North-West to Alaska: Glacier National Park

We drove toward the sun for 1600 miles. At about the 800 mile mark, the pale hazy blue forms of the Rocky Mountains first materialized from the horizon and it was an epic moment for all of us. It was the first time our older three children had seen snowcapped mountains, and listening to their gasps of wonder and awe brought me back to my own first time view of the mountains like it was yesterday.

We had decided in advance to take a day of rest from our cross-country journey at Glacier National Park. Not only was it almost exactly the halfway point, but Zach and I have both been here with our parents years ago, and we knew we couldn’t drive so close to a place so beautiful without showing it to our kids. We figured that after two days cooped up in the car, four little people were going to be pretty ready to take a break from travel and stretch their legs.

Turns out, dad and mom were pretty ready for a break, too!

In the one full day we had to enjoy the park, we had lunch at the historic Many Glacier chalet, spent time splashing in the St. Mary River and hiked up beautiful Logan Pass. We got very close to mountain sheep and marmots, walked through glacial snow in July, and chased the setting sun down the breathtaking curves of Going-to-the-Sun Road. And we spent two nights in the coziest little cabin under the stars, a welcome break from hotel life (and cheaper, too!).

That last paragraph sums our visit to Glacier neatly in a nutshell, but doesn’t really capture the aura of the place. I wish I could write something that would make you feel the way I felt there, like the moment when we drove around a sharp curve to see layers upon layers of mountains receding down the valley into the seemingly infinite distance, the jagged teeth of pine-studded slopes perfectly silhouetted one against the other, and there, at the edge of the precipice, a lone mountain sheep running wild and free, all wrapped in the pure golden haze of the setting sun.

It was as pastoral, romantic and full of idealistic glow as a painting straight from the Hudson River School (here’s a link to the sort of painting I’m referring to if you’re not familiar with the style), except it was alive and breathing and we were right at the edge of it looking in. It’s the sort of moment that leaves you without words, and with a little bit of an ache in your soul, and, just maybe when no one’s looking, tears in your eyes.

Your loving devotion, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,

Your faithfulness to the clouds.

Your righteousness is like the highest mountains…” (Psalm 36:5-6)

P.S. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get pictures up! I’ve had a bit of trouble figuring out my new camera and editing software situation, but I’ve finally worked through all that and I’m back up to speed! I have hundreds of pictures and so much to share, so thanks for your patience and stay tuned for more soon!

We Went Driving

Up the rugged Superior shore,

To where two countries meet;

Through the golden Sawtooth hills,

With the waves at their feet.

Along the pebbled, craggy edge,

Where restless waters stretch,

All the way to meet the dawn,

At a line so faintly etched.

Through the forest silent,

To where the roaring water falls,

Beneath the gentle mountain peaks,

Where the soaring eagle calls.

Spires of pine were pointing up,

While fluttering leaves fell down,

To grace the humble forest floor,

In a multi-colored gown.

A journey up the North Shore in October is about as lovely an autumn experience as it gets—and if you can get fresh coffee and cardamom rolls to eat while you drive, even better.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul…who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1,5)

Little American Falls

IMG_4710 edit.jpgThe first time I clambered beneath the cedars trees along this steep muddy bank, we were eagerly experiencing the sights of our new neighborhood for the very first time.  On the recommendation of a dear friend, we drove up through the Bigfork State Forest, on a narrow strip of asphalt hedged by endless miles of black swamp water and stunted spruce.  There, tucked away in an obscure little park, we found the Bigfork River rushing it’s way to Canada across a set of Class III-IV rapids.  It was not quite Niagara Falls, but it was an exciting stretch of river that we could hear the thunder of before we saw it.  

Today, almost exactly six years later, I’m on the same narrow trail, and I find that little has changed since then, as far as the river is concerned.  It’s still flowing faithfully.  The rocks cradling it show no visible signs of erosion.  The tumbling water still curls over that one giant boulder out in the middle in exactly the same way.

The changes that have occurred have been in my own life, and I’ve brought them with me.  My firstborn clambers ahead of me on this Sunday afternoon, reaching sweetly back to offer me a hand on the “hard parts”.  She’s not strong enough yet to really help, but I pretend to accept her offer anyway, marveling privately at how quickly life flies by.  Last time on this trail I was six months pregnant with her, not even a year married. Now she’s out there confidently posing on the lichened rocks while I snap pictures and punctuate my sentences anxiously with “be careful” and “that’s close enough”.  My husband is back up the trail, holding the hands of her two little sisters, who we had only dreamed of at that point.  

On the other hand, one thing hasn’t changed about me.  Apparently, being pregnant, even for the fourth time, still has little bearing on my eagerness to bypass the safely situated visitor’s viewing platforms to get up close to rushing water.   

IMG_4726 edit.jpg IMG_4720 edit.jpgIMG_4687 edit.jpgLast time I was here, I saw the elusive woodcock for the first time in my life, exploding up at my feet from what had appeared to be merely a pile of leaves.  Today the only wildlife is the bed of fluffy foam caught in an out-of-the-way nook beneath the falls, looking strikingly like the back of a very furry animal as it bobs gently in the current.  I smile when my daughter asks worriedly with big eyes: “Mommy, is that a bear?”  “Go poke it and see,” I counter slyly.  She laughs out loud at herself when she discovers that it’s pure fluff.

