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.