The Best of Glacier

JoAnne and I have been back from our vacation for almost a month already.  We’ve been extending the fun by enjoying all the pictures we took.   Love this digital age where you can take hundreds without paying a mint for film and developing; just click away, dump them onto the laptop each evening and go back out and fill the camera again.  In just a little over two weeks, JoAnne and I took about 1000 pictures.   So JoAnne has made up one slide show, a shorter one, and also a file of shots she wants to use for her painting hobby.   In addition to my blog galleries, I’ve chosen one for the desktop of each of my computers.

Needless to say, there are lots that have not surfaced here and won’t.  However, I thought you might like to see just a few more– a “Best of Glacier” selection.    I’ll try not to repeat shots form Logan pass or the animal article.  Glacier National Park was really the highpoint of our trip.  I was glad we traveled there last; I think it is best to save the highpoint (pardon the pun) until last.

Mountain Pass Hiking (written Aug 23)

I may be a little sore tomorrow, but what an exhilarating feeling.   It was too cold for JoAnne up at the Logan Pass Visitor Center.  The wind was blowing hard and the stormy gray sky was spitting occasional rain, snow or hail as clouds tumbled over the backbone of the continent, as the Native Americans call it.   I had on a warm Henley, a flannel shirt and a wind breaker and I could still feel the chill.   JoAnne stayed behind at the center while I pressed ahead up the stepped walk over the Alpine tundra, 1.5 miles, mostly up the mountain, then over the Continental Divide, to the overlook to Hidden Lake.  The flowers were blooming everywhere.  Near the top, picas were abundant.    Just as we neared the overlook, a young teen girl behind me screamed/squealed as only girls that age can, “A goat!”     There it was– a momma goat ahead of us and in the middle of the walkway with an offspring close behind.  What a treat.   She was nearly pure white with those little curved black horns.  All the hikers were so distracted by the goats that the view hardly got the attention it deserved.   And it deserved attention!  The beautiful boomerang shaped lake lay below us, surrounded by mountains on every side except in one small corner. In that corner was an endless vista facing west.    One of the surrounding mountains was a tall pointed one named after an Indian leader called “Bear Hat.”  Little picas were running around everywhere, rating a poor third to the goats and the scenery.  On the way back I also spied a tundra-loving white-crowned sparrow and a marmot.    The hike was rigorous for me.  I could feel the altitude and had to stop a couple times during the ascent.   Between the cold wind, the occasional hail and the long climb, I was tempted to turn back.   But I am so glad I did not.   The hike was a great climax to the trip, both literally and emotionally.  

Whenever we accomplish something difficult that requires pushing through difficulties, we can relate to the climbing metaphor.  The difficulty tempts one to turn back.  The obstacles must be faced with courage, determination and savvy.   There is often pain in the process.   But the view from the top is worth it all. The feeling of accomplishment is thrilling.   And whether we realize it or not, we are better prepared for future challenges.  This kind of thinking is often applied in Scripture to help us with life’s challenges too.  “Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (Jas 1:12 TNIV).   Or consider the thought in Hebrews as the author explains the example of Christ.   “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:1-2 NIV).

Hell’s Canyon – the scariest drive

Let’s just say that we figured out why they call it Hell’s Canyon.    Getting down in and back up the other side, even one branch of it took hours and involved the scariest driving in all of our Northwest adventures.     The switchbacks came one after another, stacked one above the other in tiers.   I downshifted the Nissan into second and at one point into first.   About then a double –yes double– grain tractor-trailer came roaring up the switchbacks – what would happen if you met him on some of the sharpest, blindest corners, I don’t even want to speculate.  I can’t imagine why doubles are allowed on this road!!   Did I mention that there were few guardrails or stone barriers?  The area is very arid yet the steep mountainsides are range land and we actually saw cattle on them.    I don’t know how the beef cows have any energy left to grow after all it would take to move around the canyon sides.   There were fences too, but the ranchers must have had climbing gear to build them.  We really didn’t get all the way down to the Snake River which forms the very bottom of the canyon; we crossed a tributary river called Grande Ronde.  

Before we began the drive down, we drove to one of the overlooks to view the scenery.   The area is very remote and getting to the overlook involved a  40 mile country drive one way.   It was our first experience at seeing the slippery metal cattle crossing grates across the main roads, an experience we would repeat many times.   Every mountain stream and river looked like a super-sized version of a Pennsylvania trout stream—pure clear water, often with that greenish cast of a spring run-off.  The canyon itself is vast in its scope and depth.    It is definitely grand enough to invite comparisons with the Grand Canyon itself.   There are few canyons in that league.  This one was much more complex in structure if that is possible; involving a large number of tributary canyons.  It did not have such precipitous sides as our experience of the South side of the Grand Canyon.   The rock here is much more eroded and has some sparse evergreen covering.     We spent some quiet time at the overlook while JoAnne sketched and I observed the flowers, scanned the canyon, and watched for birds with my binoculars.

The deepest blue

Crater Lake was a surprise to both JoAnne and I.   Even though we had seen pictures, what we experienced surpassed our expectations in so many ways.  

