Wednesday, June 18, 2008

There and Back Again

Glacier National Park

I became sad this morning as I drove to work. It was a balmy 90 degrees according to my car thermometer and the sky was a pale blue-ish white haze. When stopped at red lights, I glanced at the people in the cars beside me and wondered if their Monday felt as strange as mine. I wondered if they'd experienced adventures and beauty like I had and if they too found it hard to come back to traffic, heat, offices, and city life.

Saturday, May 31, Jason and I flew to Bozeman, Montana for a week long vacation out west. We arrived in Bozeman around 3:00 p.m. Mountain Time, picked up a white Toyota Highlander and hit the road for Glacier National Park. I'd made reservations at the Apgar Village to stay in one of their cabins, and I could not get there soon enough.

The drive took 6 hours, and I think I spent the entire ride with my face plastered to my window. Mountains rose up on both sides of the road and I wasn't sure whether I should look out my window or Jason's. I felt like the happiest, most blessed, freest girl in the whole world.

I couldn't help but think about Heaven and to contemplate what it would be like to be near the Creator of all the magnificence that surrounded us. And as cheesy as it sounds, I couldn't help but sing in my head the words to America the Beautiful as I looked at what I considered to be "purple mountains majesty."

We finally arrived at our cabin around 10:00 p.m. and the "creek" that our cabin was to overlook was more like a river to me. I shared this thought with Jason as he stuck his feet in and he said, "Everything is bigger in Montana."

The next morning Jason went for a run while I made coffee and plans for a day of hiking. As I stood in the shower washing off the travel grime, I realized I hadn't brought a hair dryer and there certainly wasn't anything like that in the cabin. There wasn't even a television or a telephone (which was fine with us). I did NOT want to spend a week with masses of wet hair in my way, so I did the only thing I knew to do. I found a pair of scissors and gave myself a trim…I missed some spots and got a little carried away in others, making it almost mandatory to wear a clip in my hair at all times. BUT I knew it would grow and at least it was off my neck for the week. That was all I needed.

After breakfast, Jason and I went to the visitor's center to get the lowdown on what we ought to do while in Glacier National Park. The girl we spoke to was very informative. She showed us the best trails to hike in West Glacier (where we were staying) and then said that even though the Going-to-the-Sun Road was closed in the middle (that is the road that goes right through the center of the park) it was worth a drive around the park to East Glacier to see the sites.

We spent Sunday on the Trail of Cedars which was a 2.2 mile trek to Avalanche Lake, which was a crystal clear lake with snow covered mountains surrounding it. The hike was perfect. The air smelled of cedars and everything green. It was raining when we started, but it quit before long, and just as the trail emptied us out onto the beach of the lake, the sun came out and warmed our chilly limbs. We sat on a rock looking at the mountains with the sun on our backs and the chipmunks at our feet (and our laps) and I was once again sure I was closer to the Creator than I'd ever been.

On Monday Jason and I had another delicious breakfast at Eddie's and then headed out for East Glacier. As we drove, the landscape started to change. Just as West Glacier had green rolling hills with snow capped mountains behind them, East Glacier took us higher so we were above the rolling hills and amidst the snow covered mountains and rocky cliffs. We literally could see forever in all directions, views of lakes in deep valleys surrounded by rolling hills and cliffs on all sides. I wanted the images to be seared into my mind so that I'd never forget, and we took tons of pictures, but I doubt they will capture the majesty and beauty that exists out there.

We hiked a small trail to Running Eagle Falls and then drove on to Saint Mary and hiked to Saint Mary falls and then even higher to Virginia Falls. It was a powerful waterfall and the spray from it was icy cold. Both Jason and I stood in the spray and when we turned away from it, our faces were dripping wet and frozen. My lips were so numb, I could hardly say how beautiful it was… but the words weren't really necessary. He knew. We hiked around a bit more, spotting mountain goats, Jackson Glacier, and other areas of interest on our map. We were cold and exhausted as we drove back to West Glacier for one last night in our cabin.

