Big thoughts at Bowman

I believe each of us has a few favorite places that we’ve been in the world. One of my favorites is Bowman Lake up the North Fork of the Flathead. I love that lake and have made such good memories there it will always be a place that I call home. It was a perfect day at Bowman yesterday, even if it was as crowded as I’ve ever seen it. Oh yeah, Labor Day weekend. Note to self: go to the lake on a weekday.

BowmanPeanut had a great time splashing in the water on the lake’s edge. He tossed pebbles, felt the water on his fingers and toes. Big Country and I sat beside him and nibbled on that huckleberry turnover I mentioned in the last post. It was delicious as ever.

Peanut at bowmanAfter hanging out on the lakeshore for a while, we took a stroll down one of the trails by the lake. Over a bridge that crosses Bowman Creek, then back into the lake shallows for more splashing. Peanut loved being able to “hike” himself instead of riding in the backpack. He stopped to pet leaves, pick flowers, and look all around.

Peanut hikin'We stuck to big thoughts all day, and it was a perfect day. Sunny but not too hot. Surrounded by beauty and keeping the worries at bay. It’s hard to be unhappy watching your child explore the world.

Did you succeed in thinking big thoughts too?

 

 

 

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Walking all over the place

My dad, step-mom, and brothers are here for a visit this week. Thursday we made the trek over Logan Pass on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park and hiked to Preston Park again, this time with my family. It was a beautiful, sunshine-y day with a nice occasional breeze. This time we saw a ton of wildflowers, including magenta paintbrush. I’ve seen scarlet paintbrush, but never magenta, so it was a real treat to see this variety.

Magenta paintbrush 2I love learning about wildflowers, and if I have a chance someday to go back to school, I’d like to get a degree in plant biology, with a focus on Rocky Mountain wildflowers.

Magenta paintbrush 1

Paintbrush and going to the sun mtnThe above photo doesn’t do justice to the carpet of wildflowers and Going-to-the-Sun mountain behind, but boy, it sure was a beautiful.

S k and j siyeh creekGotta start ’em young, working on instilling that love of hiking. Although Peanut looks less than enthusiastic in this photo (he was distracted by the creek), he loves hiking already. He takes it all in, looking all over at the trees and mountains and flowers. Already he’s content to be in the backpack for two to three hours at a stretch. Though he enjoys little breaks so he can explore since he’s walking now. He’s walking all over the place and we hope that he always will love walking all over the place. Especially up mountains.

Siyeh creekHow blessed we are to live in a place like this, where this view can be an every day event.

 

 

 

 

Lunch Creek

Took my own advice and wandered up Lunch Creek a ways and after that up the Piegan Pass trail toward Preston Park with friends a few days ago. Amazing what a hike does for the soul. Hard not to feel stirred with a view like this.

Lunch creek vista

Heavy Runner mountain on the left, Mt. Reynolds on the right.

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

Walking in the woods

Avalanche creek waterfallWhen my mom and sister were here for a visit a few weeks ago we spent some time one day going for a stroll in Glacier. My sister, poor thing, busted her tailbone snowboarding so we stuck to a very gentle trail for her sake. Trail of the Cedars is a boardwalk through a very old cedar grove. Some of the cedars are more than 500 years old! Avalanche Creek runs through it all, and comes down the ravine in twists and turns around the stone. In this photo the creek is actually about as low as I’ve seen it. This photo was taken before the melt really started.

Girls in the cedarsHere’s my mom (left), yours truly (middle), and my sister (right) at the overlook of the waterfall. Family resemblance?

Boys trail of the cedarsAnd here are my boys in the same spot. What lovely boys they are, too.

Feeding park employeesSomebody let a prankster loose with a permanent marker on the trail, and that person had all sorts of funny things to say (including ridiculous bovine-themed haikus). This is one example.

Pathway through the woodsIt’s a very easy trail, but a very beautiful one too. I love the hush of cedar grove, the humidity those trees create beneath their canopies, the sound of birdsong from branches distant.

