Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Glacier and Us

Our romance with Glacier is blossoming as it continues to reveal more and more of it's glory to us. Each day exposes such beauty that we think it can't get any better, but it does.

Yes, the glaciers themselves are going away quickly; The estimated date for all glaciers to be gone is 2020, which I believe is overly optimistic by about 5 years. But, that is OK. Glacier National Park will still be an amazingly beautiful Park. The wildlife alone is enough to make the trip! We had lunch at one of the Resorts in Many Glacier that housed photos taken in 1911 and then photos of the same spot taken in 2008 and it is startling how much the glaciers have decreased, some have simply disappeared.

The Road to the Sun is epic. Every turn offers incredible views of mountains sprinkled with snow (we say they look like chocolate cake dusted with powdered sugar...which, of course, made me crave chocolate cake for two days), or crystal blue glacier lakes. As the clouds move or the sun sets, the mountains seem to change with them.

Our first major wild animal sighting was of a Grizzly Bear, known around these parts simply as "Griz." It was in Many Glacier high up on a mountain. We would have missed it completely had it not been for the 20 or so people standing, pointing and/or looking through binoculars. We still didn't see it. So, we stopped and asked and some kind soul lent us his binoculars and sure enough...there he was! Huge Griz...I managed to get a few photos, but my lens isn't quiet powerful enough. We were thrilled none the less.

We left the RV at 5:00am the next morning because that is the best time to catch wildlife, and it also happens to be a magical time in the mountains! Seeing the bright blanket of stars slowly fade as night turned to dawn and the black of the sky morphed to a brilliant blue, then aqua, then peach, then red and yellow was something I had never experienced before.

We decided to pull into Logan's Pass parking lot to watch the sun fully rise and to our surprise, three Big Horn Sheep were standing in the middle of the lot. Our headlights fully on them, they froze...as did I. Of course, I didn't notice them at first because I'm ALWAYS looking off the beaten path for the wildlife, something I have learned three times in two days isn't the best place to view wildlife, so James had to point them out to me. The photo is the sad commentary of how I handled the situation.

After watching the sun rise and just enjoying the glory of it all, we headed to the spot we had spied the day before (on the recommendation of people who "knew") to see some more amazing creatures of the wild. We were equipped with camera, two blankets, hats, gloves, hot coffee and Bear Claws...getting the picture that it was cold? It was, but the sky was clear, the sun was bright and the Moose were ready for their water around the lake we parked ourselves. Deer joined in as well, but the Griz never showed up.

Later that day we saw a Momma Moose and the ever allusive cow. Hahaha! When you spend 8 hours looking for anything that moves in the field or bush, you jump at the first thing that catches your eye, even cows. My dream is to see a wolf, but from what I understand, they are very, very difficult to find. The man that runs the General Store, and who is also an amazing photographer, spoke of the wolf like this: he said the bear, both Griz or Black, simply look at you. They see you...watch you, but then move on. The wolf, however, notices you LONG before you notice it and the wolf doesn't just look at you...he looks through your soul. I loved it! He gave us some great recommendations for seeing wolf, but to be honest, I realize I don't have the patience, or perseverance, to be a GREAT photographer. Getting up at 4:30 in the morning was asking A LOT of me, and this man will go out at 11:00 at night, camp, wake up at 3:00am and move camp again, wake up at 6:00am and just sit for hours to take a few photos of a wolf. I don't think I have that in me.

Today, though, provided us with the most spectacular wildlife viewing so far. We decided to drive in the "Inside Fork Road," which is a very primitive, rocky and narrow road that leads to several different lakes in the park. Oh yea, we rented an SUV for two days to do just this type of driving; there is NO WAY the Miata would have survived.

So, driving down the last leg to our destination, we rounded the corner, remember we are only doing 10 mph because of road conditions, and what do we see in the MIDDLE OF THE ROAD?? A giant Griz. This thing took up nearly the entire width of the road. He was stopped in tracks looking directly at us. At first we thought it might be a moose, but no...it was a Griz. He was about 150 yards in front of us just watching. As James groped to turn the radio off, I, like a complete idiot, tried to change the lens on my camera but by the time I got the darn thing on, the Griz had moved on. James said he actually stood up on all his hind legs...and that he was gigantic. I looked up in time to see the Griz walk off the road. No photo. In the words of Napoleon Dynamite, "Idiot." It is an image forever in my memory!

We gathered ourselves and couldn't believe what we had just seen. This was the second time my intense search of the forests and fields proved fruitless as the wildlife appeared in the middle of the road. We saw a herd of mountain goats in the parking lot of the Resort we had lunch at one day...James specialty is spotting wildlife in parking lots...and in the middle of roads!

We made it to the lake and were still excited from our Griz encounter mere moments before, when we made the acquaintance of a nice man on the shore with his binoculars watching Bald Eagles. Now, that was a marvelous surprise! There were two of them circling overhead for several moments until moving on. We sat on the shore with Jarred and chatted a bit. He is building a log cabin in Montana and was taking a break in the park for a few days. We told him about the Griz and he seemed both excited and nervous, as it happened just a couple hundred yards from where he is camping.

We then headed back home. A long but wonderful day. The next two days promise some very exciting adventures for us, but I'm not telling...you will have to wait for an update! God Bless!

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