The next day we drove out of Glacier, stopping at the Hungry Horse Dam, and then through Idaho and into Wyoming. We stopped in Jackson Hole where we met up with Mom and Dad who had driven up, stopping in Colorado for Mom to run the marathon there.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

The next day Mark, Julie, and the kids arrived (they drove from Huntsville) and that night we all went to the Bar J Ranch to eat supper and hear their group sing. They were real live cowboys with amazing talent. They sang cowboy songs like "Mariah" and "Raw Hide" along with a ton of others I'd never heard but loved immediately. They had us laughing until our stomachs hurt with their jokes and nonsense and as we left, I asked Jason if he'd buy a pair of those wrangler jeans. Mmmm. That night I decided if anything ever happened to Jason, I was moving to Montana to marry a cowboy. Preferably one of those singing that night with the legs that went on forever in those wrangler jeans.


The next day we all loaded up and headed for Yellowstone. We drove by the Grand Tetons and into Yellowstone. We saw Old Faithful erupt and all sorts of hot, boiling pools nearby. At one point we came upon hundreds of buffalo and paused for a bit to watch them. Jason, Caroline, and I were in our Highlander, and the rest of the fam were in Julie's van. Well THEY got passed the nursing buffalo. We did not. Just as we were trying to follow the van back onto the main road, THREE Mamas with babies decided to feed… right there…in front of our car. This was neat for a while. But then there was some mooing and two mamas started to butt heads. I felt safe enough, but I wasn't sure what the rental car folks would say if we had to explain that our car was dented by buffalo… THEN, one buffalo hopped on the back of the other…I'm not sure of the genders, but all I have to say is I would not want to be on the bottom of that deal. Those guys are BIG!

Finally they all moved and I told Jason it was now or never. We scooted out of there and continued on our way. We saw tons of elk, goats, moose, buffalo, and even a black bear. I never grew weary of seeing the wildlife. I could have driven and hiked for days. Caroline and I decided that in Heaven, we would be able to pet all of these creatures.

Mom had booked some cabins in Mammoth Hot Springs in the park for all of us to stay that night. We were all worn out and glad to be there. We ate supper and headed to bed.

The Elk in Yellowstone

The next morning, when Jason got up to run, Mom and I got up to hike. Our cabins were right at the base of some of those mountains I'd been eyeing all week and I desperately wanted to feel Sound of Music-esque and run around up there. No singing, really. Just wandering.

So Mom and I took off. There were tons of elk up there and the morning was cold, misty, and quiet. Mom and I were quickly out of breath, hiking up semi-steep mountains at an elevation of 6,000 feet or so. We talked of what we'd seen and how gorgeous it all was. We found a path half-way up the mountain and had just begun to follow it when Mom spotted a baby elk sleeping in the grass. She began to move toward it until I warned her that Mama Elk was looking at her. Mom backed away and we continued up the mountain to the top where we stood on a rock and surveyed the splendor of the surrounding valleys.

Mom found a few rocks she liked and she picked up a few on the way down, handing me one to carry. I was a little wary of Mama Elk since her baby was so near, but I didn't think it was a problem when we finally reached her and she was way on the other side of the trail. WRONG!

Mom began looking for Baby Elk again, and I began looking over my shoulder for Mama Elk. Sure enough, over the hill she came. I yelled, "Mom, she's coming!" and dashed behind a tallish bush where Mama Elk and I had a face off. Elks are TALL and she looked well over my head. When she moved to the right, I moved to the left. My legs were shaking and I had no idea what she was going to do or what I was going to do for that matter.

Mom, however, was not afraid at all. She stood watching and told me to come on. "I'm not leaving these trees!" I said. "She's after me!"

"No she isn't," Mom said. "Come on."

Then, Mom made her way up to me, not to protect me, but to take the rock away from me so that I would not hurt the elk! I took one look at Mom (who was now between me and Mama Elk) and dashed down the mountain at breakneck speed. It had to have looked hilarious and later we laughed a lot over my panic, but at the moment I was scared to death.

Mom began to slowly make her way down the hill and Mama Elk began to come after her. I stood at the bottom with my hands to my face and watched as my mom faced down Mama Elk.

Mom turned around, put her hand out and said "STOP!" Mama Elk stopped. Mom turned to continue down and Mama Elk came again. Mom turned around again and said, "STOP! I am not after your baby!" Then she too ran down the hill to safety. Mama Elk looked on as we fled. Jason was just finishing up his run and with my heart still racing, I told him of our near-death experience. He laughed. Mom laughed. I couldn't believe them. I'd almost been eaten by an elk and they were laughing!

Heading for Helena

After my harrowing experience with the elk, we all took showers, ate breakfast and hopped back into our cars to head for Helena, Montana. The next morning (Saturday) Mom, Jason, and I would run the Governors Cup Marathon…

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