Fifty days on the road: 18

First weekend of September in Glacier National Park was memorable.

It started out with seven mergansers swimming through morning mists near our campsite in Two Medicine. We hiked 13 kilometers to take in Upper Two Medicine Lake. Saw no bear nor mosse in areas that seemed favorable for both.

We did see three ptarmigan (or grouse) at one spot early in the hike. Spotted another pair coming back. We eyed them, and they eyed us.

We did see moose poop, so there’s that.

At Many Glacier, the next day, we had a two-tier (two-boat) experience, first a ride on Swiftcurrent Lake, then after a short portage, a short sail on Lake Josephine. From there, we hiked nearly six kilometers on a trail toward Grinnell Glacier and a spectacular view of the peaks and valley.

On the way back to the boat dock, we watched diving ducks and dabbling ducks until the water taxi arrived.

A great meal of buffalo burgers at the only open restaurant in miles, assorted huckleberry treats and (my pick) a root-beer float capped the day’s delights.

I’m Fine

I was completely bowled over by how this tune by Self Esteem turned. It’s great staging, and there is no way to dodge its punch.

We will bark like dogs
And people always laugh at us
And are like, “How on earth are they-“
There’s, there’s something that terrifies a man
More than a woman that pays (yeah)
Completely deranged

Fifty days on the road: 17

The Two Medicine area is enchanting.
Midweek, we hiked the south-shore and north-shore trails around Two Medicine Lake, a distance of 15.8 kilometers, if I can trust the pedometer on my phone. I had to count a little backtracking to make sure of the whereabouts of a lost phone.
Reminder: Don’t set a phone down in a shelter while having a lunch. It’s easy to forget it. Honest folk do help by turning in the lost item to a passing ranger, we found out. Thank goodness.
Once in the lee of Sinotah Mountain, we left the wind, thanks to its shelter, and the trail was easily traversed. Best part was the discovery of a patch of huckleberries that the foraging grizzlies had yet to gobble.
The next morning, we spied a group of ducks on the north shore of the lake’s offshoot near our camping spot. They soaked up the morning sun, and smoke from a campfire on the south shore of the pond wisped into the calm air.
The lake’s surface was so smooth that morning that it was nearly a perfect mirror of the peaks.
As the sun arcs low across the sky, it defines and defines again depth of field, of vision, ever shifting, ever challenging the sense of distance.

The Problem

As 2021 begins, Amanda Shire and Jason Isbell duet on a song about one of the hardest choices a woman can make. Women facing this “problem” need support, not demonization, now more than ever.

What do you want to do?
I’m scared to even say the truth.
This has been the hardest year.
Is it even legal here?

Fifty days on the road: 16

More memores:
Marked the last Sunday in August by relocating from West Glacier to the east side of the park for eight days at Two Medicine Lake. First hike was to Appistoki Falls.
Above the falls, lo and behold, we bumped into a herd of approximately 20 bighorn sheep, females with youngsters grazing in a meadow on the trail. While we watched, the group nonchalantly occupied the trail area, many taking a chance to rest.
Monday: The pond just below Two Medicine Mountain near our campsite was as smooth as glass in the a.m. We buzzed off to Browning to have breakfast at a casino, then found a laundromat and stopped to restock on groceries. Masks were required by order of the tribal council, and our temperatures were checked at the casino and grocery store.
Tuesday: The glacier which used to cover the area that is now Two Medicine Lake was countless years ago as deep as a mile. Apparently, we were camped on its moraine. Hard to visualize a glacier that deep. Sunlight and shadow play on the sides of the mountains and peaks. In their valleys, carved by those slow-churning expanses of long-ago ice, we were privileged to watch the light change.

Fifty days on the road: 15

One misty, moisty morning, when cloudy was the weather…
(Warning: Long sentence ahead.)

After a breakfast of pancakes, walked a short trail through towering cedars and undergrowth of hemlock and moss, then along McDonald Creek as it foamed over a bed of shale (I think), crashed over a falls, then placidly flowed into a lake, hiked into and through the morning.
Hiked into and through the morning clouds at Logan Pass along Hidden Lake Trail.

A traffic jam of hikers signaled a happening. A group of five male bighorn sheep held us all up as they grazed through.
At a particularly inviting spot, the quintet spotted something tasty and got bucky, jostling each other and butting horns.
On that same hike, three mountain goats also bisected a walking, waiting throng, some hikers behind a boulder close enough to reach over and touch the critters.
Still in the mist of the clouds, we spotted a couple of marmots, as well.

