A year ago, I was in a much better place:
“The next time you attempt to kill me, please choose something faster and less painful than a four-and-a-half hour hike through the desert at the sunniest and hottest times of the day.”
We headed to Arches National Park for the day. Our brilliant plan was to get there early and do the longest hike first (when it was cooler) and then see some of the short distance arches in the heat of the day. Somehow, early ended up being 9:45am, but it didn’t occur to either of us that we might want to alter our plans. Nor did it occur to me (despite our hiking experiences from earlier in the trip) that hiking 7.5 miles in Arches National Park might take a little bit longer than walking 7.5 miles down paved city sidewalks. The latter I could do, at a brisk pace, in about two hours. The former?
Well, let’s just say that we had succeeded in finding a place that was neither wet, cold, or cloudy. And a place where that 7.5 miles takes more like 4.5 hours, in the middle of the day, in a place that is hot and sunny, did not make a happy camper out of this one.
Our [very late] lunch after surviving the gauntlet revived me somewhat, but I was still pretty wiped out. I suspect that I may have been close to heat exhaustion. Instead of taking the rest of the day off, as I perhaps should have, we successfully located a local [somewhat secret from tourists] swimming hole. Getting to a place where we could actually swim required more hiking. While changing into my swimsuit, I discovered a weird rash on my ankles, which did not make me excited. We did more wading than actual swimming, but the water was refreshing. Other than looking freakish for the next few days, the rash on my legs never bothered me — no itching or pain. Despite my initial fear that it was something chemical, like poison ivy, my best guess is that it was heat rash, albeit in an unusual place.
Having learned from the previous day’s mistake, we hit the trail by 8:15am and had a much better time of it. Still exhausted from yesterday, and not wanting to push too much this time, I voted for turning around before reaching the Morning Glory Bridge at the end of Negro Bill’s Canyon. Again, I was wondering, how can it possibly be taking us 30 minutes to cover 1 mile?!?
We headed back into Moab for a so-so lunch at a local restaurant. I was washing my hands in the restroom at the same time as another woman, and she was standing there, letting the water run, while she looked in the mirror and fussed with her hair. Hello, water waster! In case you haven’t noticed, you are in the DESERT, and while conserving water is always a good thing, it is an especially good thing here. In the desert. I just barely restrained myself from reaching in front of her and turning off the tap, and I rather wish that I had exercised less restraint.
After an unsuccessful attempt to find wine we liked on a visit to a local winery, we returned to the campsite for the evening, too tired to drive to Arches and watch the sunset, as originally planned.
Homeward bound, on I-70 headed toward Denver. Kind of like our experience hiking, we underestimated the time it would take us to drive through the Rockies. We’re on an interstate, we’ll be going, like, 80mph the whole time — or not. With only a short stop for lunch, it took us seven hours to drive 350 miles, putting us in Denver just in time for rush hour. Yay!
We pushed on through into Kansas, where we caught some free wireless internet and found a bed and breakfast for the night in WaKeeney, KS. We enjoyed real beds and not having to unpack and set up the tent just to take it down the next morning.
Our hosts provided a lovely breakfast the next morning, the highlights of which were their garden grown cantaloupe, tomatoes, basil, and rosemary.
We hit the road, pausing for a short interlude so that we would arrive home after the evening rush hour. The few hours between arriving at our apartment and delivering the Prius to its rightful owners was very stressful, as our neighbors have recently taken to playing bumper cars with our vehicles. People, this is not a carnival ride! (And that “little hit” you delivered to the corner of our front bumper a few weeks ago is going to cost $1000 to repair!)
Anyway, the Prius survived unscathed, and we enjoyed a weekend to unwind before heading back to w-o-r-k. The end.
*As a note, we are not in Glacier anymore, but since I’ve been using that title, I’m going to stick with it.*
I almost forgot a very important thing that happened in Bigfork. In Bigfork, we swapped Guzzler the Jeep for Sipper the Prius. Despite our initial concern, we fit ourselves and all of our belongings into the Prius, and it was only a bit tighter than we had been in the Jeep. With over three times the fuel economy!
After a somewhat leasurely morning, packing the car, and stopping in the village of Bigfork for lunch and some delicious local cherries, we finally hit the road south. We were just out of Bigfork, with me behind the wheel, when the following occurred:
“Shit!” [Braking and swerving.] “I just about killed Bambi — in their brand new Prius!”
