Pentney's perspectives

Location: Canada

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Ft. McMurray, waiting for Suncor + new job search

Wed. Thurs. Fri. Oct. 19-21, 2005

Here’s the daily circuit. Good cooked breakfast everyday. Organize car. On the road by 10AM at latest. Quick drive around a new part town.

Sit outside Staples and pick up and send Email. Go to Canadian Tire and use the phone to catch up on business.

Lunch and a quick walk along the Athabasca River. Go to the employment centre and check the job board. Talk with Steve, Counselor (degree from Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario – been here forever, loves it) about strategy and ideas. Met Andy today on the river walk, a teacher, and he gave me numerous tips on joining the unions, laboring jobs and sub teaching positions.

Shop for deals on groceries at the C store-best place in town for variety and prices. Hot drink of some kind from T. Horton’s. Evening in the library and catch up on paperwork and writing.
Spent three days of calling various people at Suncor and tracked down the Recruiter for the position I applied for. He kindly passed me on to the Supervisor who is hiring. Had a good chat - he was very open about his requirements and I have to wait one week to see if I get on the short list. It is a junior position and the pay is at the low end of the scale.

A note on the library. It is in the City Hall building, modern spacious and comfortable with many seating areas including a fireplace. However, there are very few patrons in it all the times I have visited. Thursday night about 10 people.

Average house prices in this town are over $400, 000 each. Most districts are quite modern with numerous facilities. There are many hockey arenas, parks, baseball diamonds- each area, branched off the downtown core, up in the ravines (greenbelt) from the river, have their own facilities.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Oct 13- 18, 2005. Calgary upscale end , Edmonton, and Fort McMurray introduction

Monday, Tues. Oct. 17-18, 2005

Arrived in Fort McMurray. Quite a drive. About 5 hours from Edmonton.
Town is in a valley surrounded by rivers and trees. It is expensive to live here. Wages for the Burger King hourly workers are $14.50 an hour for a 40 hour week. Product prices are $1-2 higher than Ontario.

A room in a basement with bedroom and living room and bathroom with shower only, no kitchen but a big TV, $800 a month and $400 damage deposit.

I found a great swimming pool downtown $4 for an hour (includes a free shower). The library and job resource centre give me all I need to spend comfortable days indoors. There are plenty of wireless internets around town.
All the major franchises are here including Wal-Mart, Can tire, Sears, and so on.

Nights are below 32F now and I may have to get a room eventually. Must get a job first though. My application to Suncor has to be done via web only. They will not accept resumes in person. Waiting game.

Spoke to Lee an RCMP officer. He had three very nasty confrontations last week with people who come here to make a lot of money and trouble. He told me to avoid The Oil Can Bar which is across the street from the city hall.

Sunday Oct. 16, 2005

Edmonton. Visited the world famous Edmonton Mall. Actually it's a typical mall, but it also has an ice rink, wave pool- beach, waterworld, a lagoon with a galleonputting greens, and restaurant complexes in addition to fast food courts. Comparing the design of the overall facility with some of the malls I have seen in Forida in Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach Gardens, this mall is just marginal. When I entered at 10 AM it was allmost deserted. By noon it was moderately busy and have a 'buzz.' Clientle seemed to be average with a very a very small number of visibly upscale shoppers. However, Albeerta is a rich province and money is obviously not an issue based on the number of stores in the mall.

Saturday, Oct. 15, 2005

Visited the high end of Calgary. Both physically and disposable income. The city lies at the foot of various hills on the west. The hill areas outside of the city have numerous new and completed developments. I visited the Hampton area and enjoyed a tea in a Second Cup coffee shop. The clientele were all quite affluent. Two unrelated groups of non American businessman were hatching multimillion business plans. It was interesting that both groups spoke in English – perhaps a status symbol. They made no effort to keep their conversation private.

I shopped for groceries in the Coop store next door and noted that the prices were higher than the average supermarkets but still a lot lower that the Safeway that I visited in the downtown trendy area.

Weather was pleasantly warm at 65 F. I headed north Edmonton. Driving through continuously through good farmland, somewhat flat. Reminds me of the Woodstock, Ontario area or the 401 Hiway to Windsor.

Friday, Oct. 14, 2005.

Calgary, I am very impressed with the city downtown, Stephen Street runs through the centre of the tall business building, The transit has tracks on dedicated streets without traffic other than at stop lights. Called the C train, about 5 carriages linked. Open air raised platforms are spread out through downtown to pick up passengers.

