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Author: hobiehare (page 1 of 11)

Natural Miracles

Spring is indeed a time of palpable and visible miracles, as are the other seasons of the year. Crocuses rocket out of the ground not long after overnight snowfalls that often melt the following morning. Robins and northern flickers contest favorite spots on lawns for emerging worms and insects. It’s easier now for most people to wake up with the sunrise, and stay up past sunset again, and there’s a lot less frost to scrape off car windshields in the morning. In our own backyard, rhubarb is starting to poke out of the ground, and it won’t be long before dandelions reign over parts of the lawn for a while.

Saint Augustine had it right when he observed that “Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.”

Miraculously, nature shows us that nearly everything depends on chance, on timing, on inspired action or intuition, on recognizing patterns, cycles, flows and opportunities. It also reveals how much we are not meant to live this thing called life alone. We all have an important role to play. We are all part of the natural community.

Nature’s a risk taker and we are hard-wired to be so, too.

The rewards of risk-taking are universally uncertain and unknowable, yet the risks of not changing or evolving portend a death knell for all of us. We stop growing. We dig in tenaciously, hoping someone or something else will change, yet ironically and miraculously, our entire world changes once we allow ourselves the miracle of seeing and experiencing things differently.

Nature is constantly reinventing itself and changing form-think of a caterpillar en route to its becoming a butterfly. The natural world doesn’t play favorites or take sides, yet it does seem to encourage innovation and experimentation. What’s the true cost of not being connected to nature’s wisdom, encouragement, support, and infinite wellspring of creativity and possibilities?

What miracles are we missing out on in life because we perceive and believe we are too old or busy, there’s not enough time, the timing’s not right, the money’s not there, or we need someone’s permission before we commit ourselves to changing?

All you need is to allow yourself a tiny shift in perception, hope and belief. Once you take that leap, once you make an unwavering commitment, nature will always be there to meet, greet and support you, no matter where your feet are.


Note: An earlier version of this article, “Natural Miracles,” was first published here on my blog on April 10. 2014.

Chaos, Creativity and Change

Time always seems to speed up a bit the second half of March. Nearly every day the grass does look a little greener, more plants and trees are starting to bud, English sparrows, nuthatches, and black-capped chickadees race around, and on some days, we go from 55 degrees in the afternoon to wet snow in the space of a few hours!

It’s like nature is reminding us to stay on our toes and be open to change, not to fight it or resent it. Sometimes that’s a lot easier said than done but I try to keep that in mind as time seems to especially accelerate in political, economic and other realms. Maybe it’s the bombardment of information, the 24/7 news cycle, the rapid (and sometimes rabid) response to whatever today’s headlines might be, the sowing of fear, doubt, discord and distrust, especially between people who may be a bit different from ourselves.

It’s really fucking exhausting, isn’t it? Very few profit from a vestigial scenario and narrative designed to keep people on the defensive and pitted against each other  while what’s left of the natural world and its remaining indigenous populations are targeted for resource extraction.. It’s hard to be fully present and pro-active when there’s a constant barrage of threats, negativity, and dramatic plot turns and twists. Some days, it’s easier to feel complacent and powerless, overwhelmed and defeated.

When there’s heightened chaos in the natural world, though, there’s also an opportunity for heightened creativity, for different ways to move forward. Think about how the earth rebounds and recalibrates following volcanic eruptions, such as at Mount Saint Helens in Washington State, or how forest fires in 1988 regenerated the landscape of Yellowstone on a massive scale. In our backyard, a tiny horse chestnut sapling has somehow endured the coldest winter in 40 years, with over five feet of snow so far, along with freezing rain and ice!

So let’s receive a little encouragement from spring, its reminders that anything is possible when so much anticipation, hope, renewal and creativity abounds at this time of year. We are bigger than our problems and our challenges. We are not flawed and none of us are misfits. We all belong, and all of us are needed.

Thanks for reading this. I appreciate your being part of this community and hope this in some small way encourages you to keep the faith, keep on keeping on, and rock the world in encouraging ways so others will be inspired to do the same.

Happy spring!

Coming Home to Montana

Montana’s romantic and rugged landscapes have always had a profound impact on people who have spent time here. Author John Steinbeck, who journeyed through the state in 1960 with Charley, his French poodle, declared “I am in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana, it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.”

Nearly 60 years later, Montana can still steal your heart, open it more fully, and bring you home to your self. What attracted me here back in 1992 was the palpable feeling of being surrounded by nature, and a heightened sense of personal space and freedom. Time still feels slower and calmer here than it did where I grew up in central Virginia, or in Tokyo, Japan, where I taught English for two years in the late 1980s.

