7.16.2008

Glacier

While we're on the topic of road trips and national parks, I thought I'd share the highlights of a recent trip Syd and I took to Glacier National Park. Located in the northern part of Montana, just south of the Canadian border, Glacier boasts some of the most beautiful scenery I've seen. The park is full of mountain goats, grizzly bears, little merganzers, and, yes, glaciers too (only 28 remain, though, from 150 a century ago).
Syd and I hit the road for Montana on a Wednesday night, just after ending our work week. Thinking it would take just 9 hours, we (I) thought a 10pm departure time would get us to the park at 8am, just in time to get the primo camping spots. What I forgot to take into account, though, is that, one, I drove like an old lady and, two, I like to sleep when it's late and dark. So, after a couple hours of driving, and not even making it outside of Oregon, I had to rest. Being the stubborn person I am, I refused to relinquish the car keys to Syd, so my need to rest turned into "our" need to rest. We pulled over at a trucker stop and slept for about an hour and a half.
After hitting the road again, we only made it another hour and half before I had to sleep again. After finding another truck stop, we pulled over and slept for a couple hours until the sun rose. Upon waking, as if being blessed by the grace of god, we found ourselves beside Templin's Way-In, a trucker stop paradise, where you can stock up on all your junk food needs, get a greasy breakfast, load up on gas, and get your fill of caffeine. If the sarcasm wasn't obvious, let me tell you how terrible this place was. First of all, it is the same truck stop that you find on some desolate, dusty road in Texas, as well as the one you find while lost on a rural highway in Arkansas. Yeah, that one. Now, with only two needs to satisfy (to potty and get caffeine), we figured even Templin's could not fail. Upon filling our first need, using the bathroom, I found racist writing and other various redneck propaganda sprawled all over the walls. When leaving the bathroom, and meeting Syd in the market, we attempted to fill our second need: caffeine. Even this became tough, as the coffee was served out of an automated machine, marketed as cappuccinos. We got our cups, placed them under the dispenser spigots, picked the flavor of cappuccino, and hit play (or serve, or start now...whatever). As if being witness to the early wonders of the industrial revolution, this cappuccino machine started squirting boiling water into our cups, and then without warning, spewing a snowy blizzard of cappuccino dust all over the place (some made it in the cup). When the dust cleared, and we realized we were no longer interested in a cappuccino, we asked the clerk if they just had regular coffee and real creamer (they only had non-dairy, powdered creamer on display). She made it clear that if we didn't pay for the cappuccino, and pile of brown snow that came with it, she'd call Vern, the longtime, bitter sheriff who would most certainly hunt us down on the desolate highway and let us know what the locals think of city folk driving through their little stretch of town (squeal like a pig, boy). So, mostly out of fear of aforementioned (fictionalized) Vern, we reluctantly bought the cappuccinos and split.
From Templin's, we drove straight to Glacier, filling our time with the alphabet game, talking into our tape recorder, and making fun of my slow driving. During this time, I was impressed with Syd's ability to tell me when to pull over so she could pee on the side of the road (how could you not love a girl who uses a car door as cover while she pisses on the side of the highway?). We finally made it to Glacier at about 3 in the afternoon (only 7 hours off our mark). Upon our arrival, we learned from a ranger that most of the campgrounds were closed due to snow (did I mention this was in May/June that we went?), as well as many of the hiking trails and the main road (the Going to the Sun Road is one of the most scenic drives in the country) cutting through the park. I almost cried. It was all made better, though, as the ranger gave Syd a junior ranger pin, stating that it would give her the power to scare grizzly bears away.
Anyway, we drove up the road a little bit to the Sprague Creek campground. Because of the weather conditions, tourist season hadn't yet started, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We found a great site situated just off of Lake McDonald. We set up camp (actually a village, fully intact with a hanging tarp for rain protection, a tent, and a little kitchen/dining room setup) and began to plan our stay. Before too long, though, I felt the need to freshen up after the long, sweaty drive. Without much thought, but definitely against Syd's motherly advice not to, I hopped in the glacier-fed lake. It didn't matter that it was about to rain and wasn't that hot out. What did matter, though, was that I nearly got hypothermia and was so delirious from the cold that Syd had to instruct me how to dress myself after drying off. Scary.
After they hypothermia scare, Syd and I got firewood and began to get dinner and a fire together. Because of the wet weather, much of the wood was damp and not very flammable. This required us to burn more crossword puzzles than we would have liked. While the fire burned and we munched on chips and salsa, Syd and I played rummy and cherished the high of knowing we were away from work and civilization for 5 days. After getting my butt kicked, as is usually the case, we decided to cook up some kielbasas over the fire. First, though, we had to find some rurey sticks to wield (widdle) as skewers. With pocket knives in hand, we widdled like mad and got our cooking utensil ready. The kielbasas didn't take much time to cook, and before long we were on to desert, making s'mores with marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate. The cleanup that night was pretty intense, as Syd was certain that the local grizzlies would all be attracted to any scent coming from our campground. So we made sure everything but our tent and sleeping bags was in the car, as well as every bit of food crumbs or spilled cooking juice cleaned up. Her diligence to keep the bears away was equally cute and hilarious (more of this to come later).