Negative and unfortunate aspect of the downtown is the large numbers of homeless people that congregate outside the various homes that they are writing to eat or sleep in. They also can seen in the all the large stores, trying to blend in with the regular shoppers.

Calgary downtown Library has a large readership of made up homeless people. One can quickly identify which clients fit into the ‘transient’ category. E.g. some kick off their shoes and make themselves very comfortable in the surroundings appreciating the warmth and the contrast to the starkness of their street world. The librarians face a continuous challenge of home to deal with this nomadic clientele. Some have legitimate requests but many use the library to get a sense of normalcy.

I enjoyed wandering all over the downtown. There are some fine sculptures and numerous Historic plaques explaining the development of the city. The Glenbow Museum is in between major exhibits so I decided to wait for the Petra exhibition in November. The chandelier in the foyer was noteworthy. Large glass crystals suspended from a height of four stories to the floor.

Many fine restaurants, all usual major retailers. The downtown building have covered in glass walkways at the second story levels making walking across the street to connected stores a pleasant visual and safe experience. In various ways the downtown reminded me of Chicago. A smaller scale but obvious attention to good planning, interesting architectural design and usability.

Outside the Sears store and next to Holt Renfrew in the indoor mall there was an exhibition of men’s underwear to promote prostate cancer awareness. Various artists had each chosen a design for a pair of men’s boxer shorts decorated to present a theme. Titles were given to each exhibit E.g. One pair were completely covered in dried hot pepper of numerous types. Another pair was covered in jewelry and sequins, with the obvious title reference to Crown Jewels.
Worth taking a look at if the exhibition comes to your town. Don’t hold your breath waiting Sudbury, Ontario.

I visited Human Resources of Canada in the Hayes building and spoke to a counselor and picked up: a list of oil industry companies that may be looking for employees. To work on oil rigs one must take a one week course in Nisku. A pamphlet was given to me explaining the nature f the conditions and work on the rigs and the pay structures.
I also received a list of companies that hire temp workers in all industries.

I attended free job search seminar and spoke to a counselor and she advised me that working on oil rigs was not advised. Conditions are arduous and the work is very repetitive. I said that I wanted to get a broader perspective than the rig work offered. I spent two nights in Calgary. I phoned Colleen’s father and said. Hi. He and I had played golf together in Toronto.

I have been watching Suncor’s web site for the past year and now was in the area I applied for a specific temporary position as a Trainer for Suncor in Fort McMurray. This city is quite remote, about 400 miles of Calgary. I shall drive up there to check the place out and be ready for an interview.

Thursday Oct. 13, 2005

Nanton, Lancaster Air Museum,
High River, Spitah Blackfoot word for tall re the trees on the river. Spitzees were trading posts, whisky runners and wolf fur traders driven back into Montana when the RCMP arrived.

Turner Valley Oil Field. Dingman #1 well started the oil boom that lasted only a few months, 1914. Short boom, fraud
1924 Royalite #4, to 1947. Imperial Oil.

1947 on Leduc field south of Edmonton established Alberta’s wealth. Camped near Calgary.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Glacier hikes:Grizzlies, St. Mary's, Swift Current Pass, Grinnell Glacier, Going to Sun and Pitamaken Pass.

Wed. Oct. 5 to Oct. 12, 2005 Glacier hikes everyday for a week.

Canada, finally.

Woke up at 7AM and the wind was howling but the temperature was about 40F. I left the lake and headed for Running Eagle Falls, a sacred place for the Blackfeet, Southern Piegna Tribe. Running Eagle was a female warrior of great repute who came to the falls for vision quests. It was a quick walk from the parking lot to the falls. I noticed that the water was exiting from rock half way down the fall face and not from the river bed above as the picture at the trailhead showed. I couldn’t figure out where the water was coming from, and it was a significant amount. I climbed the gorge wall and followed the river up up. The river bed was dry and then I came across a small trickle of water entering the river bed. About one thousandth of what was coming through the opening in the rocks below. There must be a an underground stream feeding the fall at this time of year and then in the spring the river fills up from the mountain and provides a second source of water making for a very unique type of water fall. I can understand why the Indians have a reverence for this place.

Cooked breakfast in the parking lot, porridge, scrambled eggs and fried potatoes and a steaming mug of hot coffee. Read the final pages of Angela’s Ashes. Great book.

