carocali (carocali) wrote,

And they're off - again.

DAY TWO     


October 1, 2007


The cool mountain air drifted in through the windows this morning.  Late last night, it started to rain; just a simple pitter patter on the roof.  It was such a soothing sound intermixed with the distant cry of the trains that course through the mountains.  They echo through the foothills and add a heaviness to the thick air.


We looked out our window this morning and watched the white clouds roll over the mountains.  Definitely not a day for a hike, but no worries, we’ll find something to do.


Kathy grabbed the Montana book and headed out on the porch.  I followed with my steaming cup of tea and just sat and watched the mountainside.  I have my little $3 blanket wrapped around me because I’m always cold as I watch the breath hover in front of me.  The high wind on the tops of the mountains is pushing the clouds away, but bringing their families right up behind them.  No blue in sight this day. 


I watch the yellow leaves on the aspen trees clinging to the white bark, fighting to hang on, but ultimately, with the added pressure from the drips of moisture, they fall helplessly to the ground.  It’s so gentle and spontaneous as the next leaf falls victim to the cooler weather.  It’s mesmerizing and beautiful.


We lounge about for a bit and finally hit the road. The guide at our hotel insists that Avalanche Creek is worth a look in West Glacier, and we can drive a bit of the way into the park (Going-to-the-sun Road is partially closed for maintenance) and even that stretch is worth the look.  He also mentioned a quick hike to Avalanche Lake – only two miles in.  We thanked him and went on our way.


Getting into the park was a breeze since we bought the National Parks Pass.  It will get us everywhere we want to be – like American Express, only cheaper and well worth every penny.  It didn’t take long for us to pull over at our first stop – the road was filled with beautiful aspen jetting out on each side of the road.  Kathy wanted a picture, and I certainly will never say no to a photo op!  While she played in the road, I meandered to a private area of Lake McDonald.  The glaciers were hovering in the background, but the clouds were so thick, it was hard to see. Still, it was an amazing site.  In addition, there were millions of polished rocks along the shore.  At first, we thought that they were brought in as their beach stone, but we came to realize that these rocks are created out of the mountains and the waters.  They are everywhere; the stuff that jewelry is made from.  Gorgeous, smooth reds and greens of varying colors.  We sat and gathered a few for our own collection and headed along the way.


We kept driving and stopping, eating beef jerky and triscuits along the way, to get out and snap the postcard picture.  So much stunning scenery!  Even without the blue sky and rain breaking through every so often, the road was breath-taking! It took forever to go just 15 or so miles because we were overcome by every turn.  Color, color, color!  The variance of yellows and the deep greens of the pines blended with the offset of indescribable blues, grays and browns.  A reward of red is granted every once in a while to add the perfect natural rainbow of foliage. And the water is so clean and pure.  Nature here is quite a thing to behold.


The road truly was closed (we hoped maybe they’d let US through) and we debated about turning around at the rest stop at Avalanche.  We made a quick pit stop, and I really mean pit.  The toilet does not flush; you simply do your business in this hole that drops about twenty feet down.  Kathy and I joked about dropping your car keys down there, but I cannot imagine what you’d do.




The hike that the guide mentioned was right around the corner.  Of course, it started to rain even harder than before.  We hemmed and hawed about going, and I was certainly leaning towards ‘no,’ but we decided to give it a shot.  Our Ford Taurus found an illegal spot to park (with our Arizona plates) and we thought we’d do the .2 mile walk to the little falls that were right there.  We left our IDs, water and cameras in the car and headed out into the rain.


We reached the waterfall of pure, gushing water.  It tore over the rocks with a vengeance, smoothing out hundreds or thousands of years of sediment as it made its way to wherever it was destined.  The color of the rocks/boulders can only be described as kidney red, and frankly, it kind of creeped me out.  Everywhere you turn, this colored rock is there – a heart, liver, kidney (you name the maroonish organ of your choice).  We followed the little creek back a ways and found more of the fleeting water.  Each step we took, we got farther from the car.  We saw a sign that said 2 miles to Avalanche Lake.  We figured we’d give a look through the forest, seeing what other wonders were inside.  I never thought we’d actually go all the way to the lake – but we did.


The terrain was a good mix of up and down; branches and kidney stones along the path.   Massive trees reaching for the sun; others overturned by nature’s forces.  Some looked burnt; others were hollowed out.  Many were assaulted by some kind of disease – some kind of spongy fungus that looks to eat the life from the tree. And no wildlife.  No birds, one squirrel, and certainly no bears in bear country.


There were a few hikers out and we wondered if we should turn back.  It was raining and we had nothing with us.  But somehow, we decided to give it a try.


I have no idea how long it actually took us to get to our goal as we stopped along the way to look at the forest, the log jams, the gentle yellow aspens.  We started to panic about the car the further we got, thinking we would get towed or broken into, but decided that if it’d happened, there was nothing we could do about it.  We stopped two young girls and asked how far until we hit the lake and they assumed about a mile.  We’d come that far, so we figured what the hell.


