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.