 

 

 

 

Go outside

I’ve found one of the best salves for the busy, stressed, or troubled soul is to get outside. Go for a hike. Plant a garden. Push your child on the swing. Read a book on the lawn. Snowshoe. Shovel snow. There are so many ways to get outside that doesn’t cost a penny and can be so soothing and restorative. I know I’ve written a lot lately about being stressed or worried, and it’s been true. There has been a lot of stress and worry in my life recently trying to get a small business operating while maintaining a welcoming home and raising a child the way I think that child should be raised. I certainly am an advocate for extending the hours of every day just so I can get things done! On the other hand, I’ve had to tell myself to pull back a bit lately and to get outside to enjoy life. And to enjoy the beautiful part of the country where I live. I am truly blessed to live in northwest Montana and there’s no point living here unless I get out and enjoy it!

A few weeks ago I went on a great walk with my friend Flannery. We explored an old homestead (now vacation rental), and enjoyed a wonderful walk through big meadows and beside still-white mountains. We watched a herd of elk move across the meadow and into the trees.

Big skyThose peaks never fail to amaze me. What beautiful mountains. Those white peaks in their imposing, monumental, wind-swept, snow-covered splendor. I run out of adjectives every time. I think there are just some things that language cannot describe. Some things are just meant to be gawked at, to be enjoyed on a primal level. To be connected to as a child of this planet connects to the earth.

Charred treesTurning around from the mountains, you can see that this valley has experienced fire. Fire is good for forests. It rejuvenates the land, and did you know for many pine cones to germinate they need to be burned? Fire is part of the ecosystem here. It’s always painful to think about how might those burnt forests must have been, though, when all that remains is charred lodgepole trunks. Someday again, there will be forest.

Wagon mountainsAnd even though this part of the world can be very remote, it is also touched by humanity. This was a homestead, many years ago. A family struggled to make a living here through winters harsh and howling, through summers bright and bountiful. Hard people making a hard way, but in one of the most magnificent places on the planet. That family still owns the property, by the way. The homestead has made way for a vacation rental now, but at least the place is still enjoyed and that view is still appreciated. I will always wish that the land were still worked, but that isn’t this piece of land’s destiny, at least not right now.

Wagon wheelFor now, this wagon will gather moss and make for pretty lawn art. The wheels will sink into ruts and eventually the earth will reclaim the wooden spokes and the iron rims. Everything in this life is eventually reclaimed, you know. The earth is one heck of a great recycler.

After our walk, we retired to Flannery’s rented summer cabin. Like all cabins in this part of the world, there’s no electricity save for generators. Heat comes from the wood stove which comes from the wood you chopped and split. Chopping wood is great fun, great exercise, and I can’t say enough about its virtues. Go chop some wood, people.

Twice warmedWe were also warmed by some strong coffee spiked with whiskey and with excruciatingly rich chocolate cake Flannery baked. Flannery is a world-class baker, after all.

Flan 1

Flan 2

Flan 3We followed our chocolate snack with some gypsy stew, bread, and wine for dinner, eaten by candlelight (because there’s no electricity, remember?).

Delightful dinnerWhile I obviously enjoy the perks of electricity, I do love getting away from it too. I think there’s something in all of us that yearns for the simplicity of a life lived close to the earth, and without distractions like television and Internet. Of course that simple life did lack things like coffee, easily procured beautiful yarn, and blogs. And I would greatly miss those things.

It’s about balance people. Do some soul balancing and get outside. There is a big, beautiful world out there for exploring. The Internet will be there when you get back, but the glaciers will be gone if you tarry too long at your computer screen.

Going to the Sun (and some waterfalls)

Over Labor Day weekend, we took a little trip over to the east side of Glacier National Park. We don’t get over there too often because it’s about four hours round trip. We made the impromptu decision to get over to the east side, though, and it was a great boondoggle. The east side sure is lovely! We hiked to St. Mary Falls, a glacier-fed waterfall (you can tell it’s glacier-fed because of the turquoise water, which looks like something you’d see in the Caribbean). And then we drove over the Going-to-the-Sun Road close to sundown. The long shadows thrown up by the arched backs of the mountains painted the park in a beautiful light.

