Thursday, July 27, 2006

Trip to Glacier - Day 5

We leave the east side of the park and take the Going to the Sun Road to our new lodgings in West Glacier. We stop along the way to soak up any view that catches our eye, and to hike along the trails to the little beauties that lie just off the road.

At sun point we look over St. Mary lake to the mountains that now circle around us. We hike to Baring falls where I fall in love all over again, and decide that Glacier must be haunted by water nymphs, and that I would like to be one.

We make our way up to Logan pass, climbing higher and higher. In the pass we stop and marvel at the glacier lilies springing up through the fresh green grass like glowing golden stars. We drive by a white mountain goat posed perfectly on a rocky outcropping. We drive along the side of the Garden Wall mountain ridge and suddenly we are looking out over the most magical valley I've ever seen. The mountain sky glows jewel blue above. A vivid green cloaks the lower slopes of the mountains as they slide down into the broad glacial U that cradles McDonald Creek. The rocky upper faces still hold onto the winter and spring snows. Bird Woman Falls flows from a hanging valley carved out of the peak of a mountain, cupped like a hand offering a blessing. Made silent by distance, the rushing water looks like a tracing of cobweb, and closer by and farther off other falls glint like silver white embroidery in the green velvet of the mountain slopes.

We drive along the Garden Wall to the Loop, where the road cuts one sharp switchback and dives into the valley to follow the creek to Lake McDonald. The limestone not only gives the lakes their vivid jade color, but turns the creek to turquoise as it bubbles in surging rapids and deep pools.

We stop at the Lake McDonald lodge to browse the gift store. Huckleberry syrup, chocolates, and even gummy bears abound. Here we have our first casualty (and it's really amazing that we went so long without one). A giant boat hitch jumps off of the back of a pickup truck and attacks poor Amy, who is on the ground before we can beat it off. Stupid extra long boat hitches.

Without further mishap, we do eventually arrive at our posh new cabin, with it's two bathrooms, beds for fourteen, full kitchen, and a second story window you could jump out of and walk away without a scratch. Amy considers taking that leap, but decides she's starting out scratched so it's probably not the best idea.

Good friends, good food, good fun, and a comfortable bed. A wonderful end to a wonderful day.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Trip to Glacier - Day 4

For the first time this trip, the group splits up. Happy Independence Day! I get a lazy morning with the cabin all to myself. I tidy up the place a little, and spend some time reading. Then I climb up to the top of the hill by the entrance to our little lodging area for a view of St. Mary lake. I actually sit and watch the still water in front of me and the bugs crawling around me for forty-five minutes, not moving, no sounds, just dreaming in the sunlight.

In the afternoon Kerri and Erik and I go horseback riding. Four hours is way too long for me to spend on a horse, I find, but still very fun. Just the three of us, the guide, and another lady. And of course the horses.

It's nice to go on a long trip into the mountains and not have to walk it myself, but my favorite thing about horseback riding is the horse. Mine horse is named Walker, and he doesn't really care to follow the other horses much. Has to be nagged (hah, unintentional pun) into staying close to Louie up ahead of me. Insists on stopping to drink at almost every stream we cross. Bangs my knuckles on the saddle horn by jerking his head down sharply when I least expect it. But still I love him! I like to talk to the horse a lot, and see the horse's ears flick back, listening. When I stop talking for a while, he gets worried about me, and turns to look back at me over his shoulder. "You still there?"

Our guide points out an actual glacier to us, Salamander Glacier, so we are now sure that we have indeed seen one.

Pretty glad to be off the horse when the ride is over. OW! We all sit in the lodge for a while, listening to an incredibly inept pianist, then we go eat at the Cattle Barons' Steakhouse.




THAT was a good steak. Yes, the mountain air makes me hungry for animal flesh. Yes, horseback riding wears me out and gets my stomach all rumbly. But THAT was a good steak. PEFECTLY done. Juicy, well flavored, tender. Sigh. It doesn't get any better than that.

So if horseback riding and eating steak isn't American enough, Independence Day is capped off by fireworks down by the lake, viewed from the porch of our cabin.

BOOM! Oooooooh!

BAM! Aaaaaaah!

ka-BANG! *sigh*

Showers of brilliant, jewel-like sparks leap into the sky, and glow through the window curtains even after I've gone in and laid down to sleep. Happy birthday, America!

Thursday, July 20, 2006


We interrupt this report on Glacier National Park and your regularly scheduled work day for this breaking news.

IDI has extended me an offer for permanent employment, and I will be a full time regular employee with benefits starting August 1!


Okay, as you were. :-)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Trip to Glacier - Day 3

Today I:
  • jouneyed to another country,
  • bought a miniature tea set,
  • stared into a waterfall,
  • played in a creek,
  • got unnervingly close to a herd of goats,
  • shared seating in a Buick with five of my closest friends,
  • read signs in French,
  • sang Disney songs to a little girl while waiting for a table,
  • found the cutest ladies' room ever,
  • ate really bland pasta,
  • wished a Canadian happy Fourth of July,
  • bought cookies and paid in exact change,
  • ate the best ginger snap and best shortbread cookie of my life,
  • bought chocolate to share,
  • saw a herd of elk, and
  • watched the first episode of Firefly (the first one I've ever seen).
Whew! No wonder I'm tired!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Trip to Glacier - Day 2

Today I fall in love with water. Red Eagle Falls and clear as crystal water foaming over rainbow rocks, cold and clean. It dives beneath itself, carrying down tiny bubbles like pearls that flutter and fight their way free to the surface and then . . . disappear.