Montana is where I stopped being a restless nomad, where I put down roots, and where I got to know the landscape and my true self better. Here, cities and towns still seem to be swallowed up by a beckoning, undulating landscape, with the horizon visible in all directions. Even in mid-winter, the sun seems reluctant to depart at dusk. Lingering sunsets glow and cast their spell on all who pause to notice and savor them.

Noticing what’s happening in our natural environment is a common trait shared by Montana lovers. In social interactions, people tend to talk about what they have been doing and enjoying outdoors long before sharing what they do for work or where they live. Paying attention to the language of the landscape and nature over time fuels and feeds hearts, souls and minds in a way few other things can. I am especially thankful to be sharing my life journey with someone who also loves living immersed in nature and adventure.

There’s a place Erik and I both like to roam once we’re over Homestake Pass heading east. Madison Buffalo Jump State Park is about a 20-minute detour off of I-90 near Logan, Montana. We love visiting here in all seasons, as it reveals different gifts every time we go.

In winter, we tend to hike on sunny, drier south-facing slopes, as we did about a month ago. Bare rather than snow-covered ground predominated there, and we came across a shed rattlesnake skin impaled upon a prickly pear cactus. From our vantage point, about 300 yards away across a yawning ravine, steep north facing slopes were still deeply cloaked in winter where snows had drifted and piled up with the wind. Above us, hawks, and later on a golden eagle, silently glided and soared in search of sustenance.

On top of the actual buffalo jump, stone tipi rings jut out more prominently in winter. Stunted junipers and other wind tolerant trees flourish in places where Native American eagle catching pits once stood. Grizzly bears, elk and wolves roam not far from this still largely untamed landscape from time to time, although you’re more likely to encounter mule and whitetail deer, and other hikers and their dogs.

I love Montana and its natural beauty and bounty. It’s difficult to analyze, but it anchors and continually reminds me I’m part of something much larger than my own life, thanks to previous generations who saved, protected and were wise stewards of a place they also loved. When you care for and nurture a place it ultimately nurtures and cares for you as well.

Just minutes from home here in Missoula, there are protected natural areas where you can hear your heart beat fiercely over pulsing sounds of freeway traffic, blaring emergency sirens, and droning aircraft overhead. You can feel and hear the wind coming from great distances before it caresses you on a hot summer day, or makes you zip up your jacket on a mid-winter walk. Often, ravens ride thermals overhead, while horses graze in nearby pastures.

When you quiet your mind and ego in such places, you can remember what’s really important, and that seems way easier to do in a place not covered in concrete and asphalt. To me, my love for Montana and nature reaffirms that I am not in this alone. My wild, beating heart and soul is much needed in a world and time where many have embraced fear rather than love.

No matter where you travel in the Last Best Place, Montana’s landscapes leave an indelible imprint; their vastness and beauty have continually shaped Native American worldviews and those of more recent arrivals. Despoiling places for short-term gains and shattering environmental consequences will hopefully remain in Montana’s rearview mirror, so future generations can experience wildlands large enough for grizzlies and eagles to thrive and soar, alongside the human heart, spirit and imagination. That would be a courageous and selfless act of love, paying it forward.



Build Bridges, Not Walls, in 2017.

In the fall of 1984, I backpacked through Asia for about eight months before taking on my first teaching job at a refugee resettlement camp in Thailand the following June. It was a heady time, full of adventures and a few misadventures as well, and through traveling in different countries, I came to learn not only a lot more about people living in other cultures, but also about walls and bridges we choose to create in our lives.

In October 1984 I entered China from Hong Kong, and for the next three months I navigated traveling in a country largely unused to solo foreign travelers. Having grown up in Virginia, I wasn’t used to crushing crowds of humanity simultaneously angling to get train tickets rather than standing in line in an orderly American fashion. Nor was I used to visiting sprawling markets where vendors would have you point to and then they’d kill what you wanted to eat, and then cook it for you on the spot!

Over a three-month period in China, I journeyed with other international backpackers. At other times I traveled solo. I became known as the American guy traveling with vegemite, as prior to arriving in Hong Kong I had been in Australia and had developed an enthusiastic taste for it. Bartering and negotiating were key to getting better deals on food and lodging, as was exchanging information with fellow travelers about the lay of the land behind or ahead of us.

Perhaps the first crack in the bamboo curtain I personally believed separated me from non-Westerners was visiting the Great Wall of China in November that year. I was traveling with a new fast friend, a fellow American, and he and I set out to do some exploring on our own there. What initially surprised me were how uneven and steep the steps could be as you walked up and down the spine of a series of walls that once stretched thousands of miles across the Chinese frontier.

