Needless to say – the driving part of the trip was tremendous. The trip coming from South Dakota to Whitefish, Montana was an intense and long drive – nearly eighteen hours, including the dinner and lunch stops that totalled less than 90 minutes together. However, the trip into Glacier National Park itself made all that time on the road worthwhile.
The first trip into the Park itself incorporated two trails in one stop. The first trail was the Trail of the Cedars. The trail is on a raised boardwalk, simply because the forest you are walking through is an old-growth forest. To preserve as much of the forest’s integrity – the raised boardwalk keeps visitors from walking through the undergrowth. This particular walk was stunning in its beauty — and for the most part fairly quiet. Some of the time. According to the trail guide we were working off of — this trail, and our second trail — were the two most visited trails in the entirety of Glacier National Park. Both were rated as easy-to-moderate trails — which probably spoke to the reason so many people came to these two trails. The parking lot was jammed full when we arrived…and at first, we didn’t encounter too many people. The Trail of the Cedars was a wonderfully quiet spot. And then the folks coming back from the second trail, Avalanche Lake Trail, arrived. While I don’t really get that upset about people walking through an area of forest and talking — people purposefully photo-bombing pictures of scenery (and yes, it was obvious) really gets under my skin. Then the second group of folks came in – taking the parking places of the first group. These people ended up on the Avalanche Lake trail with us — and for the most part, they were far more respectful of photos than the first group of folks.
It took a while along the Avalanche Lake Trail, but I did finally manage to find a spot on the rocks along the river to sit and meditate for a short bit. Like most of Glacier National Park, the Kami felt old, quiet, and barely seemed to notice the people all through the area. That’s a very different feel than what I typically get from the Kami in and around the various areas of the Dallas/Fort Worth metro-mess, where there is either excitement or agitation from the presence of so many human beings in a localized area.
The second day was spent driving the Going to the Sun Road, but only to the halfway point of Logan’s Pass. The scenery here is literally breath-taking – and the roads are…well…they are small. Even driving my Subaru Forester – I felt crammed against the guard-rail (with a significant drop) or up against the unforgiving rock wall. I found it very difficult to drive particular stretches of the road with oncoming traffic consisting of F350 pickup trucks and Humvees. And while the scenery was breath-taking, the sheer teeming masses of humanity certainly did not make for much fun. Every single turn-out was crammed with people shooting pictures…and not worrying about any other person’s shoot that they may step into. I spoke to one of the Park Rangers about the number of people – and she assured me that this was a very LOW turnout compared to the high-point of Summer. I shudder to think about how much more that could possibly have been. We sighted several of the local wildlife during our trip up to Logan’s Pass, as well as on our return back to Whitefish. However, wherever an animal appeared – there were dozens of people crowding around for a picture. In the end, while the Park was beautiful, the constant whir of the cameras proved to be unnerving for me in the end.
The second day of Glacier National Park was a drive across the entirety of the Park’s “Going to the Sun” road. The views on the western side of the trip to Logan Pass were once again stunning. The crowds were slightly smaller in size in the early morning and the late afternoon (it was a Sunday). However, the better part of the afternoon was spent trying to get through very, very large crowds of people. The trip over to St. Marys Lake (on the eastern wide of the Park – we were staying on the western side of the Park) was quite pretty – with the morning sunrise showcasing all the highlights of the Park. The boat ride on St. Marys Lake – on the other hand – was nothing short of a rip-off. Part of the trip promised a walking tour to St. Marys Falls…however, nothing was mentioned that the guide for the trip would take off with only half the group. She was on the second boat which arrived after ours. While we were waiting on her arrival – our group wandered up to a smaller set of Falls…and when we returned, we found that the guide had already disappeared with the second half of the group. The lake was absolutely gorgeous – and it was wonderful being on a boat in the middle of it…but not for the price that was paid per individual. A second tour to Glacier is already in the works — and the desire to walk our own trail to St. Marys Falls is one of the primary points to be accomplished. On this second day, I didn’t get much of a chance to sit and relax anywhere…though I did get followed by a curious mountain goat near the Logan pass trail. The future trip will be made with a point to find several spots to sit, relax, and meditate within the surroundings.
The trip down to the Bighorn Mountain Range in Wyoming was uneventful. A little long in terms of being in the car. We approached the range from the west — and drove up some SUPER-STEEP roads going towards the cabin resort we had booked into. Some of the grades rated at 12% or higher…and the Subaru really struggled with the grades at times. After a good night’s sleep, we made our way to Medicine Wheel. Let me be clear about a few things before I get into the beauty and atmosphere of Medicine Wheel. First, this is on the TOP of a mountain at 9600+ feet. Be prepared to be light-headed from the altitude. Furthermore, the parking lot is a mile and a half away from Medicine Wheel. The trail is a dirt-road that is easily walked. There are two hilly rises on the way there — the last one being extremely steep. If you have asthma or any kind of condition that precludes you from walking to the summit and back — ASK THE RANGERS IF YOU CAN DRIVE YOUR CAR UP TO THE SUMMIT. There’s a Ranger Station at the Parking Lot…and the Rangers are extremely understanding if you cannot make the walk. Personally, I think that walking the path to the summit is a great way to experience the beauty of the surrounding area…
The Medicine Wheel is an absolutely gorgeous area though. You can feel the serenity of the location, the moment you achieve the summit. Its quiet and serene – and you will feel the cold air blast you in the face. Be sure you dress for cold weather though…remember it is the top of a mountain. I took my old Air Force watch-cap and my heavy winter coat — and I’m extremely glad that I did. When we arrived, there was an individual in the middle of the Wheel walking. I assumed he was an Indian tribal elder – most likely a Crow since they primarily use the location. He was the archeologist for the Medicine Wheel and was there to remove materials that were not “proper” for the Wheel itself — such as the glass water-bong that someone had tossed in. We chatted for a bit about the usage of the Wheel and what tribes utilize it. Then after a few minutes – I went and sat down by the entry gate. The Wheel itself is protected by a rope-like fence — its not designed to keep irreverent individuals out — but is there to mark the Wheel’s outer boundaries, as well as serve as a location for offerings to be left. Anyways, I sat down by the Gate, faced into the Circle and did a grounding and centering exercise that I utilize in my OBOD meditations. It took only a few minutes to feel the Kami located here. Mixed in, I could feel Elder spirits that are in the area. If I could ever describe a singular location as “amgickal” — it is certainly the Medicine Wheel. When I was finished, I circled the entire Wheel once again — stopping at each Quarter to quietly whisper the Druid Prayer for Peace. At each quarter, I could almost hear whispered voices on the wind…the language I could certainly not recognize (it definitely wasn’t English)… As the final vacation location on the trip — it was certainly worth altering our original return trip plans…and I will return there again — this time with offerings of my own to provide.
This was certainly a trip of a lifetime to make — and part of it are certainly going to be “return soon” locations. While I was reluctant to return back to the city…each location still remains in my mind’s eye and has become a part of the Grove of my Heart. I was and remain deeply honored to have had the chance to visit with the various Kami — and to experience feelings, emotions, and moments that I can scarcely describe. I have certainly walked away realizing that my position in the world is a rather small one, but that the size doesn’t matter – its the heart that makes everything significant in the wider expanse of our daily Path.