Water deep and still and almost black in Two Medicine Lake. Not the bright blue-green of some other lakes here because it isn't fed by glacial melt, which carries down a fine limestone silt that suspends in the top feet of water and refracts the entering light. These waves are dark and glassy like obsidian until the water goes gold-green in the shallows, a narrow shining band along the shore.

And the water of Twin Falls, running down the cliffs in double glissando like the arching grand staircases of L'Opera Garnier in Paris, but more musical and more mysterious. Or like arms rushing out to hold the island of rocks they isolate, cherished for some unknown reason.

Water that leaps and rushes, water that waits silently, water that swirls as a trout flicks its tail. Today I fall in love with water, and feel it running through me as I sit and watch. My heart pounds with the beat of the falling water on the rocks. My breath surges in and out like the foam driven below into dark depths, and leaping up again in a soft shimmer. And when I leave, it still runs through my mind, cleansing and soothing, the soft thunder drowning out the worries I hear too often, and singing me to sleep.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Trip to Glacier - Day 1

July 1, 2006

Getting up before the sun does always leaves me disoriented, like I'm dreaming even though I'm awake and walking around in the real world. Kirby Drive is never this empty, and the sky is dark and opaque and heavy on my mind. Bright shop signs and neon lights seem out of place in this dark still world, the only things alert while everything else is groggy and quiet.

It's not often I walk into an airport by myself. Mostly I fly with groups. There's a strange sense of freedom in dropping everything but my back pack at check in. As I walk towards my gate, I have an urge to change my flight and not go to Spokane where I'll meet the rest of my group. The entire country, the entire world seems open to me here, and Hobby airport feels like the center of all things, and a new beginning. I feel like I could flip a coin or spin the wheel and end up . . . anywhere!

Slowly the sun rises, turning back the reflections on the terminal windows and showing me the airfield around me and no longer my own face. The terminal starts to show signs of life where before it was empty except for a few early travelers like me, floating around or huddled in the black seats like the wisps of dreams as they haunt you half-awake. In the surreal dark before dawn, with the windows that point inward instead of outward and the empty gates, you feel like there are secrets here that only you can learn. You touch the slow drowsy pulse of the world, before it wakes up and becomes the heedless headlong breakneck rush that lasts all day and late into the night. Early in the morning, before the sun comes up, the world is asleep, innocent like a child or like an animal. When it wakes up, it will see me already awake and watching it. And until I meet my group later today, this world seems like it's mine alone.

Viva Las Vegas. Flying here was like running from the sun, trying to keep the morning world young the way you want to keep a small child young. It can't be done, and when you land in Vegas, the world is already jaded and old, and the slot machines have come to meet you at the airport. I thought it would be fun to drop the one quarter I have in my pocket into a slot and take a chance on one pull. But the slots don't take anything lower than a dollar, and I can't bring myself to spend the time it takes to push a button four times, so my quarter is safe for another day.

One thing's for sure, I came to my departure gate way too quickly. I have at least an hour before I board, and I never new the Las Vegas airport was so big. I've never had to change from one terminal to another here, and I walked through parts of this place that I'd never seen before. I knew they had slots, but I had no idea they were practically a little travel-themed casino of their own. Complete with shops filled with beautiful, expensive, and utterly useless things to spend your winnings on. I walked by a stall with inlaid stone globes, porcelain figurines, and cut crystal miniatures. I really should have gawked more along the way. And bought something at the Cinnabon. My part of terminal C is pretty bland, and I'm getting pretty bored. I'd go back, but then I'd have to come through security again. I think I'll go wander around the rest of terminal C and see if things are any more exciting elsewhere.

Addendum: Walked around a dogleg in the corridor of terminal C and found Amy and Teebs. MUCH less bored now!

Land in Spokane, meet Mark, Joanna, Kerri, and Erik, and wait for Will's flight to get in. Once the group is all gathered and we've lunched, we're on the road. Drive from Washington to Idaho and Idaho to Montana. The drive is gorgeous, but I've been traveling far too much, and I'm starting to get car sick. Better after dinner, and finally we're driving south of Glacier, headed to the east side of the park and St. Mary's, where we'll be staying for the first half of the trip. It doesn't get dark until after 11PM, and then the moon is setting in the mountains and the mist is rising off the lake. The evening begins to feel as surreal as the morning did, until finally we pull up at our cabins, unload the vehicles, and finally get in bed and go to sleep.

Monday, July 10, 2006


And real life set in with a vengence! My alarm didn't go off this morning. I'm incredibly fortunate that after only 5 hours of sleep after a wonderful but exhausting week, I managed to wake up on my own and look at my clock.

So I only slept 25 minute late, launched into warp speed, made it to work on time, and consumed over 60 oz of caffeinated beverage throughout the day.

This morning's drive was a bit nerve wracking, because Otto apparently felt a bit neglected and was acting fairly sulky. A bit squeely and grindy about the brakes. But he cleared up pretty quickly. Almost certainly just a case of a little rust on the break pads from sitting around for a week and a half. So we've made it up, and he was a very good little car after the first few blocks.

Okay, going to go sort through the three tons of mail I received while gone. Sigh. Civilization may have internet, but it also has junk mail.

Look out this week for a little blogging on my wonderful adventures in Glacier National Park. I went to Canada, yo!