Parts of the wall were cracked and decayed: other parts had been rebuilt to look as they might have been centuries ago. Built and refortified by a million plus forced laborers over nearly two millennia and a succession of dynasties, the wall served as much to keep people in as to keep intruders out. Ultimately its lifespan and purpose collapsed in the mid-1600s, when the Manchu Dynasty toppled the Ming Dynasty, when the wall fell into an even deeper extended period of decay and neglect.

Standing there, I wondered what it was like to be a citizen of the People’s Republic of China in 1984, to be largely silenced in a geopolitical chess game, to have few freedoms and opportunities compared to those I had in my own young life. My mind wandered to other places where walls had been built, such as between West and East Berlin, and the frontier between West and East Germany. My sister Nancy. as a 15-year-old, spent the summer of 1971 visiting a friend and her family in West Berlin. I recalled harrowing stories of travels with her host family through East German checkpoints to visit Austria, as well as other places in West Germany.

Around twilight that afternoon at The Great Wall,  my American traveling companion climbed a steep series of steps to another section of the wall, sat down and started playing a flute he had brought for the journey.. Time seemed suspended. The music swirled and drifted in from different directions as a still warm breeze flowed over and through gaps in the wall. When he finished playing, we both walked quietly back to the guest house where we were staying, at peace for being able to experience the Great Wall, its enormity, and its meaning for ourselves.

About a month later, in December 1984, I traveled by train to Kunming in Yunnan Province. One warm evening, while I was sitting outside a cafe reading a book, a Chinese man in his early 60s who spoke fluent English introduced himself. He inquired where I was from and why I had chosen to visit China, and we ended up talking about a wide range of topics..

Spontaneously he invited me to sit in on an English class he was teaching that night. It was hard for him to teach, though, with about two dozen middle school age kids spending more time looking back at me rather than focusing on the lesson. He was very gracious, patient and calm in regaining his students’ attention, and then he invited me to speak with everyone from the front of the room.

Walls, barriers and boundaries seemed to vanish as we had a lively, fun, and often funny exchange that lasted well past the normal class ending time. Students approached me afterwards to say thanks,  shake hands or bow in appreciation for the opportunity to connect with a native English speaker. Sparks had been lit and ignited in both directions. I thanked my new teacher friend, said goodnight, and never saw him again.

I was immersed in my element teaching that night, sensing the awesome opportunity and responsibility to be and build a bridge in a world where some people sought to construct walls instead, within their own and between other countries. Other serendipitous experiences over the next few months ultimately led to landing my first teaching job at a refugee camp for Cambodian and Laotian children resettling with their families in the U.S. I had found my purpose, doing things that helped people connect more deeply with their environment, and experience the interconnection we all share as humans on this one planet Earth.

2017 undoubtedly will be yet another year when a fearful few angle to build more walls between people. I have lived long enough to have learned that bridges more powerfully connect and strengthen us more than walls could ever do.

May this year be one in which you create, build and help others construct bridges rather than walls. Life, humanity and real freedom, as always, hangs in the balance.

Yellowstone Dreaming

A few fitful nights ago, when I was in deep monkey mind and unable to sleep, I got an intuitive nudge to re-read a story I wrote 15 years ago, “Right of Way,” and see how it spoke to me at this time.

December 2001 was the beginning of a winter I spent in the heart of Yellowstone, not far from the shores of Yellowstone Lake. I worked there as an interpretive National Park Service ranger. The nearest paved road was over 50 miles away, meaning snowmobiles and skis would be my primary mode of transport for the next three months. More than a few times during my first weeks living and working here, I wondered what the hell I had exactly just gotten myself into.

Seemingly far away from Yellowstone, out there in the “real world”, our country was still reeling from the September terrorist attacks. That winter, I had limited access to email and WiFi, my cell phone coverage didn’t work in this remote setting, and the only two radio stations I could reliably pick up were a country and western one along with NPR. The learning curve seemed so steep for all of us as to how to move forward in our lives, and how, or whether, to respond and act in the face of what had happened.

I didn’t have any easy answers then, and the same is true for the challenges and opportunities we are living with today. Looking back at what I experienced at that time, and over the last 15 years, I remember that I have navigated incredible challenges in the past that have been largely out of my control. I have also embraced and enjoyed  exhilarating and wonderful opportunities. Because of this, I am able to draw from an amazing wellspring of skills, wisdom and life experiences that serve me in the present, and will continue to so in the future.

I am still standing, and I am still an American bad ass. I bet you are, too, if you are reading this.

