Saturday, June 27, 2009


Ralph Waldt smushes western hemlock needles between his fingers, puts it to his nose and passes it to me. "You can learn every tree in this forest by smell" he says. I laugh, but a only a little, my mind reeling with that possibility...
The brilliant two weeks I spent hiking with Jeremiah Johnson were peppered with tree knowledge, and sparked a growing desire in me to learn plant identification better. Since moving to Glacier I have been inundated with "calling each thing by its proper name". Wildflowers, wildlife, trees. I love it.
Western Larch are some of my favorite around the park; their chunky bark, stately trunks, juxtaposed against very small needles. Giant western red cedar and western hemlock also grace the old growth of the McDonald Creek valley. Ferns, moss and others blanket the dark deep damp forest floor... plants I adored and knew nothing about while hiking the AT... especially in New England. Here, in this crisp western air, it seems everyone is begging to learn. I love it.
I imagine lynx and mountain lion crouched in the undergrowth, feet from where I stand. I imagine pine marten and fishers scampering through the canopy hunting squirrels and birds. I am beginning to pick up on bird songs - the high trill of a thrush. A bald eagle has hovered over field camp at least twice in the past 4 days. I finally spotted Harlequin ducks in McDonald Creek this afternoon - a variety of torrent duck that plays and surfs rushing whitewater mountain streams.

In other wildlife news- Hillary and I went dancing at The Blue Moon last night. A cowboy bar 20 minutes drive from where we live. I watched in awe as young and old two stepped etc wearing everything from snap shirts to straw wedges and motorcycle regalia. Our first dancing partner was an overzealous cowboy in tight wranglers and a University of Montana T shirt. Either he was too drunk or too excited to care how Hillary or I could follow his lead. He scooped me up on a fast song and attempted fancy footwork and spins as I fumbled around... I was feeling pretty rotten about all my ballroom experience until I watched him go round with Hillary on a slow song- same story- guy's got no rhythm... We met a very nice old man named Dino in a SICK NASTY snap shirt. He bestowed old man knowledge about love, marriage, youth... and he was a much better dancer. After making friends with the band they surprised me by playing "Country Roads" , which H and I had a girl jam out to.
Drew just got home from rafting the North Fork... gotta go catch up with him.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Snail Mail

Hey everyone, just a quick post to let ya'll know my address in case you ever want to send some P.O. love!
Rebekah McDonald
PO Box 527
West Glacier MT 59936
Look forward to hearing from you =)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Call of the Wild

Sulking with the mean reds I traipsed out of field camp tonight. Gi Gi's folks are visiting from New Jersey. She and Paul made them a beautiful, delicious meal of red meat, grilled veggies, and tates. They invited Drew and I to join them, long taper candles lit and stuck in a sand bucket, with jazz playing in the background. Drew radiated excitement from his weekend trip to Many Glacier and the east side of the park, where he saw 5 black bear, 3 grizzlies, a fox, a coyote, I forget what else... probably a moose.
Excited, and amused at how much his being just - oozed - enthusiasm I watched and listened to him with glistening eyes... for awhile. And then the fatigue from my past two days of work (including about 6 hours of driving a 15 passenger van down washboard pot-holed dirt roads at about 20 mph) caught up with me. Listening to Drew, eating dinner with Paul and Gigi and their family I got to thinking my loon sightings, lion, wolf and bear scat findings and hundreds of wildflowers I saw- weren't enough. Not wanting to be a downer- I excused myself.
It is 11pm on the summer solstice, today, the longest day of the year, it has just turned totally dark. After excusing myself I snatched my trusty backpack, now suited for GNP instead of the AT with rain jacket, wildreness first aid kit, bear spray, binoculars, and map, and walked out of camp. I realized this evening I really miss walking - just being alone- on foot- in the middle of the woods with my thoughts, and everything else feral. So I walked down Drew and my fishing path, to the river, and wandered cobblestone and sandy islands and river banks, before setting up by a stump to watch the water, birds, clouds, mosquitoes.

No matter where you are, or what's going on in your life you are never immune to quiet inner loneliness- and here- in this remarkable place, in the midst of my very happy life- the past few days a quiet dreamy restless sadness has crept in.
Am I childish enough to sulk about not seeing wolves? An elusive controversial animal a man that worked in Glacier 36 years saw- less than five times. Do I miss Low and Bones and wish I could be with their Colorado trail expedition? Did I look at too many of my former roommate's wedding pictures? Or is all this talk of dogs just making me think far too much about my favorite dog- down in a kennel 5 hours away from me? I think it's that ridiculous book I'm reading about India...
Clouds grew dark and rippled with deep blue and grey, a little refreshed, or at least more grounded after reconnecting with Susanna I worked my way back upstream, in the margin of damp bank. Just before my creek crossing to mainland I caught a toad. Which is pretty special around here- seeing as how there are only 3 varieties of amphibians in GNP. Appalachian night echoed as a distant memory. Dewy dark walks down gravel roads in the USGS Pilot quadrangle. Bobcats, bullfrogs. Walking by faith, not sight.
Can I do that in Griz country? What is at risk here?
Uncertain, and too tired to work through that thought process- I kept my headlamp off - until I saw Drew's blinking red light emerge from his cabin. I flashed my light, walked up to his brilliant sweater and hat, chatted across his bike.
He cruised for a drink at Fida's. I came to talk to you.
And now, my dear. It's time for bed.