Hidden Lake remained so…

…until we stopped for lunch and, while perched in a rocky place, the clouds began lifting, revealing the lake, curled in its glacial bowl, below Bearhat Mountain, rimmed by steps of rock and timber.
Each year, more forest growth pushes into the alpine habitat (Again, this fact?), slowly encroaching as the slopes get warmer.

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved

Cantus is a professional “glee club” with a host of a cappella recordings and appearances and recordings with prestigious musical gatherings. This ensemble did indeed get its start at a Minneapolis college, refined its sound, then went on tour. The rest is choral history.
Cantus held a residency, thanks to the local arts council, in my small town at its college and high school more than 10 years ago. I still remember their musicianship and enthusiasm. The concert was electric, in my opinion.
The emphasis for the group, including its performances, is to educate. The crew is eclectic, and I recently discovered a 2008 recording, While You Are Alive, chock full of modern and avant-garde music, decidedly different but still engaging. It features music especially composed for Cantus and their expertise.
I am riveted by this collection. Included here is a link to a recording made in 2020 of one of the pieces on the album. There is no conductor for the ensemble. A group member is responsible for “producing” each selection, and an observer can see the interaction in this clip. The piece was composed by Timotny C. Takach.
If you get a chance to attend a Cantus concert, do so. You’ll come away inspired.

Fifty days on the road: 14

Several day hikes in Glacier mixed encounters with nature with insights into (and awe of) its workings.

In one instance, the Highline Trail invited. We drove i-n-t-o a cloud to the trail head. Drove out again seeking a parking space. Found a space approximately a mile below the trail. Hiked to the center from which the trail began.

The hike (uphill) to the trail took us along the mountain road, deep valley below. Awesome, in a word. Also awesome was a pair of bicyclists (approximately my age) who blithely pedaled along with the assist of those new electric-assist motors. (Right there, made a mental note for future trips.)

Highline took us just below the Continental Divide, at first along a well-watered natural garden wall, then along an up-and-down path. We headed toward Haystack Butte (a cool name for a mountain feature). Didn’t get that far but logged six-plus miles on foot.
It was a good feeling that a hike of that distance, though no big deal for a fit individual, was possible for us older-than-60s persons.

A couple of days later, we took another popular trail, Avalanche Lake, another six-mile outing and more pronounced up-trail and down-trail effort. The trek took us to the far end of the turquoise glacial lake, surrounded by peaks, all lit by bright sun. There were lots of pauses to take in the surroundings.

A short hike (later) to Rocky Point amid evidence of a 2003 fire got me thinking about fire and its impact. As luck would have it, we ran into a group led by a ranger. We were invited to tag along with the walk-and-talk crew and came away with insights into forest fires and their role in wilderness management.

Lightning strikes. Fires happen. Forests recover. It’s a natural cycle. But, such as in the area we were tramping and gazing, the 2003 conflagration laid waste (in the human point of view) to thousands of acres, fed by tinder after decades of fire suppression
It scared the crap out of a great many people and caused a rethink about maybe not being too quick about putting out a natural fire, maybe even inducing a controlled burn or two in the name of effective stewardship.

Climate change also throws a wrench in human efforts. With a degree or two of average warming, the much-treasured alpine habitat (gorgeous flowers included), after a fire in the alpine region, gives way to growths once kept at bay lower down the slopes in colder times.

Raises interesting questions for “conservation” or “preservation.” We have reasons to try to reverse the warming (a concern of preservationists). For conservationists, it means much thought about going forward in managing fire and forest.

And, that’s only thinking about the alpine part of the ecosystem. Humans, even with their big brains, are a part of the whole, and I’m skeptical of their ability to see the big picture. Nothing like Mama Nature to keep the old brain cells working.

Blacks and Whites Make Me Angry, Lord

Father Malcom Boyd reads and Charlie Byrd plays
(From the recording Are You Running With Me Jesus).

Prayers, sure. Real stuff.
1965… Man. Now… too. New times. Same issues. Different language. Different castings. Some call it dated, sure. But, poetry preserves, brings forward, and reminds that some things remain the same.
The whole recording is a time machine that yanks us back into the present.
Then there are the prayers in the printed volume… front-line stuff at the time, still potent, given our times.