Don’t let fear, doubt, worry or any other form of negativity, including someone else’s, keep you from doing what you have longed to do.

Be curious instead. Be creative instead. Be resourceful, be supportive, and allow yourself to be supported when you need courage, inspiration and motivation to keep taking action, to take the next step. Act on your heart and soul’s grandest dreams and visions, rather than crawling under the covers and wishing that the world’s ego-generated nightmares and bogeymen will simply just go away.

This holiday season and into 2017, I wish you the very best in being a bad ass in hugely powerful, positive, loving and life-changing ways. Be a ripple maker in the lives of others who will be inspired by your actions and example. The world can no longer wait for us or anyone else to sit on the sidelines. We are the ones we have been waiting for and now is our time.

Wishing you much peace, love and light in the year, and years to come!

P.S. Here’s the original story, “Right of Way,” which was first published in 2002 in Yellowstone Science magazine.

Right of Way

Heading home by snowmobile a few days before winter’s longest night, I encounter a lone bull bison standing on the groomed road just south of Hayden Valley in the Mud Volcano area. He initially gives no sign of noticing me, or of being bothered by my presence. At the same time, he is probably hoping that I will just go away, in the direction from which I came, and leave him in peace. I wait, with my engine still running.

Now wary, the bull moves slowly and deliberately away from me. Yet he stays on the road-his other options are either to move off into three feet of snow to his left, or to go down a steep bank leading to an ice-covered expanse of the Yellowstone River on his right. With the comfort and mobility it offers, this narrow strip of groomed road has become a lifeline, a survival and dispersal corridor that we have both come to expect and depend on in winter.

Standstill. And we do, two lone figures facing off on this empty stretch of road. I remember the importance to wintering wildlife of slowing way down and conserving my energy, which is not so easily replenished at this time of year. The bull shakes his massive head, moves a few unsteady steps, and continues standing in the middle of the road, staring at me with his large dark brown eyes, perhaps assessing my next move.

I get the message. I stop, and turn off the snowmobile. I am awed by the silence and serenity of this moment. I hear and then feel the late afternoon wind shift its direction and velocity, and quickly put a facemask on top of my balaclava to ward off the chill. The wind and cold does not seem to bother the bison, standing silently, his thick coat of fur protecting him from the freezing wind. I hear the rapid, powerful flapping of a raven’s wings long before I see it glide slowly above us, and then disappear from this winter scene.

The bull bison and I watch each other for a long while on this gray and cloudy December afternoon, neither of us acting or reacting. For several minutes I find myself breathing in the sharp, cold air, deeply and slowly, exhaling in unison with the bison.

The bull turns and faces the bank sloping sharply down toward the Yellowstone River. He exhales deeply, as if finally deciding to move on. He swings his head a final time in my direction. Mistakenly, I take this to mean that I can pass to the right while he remains safely on the other side of the road.

Instead, in a burst of energy he jumps from the road, bulldozing his way through the deep-drifted snow to where the riverbank begins to drop off. I gaze down to where he is most likely heading, to the river, where the ice appears unstable and the route across looks arduous.

As he deliberately descends the bank, I make my own move. I start my sled and ride about fifty yards past the point where he left the road, and then stop again, cutting the engine. I glance back to see him looking back at me, then toward the ice-covered river. He steps onto it with his full body weight. I shudder, holding my breath, expecting to hear the ice give way and the bison crash through.

The ice holds. The bull ambles to safety on the opposite bank. Then he begins to move with a more rapid gait to join several other bull bison grazing in the snow about a half mile away.

This final vision remains in my mind as I also move at a faster pace to rejoin my own winter community on the northern shore of Yellowstone Lake. Snow begins to fall and swirl as I head homeward. It gradually picks up in intensity, slowly burying the landscape with a new, sparkling white layer.

That night I watch as the snow continues to fall outside my window, and ponder how this thickening of Yellowstone’s deepening winter blanket will be perceived by both visitors and residents alike. It will be greeted warmly by the many park visitors, winter enthusiasts here to celebrate the holidays in and around Yellowstone. I am less sure how the park’s bison and other wintering wildlife will perceive it, for this season presents great challenges to the animals that visit or call Greater Yellowstone home. I drift off into a deep December sleep, dreaming that in the future we will all be able to find peace, space and room to roam in this increasingly crowded place.

Who Needs A Road Map?

Several of my lifelong heroes and inspirational figures have died this year, book-ending 2016 as a time of rapid change, myriad unexpected plot twists and turns, and huge opportunities for growth, adventure, travel and transformation.

