“To lift your spirits, spend some time with nature, she will lend you her power until you become aware of your own.”
Is there anything more inspiring, more empowering, more beautiful than the Earth itself? Generations of poets, philosophers, scientists, travellers and artists have found both inspiration and intrigue in nature. One of the greatest poets of the 20th century, W.B. Yeats once said, “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper”. Every interaction I make with nature, serves me a gentle reminder of this.
It is true, nature stages some of her greatest, most intimate dramas for an audience that is patient and willing to be overwhelmed by her grandeur.
My husband and I took a camping trip recently, to Glacier National Park, Montana, USA. Some beautiful drives and long, strenuous hikes into the wilderness showed us its magnificence. Each view was more beautiful than the previous. To me, every single one of them, brought a moment of epiphany. While journalling those little moments into this blog, I revisited them virtually.
If reading philosophy and fun facts on wilderness is not your vibe, then enjoy the pictures and allow them to tell you their story!
Between 170 million and 40 million years ago, an intense yet puzzling tectonic activity, gave birth to The Rocky Mountain Ranges. The breathtaking wilderness that we enjoy today, at the Glacier National Park, is a result of glaciation after the last Ice Age (around 8000 years ago). Exceptionally large quantities of moving ice carved out this beautiful landscape.
At the entrance of Glacier National Park, our excitement could barely be contained. We had been waiting for this day for a long time! The first checkbox on our bucket list was this! My capacity of translating emotions into words, plateaus at the use of the word “excitement”. But a quote by the creator of Winnie The Pooh- A. A. Milne (who happened to be an exceptional at this!) comes to mind.
” “Well”, said Pooh, “What I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it, which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”
This- the moment you’re in anticipation of something amazing to happen. How incredible is it!
What do you feel this for? Whatever it is, allow it to inspire you!
After setting up our camp at The Rising Sun campground, we packed our snacks and set out to explore our heavenly surrounding. Nothing I had seen before, even compared to the beauty around us.
It was fascinating of course- lush green trees, gleaming turquoise water, snow capped mountains- I could look at it all day! But how can you truly appreciate something without knowing its story? Without knowing what made it what it is?
Notice the farthest peak in the picture above? Not too far behind it, is the Triple Divide Peak. I read about it, on the National Park Service Website. If you live in North America, here’s how it affects you-
From Triple Divide Peak, a droplet can theoretically split three ways and eventually make it to the Pacific, Atlantic and Hudson Bay watersheds. As part of the source water for North America, its cleanliness is important to everyone on the continent.
As the Crown of the Continent, Glacier is the headwaters for streams that flow to the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and to Hudson’s Bay. What happens here affects waters in a huge section of North America.
Thanks to Global Warming, the glaciers at the Glacier National Park are receding at an extraordinary rate. In the past century and half, their numbers have gone down from about 150 to 25. It is predicted that by 2030, there wont be any glaciers at the Glacier National Park.
Interestingly the park was named so, not for the living glaciers in it, but for the tracks of it. The work of Ice Age glaciers over the last two million years can be seen to this day- Moraines, Hanging Valleys, U-shaped Valleys, arêtes, cirques, eskers, drumlins, etc. You may see some of these in the following pictures.
On our way to Many Glaciers, Lake Sherburne gave us a tease of what was waiting for us. Pristine fresh water, cool breeze and a backdrop of the majestic Rocky Mountains- we stopped by to soak it all in. How could we not?
A proud resident of The Glacier National Park- An American Black Bear gave us a glimpse before disappearing into the woods.
The best thing about surprises is that you have no expectations of them, whatsoever!
We were hoping to see some wildlife here of course, but we did not know what to expect and when to expect it. May be that is why, when we first saw the bear, it didn’t occur to us to pull out our camera. We just watched him promptly cross the road and make its way towards the lake.
You know, bears learn from their experiences. So the way each bear interacts with us is different, depending on how much experience they’ve had with humans. This one seemed to know his way around motor vehicles. Imagine having random strangers in your home as you go about your business while they fuss around you!
Wildlife is certainly more tolerant of us than we are, of them!
Unsure of what we wanted to do next, we started a trail that looked decent enough, from what we read about it!
Have you ever looked back at your previous self and thought, “Oh wow! I had no idea I was about have the time of my life!”
Well, that’s me- right here!
This is where a 6 hour long hike to (and back from) Grinnell Glacier begins.
About 2 hours into our hike, we reached Lake Josephine. We decided to rest while feasting our eyes on this beauty.
