‘Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!’ - William Butler Yeats
I am fascinated with the mountains. If I didn’t love Chicago so much, I would move to the mountains in a heartbeat. There is, of course, something to be said for the beautiful, fertile land of Illinois with its seemingly endless miles of crops, sprawling from border to border. While passing through the Land of Lincoln, you can see nothing but…’seemingly endless miles of crops sprawling from border to border’. If you’ve ever had to drive more than 50 miles of IDOT’s finest, it gets pretty old, pretty fast. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud to live in a state where the American farming dream is alive and well, but the mountains- oh, my!
I seriously fell in love with the mountains while in Alaska. I will not relive the glory that is Alaska in this entry, but feel free to revisit our blog from that trip. We’ve been fortunate enough to have hiked in several mountain ranges all over the world: Tatras Mountains(Poland), Wicklow Mountains (Ireland), Mount Fuji (Japan) and the Rocky Mountains (Canada and US). This summer, we were lucky enough to visit Glacier National Park. It shares the Canadian/US border with Waterton National Park in Alberta, Canada and the two parks combined create the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
Seeing the boundaries of Glacier spread up into Canada got me thinking… wouldn’t it be awesome to hike up into Canada from the US? Why, yes, it would! However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years as being an avid cartographer, it’s that things often look easier on a map than they are in real life. Turns out that the best (and only) way to hike into Canada from the US is to put in many, double-digit miles and overnight camping. While we had several days in the park, this option was one that I was not physically or mentally prepared for. Having had major back surgery a year and a half ago has left me a bit leery on the whole carry-everything-you-need-for-three-or-more-days-on-your-back concept. It is a goal that I am certainly working toward (Appalachian Trail, I’m looking in your direction) but I am still in the ‘baby steps’ phase.
Even though our dream of a multi-country hike ended in disappointment, our back-up hikes and Glacier NP in general did not. If I had to say that there was one thing wrong with Glacier NP, it would be (as with Yellowstone) that they are *almost* just too big. Now, that being said, I am truly grateful for it! These massive tracts of land are all that is right with the national park system. Even though it is technically a complaint, I say it very softly and with truly not much sincerity behind it.
Grand Teton, on the other hand is a very ‘doable’ size. From the moment we could see it (literally from miles away)I became enthralled with it’s picturesque and certainly ‘grand’ form. Part of the allure of Grand Teton is that it runs parallel to a small string of lakes on the east side with the sizable Jackson Lake towards the north end. I found myself gawking repeatedly at the range during our hikes/picnics and even from our campsite,which we have dubbed ‘THE Site’. It was, without a doubt, the best campsite we’ve ever had. While our set up at Glacier was among the high loge pole pines along Fish Creek, our site at Grand Teton was set down a small slope from the road among spruce, pine and fir with a spectacular view of the Tetons themselves.
Our many hikes in the mountains have led me to truly believe in one thing: even a bad hike is a good day. While we didn’t have any ‘bad’ hikes this trip, some hikes are better than others. Feeling as if we should see something other than the awesome mountains, we headed for Two Oceans lake which the park-issued guide said was a total of 4 miles around. It was only after we had rounded the north end of the lake that we realized we had hiked more than 3 miles, one way. As it turned out, circumnavigating the lake totaled more than 6 miles. Relentless mosquitos, the constant threat of bears and aching feet proved to be a challenge but the elk we encountered on the trail helped to make the long afternoon well worth it. Also, let’s face it… we were healthy, happy, together and loving every ounce that mother nature had to give that day.