David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Gwen Ifill, Natalie Cole, and Leonard Cohen are all now gone, with another one of my heroes, Rod McKuen, passing shortly before them in 2015.

All of these people possessed an unflappable spirit and were also honest about the struggles they faced in life. From the outside looking in, they also seemed to show up every day, no matter what, and always give their best They also were talented at bringing forth the best in others, even with people they profoundly disagreed with, or who disagreed with them.

What comes next I am not sure. I cannot let fear or the unknown stop me from living my life to the fullest. I have to trust that everything is going to turn out alright. I have to keep the faith that humanity will ultimately reject fear and hate, and embrace love, compassion and acceptance moving forward. I have to do my part.
I cannot do this alone. None of us can. But we can all hold the light and shine our love on places where fear, hatred, misunderstanding and distrust lurk, loom and hide, intent on bringing us back to the dark ages if we are not vigilant, if we are not warriors for love.

In the days, weeks and times ahead, when you catch yourself demonizing, fearing or attacking someone or something, be quick to forgive them, as well as yourself. Send them light, send them love, especially when someone or something’s driving you nuts or pushing all your buttons. Hit the reset button instead. Send them and yourself even more love and more light. It’s the only way forward.

P.S. I’d like to close with my favorite poem by Rod McKuen and also one of my favorite tunes from Leonard Cohen as covered by Jeff Buckley.


Don’t be afraid to fall asleep with gypsies or run with leopards
as travelers or highwaymen.
We should employ whatever kind of wheels it takes
to make our lives go smoothly down the road.
And if you love somebody tell them.
Love’s a better roadmap for trucking down the years than Rand McNally ever made.

-Rod McKuen


P.S. Here’s a link to Jeff Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s classic “Hallelujah”.


War and Human Nature

Veterans Day has taken on a deeper and more personal meaning for many people this year,  given that many of us have been feeling battle weary following an election cycle that started over 18 months ago, if not even longer back in time. It’s a relief to be done with the relentless parade of political commercials and related advertising, and I wonder how much money was spent in total for this year’s campaign and electoral cycle. I suspect it’s in the billions altogether, and it’s too bad all that money cannot seem to be harnessed and channeled toward a greater good.

My dad, who turned 90 last Saturday, is a veteran of World War II. His brother Jack died in a German P.O.W. camp several days after the jeep he was traveling hit a land mine. This happened in Belgium, in late 1944. More than half a century later, in March 1999, my dad and I traveled together to the Allied Cemetery near Liege, Belgium to honor his brother’s memory, and it was an emotionally cathartic experience for both of us.

What really haunted me there were innumerable crosses remembering so many people who died in war. I thought of the collective energy, mindset and resources that it took to end this particular conflict  Standing there silently together at Jack’s gravesite, I palpably and deeply felt the loss that my Dad, his oldest brother and their mom must have felt when they received the news that my Uncle Jack, age 20 at the time, would never be home again.

I am thinking today, too, of how and on what we spend our individual and collective energies, mindsets and resources. I hope that with this election cycle now hopefully behind us, we’ll also choose to invest in healing and rebuilding divisions, rather than throwing white gas on and igniting them. I hope we will move forward by choosing to see the good and the potential in all people, and invite and include everyone at the table. We all have some room to grow and heal in these respects.

As Abraham Lincoln said in his first inaugural address,

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Nature is one of the best places in which we all grow and heal and come home.

Let’s all take a collective deep breath, exhale, and dive in to experience nature where we live, work, play and create community.

It’s one of the best ways to bring more peace, healing, calm and lightheartedness into a world that has been hungering for it for far too long.

Count your blessings, share your gifts.

Bury the hatchet, heal the rifts.

Knowing (Human) Nature’s Limits

As the raven flies, it’s only about twelve miles and a short overflight from the North to the South Rim of  Grand Canyon National Park. For well-prepared people in exceptionally good shape, it’s a 20-mile plus hike from rim to rim, and some folks even “run” the canyon in such fashion, sometimes from rim to rim to rim all in one day.

I’ve not flown over, floated, run or hiked all the way to the bottom and then and out of the Grand Canyon, but you bet I’d go with a party of trusted travelers, and check in with park  officials and others who have safely and successfully made the journey before I’d really consider doing so. By car, of course, you could also drive from one rim to the other over a road distance exceeding 200 miles, via Page, Arizona. Then again you could experience one of the world’s greatest natural wonders via helicopter or chartered plane overflights originating on nearby private and tribal lands.

The Grand Canyon is one of Earth’s few geologic features observable from space, and on the ground it’s equally vast and impressive. About 277 miles long, over a mile deep in some places, and from 12 to 18 miles across, it stretches the imagination, shakes the most jaded humans out of their self-absorbed worlds, inspires silence, awe and humility, and constantly shape shifts before your eyes, ears, heart and soul.

