Lake hikes and beargrass in bloom

This afternoon we went on a quick hike to Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park. It’s one of the easiest (and thus most heavily traveled) hikes in the park, but the lake payoff at the end is worth the hike. It also winds alongside Avalanche Creek nearly the entire way, so the sound of the rushing water in the dim of the mossy forest is a treat no matter how many times you hike it (and I think I’m closing in on a dozen times). It’s a good thing it’s a gentle hike too, because both Big Country and I were pretty tired at the end… but considering we’re both getting over one heck of a nasty virus, I think we get a bye for being wussies on this hike. Felt good to “sweat the sick out” as we called it, though. Big Country packed Peanut in, and I packed him out. And to tell the truth, carrying 35 pounds of child/backpack on your back makes an easy hike a solid workout.

Fam at avalanche lakeThere are waterfalls running down the bowl into the lake in at least three different places, and even across the length of the lake the din of the tumbling water is a constant presence. While we were hiking it was cloudy and humid, but the clouds cleared a bit while we were at the lake.

There were two chipmunks there that have been completely habituated to people because moronic tourists feed them, so they were climbing all over the rocks we were sitting on, and even climbed on us a bit. Ran over our shoes a few times and once one chipmunk was so bold as to climb up on my leg. Cute, but creepy too; I’d prefer not to get rabies, thanks. Peanut thought it was the funniest thing, of course. When I was very little I called chipmunks “dirt mice” and perhaps we will continue that tradition with Peanut.

There was a beautiful Steller’s Jay flying around the lakeshore while we were there, too, and Big Country got a nice photo of it perched on a beached log.

Steller's jayWe typically only hike to Avalanche Lake once a year, or not even that often, because it’s overrun with people, being one of the most popular hikes in the park, and today we saw a whole lot of people. But we enjoyed the hike anyway, and started keeping a tally of the number of people who commented on Peanut’s backpack being the way to hike, as opposed to using one’s legs.

Beargrass 1

On the drive to the lake and back, of course, there were thousands of beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) blooms in their ghostly glory to be seen through the pine trees. Beargrass bloom in 5- to 7-year cycles, and in clusters. This year is already a great beargrass year; I saw more beargrass today than I have since I first moved to Montana in 2009 (which was also a great beargrass year). And in doing a little beargrass research, I discovered that beargrass is in important part of the fire ecology in alpine regions; the rhizome roots of beargrass aren’t killed by the fire, which allows the plant to bloom again after fire sweeps the area, clearing dead foliage. Beargrass is a lovely plant (don’t pick the blooms! the plant won’t ever bloom again if you do!), and I love seeing the milky flowers contrasting against the dark trunks of the trees.

Beargrass 2

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Happy campers

A couple of weeks ago when my husband’s folks came for a visit we took Jonathan on his first camping trip ever. It was great fun sitting around the camp fire enjoying each other’s company and eating some delicious steak and foil vegetables (basically any veggies you want chopped and tossed together in tin foil with whatever seasonings/marinades you want cooked for about half an hour in really hot campfire coals). My husband and I have always enjoyed camping and we chose to camp at Bowman Lake, which I’ve mentioned before as being a pretty special place to us. So we packed up enough stuff to go on a trip for a month (at least it felt that way) and moseyed up the North Fork.

Of course the menfolk began the camping trip with the necessary task of building the fire (and also spent the rest of the evening doing the unnecessary task of tinkering with the fire constantly… if I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that Nebraska men are stubborn and ornery and you can’t tell ’em a thing, so tinker on, boys!)

My mother-in-law, my son, and I had the important task of managing the fire building.

This photo was clearly taken BEFORE trying to sleep in a tent with a baby. We were happier campers in the evening than in the morning (though it was still fun, regardless).

Dinner was delicious. Can’t beat a Nebraska steak.

Here’s my husband in his natural habitat: Enjoying whiskey by the fire while camping.

After dinner we put Jonathan down to sleep in the tent. We put our sleeping bags on either side of the little nest we made for Jonathan out of blankets and quilts. I wasn’t comfortable putting him in a sleeping bag because I didn’t want him to scoot down inside it and have trouble breathing. Shawn and I knew it would be an interesting night, though, because the three of us don’t sleep well in the same room, er, tent. Jonathan has never shared a room with us, so we tend to wake each other up when we share a room.

As I always do when camping, I purposefully didn’t drink much water so I wouldn’t have to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I always get creeped out at night when camping, though it’s a bit silly to think I’m safer in the tent than outside of it. If the bear wants to eat me, he’ll just come in the tent to get me. Alas, that little avoid going to the bathroom plan failed. Jonathan woke up about 3 a.m. and had to be nursed back to sleep. And then of course I had to go to the bathroom. But my thoughtful husband kindly set off the car alarm on accident and scared all of the critters in a 10-mile radius away so it was safe to stumble down to the vault toilet. He also woke the entire campground, I think. Though come morning we overheard the camp host berating some Australians (yes, they had the flag) for leaving their food outside all night (that’s pretty idiotic in bear/cougar/wolf country), and decided we saved the Australians from being some bear’s midnight snack.

Jonathan woke back up about 6 a.m. screaming and again we awoke the entire campground (I’m sorry!). As you can see from the picture below I’m not quite as happy a camper as I was the night before. Jonathan, however, is his smiley self.

So that was our camping trip. We are looking forward to camping with our son in the future, but I think we’re going to wait another year or two for the next trip.