Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Boy-San And Glacier National Park - Part 2

By 8:30 the next morning we had grabbed cups of coffee and muffins, sandwich meat and buns, and were all four headed north towards the entrance to Glacier National Park.
It was the third week in June and locals had already told us on a couple of occasions that typically Glacier was not open for another a week or two.
Even after all this time living in the west, I am still not used to how brutal winter can be in mountain regions and just how short summers can be.
When we lived in Wyoming I was shocked that Yellowstone still was not open on Memorial Day weekend.
My years of experience in Tennessee told me that the world was deeply embedded in summer by Memorial Day.
I am still not used to summer arriving so late here............

Choteau was 80 miles or so from the entrance to Glacier.
If we had done enough research we would have known that ahead of time.
But we didn't.
If we had done enough research we would have known that the first gate we reached would take us only a short way before it dead-ended and that we would have to turn around, drive further north, and enter through a different gate.
But we didn't.
Regardless, we reached the first entrance to Glacier National Park and stopped briefly at a sign, so that we could record the event.
By mid morning it was very sunny and warm but not hot.
It was a beautiful day for a blitz through some of the park on this all too brief visit..................
Driving just a few miles beyond the sign, we pulled into a huge paved parking area and climbed out of the truck excited at the prospect of being where we all now were.
LC, Chris and Kory wandered towards a trail entrance while I stood for a moment looking out over the mountains.
God it was beautiful here, and I smiled when I saw small patches of snow still laying in the crevices of the mountains.
Yes.............we lived in the west alright................
Walking down the winding and paved trail only a short way, we quickly came to a creek, and I turned to watch Kory happily wade out into the water.
We had no particular agenda to meet, and no real expectations for this trip, other to see whatever we would see in too short of a visit.
Chris had to go back to Calgary the next morning..................

I told the guys that I hoped we would see a grizzly bear and mentioned that I had never seen mountain goats before, and how cool would it be to see some goats on this trip??
Chris smiled at me and then with a straight face told me that he hoped we would run into a rabbit with one white ear chasing a field mouse through the grass.
I smiled at him and the randomness of his hoped-for-sighting.  He smiled back at me.
He had a dry sense of humor like his mother did...............
How many winding trails bordered by lush vegetation had I walked in Juneau, that looked exactly like this one?
More than I could count.....................
45 minutes after we passed by the GNP sign we reached a dead-end.
Surprised that the lake was the end of the road we climbed out of the Tahoe and wandered down to the lake.
Automatically squatting down to feel the water I realized that it was absolutely freezing.
Standing up again I looked out beyond the icy cold water.
We were surrounded by mountains.
Surprisingly there were no other people at this place.  At this time of year I had assumed that the park would be packed with wall to wall tourists, just as Yellowstone would be, but that was not the case.
I wandered briefly enjoying the silence, and then turned to watch my son do exactly the same thing that I had just done.
He had already reached for a hat to protect his shaved head.
It was no longer warm.
In fact, it was cold.
No matter.  I was with LC.  I was with Chris.  I was with my goofy dog with the unfortunate ears.  We were all together in a very beautiful and silent place and it was all good..................
After wandering the area for a few minutes, after enjoying the scenery and easily chatting about nothing-in-particular, we found a huge sign posted, that provided information about the park and (most importantly) a map.
Oh hell. 
 We really WERE done here.  And we really WOULD have to drive another 30 minutes to reach the main gate of the park.
Vaguely disappointed, we realized that we had no choice but to drive further.  
We had not come this far not to see the park................
Views from overlooks as we got closer to the entrance to the park.
At one point we found this place, and I was immediately in love.
Would anybody notice if we built a tiny little cabin right at the edge of the lake and at the base of the mountain? 
 Just one tiny little, one room cabin??................
A brief stop for gas and drinks just before heading back into the park..................
There were multiple overlooks scattered throughout the slow, winding, narrow, (barely) two lane road, but this early in the season most of them was closed off and not accessible to the public.
Perhaps one out of every 10 overlooks was open, and we stopped at each one along the way..............

As we rounded one bend we realized that traffic had suddenly slowed down to a crawl, and that up ahead of us there were multiple vehicles pulled haphazardly over to the side of the road.
Instantly we knew what that meant.
There was an animal sighting in the area.
As LC slowed the vehicle down, Chris and I scanned the terrain to our right, wondering what all the excitement was about.
And then I saw him.
The grizzly bear was a long way off and slowly waddling through the tall grass.
Rushing to dig out my camera I at the same time watched the bear, acutely aware of the fact that this beautiful guy was going to disappear at any moment.
The picture below is the only picture I got of the bear.
You will have to click on the picture to enlarge it, and then all you will really see is a small brown spot in the grass (center right) between the bushes in the foreground and the start of the tree line in the background.
Hardly a National Geographic quality photo and I hoped that he would reappear in the tall grass so that I could take more pictures, but he never did.
I managed to see him for only a few seconds before he disappeared into the terrain for good...............
A few minutes after the bear sighting we came across an overlook that was surprisingly filled with people.
Pulling off the road and squeezing into a tight parking spot, we again climbed out of the Tahoe.
I smiled as I reached for Kory.
She was bright eyed and excited, and had no idea where we were or what we were doing, but somehow she knew that this whole experience was incredibly cool.
She was having as good a time as her humans were.
As I climbed out of the truck I looked across the road, in awe of the giant rock (above) that towered above the tree line and that silently reached for the sky.
And then I turned towards the overlook and saw this..............