Still it’s not as protected, both in and outside the park, as it could and should be. The September issue of National Geographic points to several challenges to the integrity and future of the Grand Canyon. The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted overflight number restrictions originating on tribal lands just west of the parts of the Grand Canyon. Even within the park, there are many places, especially along the South Rim, where it’s nearly impossible to avoid seeing and hearing aircraft zooming overhead.

Outside the national park to the east, the Navajo Nation debates whether to construct The Escalade Tramway, a high-speed passenger tramway capable of ferrying thousands of visitors daily from the South Rim a mile down to the Colorado River to enjoy the canyon, grab lunch, snacks and souvenirs, and then zoom back up to the South Rim. Many Navajos, as well as people from other neighboring tribes such as the Hopi, consider the proposed location, where the Little Colorado River melds with the Colorado River, as sacred.  I suspect Edward Abbey would be throwing a shit fit as well if he learned about these and other threats to the Grand Canyon..

Then there’s air quality and pollution issues impacting our ability to see great distances and breathe clean air. Near the town of Tusayan on the South Rim, a mega-development housing proposal was shot down recently which would have added thousands of additional dwelling units, potentially contributing to greater traffic, light pollution, and the lowering of the area’s water table. For now, this proposal has been turned down, but it could very well pass on a smaller scale sometime down the road.

This is not all doom and gloom, and it’s not too late to change and correct our course.The Grand Canyon is still mighty grand, even with five million plus visitors annually to the region. Within and outside of this and other national park boundaries, we should exercise greater restraint. We should limit our impacts and actions. We should take the long view. We should more deliberately weigh how a cascade of human activities can ultimately erode, impair and destroy places that deserve to be preserved and protected for future generations.

As President Teddy Roosevelt urged people of his time over a century ago in a much less populated United States, “The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired in value.”


Great National Park Hikes

One of the best things in life for me personally is the ongoing opportunity to explore and share the natural wonders of our one home earth planet with fellow travelers and adventurers.

Some of the hikes I am about to share have been favorites for years, but others I have come to know and love more recently through friends and colleagues who have in turn shared some of their favorite trails.

Please always remember, though, that hiking is definitely a proceed at your own risk type of activity. Consider your current health and fitness level, as well as your physical challenges and limitations, and be forthright with others in your hiking party.

Check on local weather and trail conditions, and check in with the land agency managing the place where you are considering hiking, too. Bring a first aid kit, be prepared, and most importantly, be flexible and willing to forgo or change your plans based on what unfolds on your hiking adventure. Thanks for also practicing Leave No Trace Principles-in sum, leave only footprints, and take only pictures.

Here are a few selected national parks and hiking trails to consider to get you started:

In Yellowstone National Park:

Beaver Ponds Loop Trail near Mammoth Hot Springs is a five-mile meander that takes you through a variety of habitats and a proliferation of wildflowers during the warmer months. This trail is best done early in the day, or in very late afternoon once it’s started to cool down. You can also hike to the Beaver Ponds and then return the same route if you end up hiking mid-day, as that way you will have more shade on your return hike as compared to hiking through open meadows with very little shade if you were to do the complete 5-mile loop. This is a classic “Northern Range” Yellowstone hike with good opportunity to see lots of wildlife, including bears, so be very bear aware of course!

Storm Point Trail east of Fishing Bridge is a wonderful, fairly flat three-mile loop leading you to well named Storm Point overlooking Yellowstone Lake, which is the largest high elevation lake in the U.S. From the actual Storm Point you can look across (on a clear day) to the Red Mountains to the south, to the Absaroka Range to the west, and on super clear days you can even see the Teton Range from here. Marmots are busy hanging out on sunny rocks during the summer months, and hikers often see bison. ground squirrels, rabbits and lots of waterfowl. If you’re looking for a short hike by Yellowstone Lake with a real wilderness feel, this might be a good fit for you!

In Grand Teton National Park:

The Phelps Lake Trail is a beauty and is about a three-mile loop altogether. Consider getting dropped off at the Laurance S.Rockefeller Preserve to get started, as the parking lot here is small and often fills up by late morning. You can increase your distance about a mile by following the trail around Phelps Lake, which is often a very nice temperature to swim in during the hotter summer months of July and August. When the timing is right, there may even be huckleberries to pick and savor! The Rockefeller Preserve is about 4 1/2 miles north of Teton Village..