This was the end of my visit to Glacier Park. Leaving from a sacred place was somehow fitting. I too had visions of what lay ahead of me. More sleeping on the road. Job search. Decisions. I would miss my daily hikes and the healthy lifestyle. My face was nice and brown, as were my legs because I hike with the pant legs safety pinned up most of the time. I was surprised that I could hike day after day without needing a rest between. I had just covered more than fifty miles in three days. My diet was very basic and yet I had the stamina for all the situations encountered including the cold and duress.
The ankle that had been broken almost a year ago gave me no signs of discomfort no did the steel plate attached. A could feel a difference between it and the good ankle but it was a minor feeling.

So total collateral damage in three months of being on the road, one lost glove. No injuries, illness or malaise. I remember having written previously ‘It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.’ I hadn’t weakened in fact I felt a self confidence, an inner strength that comes from knowing more about oneself and the reality of the world, especially the natural worlds. I was well prepared for the next stage of journey and my life.

I would now head north to Alberta via the Chief Mountain Hiway. The border crossing on the Hiway into Canada is closed so I have to redirect to Cardston.

Crossed the border without a murmur. Declared my hiking boots and binocular and was waved through.

Cardston is an interesting hamlet in the middle of beef and other farming country; It was first settled by Charles Card who brought the Mormon settlers from Utah into Canada. His original log home built in 1897 is still standing and beautifully maintained. I had a genuine Alberta beef sirloin steak in the Cahoon Hotel café. Delicious and well priced.

Tuesday Oct 11, 2005

I was parked on the Looking Glass Hiway on a logging road. I woke to the sound on workmen on the Hiway a few yards below me estimating the potential for avalanches. Engineers with hard hats were scrambling up embankment and shouting down to the fellows on the road the details.

I needed water for my hike and drove to Kiowa, a very small community at the Junction with Hiway 89. There is a convenience store and café all under one roof and a number of cabins all around the junction. The sign on the door said closed but a head appeared in an upstairs window and asked me what I needed and said he would be down in a minute. I ended up speaking to Larry for two hours, .He is the proprietor and hid wife teaches and two of his children are still living at home. We covered a whole gamut of topics. HE recommended two books to me: The World is Flat by Tom Freeman and Camping by Colin Fletcher.

Larry and have two remarkable sons, one in high school and the other gong to Missoula University on a 4 year scholoarship. Larry described activities the boys have been involved in. I should mention the Kiowa is a town on the Blkackfeet Indian Reservation. The population of Kiowa is 4. That’s Larry, wife and two sons. They are a minority in this area. About 3%. The boys go to Indian school and the question of prejudice might be a factor in the school system. However, both boys have done remarkably well fitting in their environment and taking leadership roles in the school and community. I enjoyed sharing ideas with Larry. He provided me with a complimentary coffee and a home baked rhubarb muffin that his Sue makes; it was fabulous.

Larry mentioned that Grizzlies travel through the area and a few weeks ago one killed a cow on his property of 350 acres. It came back to the carcass every day for four days to feed and then would leave. It was observed by the Park Rangers but no interfered with.

I wish I could have stayed longer to talk. Larry’s business is up for sale should anyone be interested in living in the country and meeting lots of people.

I drove to Two Medicine and parked the car at the lake head. There were many construction crews working on the campsite on various tasks. My destination was Pitamaken Pass and the travel along the Continental Divide for about three miles if conditions permitted and descend at Dawson’s Pass and come through the Valley along ….Lake. Total estimated mileage 17.0 miles. I left at 11.30 AM about two hours later than I would have liked however, I could just do the Pitamakan Pass and return on the same path and it would be a 13.5 mile trip. Elevation rise 2400 feet. Like climbing the CN tower in Toronto twice and coming back down the same distance. Note for these trips I carry a backpack weighing about 15 ponds, with a complete change of clothing, lights and lots of food and emergency supplies. My boots weigh a total of four pounds, so there is quite a lot of effort involved in moving all this uphill.

The trial wound its way through beautiful forest an meadows resplendent in fall colors. The grasses were a rich golden yellow and red berries and leaves dotted the landscape.
A number of the back country campsite had been closed due to the bears being very active in this area. In addition to the typical signage that said bears could kill you additional notices had been placed that the bears were very active on this trail. This meant digging into my repertoire of songs to scare them off.