Monday, June 29, 2015

Boy-San And Glacier National Park - Part 1

I had not seen my son Chris is over a year and a half.
Between job hopping, 9 months at a community college for welding, the challenges of winter traveling and money issues on both of our parts, a long year and a half had passed since we last saw each other.
With him finally (seemingly - possibly - maybe) settled into a welding job making large scale farm equipment in Calgary, he and I finally agreed on a weekend to see each other.
It would be only a weekend.
Chris had just started a new job and could not afford to take time off.  
Excited at the prospect of seeing Chris (and working hard to ignore the disappointment of it being such a short visit) he and I agreed to meet in Montana.
He helpfully suggested meeting in Great Falls since it was about half way for both of us.
After looking at the map and figuring out driving times, we finally decided on the totally random small town of Choteau, Montana.
Choteau was a longer drive for us, but also a shorter drive for my son.  
It was away from a big city (which LC and I had no desire to see).
It was a little closer to Glacier National Park (which LC and I both had a strong desire to see).
And so last Friday morning LC, Kory and I loaded into the Tahoe and headed north.
I thought that I would feel only unbridled excitement at the prospect of seeing my son.
I was excited.  
But unexpectedly I also found myself feeling deeply introspective.
Remembering an entire life with him when he was younger.  
Remembering an entire life with both of them when they were younger.
Remembering small blond heads, and goofy conversations, and endless hugs, and beautiful faces, and...........................and.
For a woman who takes pictures of so many things, it may be surprising to learn that I took no pictures either on the way up to Montana or on the way back down to SE Idaho.
We had a seven hour drive and (aside from brief stops for gas, restrooms, food and walking the dog) we pushed hard just to get there....................

I had booked a cabin at a campground right on the outskirts of town, and as we pulled up I quickly looked the place over.
Containing a large A-frame office, three cabins, one tee pee, picnic shelter, numerous sites for tents and campers, and neatly manicured lawn, it was all very civilized and I inwardly cringed.
Silently I admonished my initial reaction to this place.  
We're not here for camping Karin.  We're here to see Chris.  It's fine.
And it WAS fine.
LC had driven the entire trip and by late afternoon was tired and needed to sleep.
I was wound tight and needed to roam, and as I kissed LC goodbye and wished him good rest, I reached down to rub the top of the head and the goofy ears of my sweet dog Kory.
Jamie had been my wandering buddy.
Now Kory was my wandering buddy.
She would happily wander the area with me - both of us eager to explore.
Reaching into side pocket of my shorts I pulled out my phone.   A little after 4.
I had heard from Chris around noon as he was getting ready to leave.
We had a couple of hours (at least) to kill.
Turning my attention back to the camp ground I looked around me, absently debating in which direction to head.
Letting my feet make the decision, I headed to my right...................

