunshine” and “living your best life” have both been used to describe me recently. Really! But content, happy, enjoying myself, serene — all of those are quite different from the hum of joy that hit me on Wednesday.

I’m attributing it to Montana, because Montana is beyond awesome. I had sort of forgotten that. I mean, I remembered that when I went through Montana before, I liked it a lot, enough that I hoped to come back and spend a lot more time, but by the time I was planning this drive-through, I was mostly thinking of it as… well, exactly that — a place to drive through. An impediment on my road to friends in the east and time to write a book.

Instead, it’s just ridiculously gorgeous. I was so unenthusiastic about driving, but it’s so beautiful that I couldn’t help enjoying myself. Green hills and mountains and pine trees, rugged cliffs and then sprawling plains, horses and cows and cute little Western towns.

I was still indecisive about where I was going for the first couple hours of my trip, but when I hit St. Regis, I didn’t make the turn to Glacier. I do want to go there someday, but in that moment, it felt like it would be marking off a checkmark on a list of places to see instead of being fun. And I was in the mood for fun. So instead, I went back to the sapphire mine near Phillipsburg.

I bought myself a bucket of gravel and spent a pleasant hour playing in the muddy water and sorting rocks, and then retreated to their campground in the hills, where I did… well, nothing. Except feel happy and pleased with the world and full of joy, as I made my dinner and washed my dishes, and hung out with my dog.

A very small camper van surrounded by very big trees.
Free camping in the hills.

It was dry camping, and by dry, I do mean dry. Their website said that they had water available by the parking lot, which was technically true, but it wasn’t close enough to the parking lot that I could use it to fill Serenity’s tank. If I’d been desperate, I could have filled a jug or two, but the woman at the mine said she wouldn’t drink it, so I didn’t bother.

By now, I travel with five gallon jugs of water lining the floor between the beds. Three years ago, that would have seemed like a lot of water, but not anymore. Between the generator, the van’s engine, and my solar panel, I never worry about electricity, and I actually quite appreciate my days without internet (as long as they don’t happen too often!), but it is impossible to go a day without water. So I wasn’t desperate, but I was careful, washing my dishes with my spray bottles and not washing myself at all.

As a result, my plan for Thursday… well, let’s say it evolved. Quite nicely, too. But I’ll save that story for my next post, because I’ve got things to do!