It took me three hours of steady climbing, with the past few miles zig zagging up the mountain in about 6 inches to a foot of snow. It was a long steady slug, And then wow! Looking back down the valley was beautiful. Now a half mile along the pass to the Pitamakan Lookout over the Continental Divide. This meant walking along the flat of the Pass which was shale rock and then climbing up the side another mountain for half a mile in deep snowdrifts. The paths was not discernable and the one signpost had I presumed been on a 45 degree angle because it pointed over the edge of a cliff to reach the Outlook. I pulled my trail map out but it was to general to be off much help. I could not afford time and precious energy trasping though deep snow and not knowing where I was going. The map said I had to go around a mountain to get to the Dawson Pass trail. I headed up the edge of the mountain through the drifts. I slip and death – no kidding. I would slide into the lakes below right off the slopes if I lost my footing in the snow. I dug in deep and traversed the side of the amounting. And then I was on the edge of the Continental Divide. The mountains made a huge oval around an enormous valley about 7, 000 feet below. One could see the hiking trail outline at the summit of each mountain as they followed the divide for miles. I looked in the direction of Dawson Pass and couldn’t see my trail past the rock shelf I was standing on. I got out the compass. It pointed south across a snow covered slope. My path was beneath the snow. No other travelers had gone before me since the snow. This was very disconcerting. The trail was a goat track about a hundred feet below a ridge top. About a mile away I could see what looked like a trail appear briefly and disappear under snow again. I looked for signs of where to begin and found a solitary set of goat footprints launch into the snow. No rocks, ledges or markers just footprints. I placed my feet in the goat tracks. Absolute madness. The snow was 3 to 6 feet deep. It was like walking on air. The drops were 60 degree angles. The goat seemed to know there was a path under the snow and the many adjustments in direction made sense but no visible markers. I dug my boots deep into the impression left by the goats. I walked with my body almost at the angle of the slope and used my knees as extra support and proceeded to cross the mountain sideways. Every step was draining my energy. Wind was cold but not too strong thank goodness.
I needed gloves on my hands to provide extra support but I had unfortunately lost one glove somewhere on the trail. So I took my binoculars case and wrapped it around one hand and continued to drive my hands into the snow for additional support. So I had six points of contact with the snow. I needed every one of them. About half a mile of this and suddenly the resemblance of a rocky pathway appeared for a few yards and then disappeared again. Time was really against me. My 2.5 mile an hour average was dropping to one mile and hour and this would mean walking through 7 miles of forest in the dark. Not good. I hadn’t stopped to each lunch but know that I would need extra energy. Larry didn’t have bread at the store so I bought a small box of chocolate cookies from him – a treat for me. I had packed a jar of peanut butter for protein and here I was trying to dip the cookies into jar and eat on the slope. It worked. I finished of with a big hunk of Swiss cheese and a whole tomato.

It took me over two hours to cover the three and a half miles of goat path. Luckily the goat went to Dawson Pass. I learned not to deviate one iota from the steps the goat took. If I was one inch below its footprint I would often fid no footing in the snow and find myself in a precarious situation. I learned quickly. If I went to high I would sink unnecessarily deep in the snow and it would take far too much energy to pull out.

When I reached what should have been Dawson Pass there was no sign or it was buried beneath deep snow drifts. One had to climb off the continental Divide Paths onto the pass which was around a hundred feet wide. Flat shale ledge. To do this meant navigating small cliffs down. Very time consuming and scary. One onto the wide ledge I looked for the path down into the valley. Too much snow. I thought perhaps I needed to past another mountain along the continental Divide – I could see an outline of a path on the ridge. However, my instincts and timing said I should be heading down now. I checked the map. The lakes below looked in size as the ones on the map. One was called No Name Lake. And I was on top of No Sign Ridge. There was too much snow to figure out where the path down began. The ledge was about a quarter of a mile or more long. I started on a guess. Deep snow and rocks. Not navigable. Then I noticed fresh human footprints going up across my path. Some else was lost and looking. I made a decision. The valley was below, many thousands of feet. It is forbidden to leave the trails in the park system because of the damage that footprints can do the fragile fauna and
And alpine and sub alpine plants. ground. However, one to two of snow should provide some protection to the fragile fronds so I zig zagged down a steep slope that was not precipitous as had been the other side. About three hundred yards down I came across the same footprints that I had seen earlier. The hiker did exactly the same thing that I did. He couldn’t find the path and headed straight down the slope. I wondered where he had come from? If he had come up from the valley he should know the path. Perhaps he had come from another pass ahead of me. I followed his path down and the prints suddenly ended. There was a twenty foot cliff. I climbed down the cliff very carefully, nice sandstone ledges and saved myself a few more hundred yards walking. . And there I was on a snow covered path heading downhill. I was overjoyed. I had an hour of daylight left and only 5 miles to go. There would be some walking through dark woods tonight. Better than being stuck in the snow at the top of a mountain which had seemed a reality an hour ago. I had mentally prepared for that eventuality. I decided that to sleep high up in a snow drift I would be safe from grizzlies and mountain lions. I could put on my entire set of spare clothes, the ones I carried if I got wet, and I could make a windbreak out the poncho.