Many campgrounds in the west (understandably) have tee pees as an option for overnight stays.............
After circling around the lone tee pee that was located at the far end of the camp ground, I absently looked around me again, feeling restless and lost.
Where to go..........where to go.
As I glanced in back of the camp ground I saw a very steep, grassy hill.
Needing to move (and truthfully seeing little that captured my attention) I decided to climb the hill and see what was in back of it.
Ten minutes later my eager puppy and I were half way up the hill.
Looking up and to my right I could see carefully groomed grass and a small flag.
Immediately I decided that what I would find at the top of the hill was a golf course...............
Part of town visible as we were climbing the hill................
We stopped part way up the hill and as I turned to look back in the direction from where we had come, I realized that we were standing slap in the middle of very beautiful country.
It was NOTHING like what I had imagined.
As we had driven through Montana on the way to Choteau (pronounced Show Toe) we three had climbed over mountain passes, enjoyed beautiful scenery filled with dense forest and high mountain peaks.
It had all been beautiful, and as we had continued our journey, I had expected that the terrain would continue to be more of the same.
Pines.  Steep mountains.  Passes.
Surprisingly that was not the case.
After we turned off the interstate and headed on fast and wide open two lane highway towards Choteau (and eventually towards Glacier National Park) we found ourselves greeted with endless pasture land.
None stop rolling hills and grasslands for sixty miles or more.
It was beautiful but also the very last thing that I had expected.
As I looked back while standing on a random hill, I could see the campground.
Across the road from the campground were some kind of farming silos.
Beyond the silos and the mills, was a continuation of the pasture land and rolling hills that dominated this area.......................
More of town as we climbed higher................
Kory and I scrambled up the last, dusty, rocky and steep incline, and then I struggled to climb on top of some kind of round, concrete structure.
Standing (finally) on a flat and steady surface I looked out to see the expected golf course..................
Curiosity finally satisfied, I finally looked at where I was.
What the hell was THIS?
It took me only a moment to realize that I was standing on a huge, round, painted surface, and then one more moment to realize that my dog and I were actually standing on a roof.
The club house?  Maybe.  It was too big to be a workshop or storage building, and I chuckled inwardly at the thought that Kory and I were now randomly standing directly on top of a fancy golf course club house................
As steep and demanding as it had been to climb the hill, it was equally steep and demanding heading back down.
Another ten minutes later we were back at the campground and I continued to aimlessly wander, knowing that my son was on the way to me, and that my guy was soundly napping in the cabin.
I continued to feel restless and as I slowly walked I also worked hard to keep impatience at bay..................
Sweet little A-frame office.
The owners were new and eager to please, and as I passed by the clubhouse I spoke briefly to smiling and friendly owners before continuing on, all the while snapping random pictures of things around me.................
We were staying at a small cabin that reminded me very much of the cabin that we had all stayed at in Haines, Alaska when Chris came to visit us in Juneau in 2010.
It was small and sparse and contained only a double bed, a set of bunk beds and a rustic wooden chair.
It was also a good deal cheaper than the overpriced motels we found while researching on line.
With their proximity to Glacier, and with this being prime tourist season, motels were both expensive and hard to find, and this little cabin was perfect....................
We were in the first of three cabins................
By 7pm LC was up and around, Chris was still nowhere in sight and was not answering his phone, and we were both starving.
Driving the couple of miles back into town we stopped at the first restaurant we found and struggled to squeeze the Tahoe into the one tiny spot that left in a completely packed parking lot.
Walking just inside the door we realized that people were waiting.
Immediately deciding that we would drive around town and see if there were any other options for a meal, we squeezed back out of the spot, carefully maneuvered around over sized vehicles and random decorative objects, and gratefully pulled back onto the road.
Five minutes later we pulled into the almost empty parking lot of a restaurant that proudly announced "Bikers Welcome".
If they welcomed bikers they served decent burgers, and that was good enough for me.
I was not sure what to expect when we walked in, but we were immediately greeted by a pretty and sweet young girl who encouraged us to sit where we wanted.
After ordering, I tried to call Chris again, concerned that he had not arrived yet but also aware that he would be traveling through isolated areas in both southern Alberta and northern Montana, which would make cell phone coverage spotty..
I had tried to call him a couple of times to monitor progress, but instead of talking to my boy had to settle for leaving voice messages.
This time I was greeted by his voice.
Hey!  Where ARE you?
I'm at the campground.  Where are YOU?
We gave him directions to the Restaurant-That-Welcomed-Bikers, and five minutes later my son walked in the door.
I stood up and threw my arms around his neck, and this huge man obligingly bent down to hug me in return.
He looked good.  But heavier.  A little softer than the last time I had seen him.
But he was in front of me.  Smiling, huge, healthy, beautiful as ever......................

 We ate without tasting.  Talked fast, trying to catch up. 
And when we were done eating we walked outside to the Tahoe to introduce Chris to Kory.
Unfolding a napkin containing a piece of hamburger, our dog happily scarfed up the treat and then allowed Chris to pet her.
She is used to people petting her.  She thinks everyone is her friend, and Kory was just happy to eat hamburger, drink bottled water from our hand, jump out of the truck and meet her newest friend..............

We had seen a dinosaur museum a couple of doors down from the restaurant, and three people and one dog walked down the road, seeing nothing and still talking too fast, all excited to see each other.
God, it was so good to see him.
It had been too long.
Much too long.
The museum was closed but none of us cared, and we all wandered around the grounds still excitedly talking and only partially paying attention to the really wonderful sights around us.
Thankfully I snapped pictures as we went................
Immediately next door to the dinosaur museum was something called the Old Trail Museum.
The main museum was also closed this late in the evening but again it did not matter since there was much to see around the grounds.
The evening was beautiful - sunny, warm, comfortable.  We had all been traveling.  We had not seen each other in a long while, and on this beautiful evening we kept laughing, talking, joking, catching up with each other while only absently aware of the wagons, the dinosaurs, the tee pees and bear cages.
It was all good and we kept walking.................
Click on any picture to start a slide show of enlarged pictures...............
Not long before dark we finally loaded back into vehicles, stopped briefly at a grocery store so that Chris could buy beer, and then headed back to the camp ground.
Many hours later and long into the night, I watched my son unsteadily standing next to the camp fire.
He was drunk and loud and I constantly reminded him to keep his voice down so that we would not disturb sleeping campers who were now all around us.  
I was certain that we were disturbing them anyway.
I looked at my child and tried to listen closely to him.
I had thought that after he made his atypical commitment to a 9 month welding course, that he had finally clarified what he wanted to do with his life.  Now I was not so sure.
I had thought that things were going well between he and the girl that he was involved in.  Now I was not so sure.
I had thought that he was committed to living in Canada as opposed to the US.  Now I was not so sure.
I thought that he was doing OK.  
Now I was not so sure.
The next day we would go to Glacier National Park.......................