I can confirm that there’s no better way to visit a national park then when you go with a biologist. And it was our luck that my second cousin Marcel not only lives in Missoula, but is a biologist, and was happy to join us on our four day trip to Glacier National Park. While I had the opportunity to do an amazing back-country camping trip in Glacier twenty-two years earlier when I was fresh out of college, I am pleased to say that within our first few minutes in the park it seemed that little to nothing had changed and Glacier was perhaps even more beautiful and impressive in its grandeur. Marcel’s knowledge of the area combined with his enthusiasm and eagerness to share it with us made the trip nothing short of spectacular. His keen tracking instincts and enormous telescope enabled us to see a variety of animals including mountain goats, big horn sheep, many variety of deer and birds, as well as both brown and black bears (both at a safe distance). Whether Marcel was pointing out bear claw marks on a tree or leading extended conversations ranging from animal overpasses to Sao Paulo’s water crisis, it was an extremely informative and educational visit.
In addition to some spectacular hikes in both the main park and Many Glaciers, our timing coincided with a lunar eclipse which we chose to watch from the highest pass in the park on the Going to the Sun Road. We thought this was a pretty original idea heading up to 8000 feet especially with the gusty wind and cold temperatures that had set in, however, we were accompanied by many other eager celestial gazers which added to the excitement of the event. The sheer awesomeness of our Earth never ceases to amaze me as we watched the full round moon slowly but completely blacken and then reassuringly return to its bright and healthy glow. Our final Glacier adventure, following the suggestions of a friend, was a drive to the tiny and quirky outpost of Polebridge, population probably totaling less than 75, where we enjoyed a variety of delicious baked goods from their one and only store which also leads a double life as a delectable bakery.
While we could have happily spent many days in Missoula, biking around the cute town, enjoying the abundant bounty from Marcel and Bethany’s garden and getting even more precious time with our dear friend Carolyn Wiley from camp who gave the boys a fantastic visit at the Missoula Insectarium where she works, we felt the need to continue on westward to ultimately try to beat the snow in our travels. Driving parallel to Lewis and Clark’s route gave us several opportunities through Idaho and Washington to camp near and explore the same area seen by their expedition close to 160 years earlier. It also gave us the benefit of hiking to some beautiful hot springs in Idaho which was a perfect break in the drive and a total hit and highlight for all four of us. It was not long after our nature bath that we successfully crossed into the furthest state west we could possibly hit on this trajectory and noticed a complete and drastic change in the landscape. Leaving the green and vibrant tree-covered hills, we entered the dry rolling plains of eastern Washington known as the Scablands. While some people might think of this area as barren, I completely enjoyed a very beautiful and hilly run one morning looking out across the land as far as the eye could see trying to take it all in. The diversity and magnificence of our country’s geographical landscape continues to take my breath away on a daily basis and I’m so happy that we are able to really explore our beautiful homeland with our boys. On that note, we made sure to explore a little gem in this area known as Palouse Falls, which is also known most impressively and interestingly, (as I was informed by my boys), as the highest waterfall (198 feet) ever ridden successfully by a kayaker. No kidding, see following link for proof!