Fortunately, Bambi was booking it and my driving maneuvers were successful, so we avoided that little tragedy.
We drove out of Montana with spot showers along the way. I forbid it to rain anymore once we crossed into Idaho. Like a child testing just how far she can push her parents’ rules, the skies did produce a few more showers, but things were nice and dry by the time we reached our campsite at Downata Springs. We got in very late, having passed up our originally planned stop in Idaho Falls due to the fact that the campground was located squarely in the middle of an industrial area and had plenty of interstate noise.
In the morning, we searched for the hot springs at our campsite, but found none. Thwarted in that little quest, we packed up and drove to Salt Lake City for a foodstravaganza.
My husband’s memory can be interesting. He has a terrible time with names, and often also has issues with remembering things on the calendar. However, after visiting a Salt Lake chocolatier one or two times when he was in Salt Lake FIVE YEARS ago, he managed to get us within two blocks of the place from memory, where we pulled over and asked a resident if there was a chocolate shop nearby (Matthew didn’t remember the NAME of the shop). Thanks to his food oriented memory, we found Hatch Family Chocolates, where we enjoyed a pre-lunch frozen hot chocolate and picked up some chocolate for the road. We already know we will have to go back sometime to try their hot hot chocolate, which was apparently inspired by Matthew. The owners remembered him, and making a special hot chocolate for him, from five years ago!
Next up was lunch at Sawadee Thai. This was not the Thai restaurant my husband remembered enjoying in Salt Lake (again with the food memory), but it was very highly reviewed, and it lived up to those reviews.
Next, we hit up an Italian grocery where we didn’t buy anything because the balsamic vinegar that he remembered as being so good and wanted to stock up on did not impress this time around. However, we made up for it with pastry purchases at the Italian bakery next door.
Finally, we stopped at a street corner farm stand and bought some locally grown peaches and tomatoes. Mission(s) complete, we rolled out of SLC and on toward Moab. We found a campsite in Moab that was, in many ways, the nicest place we had camped yet, except for the road noise that resulted from its location at the edge of town where there was a hill in the highway right where the speed limit increased. I liked the campground enough that we stayed there all three nights in Moab, sleeping with earplugs in to cut down on the noise.
No, it is not normal to have green grass in the desert. This was only accomplished through dedicated watering on the owner’s part. Due to the water input, growing grass in the desert really is not “green,” but the rabbits thought it was the best thing since sliced bread!
We woke up to wet everything. Wet tent, wet sleeping bags, wet clothes, wet packs. Did I mention it was wet? During a small break in the rain, we hung everything up on a clothesline to attempt to dry it. With still-damp gear, we packed up mid-morning to claim our pre-reserved campsite at Many Glacier. On the way in to Many Glacier, another bear crossed in front of our car, either a young grizzly or a black bear. This time, we captured him on camera.
Our ranger friends came through for us with a nice site. Unfortunately, it seemed they were unable to do anything about the rain, the wet, wet rain that just kept raining. We set up our damp tent in the drizzle, then headed to the warm, dry haven offered by the Many Glacier Lodge. We ate lunch in the lodge restaurant, and then hung out in the large lobby for a couple of hours. I curled up on one of the couches and enjoyed a nap in the cozy environs. When I emerged from dreamland, it looked like things were clearing, at least a bit, and we did not want to waste our entire day in the lodge lobby, even if it was a recovery day from yesterday’s craziness.
We decided a ten mile hike to Iceberg Lake would be a great “recovery” activity. Despite encountering more rain, the hike was well worth it. On the way up, we saw a rainbow. Iceberg Lake was stunning, and we even heard an iceberg calving (sadly, we did not see the event, as we were visiting the pit toilet).
We finished the hike and headed back to the campsite in the rain. Once again cold and wet, we drove back to the Many Glacier Lodge. Their food was not that amazing, certainly not for the price, so I stuffed a bunch of our food into my pack, and we surrepticiously dined on that in the lobby. When I say lobby, picture a huge room, with the ceiling open to the other floors, with tons of couches and loveseats, and an amazing circular fire place, where lots of people were lounging, many probably just like us, wet campers looking for refuge.