The Bradley and Taggart Lakes Trails offer options for doing loop hikes totaling about four miles in either direction. If you decide to visit Taggart Lake itself, you’ll be adding another mile to your itinerary, but it is also a gorgeous lake and well worth the effort. The trailhead for these two hikes is about 2 1/2 miles north of the Moose Visitor Center.

In Glacier National Park:

Near Logan Pass, two awesome hikes include the Highline Trail on the north side of the road, and the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail on the south side.

The Highline Trail climbs steadily in elevation and is a fairly narrow trail at times. There are steep drop-offs in places so if heights are an issue for you, consider taking the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail instead. Nonetheless, the Highline Trail gives you a more immediate and palpable sense of what Glacier’s backcountry feels like as it’s not as crowded as the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail. The views along the Highline Trail are rewarding and expansive in all directions, but if this is your first time on this particular trail, I’d highly recommend just going in a mile or two then returning to the trailhead the same way you came from (back to Logan Pass and the Visitor Center there).

The Hidden Lake Overview Trail is one of the most amazingly beautiful short hikes you could ever do in the Lower 48 U.S. states, but because of this you might be sharing the trail with quite a few nature lovers. It’s about 1 1/2 miles each way to the overlook, and about a 500 foot elevation gain to boot. If you want to continue down to Hidden Lake, add another three miles to your total trek, plus about an 800 foot elevation drop and then gain as you head hack to the overlook. Regardless of how far you travel, you’ll be rewarded by stunning views. Maybe some bighorn sheep and/or mountain goats might be grazing nearly, marmot chirps and cries will echo off canyon walls, and amazing summer wildflowers will bless your path. Please, though, do not feed any of the begging rodents that may approach you on this trail.

Both the Highline and the Hidden Lake Overview trails are close by the Logan Pass Visitor Center on Going-to-the-Sun Highway in Glacier National Park. I highly recommend taking the free Glacier National Park shuttle buses once you have paid admission to visit the park. That way you’ll miss out on combat parking in the small parking lots and have more time to enjoy all of Glacier in its glory, as the buses make frequent drop-offs and pick-ups at the Logan Visitor Center and other popular park locations.


Yellowstone National Park:

Grand Teton National Park:

Glacier National Park:

P.S. I’d love to hear what are some of your favorite hiking trails in these or other national parks, and also receive feedback after the fact if you decide to hike any of these suggested trails. Thanks! As the weather cools somewhat I’ll suggest some hikes in other national parks.

The Park Can Kill


When you have little to no contact with nature on its own terms, with wild nature, it’s quite easy to get yourself into trouble. Carnage, injuries, and even death can follow as a result. GPS devices, smart and mobile phones, and all the technological gear you have at hand may not be enough to save your ass or get help when you most need it.

You can also be incredibly experienced and familiar with wild places, and end up that same proverbial creek without a paddle. None of us escapes from having lapses in judgment in life-sometimes we survive them; sometimes we don’t.

Whether we live in large cities, sprawling suburban areas, or rural places closer to wild places, it’s nearly universally rewarding to have spent time in nature, then arrive safely back home elated and re-charged, eager to share stories from our most recent adventures.
This summer, though, far too many adventurers to the world’s first national park, Yellowstone, have already experienced tragedy and death in the wild..

A few weeks ago Yellowstone had its first thermal feature death in nearly 16 years after a young man wandered off trail with his sister in the Norris Geyser Basin area. Since 1890 there have been at least 22 such deaths in the park, and the two-volume book series, Death In Yellowstone by Lee Whittlesey, continues to educate and warn readers of the myriad unforgiving perils that accompany the remarkable beauty and wildness of this majestic place. No amount of signage, guard rails, or messaging will ever eradicate the real possibility that the park can kill, still.

There were 4,100,000 visitors to Yellowstone in 2015, and current trends indicate that that number may be surpassed this year as well. Since April 2016, at least two other people have experienced thermal burns in the park. In another incident, a Canadian film crew, operating without a commercial permit, deliberately walked and filmed being illegally off trail on fragile crust overlying near-boiling temperature waters near Grand Prismatic Spring.

Well-intentioned visitors removed a lone bison calf from the wild and placed it in their car, concerned about its fate. Later, park officials had to euthanize the calf., as it was no longer accepted by other bison due to being handled by humans. Outside the park, a similar incident occurred when people happened upon a newborn pronghorn antelope..

It’s hard to restrain ourselves when we see a young and apparently helpless animal. We’re used to exciting rescues, miraculous reunions, and happy endings in the media, but nature plays no favorites. Visiting a national park and other wild places begs for more restraint than we may be used to exercising at home. It also begs for being more thoughtful and prepared, and for being more kind and considerate to others who live and visit there, resident wildlife included..

