It feels as if the dating turned romancing has turned into a wonderful, comfortable marriage and we don't want to separate, but we must. Glacier National Park was more than we ever could have imagined or more than we could ever describe with words and photos.
Yesterday we hiked Highline Trail, a 12 mile hike that weaves through mountains, over waterfalls and along the edge of some amazing scenery. It was a moderate trail, not very technical, but hiking 12 miles is pretty exhausting. The first eight miles were fairly easy, though a bit too narrow in spots for my comfort (vertigo only a few times), but the last four miles were all downhill, which proved to be a bit much for my knees. My legs were already tired, but then to traverse rocky and narrow paths downhill almost did me in! James, being the wonderful, protective husband that he is, immediately made me hand over my backpack to ease the load. So, he, the one with the bum knee, hiked the four miles downhill with my pack and his. My hero for sure!
It was as if we were walking on top of the world. We went through pine forests, rocky cliffs, thick Aspen forests and came within feet of Big Horn Sheep, who didn't seem to mind our presence at all. We couldn't have asked for better weather and I even got a bit of my tan back. The trail is a one way trail, not a loop, so you have to park your car at one end and catch a ride to the other. During the summer months in Glacier they have shuttles that go by every 15 minutes or so to pick hikers up, however, they have stopped running due to the end of the season. So, we literally hitch hiked. I don't think I have ever hitch hiked before, so it was a bit strange, but I stuck my thumb out, as did James, and waited. It didn't take long, maybe five minutes and a half dozen or so cars that passed us by, but finally a big SUV pulled over and the guy, a local, knew instantly where we were headed, so off we went! Thankfully, we parked the car at the end of the trail, so when we were done, our car was there waiting.
We finished the hike in about 6 hours and that was with stopping to eat twice, rest, take pictures and visit with passing hikers. Not too bad, I think. When done, we poured ourselves into the car and relished our accomplishment and being done! We still had about 30 minutes to drive home, so down the mountain we go. About 15 minutes into the ride, I was out like a light. We had the top down and for some unknown reason, I didn't fall asleep reclined with my head against the seat...nope, I fell asleep slumped over like some corpse! James said every time we went around a curve, I swayed to the other side and then back again with the next curve. Quiet a site, I'm sure. It was a bit confusing to wake up with my nose two inches from the gear shift. Apparently, I was tired.
Today, we ended our time in Glacier with a bang! We took a one hour Helicopter tour around the park, and even into Canada. We saw places that one could never see even if you lived here your entire life. Places only seen from a bird's eye view. Those who know me well, know I'm not a crier. I just don't cry easily, but put me in the midst of God's glory like I have been several times on this journey, and the tears just flow. I can't explain it, nor do I even know it is going to happen...they are just there...tears welling up in my eyes. I can only say that something deep within my soul responds to such amazing beauty and it literally has to cry out. That was today. It was magical and very special. I took ever 200 photos in one hour, but could only choose a fraction of that to put on Facebook and on the Photo Journal; I tried to pick the best ones!
Then, to make this day even more special, we finally saw a wolf. We weren't even looking for it...it was as if he knew we wanted to catch a glimpse of its mysterious beauty and granted us our wish. We were driving to Two Medicines, another part of the park, and I just happened to look up on the hill we were passing by, and there he was, just sitting there looking over the meadow on the other side of the road. I said, "Oh my gosh, James, I think that was a wolf!" As soon as we could, we turned around and started heading back to the spot and right as we came around the curve, he was crossing the street. He was a younger wolf, not an adult for sure, and he was the most gorgeous animal I have ever seen in my life. Elegant, majestic, swift, graceful...all of those and then some. We checked with the Park Ranger to make sure it wasn't a coyote, but she said with our description (especially the tail...it was big and fluffy), she was sure it was a wolf. I am so very thankful to have had to opportunity to see him in the wild, not in a cage or a zoo, but where he is truly himself and free.
We stayed one extra day to fit in these last two activities (and to do four loads of laundry), but will be heading to Missoula tomorrow for a night then to Wyoming. I will hate leaving Montana. This is the only state we have been in where people say proudly that they were born and raised here and that the are never leaving. We have heard this numerous times...that says something about Montana. We will come back here again, that I have no doubt.
So, as with any good-byes in relationships, we leave Montana very sad, but very thankful for the time and memories. We will cherish them always and revisit our photos and journal entries like old love letters until we are reunited.