Wild-West Road-Trip: Glacier National Park, II

Wild-West Road-Trip: Glacier National Park, II

Published: July 26th, 2017

As it was told to me, there were two lovers who lived on opposite sides of the lake. Their tribes were not amicable toward one another and people from both shores were forbidden from speaking to each other. It happened early one morning that a warrior from one of the villages saw a beautiful woman swimming from the other shore swimming to a small island in the middle of the lake. Enamored with her beauty, the warrior swam toward the island to meet her. They sat on the island between their two tribes and talked for hours. As the daylight began to fade, the to lovers promised to meet again the next morning on the same island. 

Someone from both villages had seen the two lovers together and informed the elders. When the warrior and the young maiden returned to their shores, the elders were waiting for them and warned them not to attempt a second meeting. Ignoring the elders of the tribe, both lovers woke very early in the morning and began to swim out to the island in order to keep their promise. As the lovers reached the island, villagers began rowing boats to the island in order to separate the two. The lovers saw the approaching boats and were afraid, not of the discipline from the village elders, but of the thought that they might never see their lover again.

Because it was their custom and because they believed in the great spirits of the land and all the living things that dwell in the land, they prayed to the spirits for mercy. The boats carrying the angry villagers arrived on the island and conducted a thorough search. They did not find the lovers, for when each boat returned to its shore, the people informed the elders that the only thing they were able to find was a pair of wild geese that evaded capture and set off on the wind into the sunrise. 🌅 

This is, of course, how Wild Goose island came to be known by that name.

Our tour began at 9:45am when the Jammer arrived driving the classic red-bus. Build in the nineteen-thirties and renovated in the nineties, thirty-five busses now operate seasonally using natural-gas powered engines.

After a quick stop to pick up more passengers, the Jammer disengaged the canvas roof, folded the material into a compartment on built into the mid-rear pillar and we spent the rest of the day being chauffeured up and down the Going-To-The-Sun Road in a red convertible from the 1930s worth a quarter-million dollars. The machine is brilliant, and that might not go far enough in describing the experience.

We heard about the geology of the park and of the ice-ages that produced the glaciers that carved the valleys into the mountains made of stone so old and so hard that they have resisted nearly all forms of weathering and erosion save the movement of massive glaciers, for which the park is named.

At one point, Glacier National Park was said to have had over one-hundred glaciers. Today, there are about thirty-five glaciers that remain. Sadly, that number rises and falls as glaciers break up into smaller pieces and then melt to the point where they no longer meet the qualifications. In order to be a true glacier, the ice must be at least one hundred feet thick, span at least twenty-five acres, and it must be dynamic. It must move, though the movement is more accurately described as a slow churning motion that scrapes surface beneath the mass of ice and behaves like a gel due to the weight.

Thanks to the careful planning of the roadway, we were able to se several of the largest glaciers in the park. In twenty or thirty years, geologists estimate that there will no longer be glaciers within the park. To imagine that my grandchildren may not have the opportunity to see this living and breathing ice causes me great heartache.

On the tour, we crossed over the continental divide in the Lewis range cutting through the Logan pass. This divide is significant on a macro scale in that water that falls on the Western side of the range will eventually make its way to the Pacific Ocean, while the water that falls on the Eastern side of the range will gather with other waters and flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

There is another point within the park that is known as the triple divide. This location channels water to the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and also to the sea on the edge of British Columbia.  From a distance, the peak seems fairly insignificant. Even with my longest lens, the peak is dwarfed by other, more famous landmarks.

Waterfalls flow into creeks; trees burn to make way for new growth; insects thrive on the flowers that fill forest floor; bears, mountain-goats, and big-horn sheep populate the valleys and even places where a stable footing would be unthinkable for me. Moose are present but remain out of sight most often, and it’s probably safer that way due to the 1,300lbs animal’s temperament.

Our guide was kind enough to bring Junior Jammer books so that the kids could earn their badges and they were sworn in during the tour.

After lunch we returned to the famous road and began to climb until we reached the visitors’ center before descending to the lower areas where our campgrounds are located. On the way, we passed through four separate ecological zones: temperate rainforest, tundra, sub-alpine forest, and prairie.

Oh, to climb these mountains and see what might be seen from their summits… i might imagine resting at the top and taking it all in. In the distance, might I also see two wild geese flying into the sunrise, or even have a wish of my own granted by the great spirits?

As always, take care, friends:)

- Wayne

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July 29th, 2017 Dan:

Did you hear about the workers building road to the sun wearing only socks lest their boots cause a landslide.
Love your report and glamorous photos. Well done


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