  1. We did not realize that it was located at the top of a mountain.  By the time we reached the lake, the landscape stretched downward for miles in all directions.  We later learned that Crater Lake was formed by the collapse of a huge mountain in the Cascade chain, Mt. Mazama, which was originally taller than Mt. Rainer, the tallest today. 
  2. We did not realize that one of the most rigorous hikes we would take on our vacation would be from the rim down to the boat ride on Crater Lake and back to the car.   All the sides of the lake are still precipitous cliffs.   The boat ride is located at one of the most “hikeable” spots.   But the trail down takes a half hour and contains multiple switchbacks.
  3. We were surprised by a hot day, even at the high altitudes.    By the time we reached the boat, the captain assured us that the ride was “air-conditioned.”    He was referring to the refreshing breeze off the cool water created by the movement of the power boat.  JoAnne was missing her sun hat which she had left behind in anticipation of the breeze.
  4. The variety of the formations of rock surrounding the lake was more than we expected.   One formation looked like a castle perched on the mountainside.     Another is called the “phantom ship.”   It is an island created from a very old lava upflow.    Some spots contained interesting geological formations.  One had misty waterfalls tumbling into the clear lake.    Then there is Wizard island, the extinct volcano on one side.
  5. The shear immensity of the lake was a real shock.   Our mental picture was of a body of water a mile or so across.   What we encountered was gem of a lake six miles across.   Then the guides tell you that this lake perched at the top of the world is the 7th deepest in the world at about 1900 feet deep.   The facts are staggering.  
  6. The height of the cliffs surrounding the lake was unexpected too.   In some places the mountains rose a couple thousand feet above the lake.   Everywhere, they were too steep for climbing without technical equipment.  We were told the lake only filled about half the pit created when the mountain collapsed.
  7. Most of all, we were amazed at the color.  The deep blue of the lake is inspiring, shocking, intriguing, almost haunting.  It was the bluest lake we had ever seen.  We learned why when we learned that Crater Lake is the clearest lake in the whole world.   That fact combined with its depth results in its mind-boggling jewel blue.  

When the fog clears…

After we left Staters, we headed down the Oregon Coast.  We just had to stick our toes in the cold Pacific Ocean, just to say we did it.    The coast was fogged in.   In the nearby shipping channel, we could hear the ships going out at low tide, blowing foghorns and being answered by the bells on the channel buoys.  But all we could see of them even with binoculars were looming gray shadows.   It didn’t seem like a very climactic moment to our transcontinental journey.  I was also using the binoculars to watch birds but there were very few–also disappointing.  So we piled back in the little cherry-red rented Nissan Versa and continued south along 101.    There weren’t even any coastal views for miles and whenever we got close to the coast, we could tell by the fog banks rolling in.  

After many miles we came to the town of Port Orford, OR.   Route 101 made a sharp left turn but straight ahead was a broad uphill street with the words “Ocean view” painted clearly in huge letters on the pavement across both lanes.   The last time we saw such signs, it had been several miles to the actual coast.    But this time as soon as we crested the knoll, there it was, a beautiful coastal view of the Pacific; and surprise, there was no fog.   We stopped; took turns taking pictures; then I spent time watching the many birds and the coastal small-boat activity while JoAnne sketched.    Then someone pointed out a whale spout.   Amazing!   We had the unexpected privilege of watching a whale spouting while presumably feeding among the huge rocks for at least a half-hour before he decided to swim back out to sea.  

After that, for many miles of coastal road, the fog stayed out to sea and we enjoyed a beautiful trip, with many stops.  We even took a coastal byway and the weather held for hours while we traversed it, taking pictures and feasting with our eyes on the vistas.

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It reminded me that you just never know what blessing God has in store when the fog clears.   God is like that in our lives.  We can live in expectancy looking for God’s sunshine to break through.    The “sun of righteousness rises” and then somehow the fog clears.   St. Paul put it bluntly, “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph. 5:14 NIV).

Mt. St. Helens

Friday, on the way to Staters, we turned up into the Cascades to visit Mt. St. Helens.   Again, our time was limited by our schedule, so we chose just two of the four or five visitor centers.  We stopped at the first one you encounter and the one sponsored by Weyerhauser Lumber company.    Both were excellent choices.   The first had an excellent display area and a moving informational film about the eruption.    The second, inside the original blast zone, was a good observation point for Mt. St. Helens and the valley below, including our first glimpse of Roosevelt elk through the telescope and showed the impact on the forest.  It also helped one understand the area logging industry which is everywhere in evidence.    The valley below, 30 years later, still very much bears the marks of the devastating gray ash water and log flood that rushed down it in 1980.

Hurricane Ridge

Olympic National Park; a place of many different ecosystems, of tremendous variation in elevation, and fantastic beauty.    We almost decided to head straight South but are so glad we opted to turn Northeast via ferry and car first and visit this jewel among the National Parks.   Our time was limited; though I think one always feels that way when in National Parks.   So we just drove straight up to Hurricane Ridge.   We were blessed with an outstanding day.   Views were phenomenal, as you can see.