As we climb back up the river bank, I note the mosses cropping up lush and verdant at my feet, and the first signs of life at the tips of the tree branches arching over my head.  Spring is just waking here, reminding me of a sleepy, groggy two-year-old toddling out to snuggle with me on the couch in the morning, or maybe the four-year-old rolling over in the cocoon of her favorite penguin blanket and blinking sleepily at the morning light coming through her window.  Everything still has that just-got-out-of-bed look, still a little rumpled and squinty-eyed.

The most showy are the pussy willows, who have clearly gone from stage 1, silky and pearly gray, to stage 2, fluffy and lemon-lime yellow.  Also lovely at the tips of the maple branches exploding into bits of red, more showy up close than from a distance. And then on the forest floor, I see the bravely emerging leaves of hepatica.  Leaning down to feel beneath the leaves, I find what I’m looking for at the base of the plant: the downy heads of flower buds just emerging.  A couple more days, and there will be wildflowers in the woods.IMG_4721 edit.jpgIMG_4677 editBack up at the picnic area, we shake what mud we can off our shoes and take a last-minute trip to the nearby outhouse where we convince the girls that it’s safe to seat yourself over a deep, dark, echoing hole receding into the unknown depths of the earth.  Then we head out down the winding dirt road.  Tired little people quickly nod off into belated naps, and the thunder of the falls fades into fiddle music cranked up to keep their parents from following suit on the journey home. 

It’s good to know that as my own life shifts and changes, a wild river running north is still there, doing it’s God-ordained thing and fulfilling it’s purpose pretty much the same as always.

“All the rivers flow into the sea,

Yet the sea is not full.

To the place where the rivers flow,

There they flow again.” (Ecclesiastes 1:7)

GPS

IMG_1282.JPGIt all began with a few simple needs that could be easily taken care of at a Walmart.  It would be a quick errand, I thought.  The only (small) problem?  I didn’t know where Walmart was in this unfamiliar city.

But that’s what GPS is for.

“Take me to Walmart,” I said to my phone as I contemplated the less-than-exciting but unavoidable prospect of backing an awkwardly long truck out on a blind curve.  “Okay, go now—FAST!” my husband shouted from the curb.  I stepped on the gas and watched his eyes get big as I came to a halt on the other side, mere inches from a signpost.  IMG_1311.JPG“After 50 feet take a left turn onto 8th Street,” the confident feminine voice instructed.  Still rattled from the close call with street signage, I sailed right past, missing my very first turn.

“In half a mile, take a right onto Center Street,” the voice calmly redirected.  At the intersection of Center Street, I found myself facing a road under massive construction.  I didn’t really want to go down there, so I picked a different road, hopeful that the voice would redirect me around the construction area.  No such luck.

“In one quarter of a mile, take a U-turn at the stoplight,” the voice instructed, not to be dissuaded.  I got to the stoplight, where two things became clear.  1) This big awkward truck was not going to be making this U-turn, and 2) getting to Walmart in an unfamiliar city was going to be a lot more complicated than I’d ever imagined.IMG_1303.JPGBut we eventually got there, that big truck and I, surprisingly all in one piece.  We went around the block to get back on track instead of making the U-turn.  We survived the road construction.  The voice from my phone carried me through, calm and unruffled through all my missed turns and second-guesses.

“Destination reached,” it informed me cheerfully as I pulled into the big store’s parking lot.  So, it really had known where it was going.  Well, that was a relief!  Now was the time to admit that I would have gotten there a lot faster if I’d paid closer attention and trusted it more implicitly—but what can I say?  I may be a millennial, but I’m still a little distrustful of allowing a robot to tell me what to do.

IMG_1355.JPG IMG_1406.JPGIMG_1380-1.jpgSometimes, the right way to go in life is a little like that, too.  You know, not quite as direct and smooth as we’d like?  And sometimes, even if you’re asking the right One for directions, it’s easy to mistrust and question whether He really knows where He’s taking you.  Sometimes we even go so far as to strike out on our own, hoping He’ll change his mind to suit our preferences

But if we know God and His Word, we also know that, unlike a GPS system, He doesn’t fail or make mistakes.  Our human feelings and inclinations may tempt us to question, and even lure us off track, but His ways are perfect and He remains faithful.

And loving.  Loving enough to patiently, persistently reroute us in the right direction after every foible.  Loving enough to stay with us every step of the way, right through the missed turns, road construction, and awkward U-turns.

It’s the ultimate GPS system, really: God’s Positioning Service

“If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)

“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” (Psalm 23:3-4)

(P.S. Photos not taken while looking for Walmart.)

Vacation Vignettes: Waterfall

IMG_3311.JPGIMG_3397.JPGIMG_3320We had to shout to hear each other as we climbed the spray-soaked stairs and rocks.  Up among the dark leaning cedars, past graceful ferns and wild lily of the valley, holding small hands fast as we peered over rocky ledges.  At Bond Falls, it was not hard to imagine this:

“…and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory.” (Ezekial 43:2)IMG_3331.JPGMeanwhile, the little girls made friends with the ducks that came begging along the quieter edges of the river for handouts…IMG_3787…and got to admire the rare wood turtle their turtle-expert papa spotted from afar.  He crawled out on a fallen tree in true Coyote Peterson form and scooped it out of the river for them to see up close.  What a fascinating and beautiful creature, so similar yet distinctly different from the common varieties we enjoy observing at home!IMG_3439-1.jpgIMG_3767So, was the highlight of this vacation day actually visiting a waterfall, as the title of this post might indicate, or was it getting up close to the animals living around it?  The answer to that might vary depending on which of us you asked, but in my humble opinion, the beauty of each served to compliment and enhance that of the other…

and so the answer is yes.