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October 6, 2007
Ah, snow, such a beautiful thing, unless you’re traveling.
The Westin Inn (a Best Western) was covered with the thick, white snow as we woke this morning. It’s beautiful, really, but this is an area that lives and dies with the weather. If it snows high in the mountains, there’s no way they’re letting you through, and our way through was closed for business.
We toiled over what to do – should we stay another night, should we go the long way around and skip Route 89? We gathered our items and went into town to shop this tourist trap and make our decision.
Lunch was at Canyon Road Grill – a cute little 50’s throwback joint with James Dean and Marilyn Monroe all over the walls. Food was decent, but the atmosphere was the real draw – and filled with tourists from all over the world. We finished up and headed over to the police station, figuring they’d know whether the roads were open or not so we could make our decision.
The West entrance to the park was open, but Craig’s Pass was still closed, so we decided to give the Old Faithful Inn another go since we didn’t really get a chance to appreciate the 103 year-old structure the day before. It didn’t take us long to make our first picture stop as we wandered back into the forest, gathering the snow-filled trees into our memories. Kathy’s right; the snow really makes the park.
Off again, but this time we caught a wolf (which we later found out was a coyote) traipsing through the yellow fields of hay, hiding him from the untrained eye (remember black bear at night? Think yellow coyote in a hay field). He was stalking something and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. We sat for about twenty minutes just watching him to see what he was after and where he’d go. Suddenly, he sprung onto something and chased it a ways in the field. He was so fast and graceful, but honestly, I don’t know if he caught it. He was determined though, and we saw him make a play for something again several minutes later, trotting off towards the woods with a bounce in his step. It was too cold to watch him after he went from view, so we got back into the cars and headed out.
Another mile or so into the park, a bunch of cars were stacked along side the road, which typically indicates something of interest. This time it was elk meandering slowly into the rest area at Madison Junction. They are really oblivious to what’s going on around them, I just hope that the people in the cars will heed the warnings and be careful of the animals. There are so many stupid people that it makes me worry for the safety of the wildlife.
We followed the elk and got out to stretch our legs. After all, it had only been ten minutes or so since our last adventure, so we needed to keep fresh. By now, the snow had done its major damage to the area, but the effects were still prominent in the area. The worst part was the now bitter cold weather that we really weren’t expecting. I know that I wasn’t dressed for it, thinking we would be in the car most of the time. None of our clothing fashions would have been a problem had we not met this charming fellow whom we chatted up for about an hour.
Jim Folston is a retired airline pilot who loves nature. He’s from
We stood, listening to the stories this man weaved for us with a confident ease. The most amazing tale was his trip through Glacier National with his hiking buddies several years ago. They all started out their day – Thursday I believe – and Jim said he wasn’t feeling well. He told his buddies that he’d wait for them to come back around and would catch up with them. It turned out he was having a mild heart attack and he just hoped they’d come back down in time to help him. When they found him, they radioed to the Ranger Station, but no one was there. Then they finally reached someone at the station, and they didn’t know how to use the satellite phone to call for assistance. There was mass confusion and the rangers said they wouldn’t send a helicopter until they verified that Jim was actually having a heart attack! By the time it was all said and done, they got him out of the park five hours later. They had to do a long line rescue because the chopper couldn’t land, and the two skilled nurses were able to get him out and to safety.
Not three weeks later in Glacier, a father-daughter team went hiking in the woods and ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. They walked into the path of a large grizzly Bear and her two cubs. She charged them without thought even though they did not provoke her; her instinct was strictly protection of her cubs.
The daughter ended up over the edge of a cliff, hanging on for dear life, while her father tried to stave her off and get away himself. Eventually, he also went over the cliff, scalped, and they lay there until a tour group on a hike heard their screams. Because of the chaos and mismanagement of Jim’s ordeal, they didn’t question a thing and sent the helicopter out right away, saving both of their lives.
The time just flew as we talked with Jim; a gentle soul with a love of the outdoors. We finally parted ways (we needed the outhouse) and Kathy and I talked about what a treat it was to meet him – our rainbow for the day. When we came back out, he was just gone. We had hoped to get an email or something from him. Then, his blue coat came into view as we started our car. He waved us down to the river where a beautiful six-point buck (twelve points total – we don’t understand how that whole thing works) was feeding with a herd of his cows. The wind was frigid as it swept through the valley and over the river along the way. It was so incredibly kind of him to come find us to share this additional little gift. I did get his email and intend to send him a nice thank you for making our day at the park so much better.
Fly fishermen were everywhere, weathering the elements in their waders. It’s dedication to stand out in waist-high rushing water for the solitude of the river and your love of fishing. We watched them engage the rivers on our trip back to
There were no rooms at the
She handed us our room key and we rushed off to see Old Faithful erupt – twelve minutes off schedule (old faithful my foot!) – along with the hundreds of other people freezing outside. They geyser is such a tease as it spouts out little billows of steam, making you think it’s ready to erupt, then it calms again to just the vapor coming out of the basin. When it finally did come to pass, the water sprayed for over two minutes! It’s pretty cool, but I was much more impressed with the boiling mud and the steaming vapors on the way.
Our cabin was cute and the closest we’ve come to actual camping thus far (which both Kathy and I agree we would not like at all!). No TV anywhere at the lodges – which is kind of nice – and certainly no internet. We roamed through the historic lodge, built in 1904, of thick logs and beautiful craftsmanship. It was definitely time to eat, but we couldn’t get a reservation for dining until 9:15. We took in the sites, listened to the piano player in the loft of the
The sun came out and gave us a lovely little sunset through the forest and clouds and we made our way back to our cabin for the evening.