Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
High winds whip through the lodge balcony, like sirens blaring through the night. Two ground squirrels chase after one another, often blending into one as they wrestle at lake’s edge. They have yet to take cover. Rugged wilderness spreads out before me, inviting and daring courageous exploration. Indeed I’ve followed the call, though the wilderness never seems fully conquered. The once glassy lake transforms into a raging sea with white-capped waves. Dark, daunting clouds curl over the snow-covered mountain peaks as they threaten all that lies below. Though thunder and lightening have yet to appear, the winds blow hard enough to accomplish their intimidation. The pine trees encircling the lake are not daunted, though. They’ve seen plenty of these storms. I, however, have not, and that is why I remain.
I’ve never quite experienced wilderness like Glacier National Park. It’s so wild. Both scary and alluring. Yesterday a bull moose stole our trail and caused us to take a detour. He stood taller than me, his rack extending longer than my wing span. He quietly went about eating leaves and nibbling on branches. Further down the trail, we came across bear droppings, reminders of why we make loud noises around each blind corner. The culmination of our hike was a lake engulfed by glacier-created mountains and cliffs. Several waterfalls entrenched themselves along the mountain slopes, eventually draining into the lake. Another bull moose made its way around the backside, right across from our snacking spot. The dark turquoise water reflected the peaks above. Those few hikers who made the trek deep into the woods sat rewarded; some fly-fished on a beach.
I write now from a “writer’s room,” starring off into the backcountry from which we came. Others do, too, some reading, some sipping a wine or beer, or holding a lover’s hand. It is the seclusion and quiet that draws us. Looking at each admirer, knowing each has an aching and beautiful story that they bring into their quiet moments of solitude, I long to know how they interpret the wilderness before them. In their eyes I sense longing, as it resides in me as well. We sit and stare off, soaking up vacation. Yet, it is more than that. It’s a longing for reality to be more of this. To borrow from Harry Middleton’s The Earth is Enough, “These mountains…the cold, swift waters of Starlight Creek, were never an escape from life, but life real and immediate, life beyond the artificial, life intensified.”