My nephew arrived home safely in North Carolina early this evening, with enough daylight and energy remaining to skateboard for the first time in nine days, connect on Facebook, text his friends, and eat a pork barbecue sandwich. I suspect he will be sleeping for the next 12 to 14 hours, something which happened perhaps twice during his week-long visit to Montana.
He did well in the three days we were in Glacier, given the intermittent or non-existent cell phone coverage that made the natural world that much more noticeable and accessible for both of us.
Emory got to see his bear, the first one a cinnamon-phase black bear that was way too close and way too comfortable with hikers along the Iceberg Lake Trail near Many Glacier. Hard to say whether the bear was simply food-motivated or hyperphagic at this time of year, but it took about 15 fellow hikers clapping and shouting at the bruin before he rambled off into a deeper thicket of cow parsnip downslope from where we first saw him. That evening, we saw a larger, darker-phased black bear pop up alongside the road by Saint Mary Lake, then vanish beyond a veil of gold-turning grasses.
Other highlights included hiking the Hidden Lake Trail from Logan Pass, across verdant alpine meadows overflowing with Indian paintbrush, purple aster, forget-me-nots, and Lewis’ monkeyflowers.
The wildlife was incredible there, too: numerous small bands of mountain goats and their young, groups of bighorn sheep, thirteen-lined ground squirrels, hoary marmots, pikas, and a lone soaring golden eagle made this hike Emory’s favorite.
It might have also had to do with us just covering three miles round-trip to the overlook, as compared to the nearly ten-mile in and out hike to Iceberg Lake the day before, though we were both entranced watching ever-changing sculpted islands of ice drifting across this aquamarine tarn.
Closer to (my) home, we went berry picking and inner tubing with Erik on Sunday, to two destinations that shall not be named. We hit a mother lode of huckleberries, which subsequently found their way into multiple bowls of vanilla ice cream, yogurt, and cereal, as well as home for Emory’s family to sample and savor.
Last night, on our final bike ride around town at dusk, we took a trail that led back to the University of Montana campus from a riverside route, and surprised two four-point mule deer bucks still in their summer velvet. Being mulies, they stepped off the trail about fifteen feet further into the woods, stared back at us, and then continued feeding, oblivious to two awe-struck humans happy to see something so wild and beautiful so close to home.
“Montana’s cool,” Emory exclaimed, as we sleepily headed to the airport for his flight home, way too early this morning. “I want to do a real wilderness backpacking trip next time I come out here.”
“You let me know when you’re coming, Emory. I’ll be ready.”