On our first morning waking up in Glacier, we took the opportunity to sleep in and catch up on some sleep. By the time we woke up, it wasn't really morning and, in fact, we were the only one's left in the campground because everyone else had packed up and moved on with their day. While I got our supplies ready for the days hike, Syd made us sandwiches. We eventually set out for a drive to the Avalanche Lake trail head, where the Going to the Sun Road closed due to weather conditions. Along the way we stopped to take pictures of a river and waterfall, while also waiting for thunder and lightening to rumble our way. It didn't really happen, but we got a couple good pictures (albeit with some degree of difficulty, as a couple tourists had a hard time relinquishing their vantage point, and took offense to us requesting to take a picture). Anyway, we continued along and eventually hit the trail to Avalanche Lake. By this time, it had started to rain, so Syd and I put on our rain gear and marched on. We hiked along the trail through thick forest, alongside a creek, and amidst deer, mountain goats and grizzly bear. The fact that grizzly bear were in the area can not be substantiated, but Syd's ability to scare them away with yells and clapping noises at 2-minute intervals certainly kept us safe from what dangers did exist by their presumed presence. We got a little wet, but the hike was nice and oddly unique in the sense that we encountered a few strange folk. First, we briefly walked alongside a couple who were in the area for a computer convention. Actually, only the guy was there for the convention; she flew out to meet him for the weekend. The man, overweight and ill prepared for a back country hike, sported expensive sandles that had already allowed the rainy mud to soak into his socks. His girlfriend, equally as odd, and eerily resembling an alien, looked like she had endured 17 plastic surgeries. In addition, her blush looked more like she lost control of her lipstick and drew circles on her cheeks. At least they made it to the lake, for without them we would not have had our picture taken.
While taking in the view of glaciel fields, rugged peaks, and crazy mountain goats, we munched on some rurey snacks and sipped on some wine. It was a perfect location for a picnic, but unfortunately the rain kept our stay to a minimum. We hiked our way back to the car and headed back to camp, where we made dinner, played some cards, and poked at the fire with our rurey sticks.
The next morning we drove out to East Glacier, where, upon the advice of our camp hosts (who were really fucking awesome, by the way), we camped at the Rising Sun campground alongside St. Mary's Lake. The view from our tent was unbelievable. We had an unobstructed view of the mountains that sat above the lake (which was only a hundred yards away from us). This was our base camp for the night. During the day, we hiked to St. Mary Falls. This was a beautiful hike that led us around the lake, through creeks that fed it, and to a waterfall that rumbled through the rocks with amazing force. When we reached the waterfall, we sat for a bit, snacked, and talked about how fortunate we were to be able to take off on a moment's notice and go to Glacier. We truly were blessed.
After spending the night at Rising Sun, we headed back to Sprague Creek for our last night. Because of how friendly our camp hosts had been our first couple days there, we decided to spend our last night back at Sprague, where we could visit some with them and tell them about our trip to East Glacier. We set up another village, as it was raining and we needed cover. When the village was complete, we played some cards and enjoyed the sound of the rain hitting the tarp, while also overlooking Lake McDonald as the rain created thousands of little ripples in the water. Before it got dark, our camp hosts came by for a quick visit. With them they had cupcakes that they had made. Knowing that we were in the mood for some fresh baked desserts, they gave us a couple and wished us a good night. Syd and I finished the night with some rurey making, some good conversation around the fire, and a sad farewell to Glacier. On our way out the next morning, we caught up with the camp hosts, exchanged emails, and told them we'd see them again next year.
The drive home was a sad one...and very long. The good news is, we accidentally stopped at Templin's Way-In, for we were low on gas, starving, and had no other options. This time we stayed long enough to get a meal, which was cooked by the waitress who was pissed that her cook had not yet shown up. After filling up, we were back on the road and, before too long, returning to Portland.

5 comments:

gilly said...

nice kiddo....i felt like i was there getting rained on w/ both of you. i especially love the comments about the douche in designer sandals. be cool kids.

~gib

Anonymous said...

btw whens the next poll? i want to be part of that action....

gib

Anonymous said...

Oh ..I am so jealous. I would love to go up to Glacier again. Lovely recap and pics.
Dawn

Pork said...

You'll have to bring your rurey sticks to Amboy for s'mores around the fire pit. I am sure we will see Bubba lights and manifest tuna cans.

luckygreen said...

Gib, any ideas for a poll? As one of our cherished readers, we'd like to get you involved.
By the way, give me a call brother.