The trek through the woods was uneventful other than having to change my socks. I didn’t have gators on and a lot of snow got into the boots. At one point I thought I had caught up with another hiker which was a bit of a relief because I heard quite a lot of whistling coming out of the woods. But, I realized the whistling was coming from the woods to my right. Accompanying the whistling were wolf like howls. Whistling and howling .I would have to find out what was making these sounds when I speak to a Ranger.

There were more path specific bear warnings. These were encased in two pieces of Lexan bolted together and then affixed to the post with U-bolts. This is so the bears don’t rip the signs down and that way trap the unsuspecting tourists. I sang louder still.

Oh, I ran into a moose half way down. I was singing, ‘She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes’ at full bore and there about 6 feet off the path is a large moose without a rack. The singing didn’t disturb it but the sight of me did and it headed quickly into the forest. Darkness arrived and I put on my headlight with the white LED shining ahead onto the path. By 7.50 PM I was at the car, relieved and exhilarated. The hike took a total of 8 and a half hours and with the extra distances I covered about 18 miles. A good day.

Supper was butter beans, cabbage, mashed potatoes and tuna made into a casserole. Delicious. A can of mandarin’s oranges for dessert. The moon shone brightly, the stars were out in a clear sky. The wind had picked up quite a bit and it was time to wrap up the day. One of the most exhilarating days of my life.

Monday. Oct. 20, 2005

I decided to hike the Going To the Sun Road. It is rated as one of the world’s most spectacular scenic Hiways. The road was closed earlier this year because of avalanches and snow drifts. However, I was able to drive up to the 14 mile point and park the car and climb over the gate, apparently an acceptable practice. My destination was Logan Pass visitor Centre which was also closed, but a good viewing area, and then hike a trail from there on the Hidden Lake Trail. Round trip for both hikes 13 miles.

It was uncanny walking on the road. No traffic and no other hikers. The climb was nice and gradual and the mountain to the front and side were covered in snow. Avalanches trails could be seen clearly on the slope which had been stripped bare. I did the bear calls because both sides of the road were dense forests.

The road went up the side of the mountain in long straight stretches with sudden acute turns. The valley below was covered in thick stands of Lodgepole Pine. Waterfalls were everywhere and a river ran through the valley. The valley was immense and stretches fro miles with various mountains jutting up from the floor. One could see very faint paths along some of the mountains, hiking trails. I stopped dong bear calls because the road dropped off into the valley on one side and rock cliffs bordered the other. Relief.

The road went through the side of the mountain at one point and the tunnel was about 150 yards long. I sang Ave Maria and the acoustics made me sound like Mario Lanzo. Past the tunnel there was a couple of inches of snow and the wind was howling. I had been down to undershirt on the way up, now I was in full winter gear. Windbreaker, rain jacket, toque and gloves and hood up. Avalanche rocks were strewn on the road and on one part half the road was buried. The rocks made divots in the asphalt when they landed. And on the valley side quite a few sections of road had washed away. I could see orange road pylons hundreds of yards below looking like arms with red sweaters on sticking out from between rocks.

The snow sowed that a cyclist had been up here and a pedestrian. I gauged the day before. And right along their tracks were those of a big black or brown bear, all the way up to the Visitor centre The bear had come up an incredibly long slop from the valley and was using to the road to get the higher ground.

I went past the visitor about half a mile and this put me through the pass. I sat on the observation platform that gave me a spectacular view of the downside of the valley between the Garden Wall on the north side of the Hiway and Mount Clements on the side I was on. I had lunch on the platform and spent time identifying landmarks where I had hiked previously. The Grinnell Glacier, yesterdays hike was on the other side of the Garden Wall. This area is also part of the Continental Divide. With binoculars I could see my hike destination from two days ago the Swift Current Lookout. Driving distances from the points were about 50 miles but because of the elevation, I was at about 6000 feet one got a good perspective. One could certainly appreciate why this road get millions of tourists every year. I was very happy to have walked it and got a more intimate feel of valleys without having to stop the car every five minutes at the various lookouts. And how many motorists can stop in the tunnels and starts singing. Precious moments.

