Saturday, September 21, 2013

"The Trip of a Deathtime"

      I would have expected to call it "The Trip of a Lifetime". And let me hasten to say that we (surprisingly enough) actually did all survive. It's just that we were within mere feet of sure death for awhile there. At least if you subscribe to one party's version of the story.
      Let me explain. Mary and I have always loved the mountains. And going to Glacier National Park has always been on our dream list. Several years ago Myron's and myself drove thru the park one day but Mary wasn't along.
      So I said this summer it is going to happen. Myron's and us rented a house near East Glacier Park Village for a week. Montana, here we come.
       We flew into Great Falls late one evening, got a motel, and headed out the next day, arriving at our rented house that evening.
      I had recommended that the next day we would head over the Marias Pass on Rt. 2 to the west side of the park and then come back thru on the "Going to the Sun Road". This would give us a good overview of the park right at the beginning of our stay. Mistake No. 1.
      I would have a suggestion for the Park management. Right below the grizzly sign they need to have another one saying, "If you are transporting a highly-strung female with bad nerves who is deathly afraid of heights, it is strongly recommended that you lock her in the trunk before proceeding any further. Failure to do so could significantly and negatively affect the quality of your trip." We, as you might have imagined by now, had one of those  on board.
      Which, even if the sign would have been there, it wouldn't have done us no whole-lotta good, seeing we were driving a rented Suburban, which has a pretty poor excuse for a trunk. If I had it to do over again  we would have started in on the east side and came out on the west. As it was, for the better part of 50 miles Mary was on the dreaded "tippy" side. And suffice it to say, she's not one to suffer in silence on these things. A day or so later she asked almost 3 yr. old Caleb, "What was Gramsy saying on that mountain?" He responded emphatically, "You said, GET ME OUT OF HERE!"
      But, as I mentioned, we did survive. With one set of nerves melted down and all others only slightly frayed.
      If I had it to do over again I would do more hiking. At first the idea of a possible grizzly encounter sort of spooked me. But when you were out there and there were plenty of other hikers on the trail, it didn't seem as scary.
     One day Mary and I hiked in to a falls. We were standing at an overlook when a young man walked up and was looking over as well. I sized him up and said, "Now, you look like one of those 'real' hikers".
He laughed. He said he's done a little. After visiting with him some more, we find out that this summer he's been hiking the Continental Divide Trail. It starts at the Mexican border and runs all the way to Canada. Three thousand one hundred miles! He started in April and was within several days of the end of his trip.
       Mary asked him how many pairs of shoes it takes. He said these he had on were pair number four. You usually get 500 to 700 miles out of a pair, he said. We asked him about bears on the trail. In three thousand miles of trail he had seen one bear in New Mexico. Plenty of moose and elk though.
Life in the fast lane.
      My favorite part of the park was the Many Glacier area. Most of our wildlife sightings were there. Saw 5 bears (all along the road, not on the trail) several bull moose, mountain goats and must have seen a hundred bighorn sheep. All ewes and lambs; didn't see any rams. We watched an ewe and a lamb moving across the mountain slope and every time you thought for sure that they wouldn't go up any further, they would hop up one more ledge and keep going.

   And the mountain goats were the highest of all. I was fascinated with them. (and maybe a little envious) It's like they live up there and just let the world go by below them. They're like the "Alm Uncle" of the mammal world.  I read that they live at such high elevations that they have no predators at all except that once in awhile an eagle will get a newborn kid.
I challenge you to find the goat in this "naked eye" picture.
Same mountain, zoomed in as far as I could go. He's the white dot in the center.

Our highlight was the day Mary and I hiked to Iceberg Lake, which was almost ten miles round trip. The trail climbed about 1,100 feet but it was basically a gradual climb the whole way. A lot of trail was thru open country where you could see vast distances in all directions.
Check out the high-octane mountain climbing drink.

The trail didn't have many steep drop-offs so it worked well for my nerve-shattered wife. I was thinking that Iceberg Lake might have been hyped up a little and was expecting to see maybe several small blocks of ice floating in it. (after all, we were there the first week in September) But some of the icebergs were as big as small houses. A stunningly gorgeous place.
And I was lucky enough to catch the Iceberg Lake mermaid out and about.
On the way back out from Iceberg Lake. Probably 6 miles done and 4 to go. Mary is in pain. I'm suspicious that, like Elijah, Mary was praying for a chariot ride.
There was incredible beauty on every hand. Every time I think of the scenery there it brings a soothing and peaceful feeling over me.
St. Mary Lake. (probably named after a different Mary than the one I know)
One other highlight was the huckleberry ice cream. And the huckleberry pie. One evening we were coming thru East Glacier Village and the sign on a little restaurant in town said huckleberry pie. The women were dead set that we needed one. Now I'm not one to go into strange places and ask strange questions, but I figured these were some pretty good ladies and this was one thing I could do for them.
        So I go in and ask if I can get a whole pie. They said sure. Bring the pan back and you get a deposit back or else a free piece of pie.  I take it out to the Suburban. "No whipped cream?!" the ladies say. So I go back in and the waitress gives me some whipped cream for free. "What did it cost", Mary wonders? I told her I wasn't telling.
        But the next day when she was bragging about the great deal she got on a pretty pink jacket that was marked down to $40.00, I told her that that's about the same deal as a huckleberry pie. Exactly the same actually. Well, except for the $5:00 deposit that you get back. Mary about fell over.
      I've got to say a little about the Great Plains yet. Flying over, the plains look all so boring. But the evening before we were to fly out of Great Falls the next morning, I got in the car by myself and drove for nine miles down a dirt road and back. I met three vehicles in those 18 miles. All three waved at me. I guess they figure they better wave when they have the chance.
       But it gave me a totally different outlook on the plains. With that much sky to see in every direction,there's no way possible it could ever be boring to live there. I absolutely loved it. In fact, if I had to choose, I would live on the plains with the mountains in the distance. There was something about the vast space of things that took your breath away.
In the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

      There was lots of open range land. You see horses or cows along  (or in) the road. There were cattle guards on the exit and entrance ramps of the interstate to keep the livestock from wandering there. It gave me the feeling that nature has the right-of-way in Montana.
You couldn't judge the distances. What you thought looked like a mile or so might be 3or4 miles.
       And the clouds. It was like seeing them three dimensionally. It was AWESOME. And that's a word I  rarely ever use.
        It was an awesome trip.

Even if, for awhile there, we were treading on the brink of certain death.

P. S. Mary has always wanted to go to Switzerland. She says now that she will be content to just look at the pictures.



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