Friday, June 19, 2009

De Bugged?

PHEW I may have worked through most of my technological difficulties. After purchasing a new wireless card and getting a new church buddy, Gavin, to streamline my computer. The Internet is slow, but steady at the Glacier View Golf Course. Our Internet at field camp is another story entirely... So I probably won't be online OFTEN, but hopefully more than I have been since March.
I've spent a lot of the past week growing roots in this area. I rearranged my cabin to a set up I'm really comfortable and content with, purchased a foam egg crate to make my bed sleepable, and even got some 4x6 pics printed up to stick on the wall. I'm working on putting animal tracks around my walls, hopefully in paint, so I can quiz myself with identifying local wildlife.
I'm surprising myself with this nesting business, but it makes me feel happy and more settled having a home base to adventure out of. Speaking of adventures, Drew and I are becoming enthusiastic fly fishing students, Hillary and I have been having quality girl time and adventures, and Gi Gi hooks me up with a kayak paddle every time we can sneek away to Lower McDonald Creek.
I haven't been writing or journaling much since Bones started hiking with me at the end of April. I think now that things are working into a better groove I'll pick that up. I have however been photographing a lot - which you can check out on the slide shows at the bottom of this page and top.
I'm assistant teaching my first class this weekend!!! Wolves!!! with Dave Shea, and his wife Vivi in the North Fork! SO excited about that.
Gi Gi has been helping me immensely trying to get Geronimo in a home nearby so I can see him. I'm hoping to bring him back to the West Glacier area on my way home from July 4 celebrations with Dacia! Please send some prayers up about that.
That's really all for now. Peep the pics, they're worth - millions?? of words ;)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


It has been three weeks since I left Virginia. Hmm... where to start this story...
In an effort to support and adhere to the "where ever you are, be all there" philosophy, I think I'll start here, in a library in Whitefish, Montana, and perhaps work backwards. Today is my first day off from my new job at the Glacier Institute Field Camp since our trainings started LAST Monday. Trying to take full advantage of my free time I slept til 9 today, ate a bagel, and went for a bike ride (18 miles maybe?) on Going to the Sun Road. GTSR is a face melting scenic drive that connects the west side of Glacier National Park to the East side. Every fall and winter it is covered with snow and ice, and every spring the park spends much money and man power to unearth it from avalanches etc. It usually is drivable again sometime in June. It is only open to vehicles about 18 miles deep into the West side (where I live) Today I biked past the car barrier, about 9 miles through glaciated mountains to the hiker/ biker barrier. It's a beautiful ride, past clear swift creeks turned milky turquoise and baby blue from the rock flour of snow melt, through avalanche chutes poignant with the smell of uprooted trees, dirt and rubble, wing upwards and through a geologists dream- layers of unique rock and natural forces. It makes my mind wander, and my belly feel nauseous with elevation gain. I stop for a drink and to consult my map, wanting desperately to learn this place, to love this place. It is no Virginia, Tinker Mountain is time zones away, but some wild part in my being has a hope I can someday feel at home in this scene, like I once did in the Appalachian's Blue Ridge. I hop back on my bike and cruise down hill, nervously pumping the brakes. Until... stop. A cat-size bear cub scampers across the road, followed by its Mom. I wait, then pass and stop again, watching. It runs back across the road to where it came. I wait. Momma crawls over the concrete road side, followed by two more cubs. It's awfully high up and rocky for black bear this time of year, but they seem about black bear size. I tell my boss when I get home to camp. He thinks it's grizzly. One Mom with 3 new cubs- Grizzly. Paul's jealous of the sighting, I write it on our dry erase board on the kitchen wall above GiGi's writing of "4 coyote pups and Momma", smile, and head to town in my cowboy boots.
It's 50 and rainy now, it's been chilly for about 10 days. It makes my heatless cabin and training rooms tough to tolerate, but I'm thankful I brought my down jacket to my summer job. I've been hiking, fly fishing, even got out in my kayak with GiGi (Paul's wife). Our field camp is a cozy set up, a small compound with cabins, a bathhouse, kitchen, and a tipi, all on the river. Myself, my 4 co workers, and the wilderness EMT group staying with us until next weekend all seem extremely content in the personal space, and out communal areas.
After a month on the A.T. and two weeks on the road (and everything else the last year) I feel the more settled than ever since leaving my apartment at Allendale April 2008.
The drive west was a brilliant exploration or the northeast, Midwest, and northern Rockies, taking me all the way to British Columbia before scooping back south to Glacier.
I'm working through some logistical and technical bugs with my computer and camera situation, and the library comp timer is blinking at me. I'll try to update more soon, sorry communication has been so sparse.
Know that I am in a beautiful, restful, wild place. Treasuring the verse where God brings you to spacious place beside cool clean waters.
Miss and love you =*