Now back to the Visitor Centre and a hike across frozen wastes to Hidden Lake. !.5 miles one way. The snow was deep but had a hard crust. I followed the footsteps of yesterday’s solitary hikes. A nice steady climb in open spaces and then a hair raising few hundred feet on a very steep slope of sheer ice. One had to punch in the ice to get a footing and move along one step at a time. I think it must have rained on snow and then frozen. The drop was only a hundred feet but could have been nasty because of the rock outcrops.

Finally over the top of the crest of the pass and there was Hidden Lake, thousands of feel below absolutely sparkling and shimmering in the sunlight. Reynolds Mountain was to the left and this is a stunning mountain; so this a few glaciers as a backdrop made for a memorable view. To the right was another long valley flanked by the mountains and these were on the west side of the Glacier Perk and had virtually snow.

I dried out my clothing sitting on the ledge of the Visitors Centre out of the wind and it must have been 70F. I stripped down and sunbathed.

The walk back to the car was great. Two Big Horn sheep let me take pictures and also a female Elk which plodded in front of me for about a mile before she went into the bush. Numerous white woolly goats dotted the mountain sides. This was the first hike on which I did not meet another soul. Hard to fathom why more people wouldn’t walk the road.

On the way back to St. Mary I stopped twice to photograph large herds of Elk that were grazing on long grasses across from St. Mary’s Lake. They come down from their mountain habitat for the winter. I still find it difficult to think that people hunt these majestic creatures for sport.

Onto Two Medicine for the next adventure. Sun, snow and wind burned I retired a happy camper on the Looking Glass Hiway.

Sunday Oct. 9, 2005
Highlights. Grinnell Glacier 12 mile + hike round trip. 2 more grizzly bears, 2 Big Horn Sheep.

Restless sleep for unknown reasons. I was quite tired from the hike but woke a number of time thorough the night. I was very hot in the sleeping bag even though it was below 32F outside. Started the day with a cooked breakfast and made my hike lunch up. Lots of fruit and sandwiches. I had heard there was snow on the paths near the glacier so I packed a change of clothing. I wore a track suit which was light and wind proofed.

Phoned Kate, Nancy and Ed in Milwaukee. Kate is hostessing their Canadian Thanksgiving and the two friends are visiting her for the weekend. I said I missed being with them because we have enjoyed many a Thanksgiving together as group including our respective family members. I phone Debbie, another one the group and wished her a happy thanksgiving.

The sky was almost cloudless so views should be good. The trail head started into the woods going past a couple of lakes. There was a large lodge on one of the lakes, but closed for the season. The trail opened up onto the side of the foothills of the mountain and rose steadily, making a steep climb. I could see all the way up to a glacier. About half way three young people obviously very excited said they had just surprised two large grizzly bears on the path. They sowed me pictures one had taken. I asked how the bears acted; they said the bears were just as surprised as the trio and quickly hurried further up the path. Another couple who had been walking following the trio saw the bears and decided they didn’t wan to go any further. I asked more questions as to the bear’s behavior and direction. The path at this point was a few thousand feet up and very narrow with some sharp drops. Not a good place to evade anything .single file hiking for a while with lots of sharp turns around rock outcrops. Did not look good. I asked the trio where they were from. The two men were from Chicago and Denver and the young lady was from Georgia. They were working for the National Park service for the summer. I weighed up their reaction the facts and my desire to finish the walk. I had no desire to meet the bears on the path. I told the trio what my car looked liked and help themselves to anything they wanted if I didn’t make it back.
I pulled out my pepper, increased the frequency and amplitude of my bear call and continued up the path. There were a lot of blind nerve wracking curves. I stopped more frequently on the turns and hollered. Apparently the trio had been making lots of noise too but the wind was carrying it in the wrong direction. This was also the least favorable condition for the pepper spray. It would come right back at me if I sprayed it and have minimal impact on the bear. I continued for about a mile and then a rock cut appeared. The first time I could see anything but sort lengths of path. And lo and behold about a hundreds yards up the slope above the path were two big grizzly bears busy digging up something from the ground. I continued my bear holler to test their reaction. There was no reaction which meant even at that short range the sound was being carried off and so was my scent. I took a chance and continued quietly along the path hoping I could far enough ahead of the bears to be able to see them coming. There were lots of avenues they could use. Along the top of the rock cut, through the trees or back down the path and catch up with me. They can travel at30 MPH so I needed a good head start. The glacier area was about half a mile ahead, but a steep climb first up a slope. I couldn’t see well enough fro the slope to see the bears so I climbed a 100 foot high shale ridge. Wind was howling up there but I could see all paths except for a wooded area. No bears. I dropped a few feet down the ridge found a rock to sit on, out of the wind and really enjoyed my salami and cheese sandwiches.