It’s akin to spending time in another culture or country. Before we visit, it’s wise to learn about the customs, manners. nuances and challenges that may be different there than they are at home. National parks and other wild settings are some of the last places where animals such as grizzly bears and wolves can still roam, make a living, and call home. In many ways, we are visiting someone else’s home.

Indeed, despite your own advance preparations, or after having read up on park rules and regulations, you may still see others off trail in thermal areas, or crowding an adult bison (which is always a bad idea) to get a better photo. In another sad incident this spring, someone was struck by a car as she tried to cross the road between Madison and West Yellowstone, near where bald eagles have historically nested. Videos and selfies were also posted on line of folks posing with their backs to bison (another really bad idea), and others of people getting way too close to elk in the park.

It is heartbreaking to hear of people who are killed or seriously injured in a place they very likely have loved from afar and have wanted to visit for a long time. Accidents can and do happen. But please don’t leave your brain at the gate, or join the crowd doing something that will either result in harm to themselves or others. You’re a long ways from a hospital in any direction, and may need a life flight to get urgent medical care and treatment.

Be prepared, and remember that human drivers are far more dangerous statistically than grizzly bears and bison, both in and outside the park.. Where it gets tricky is when and where to intervene with others, and how to be kind and firm if you decide to do so.

It may be tempting to embarrass, ridicule and rapidly judge people who may be behaving in an unsafe manner, whether that’s in Yellowstone or somewhere else they have come to enjoy and experience the natural world. It takes some diplomacy to let them know it’s unsafe without calling into question their intelligence, but again, we all have lapses in judgment, and the goal is to help that person decide to change their behavior so they no longer endanger themselves or others.

I get it that maybe folks just want to contact a ranger to deal with people doing unsafe things in national parks and other public places. People are understandably fearful of an escalating confrontation, plus with national parks allowing people to have firearms within their boundaries (a really really bad idea) that makes many visitors even less likely to speak out when something is awry.

Just like in the natural world itself, there are no easy answers for how to resolve this challenge. It’s so easy to get in deeper than our own comfort zone, but paradoxically that’s where huge learning, discoveries and breakthroughs often occur, if we survive the moment or experience..

Consider that at one time, there were less than 30 remaining wild bison, period, and where their numbers are today. Consider the phenomenal rebound of wolves in Greater Yellowstone after they were extirpated by the 1930s. Until about 1970, people were feeding bears in Yellowstone, and leaving garbage strewn around to attract them for photo opportunities. Collectively and individually, we’ve changed our mindset and ways of relating to nature over time, and hopefully that will continue to evolve.

It’s also easy to believe that our actions don’t matter or are harmless when visiting wild places, but it’s super sad to see a lone petrified tree encased by an iron fence to keep out souvenir collectors in Yellowstone, or people’s initials carved into bacterial and algae mats in many thermal areas.

Being in a crowd and being fairly anonymous drives some folks to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do. For some people, they may genuinely not know that something is harmful, or they may not have read the regulations and rules, or they saw someone else do something and decided to follow suit.

For others, they seem to be suffering from a bad case of “No one can tell me what to do,” “You’re trampling on my freedom to do what I want on government land,” or they loathe government entities entrusted with preserving and protecting lands belonging to all Americans..

The National Park Service’s mission, as stated in the U.S. Organic Act of 1916. reads as follows:

The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park system for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of this and future generations.

Some generations later, the National Park Service’s Centennial Goal is to
“Connect with and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates.”

The number of park visitors will almost certainly continue to grow, prompting some hard conversations about how we can truly protect places and leave them unimpaired for future generations. Connecting with and growing the next generation of park supporters and advocates is also crucial.

That hinges on simultaneously educating people that their actions and inactions do make a difference in the integrity and future of wild places, no matter where their feet are, whether you actually and physically visit a place, or are enjoying and exploring it from afar.

Wild places can be great teachers. Yet they also command respect, restraint and humility, as an excerpt from a 1970 Billings Gazette editorial stressed following the death of a park visitor to Yellowstone that year:

Death is a frequent visitor in raw nature. And Yellowstone National Park, despite the cabins and roads, is raw nature. The Park is the untamed and unfenced wildlife and the amoral energy of thermal wonders. It cannot be treated lightly; when it is it erupts in death…The park is not Disneyland, Rocky Mountain version. Nor is it a zoo with moats and fences separating the wild and the domesticated. For all the trappings of men, it is wilderness. And the man who fails to accept it as such dies.

Travel safely, and travel well this summer!

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