Thursday, September 4, 2014

Day 5: When Feeling Lost in Grizzly Territory... (July 9, 2014)

When feeling lost in Grizzly territory, on an overgrown trail, all alone and unable to get cell reception, there is only one thing you can do- take a deep breath, look at your hiking partner and be glad you aren't alone, readjust your pack, and keep on walking. 

That's one of the lessons I learned while hiking the Quartz Lake trail. Other lessons I learned while climbing over fallen trees and fighting through the brush that was attempting to reclaim the trail were as follows:

1) You can push your body farther than pain and exhaustion may make you believe. 
2) The "Ants Go Marching" song is a great song to sing while hiking, and you get bonus points for making up the verses on the spot.
3) A good sense of humor is incredibly helpful when you are suffering from self-inflicted pain. 
Exhibit A
4) THE HIKING GUIDE IS NOT ALWAYS RIGHT! The authors are most likely intelligent and experienced hikers, but they may have written their review of a trail years earlier, so (especially on the less popular trails) take their reviews with a small grain of salt.  
5) Take the beauty and the few quiet moments on the trail and store them in your heart to carry you through the unpleasant ones. The ability to do so may turn the hike from total hell to a beautiful, painful hike that made a great learning experience (and a great story) later. 

It wasn't that the trail wasn't beautiful, or that the lakes disappointing, it was more a question of two relatively new hikers letting their inexperience show by attempting a hike they hadn't really researched and didn't schedule enough time for. It was also an example of someone (who may or may not be writing this blog now) "knowing" that they could do the full trail even though they were running late, and while that ended up being correct, the time limits forced us to hurry through a trail that was already rather difficult and limited our ability to appreciate the true wilderness we were stumbling through (whoops!). As I have said, the Quartz Lake Trail has become a great story and a great learning experience. I don't think I'd hike it again, but for me, it was worth the pain and fear to learn I had greater limits than I previously knew and what NOT to do when tackling an unfamiliar trail. 


Adieu and Safe Travels,

If you missed the other Glacier adventures, never fear! Links are below!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Glacier National Park Day 4: River Gorges, Clear Lakes, and Waterfalls (July 8, 2014)

The trail to Avalanche Lake is one of the most popular, and hence the busiest, in the park. Part of its draw is likely due to the Trail of Cedars, a lovely short jaunt that is entirely wheelchair accessible and is the introductory trail to get to Avalanche Lake. However, after walking the paths myself, I think it is safe to say that the relative ease and accessibility of the hike are not the main reasons for its popularity.  No, in my mind the trail's popularity can be attributed more to the following: 

1) Avalanche Gorge- within minutes of beginning the hike, the trail opens up and follows Avalanche Gorge.  An absolutely breathtaking sight, the Gorge is composed of dark rocks covered in blankets of soft green moss, which contrast with the frothing light blue river that constantly rushes past. Words can't do it justice- let's suffice to say that I spent probably well over a half an hour shooting the gorge on the way up to the lake and quite a few more on the way back. 

2) The Trail itself- A relatively easy hike, the trail weaves up and down through beautiful woods, opening up occasionally to allow views of towering cliffs and temporary waterfalls fed by the snow-melt above. 


3) Avalanche Lake- this seems obvious, since the lake is your destination, but goodness let me tell you, if Avalanche Gorge takes one's breath away than I don't know how to accurately describe the beauty that is Avalanche Lake. Crystal clear, relatively shallow in most areas, but turning a brilliant rich blue as it plunges to unknown depths, Avalanche Lake is a vision in its own right. Yet its beauty is not limited to its waters, for it is surrounded on three sides by towering cliffs adorned with waterfalls and clad in a rich blanket of evergreens. 
A scene from a Romantic era painting, the lake has only one downfall- it is so gosh darn popular that peaceful reflection upon its loveliness is only possible if one finds a way to block out the screams of children and the chattering of your many (many) fellow hikers. We went after the noontime hour, and the shore was packed, but I think that perhaps a morning trip would allow for more peaceful viewing. 

Clear lakes, stunning gorges, crystal waterfalls, and beautiful forest views. How can one not love Avalanche Lake? 

Happy Trails,

If you missed the other Glacier adventures, never fear! Links are below!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Glacier National Park Day 3: Climbing, Glaciers, and Snowball Fights (July 7, 2014)

It had taken one year for a dream to become a reality. It started out with a camping excursion taken by four friends to Itasca State Park for a weekend and grew out of painful bike rides, laughter filled kayaking/canoe adventures, and quiet discussions held around the glowing light of a campfire.


It was a once mentioned destination that burrowed into our souls. At first just a half-joking suggestion, the idea took root and soon we were asking each other, "Why not?"

Cautiously we began brainstorming and planning. We lost two members of our party when they got engaged and had to choose between Glacier and a romantic getaway in Mexico (congrats again guys!). So, our foursome became a twosome, and my man-friend, best friend, and adventure buddy Bob and I had to really ask ourselves if we wanted to commit to the trip. I don't think it was really even a conversation- one of us brought it up cautiously, and the other said something along the lines of "Let's do this!"

That's how, after months of planning, reserving campsites, researching hikes, and purchasing the appropriate gear,  I was standing on a mountain looking onto lake after glacial lake and climbing ever higher in the hopes of seeing Grinnel Glacier. We were pushing ourselves hard, trying to make up for a late start and a drive through the park that was delayed by construction on the famous Going-To-The-Sun Road. We were hot, and frequently made use of our new Camelbak bladders as the sun pulled water from our pores. Yes, we were warm, but we were also incredibly happy. Our legs were protesting the climb, our lungs were complaining over the thinning air, but our hearts grew ever lighter as we shared new sights and light-hearted conversation.

When we reached the crest of the trail we found the descent into the Glacier's valley to be barred by treacherous snow bridges. We were disappointing, but instead of mourning our inability to get closer, we took the opportunity to soak in the beauty  of the snowy peaks and three clad slopes. We also had an impromptu snowball fight, which cemented the climb into one of my favorite memories from the trip. 

As we travel homeward with weary muscles and backpacks filled with Instax shots and memory cards brimming with yet-to-be-sorted images, I am struck anew by the wonder of the experience. 

It started out as a whispered dream and grew into something solid and soul-fulfilling.

Dare to dream. Dare to explore. 
Go and Do. 


If you missed the other Glacier adventures, never fear! Links are below!
 Day 1   Day 2