As we broke through the tree lining and protection from the rain (it’s truly amazing how few drops of water get down to the forest floor) we got closer to our destination.  We’d seen bits of the glacier along the way; getting glimpses of the colossal peaks through the thick conifers.  Placid waterfalls drizzled from thousands of feet up making their way down the mountain, finding purpose at the bottom. But then, we got the view we’d traveled all this way for.


The edge of the lake was within site as we spied our favorite pebbles along the shore.  We climbed down the steps to the base of the lake and looked up.  And up.  The snow-capped mountains stretched beyond the clouds.  This was our first true glimpse of the glaciers, as they’d been covered by the clouds along the way.  And we were not disappointed.  The trees and rocks painted the foothills with this unbelievable beauty as our eyes continued to glance upward.  More waterfalls. 


And the lake was astonishing. 


It’s one of those moments where you can’t believe a color like that really exists, it’s so perfect.  A deep emerald green emerged in the middle with a variance on that tone as it approaches the shores.  The light breeze made calm waves on the lake, pushing the fallen aspen leaves that were floating along the edge to the shoreline.  Even the wispy clouds that rushed up and over the mountains were beautiful.  The perfect solitude – peace and harmony.


We stood there in shock, wet and cold, knowing that this was well worth the journey.  And while I bitched the whole way about not having my camera, I’m so glad we were able to at least take in a site such as that.


It took us about an hour to hike back (because we’re seasoned experts now) and we quickly disrobed and threw our soaked jackets in the trunk.  We were both starving and thirsty, now knowing the essentials for the next hike we take.


The road back through the park was dark and wet, nothing like when we arrived.  The mountainside almost looked like a black and white painting – beautiful in itself, just different.  I joked about the rain and how it would all clear up as soon as we left the park with a rainbow kicking our asses out at the gateway near West Glacier.  Kathy, always the optimist, saw the sun playing a losing game of hide and seek with the thick cloud cover.  ‘Throw me a bone,’ she said as she kept hoping the sun would come out and we’d get some decent pictures of Lake McDonald and the towering peaks and a bright blue sky in the background.


I pulled over because we were fascinated with the landscape of black and white and I wanted a few more pictures.  We got out of the car and I yelled ‘holy shit!’ pointing behind us.  There, bright as I’ve ever seen, was a rainbow!  We raced for the car and before I knew it, Kathy was down the slope on the pebble beach taking pictures.  I snapped a few over the highway and headed down after her.


Suddenly, the whole landscape had changed – just like that!  Honestly, I’ve never seen weather just up and change so fast – even in Chicago!  We got peaks of blue sky at one end, a double rainbow over the mountain at the other.  I’ve never seen a rainbow so bright.  We took about a hundred pictures of all angles as the sun continued its fight against the billows that threatened it all over again.  Each second was a new picture as the landscape changed with the amount of sunlight.  It was a miracle; a reward for our hard day’s journey through the rain and terrain of Avalanche creek (not that it wasn’t worth every second).


By then, we were starved and traveled up highway 2 to find somewhere to eat, finally settling on Walton – a huge train depot where thousands of train enthusiasts end up each year to watch the locomotives hustle through the area.  It took a while to be seated as they had a rush of people they weren’t expecting.  (No problem, we haven’t really eaten today).  I have to keep reminding myself 1.  this is Montana (I think I’ll have to ‘insert state here’ as we continue this trip), 2. I’m on vacation and I’m not in a hurry. 


After way too long, we were finally seated and our waiter, who must have been 102, came to take our order – promptly forgetting it.  He was tired – anyone could see that – and a little grumpy, so we had to cut him some slack, even when he kept giving the wrong order to each of us.  The food was interesting - and I finally had my first taste of huckleberry - but not as interesting as the people.


Train enthusiasts are just like any other fanatic; they have their clicks, they have their idiosyncrasies and their oddities.  I understand an obsessive nature well, having been through many phases in my life of craziness (stop the snickering!) but Kathy is confused by it.  Understandable.  The creepy thing is that some of the women we saw looked almost inbred.  Listening to some of the conversations, there was a slowness there, and sunken facial features that made me wonder.  I’m probably being too harsh, but it was weird, like axe murderer weird, and when you’re the youngest people there, that doesn’t help either. 


We watched a few trains go by, and people just stopped what they were doing to see them pass.  They love it and good for them; it’s just not for Kathy and me.  But they did have high speed internet, so I was able to post yesterday’s entry.  Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to get this one up!


Okay, this is a link to my kodak gallery.  I was trying to find a way to do this through another site, but I haven't had time or internet. Let's see if this works:

You may be able to get to the first first page and type in carocali as the album - I'm not sure.  They are not labeled, but they are all Glacier.  Hopefully some of my explanations will work.

Thanks again for all the great comments and emails!



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