Saturday, August 22, 2009

Low feeds me music

and I leave the table more than satisfied =)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

National Parks and Malls

I'm sitting in the Kallispell Mall watching hipster teens pick out accessories at Claire's, old men talk to themselves as they wait on a bench, and middle age couples cruise around - new purchases in hand. Will I really be working in a mall in two weeks? Coming from Field Camp this people watching is amusing, I hope I stay removed enough from it to keep that view while spending 40 hours a week in one.
The last three days I spent in Many Glacier, a slightly removed corner of Glacier National Park, seeming to be more wild in scenery and wildlife than the already impressive going to the sun road regions. I saw three grizzly bears, three moose (cow, calf, and bull, a few hoary marmots and some folks in my group were lucky enough to encounter a pine marten! It was a wet chilly trip, temperatures between 30 and 50 most of the time with pretty consistent precipitation - sometimes rain, sometimes hail. The group I was with are visiting Glacier from the Adirondack Hiking Club (most of them living in upstate New York). My boss and I are both pretty thankful for that- they've been extremely resilient despite the less than ideal circumstances. So we hiked past lowland lakes into the high country to see glaciers cleaving into growing lakes and already deglaciated lakes with icebergs in them.
This landscape is quite certainly impressive.
After a few days I found myself less than satiated from the experience and wondering... why? Watching these neatly dressed folks walk around on the shiny tiled floor of this mall I think I realize why. National Parks - are a lot like malls.
Nearly every hike the Glacier Institute leads people on in the months of July and August (the only months the entire park is open and accessible) is teeming with people. Coveted destinations become that way for a reason- they are beautiful- people like to see beautiful places. The irony that more visitors detract from the "scenic wild beauty" everyone is coming to see seems lost on most folks as they amble along these well traveled paths.
Sometimes as I hike I wonder when I will see a weasel, or bear, wildcat, wolf. Lately I've realized - despite them BEING here I might as well count on NOT seeing them so long as I pass 10, 20, 100? people along the trail.
I guess it's more a matter of knowing what you're getting yourself into. It's good for folks to have a chance to see nature, for screaming babies to venture out with their parents and siblings, for city folk to see mountain goats. Are they seeing a wild place? Kind of. Being around them all- am I seeing a wild place? No.
I'm thinking I should get to know the Bob Marshall Wilderness. I'm thinking the romantic notion I've harbored about National Parks is mostly defunct. I'm wondering if it's possible to feel "wild" in a place where people from all over our country and others are corralled to stand in front of interpretive signs and learn about a place.
Beyond anything I know that I'm very thankful for cities. Cities and towns are absolutely where the mass of society should hang out in. Should everyone appreciate nature? Sure, that'd be great. But if everyone hung out in wild places all the time they would in fact be less wild.
I've had a lot of adventure buddies that have felt this way; I've always viewed it as cynical and selfish, but after living in a beautiful nature setting and having to interact with as many people as I see walking around this mall I know what they mean. I'm glad not everyone hikes the Appalachian Trail. I'm glad wilderness is scary to some people. And I'm glad the majority of folks passing this window, cell phone in hand, texting, will spend most of their time in corporated city limits.
One final thought, advice from Edward Abbey:
"Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am-a reluctant enthusiast... a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there. So get out there and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to your body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those deskbound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

August... already.

Evening sky turns grey/ green with lightening across the river. Upturned cottonwood leaves shake pale, almost white against the white bark and darkened sky. Families scamper out of the tipi, away from stories of native creation and fur trappers.
Hillary and I sneak away to the kitchen for late dinner, tea, and girl talk.
Eventually we find ourselves in the office with peanut M&Ms myspace music and dreams, while a near full moon illuminates dispersing clouds.
The kids claim to have seen a close lightening strike and baby beaver on their walk to Quarter Circle Bridge (where lower McDonald Creek dumps into the Middle Fork of the Flathead River) reminding me... I never went for that swim today. No matter - it seems almost enough to have clean shiny hair for the first time in.. 3? ... ? days.
I tell Hillary our time in Glacier will be done before we know it... leaves will change and we'll meet for a drink in downtown Missoula. Maybe I say it to convince myself... this is real... this is happening.
For those of you whom I haven't told I've secured a full time job at an outfitter in Missoula, starting September 1st. The work should be comparable to Outdoor Trails (the store I've worked in since it's 2001 Daleville opening). Gear shops are not professions to make one rich... but the side benefits are enough to invest in a happy well-rounded life. I get to stay in Montana. I get to work in Missoula. And I'm on the look out for lodging. If all goes well Dacia (my first Montana friend and roommate from college) will be living with me by February. Sometimes dreams really do come true =)
I know, I know, it's been too long since I've written, and it seems I'm constantly excusing myself for that... but you might imagine weather doesn't permit Glacier National Park to be open and functional much of the year. July and August are really the peak seasons and at Field Camp we've been insanely busy. We've just started getting days off again (something that didn't really happen the month of July) and the schedule looks promising to calm down towards the end of this month.
Highlights of life since we last talked have been hanging out with art classes here at field camp, spending a weekend fly fishing, being flipped 5 different ways at the cowboy bar, and spending time with Low and Bones on their way to Alaska.
Ahhh and the most important highlight... Geronimo is spending the month of August with a wonderful, kind generous family who has a few homes (farm in north central Montana and house on the golf course... just across the river from me). So that is a huge guilt and stress lifted from me. The kennel he was in took great care of him, but the thought of him snuggled in a 9 year boy's bed after harvesting grain all day makes me very happy.
So we are well. We are blessed. We are grateful at what has come and hopeful about what is to be.
I wish the same for you =)
Anyone want to take my yearly October British Columbia drive with me?