Because of a recent Grizzly sighting on our trail, we were asked to be cautious. And since we did not have any bear spray on us, I was starting to freak out. Of all the things I pride myself on, being brave when confronted with a Grizzly bear, is not one.
My husband suggested we forget about it, talk loudly, laugh, sing and have fun! If there are any Brown bears near by, they’ll hear us and wont be threatened by our presence. That seemed fair enough!
So we enjoyed the typical noises in the forest, the occasional breeze, breathtaking scenery and like 2 people on their first date, started talking about our lives. After 7 years of knowing each other and being in love for about 3, I was surprised at how much there was, that we still didn’t know about each other!
Here’s a dating tip- If you want to get to know someone, take them for a hike into the woods! Nature provides the perfect setting for a perfect date. And because you’re out in the wild, no one can fake anything! Bonding over an adventure is much better than bonding over expensive looking gifts and dinner dates!
The entire landscape at Glacier National park is colored in pink, purple, blue, teal, green and brown colored rocks, pebbles and sand. The work of millions of years of tectonic activity is very evident here. I did some reading on The National Park Service website, and found this-
Common Belt series rocks found in Glacier include the Appekunny, Prichard, Grinnell, and Snowslip Formations. Reddish-brown and greenish-gray in appearance, these rocks are comprised of argillite and quartzite material that was compressed under sea water to form mudstones. The chemical composition of these rocks, in addition to their place of origin within the Belt Sea – nearshore versus deeper water environments, is largely responsible for the variation in color.
Towards the end of our trail, we looked back to be amazed by this view! See the farthest lake? Our hike started about a half a mile before that!
The three lakes together make what is called “Paternoster Lakes”. It is a chain of small, successively lower lakes form where the glacier scoops a depression during its retreat. This string of bowls is known as paternoster lakes because of their resemblance to rosary beads.
The last bit of our hike was the hardest. The trail began to climb a series of steep switchbacks through a boulder-strewn moraine. And as an asthmatic climbing at 6515 ft., it was easily my least favorite part of this hike. I got more and more breathless and wanted to give up at every step.
I have always believed that mind is stronger than the body. When you set your mind on something- your body finds ways to support you in achieving it. I had to pump my inhaler many times and we rested every 2-3 steps. It took us a little longer than others- but we made it to the top!
Words cannot express the beauty we saw in front of us. We were instantly refreshed! The minute we reached the peak of our hike- it was all worth it!
Like typical tourists we traded clicking a picture for someone, for having one taken of us. After we saw that it was out of focus, we laughed it off. I don’t expect everyone to be great photographers- I certainly am not! So we decided to sit on a rock and just enjoy the place!
I have seen many photographs of the Grinnell Glacier (after our trip) by some very talented, professional nature-photographers. And to be very honest, none of them has come even close to doing any justice to the grandeur of this place, as witnessed in real life. There is something ‘uncapturable’ about it! It is a MUST SEE. If you have only one day at the Glacier National Park- spend it here!
This is where Grinnell glacier resides. It melts in summer and pours into Grinnell Lake (Lower) and eventually into Josephine and Swiftcurrent.
We were standing on and in front of a rock that was formed about 170 million years ago (Lewis Overthrust)! My favorite part of this journey, without a doubt, was this. Nature has the capacity to empower you and make you feel powerless, all at the same time!
After the steep strenuous climb, we dropped our bags to enjoy the fruits (breathtaking scenery) of our hard work. Little did we know, these tiny thieves were lurking around waiting for us to bring them food! The beautiful view served as the perfect distraction for these geniuses. No sooner did someone leave their backpack unwatched, the squirrels would go sniffing around it for food. This one even figured out how to open the zippers of our backpack!
I have a dog who looks at me like I am guilty of murder, when I dont give him my food! So trust me, I know that it takes courage to say no to their face!
But think about this-
Each forest has its own ecosystem and the major reasons for any imbalance in it, is human interference. When you’re in their home, you are only an observer. That means you can’t interfere with their natural food chain. The squirrels aren’t supposed to eat your trail mix, they’re supposed to hunt and forage for their food. If they don’t, it causes an imbalance in the forest’s ecosystem. Like other sentient beings, squirrels too learn from experience. So when you give them food, they find that begging for food is easier than hunting and continue to do this with other tourists. There are many signs in the National Park that say not to feed the wildlife.
