Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Finally getting there

The world is big. Open. Renewing itself.That's sometimes hard to remember, living in the city.

Mountain goat
We've driven past many places in MT without stopping. I decided to spend Monday and 100+ miles in the Montana countryside, catching up on "everyone's-been-there" places I'd seen and roads where I'd never been.

I drove into Glacier Park in the morning, up the Going to the Sun Road to Logan Pass. The dogs waited in the car (no pets on trails) while I hiked up to the Hidden Lake overlook, an accessible uphill climb over boardwalks and gravel paths. The glacier lake shimmered thousands of feet below, under a hazy sky indented by mountain peaks. A white mountain goat chewed grass just a few feet from the trail. On the way down, I hauled out my watercolors for a quick sketch of wildflowers.

The red tour buses of Going to the Sun Road
Construction delays left us sitting on the mountainside for a half hour. I hauled out the sketchbook and let the dogs out on a leash, waiting for the pilot car to bring tourist vehicles through the narrow construction lane. "They're coming, ma'am," said the driver of the car in front of us. "Might want to get in the car."

The dogs hopped back into their seats as the oncoming traffic wound its way around the mountainside toward us. Finally, we inched along for a few miles behind a water truck wetting the sandy surface of the road, trailing a pilot car.

Lake McDonald Lodge
We pulled into the parking lot at Lake McDonald Lodge so the dogs could walk the shoreline and drink the cold water. Then we drove through three campsites I've wondered about (Avalanche, Sprague, and Apgar. Now I know what's there. Campsites.)

Robert Fire 2003 recovery
We stayed in the park, skirting Lake McDonald through the most awful burn area. Acres and acres of dead trees, miles of burned trunks, and underneath, four and five-foot pines and firs, growing up to the sunshine. Blanketing the hills in green, the new growth exists because the old things died off and gave them access to nutrients, light, and water.

The trip to Polebridge wound over gravel roads and pavement. There it was! Polebridge Mercantile. "We have 6 bakers on site," said the young man behind the counter. Apparently they all are fabulous at what they do. Their feta, olive, and artichoke buns? To die for! I avoided temptation in the form of huge cinnamon rolls. (Barely.)

On a little map, the clerk pointed out three ways to get back to our cabin. First, I could return the way I went. (Not an option. "I like detours," I told him.) Second, I could go down a narrow, seldom-traveled gravel road that would take twice as long. Probably not a good idea without phone reception. Or third, I could go back partway, turn right toward Columbia Falls rather than left back to the Park. "The third option is over washboard gravel. If you like smooth roads, that's not the one for you." Done. That's where I was headed.

"Washboard" was right! There's a strange beauty to being in wild country, getting a steering wheel vibration as numbing as a massage chair. The north fork of the Flathead unwound beside the road, gurgling over granite gravel and between massive boulders. In 30 miles, one car passed us and two cars drove by on the other side. Minimal traffic, I'd say. Balm to the heart for someone who lives near I-405 in Seattle!

We didn't get back to camp until 6pm. I was tired and full of memories of beautiful places and wild open spaces.

There's something exhilarating in stopping at every place that catches the eye. Without consideration of time or duties, a day of "finally getting there" is a rare privilege. Hope you find time to wander and enjoy God's wonders before the fall chores comes crowding in.

Read more:

*Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” Psalm 14:1 

*Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O Lord, you preserve both man and beast. How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Psalm 36:5-9 NIV

*There are four things on earth that are small but unusually wise:
Ants—they aren't strong, but they store up food all summer.
Hyraxes—they aren't powerful, but they make their homes among the rocks.
Locusts—they have no king, but they march in formation.
Lizards—they are easy to catch, but they are found even in kings' palaces." Proverbs 30:24–28

*God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. 1 Corinthians 1:27

Moravian Prayer: We yearn for proof of your existence, O God, for a clear, unmistakable sign, so we often overlook the many small clues that you are with us. Open our eyes to see the daily reminders of your presence in our lives. Amen.

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