Once we finished eating and it cleared out a bit, we snagged seats right by the fireplace. I tried to convince Matthew that we should spend the night on the couches in the lobby. He was sure they would kick us out, because, um, they make money by selling rooms to people, why would they let us sleep on the couch for free? I still thought it was worth a try, but reluctanly agreed to return to the cold, wet tent. On the upside, we saw another great shooting star before bed. I won’t mention the downside, because you can probably guess that it involved wet and cold.
After seeing weather forecasts for more of the same for the next two days, we decided that enough was enough. Nothing was dry. We’re outta here and headed to someplace warm and dry. (As a note, the rain we experienced was apparently not normal for Glacier in August; the weather preceding and following our stay looked rather gorgeous.)
We drove to West Glacier along the Going to the Sun road in rain and fog. For a short time at Logan Pass, it was even sleeting! We stopped along the way and did some short hikes. Somewhere in all of the in-and-out of the Jeep, I managed to lose my sunhat.
Our first warm, dry stop was a lovely vacation home near Bigfork, MT. Did I mention that the house was warm and dry? With a fireplace? And a washing machine and dryer? We spent a lovely night there, and were tempted to stay longer, but decided we wanted to see more on this vacation. And apparently we wanted to be even warmer and even dryer, so on the next day, we set out for the deserts of Moab, Utah.
We woke up early and paid for a shuttle van that took us from St. Mary’s to Many Glacier to begin the 16 mile, 2400 foot elevation climb, hike from the Swiftcurrent Trailhead to the Logan Pass. In preparing for this hike, we had talked to several park rangers and other park staff, who unfailingly encouraged us to complete the hike in the other direction, starting from Logan, so that we would be hiking down, and not up, the Swiftcurrent Pass. After a few times of trying to explain, that, yes, we knew it would be more work, but we really preferred going up to doing down since it would put less stress on the knees and other joints, we gave up explaining and just decided to go with our plan. Also, after two days of hiking in Tevas, and many ibuprofen, and feeling rather certain that I would never wear those horrible, awful, no good, very bad hiking boots EVER AGAIN, I coaxed my feet back into them for the day’s adventure. Since I could lace them without whimpering in pain, I decided it just might work.
It started out overcast, but not too bad. On the first leg of the hike, we saw lots of huckle-bear-y scat right on the trail, but no bears. Before too long, the fog and drizzle rolled back into the picture. We did experience some brief and very welcome clearings in the fog as we climbed ever higher, affording nice views of the lake in the valley below. Later we encountered a herd of ten bighorn sheep on the trail. We came around a bend, and there they were, very close!
We felt good hiking up the Swiftcurrent Pass, and arrived at the chalet, the halfway point, to eat our lunch. We assumed that we had done the hard part, the part with all of the climbing, and would now enjoy a nice stroll along the popular Highline Trail before arriving at the Logan Visitor’s Center to catch the shuttle back to our campsite. Do I need to tell you what happens when you assume?
Instead of the Highline Trail, known for it’s sweeping views and gorgeous scenery, the trail we hiked that afternoon should have been called the Never Ending Trail with Lots of Fog that Never Ends. Having never hiked the trail before, and unable to see more than 30-50 feet in front of us for most of the hike, I seriously wondered if it would ever end. Maybe we would just keep hiking through the fog FOREVER. And despite it not being the long, sustained climb of Swiftcurrent, there was still plenty of up and down and rough terrain.
To make things extra fun, we came across a pair of hikers, one of whom wore a bear bell on his hiking boot. The incessant jingle jangling was getting on our nerves (and, by the way, studies have shown that the noise is NOT effective in warning off bears). We tried to slow down to let them get far enough ahead of us that we couldn’t hear it, but they kept pausing which allowed us to catch up to them. We passed them and tried to hike quickly so they would be far behind us, but that didn’t work either. We considered pushing the man off of a cliff, but decided to try the more socially acceptable option of asking him to please remove that bell because we are about to go crazy here. He looked surprised, like, “How could this constant jingling noise, repeated with each step I take, possibly annoy anyone?”
Obviously, we did make it back to Logan, just in time to catch the 6PM shuttle. On the ride back to the campsite, a black bear crossed the road right in front of the shuttle! It quickly moved into the brush on the other side of the road, so we did not get any pictures, but we did see our first bear!