The best way to not leave your footprint in nature, is to leave her alone and trust her to take her own course!
After we spent about an hour up at the glacier, it was time to gather all our memories and make our way to the trailhead before sunset.
We saw this Bighorn sheep on our way down. They generally graze in herds but the two we saw (another one, on our way up), were alone. It was a very peaceful moment, watching her- the valley was quiet and you could only hear the tiny rustle in leaves from the wind.
As we stood there in awe of our world, it seemed as though, she too was admiring her home.
When we were planning our trip to the Glacier National Park, we were told to do one thing for sure- spend a day at Lake McDonald- The largest lake here at the Glacier National Park. So, from the Rising Sun campground, we drove along Going-To-The-Sun road (a MUST DO, at the GNP). We stopped by at every scenic point and finally reached Lake McDonald.
We had packed a picnic- some sandwiches, trail mix and smoothies. Luckily, it was sunny and we could lay on the pebbles all day. It was a mesmerising view, the water there, is extremely clear- it is not unusual to spot details on the bottom of lakes beyond 30 feet. We took a dip and then, a nap under the bright blue sky! After a tiresome hike on the previous day, this was a real treat!
After resting up, we drove to Apgar Visitor Center and rented kayaks. Kayaking under the sun, surrounded by beautiful mountains, trees and clear gleaming water, had us all zenned out! Trust me, therapy like this is better than any spa there is out there!
While on the kayak, I remember wondering about how the lake must have formed. I read a book (Guide to National Parks of the United States- National Geographic) that said- Its long narrow bed was gouged out by the bulldozing action of a glacier.
Imagining a glacier millions of years ago, at the same place we were now paddling at, is beyond my capacity!
Here’s an excerpt I found on NPS Website, on some information about this lake-
Glaciers follow the most direct course downward. This means they often fill areas previously filled by a river or stream. A river cuts a V-shape profile. The freeze/refreeze glacial conveyor belt scours valleys into a U-shape, broad at the bases and sheer on the sides. The result (when the glacier is gone) is awesome verticality and/or long, deep lakes like Lake McDonald and Bowman.
Just like the U-shaped valleys they often fill, these long lakes have a bathtub shape—deep with steep sides. At 10 miles long (16 km) and 464 feet deep (141.4 m) Lake McDonald is both largest and deepest body of water in the park.
The temperature of most lakes never gets above 50 degrees Fahrenheit at the surface, so plankton growth is minimal. In some areas, the lack of plankton growth and the clarity of water would be cause for worry—pollutants like acid rain often kill the growth. Not here. These lakes are at the extreme low end of fertility, because of their low temperatures, extreme depth, and the kinds of minerals supplied by surrounding rock. These sterile oligotrophic lakes are also an early warning system. They are easily altered by small amounts of pollution, and therefore serve as bellwethers for our water conditions everywhere.
Before retiring for the day, we decided to catch the sunset at the Hidden Lake overlook. The trail head for this hike started at Logan Pass Visitor Center. This trail is quite simple. A 3 mile round trip to the Hidden Lake overlook was abundant with summer wildflowers and melt water from snowfields and glaciers, trickling down the creeks. Throughout the trail, we were surrounded with beautiful mountains and towards the end of our hike, we saw about 10-12 grazing mountain goats.
The trail suddenly ended, as the ground dropped into this gem- The Hidden Lake. There was only one thing left to do here- enjoy the quiet sunset, in peace.
It is incredible, how nature so very effortlessly teaches you to be present in the moment. It is here, in the wild- that you can truly experience what some of those profound spiritual quotes talk about!
As the sun was setting, our time to say good bye was coming close. We were supposed to leave for home, early next day. I was certainly not prepared to leave and honestly, I wish we had more time there! But we promised to come back, in a few years (definitely before 2030!) and stay for a longer time! After the hike, we drove to our campsite, lit up a bonfire and cooked a hot meal. With a couple swigs of whiskey to keep us warm and tonnes of memories from our trip, we prepared for a long road trip home, early next day.
Aside from the obvious- the mountains, lakes and glaciers, I was mesmerised by the wildflowers here. They filled the entire landscape with color! Appreciating little things is an art worth learning!
Travelling and spending time with nature, leaves you with many emotions. Wanting to inspire others to travel, so they can experience what you experienced, is one of them.
The 14th century Moroccan explorer- Ibn Battuta, has very wisely said this about travelling- “It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”
I hope this blog tempted you to venture out into the wild. Good luck with your adventures!