Here’s my boys at St. Mary Falls. Jonathan was pretty into watching the waterfall. This was a good hike for us. It ended up being about three miles round-trip, which is about six miles too short for Shawn and I, but a good length for our little Peanut. Next summer we’re planning to do some longer hikes with him.

St. Mary Falls sure is beautiful. For a waaaaay better photo, check this out.

We didn’t quite make it to Virginia Falls, but we did spend a nice fifteen minutes hanging out on the rocks on an unnamed cascade along Virginia Creek.

After the hike, we drove home over the Going-to-the-Sun Road (we’d taken Marias Pass on the way to the east side). Here’s the view from almost on top of Logan Pass, looking east.

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.

 

 

 

Another first

We took Jonathan on his first hike in Glacier National Park this past weekend. First we drove most of the way up the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The photo above is of Bird Woman Falls. The photo below is of Haystack Falls, another waterfall along the route.

We wanted to go to the top, to Logan Pass, and look around for a while at all the snow still up there, but with the construction we ended up just sitting for a while in an enormous line of cars before we said to heck with it. That’s how it rolls when you’ve got a baby who is hungry and who doesn’t want to be in his car seat anymore. So, improvising, we decided to go on a hike instead. We are trying to get Jonathan used to being in the backpack. We are doing this by taking longer and longer hikes with him, working him up to being in the backpack for a few hours at a time.

We decided to do the Johns Lake hike. It’s short and sweet and it did seem like the perfect amount of time for our son. At the beginning of the hike we could tell he was very interested in all the trees. It occurred to us that while walking through the trees is completely quotidian to us, to Jonathan is was an entirely new experience. Would that I could approach things with such wonder with more frequency in my own life. Having a baby certainly helps with that! We hiked to the lake and kept going to the underpass that goes under Going-to-the-Sun Road and comes out along McDonald Creek.

Remember to wonder, people. Look at something you’ve seen before with new eyes, the eyes of an infant. Contemplate something average in your life and make it wonderful. It’s a refreshing experience.

Beautiful Bowman

Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park is a special place to my husband and me. It’s the first place we ever camped together (we love camping). It’s also the first place we camped in Glacier Park. It’s the place where our engagement photos were shot. And it’s the place we took our son Jonathan on his first trip to Glacier.

Of course he loved it. See? What a happy boy. We think he enjoyed seeing the lake. He’s really started to LOOK at things, to take them in. It’s a very cool thing to watch him learn.

While we were there, I snapped this photo of two tree swallows hanging out by the lake.

Today Jonathan will be baptized into the United Methodist Church. Though I want Jonathan to someday make his own decisions about his relationship with God, he will be raised in the church. I will give him the jumping off point, and he can find his own spot to land. Our pastor suggested we get some water from a local body of water (northwest Montana is a lake district) that holds special significance. So of course we chose Bowman. We filled a mason jar with water flowing from the lake into Bowman Creek, at the lake’s end and the creek’s beginning. We are passing on the significance of this place to our son, but want him to experience his own journey. We are the lake, he is the creek.

Shawn and I decided that we’re going to start an annual camping trip with our children (yes, we’re planning on another kiddo… but not for a while so don’t get all excited!) at Bowman Lake. We want to share that special place with them. Of course we’ll go other places in Glacier Park, but we’ll always visit Bowman (how convenient that the Polebridge Merc and its amazing huckleberry turnovers are on the way!). Shawn and I want to teach our children to be stewards of the land. We want them to feel the same sense of wonder we do in the forests of Glacier National Park, and in the grasslands of Nebraska. We hope to teach our children that they are a part of the world, unique and wonderful, but also tiny, ethereal, and only existing but a moment in the grand stretch of time.