The glacier was lie being on the moon. Frozen lakes of water with icebergs I them and shorelines of ice walls. The ground in front of the glacier was a beautiful sandstone colour. The mountain cliffs rose a thousand feet out of the glacier, sheer and jagged at the top and snow covered. Awe inspiring.
The area was about half a mile wide and I trekked along the shore of the frozen lake carefully picking substantial looking rocks. There were many small frozen ponds on the visible at the sides of my path and I hoped there were surprise holes under the snow. I made it to the sign that warned that going beyond this point was dangerous. Drilled into the rock was a survey marker but they hadn’t inscribed the height. I had seen a sign earlier that said that the glacier was at 2046 metres.

I watched small birds dipping their heads into the icy water at the waterfalls that ran from the frozen lake. The wind was about 40 MPH and probably never lets up. I presumed these birds to be dippers. There were lots of footprints of small animals around the rocks. The glacier looked vary dangerous in pars with large crevasses. I noticed that another person had visited the area recently and I wondered why I hadn’t seen them. The prints were fresh so I followed them down the path past three rock urns that had been developed by climbers. I had scanned again for the bears and could not see them However, surprise I found their footprints coming up the mountain in the snow and meeting the other person who I had not seen. That means that the bears followed my foot steps at some point. I started my bear call proceeded down the slope toward the trees. On the first bend I found a lady scanning the slopes. She had the two grizzlies in her sights about two hundreds yards away. One big brown and one dirty colored yellow for with a dark patch on his hump. The same to bears I had seen earlier. We watched them and the lady proceed down the path. She had been watching them for about an hour while I was exploring the glacier. They had heard me hollering and moved farther down the slope in response the noise.

I caught up with the lady about twenty minutes down the slope and continued to walk down to the trailhead chatting. Her mane is Mary and she is the Superintendent of trails for the park. I told her how impressed I was with the location and condition of the trial –which falls under her jurisdiction. She said the most difficult par of the job is getting adequate funding for maintenance. Presently the Iraq war is resulting in a 20% cut to park budgets. I asked Mary, who had followed me up the trail, and who had also been advised by the young trio of the bears ahead, if she had been worried. She said o, she comes out to see the bears and is familiar with these two and their habits. She has been in the park service for thirty years and has never had a bad experience. She mentioned the couple who had been mauled a few weeks ago on this very path. She said that they had probably run into bears that were traveling and the couple had surprised them. We discussed favorite places we had visited in Glacier and in the State of Wyoming. I told her that I had driven thousands of miles in the Big Horn Mountains, the Big Horn Canyon, the Big Horn Gorge and the list goes on, and I had not even seen one Big horn Sheep. Before she had time to respond two Big Horn sheep were standing 10 yards away from us above the trail. I was ecstatic and bewildered. This is unbelievable, I said. How on earth in the very instant I am telling her my story can two magnificent rams show up? It’s called mathematical probability but for me it was just a great big coincidence.

I decided to do a hike in another part of the park the next day so I drove south to St. Mary’s Campground, made a delicious meal and slept in a small grove of Silver birch trees. I t was very windy and the small twigs kept breaking off the trees and hitting the car.

Sat . Oct 8, 2005

Chatted with Cathy and Larry from Kalispell about their experiences in the park then set off on my hike. They had a great grizzly come right into campsite. Larry had a business card with the bear’s photographs as the background.

Swift Current Pass was the destination and the Granite Park Chalet if I had time. 15 mile total both ways and a steep 2400 foot climb in the last third of the hike. Started off following a series of lake on an easy gradual slope into a dead end canyon. Took pictures of a mother moose and her young one. They totally ignored my bear calls. The trail went through a lot of dense brush and I sung, clapped and made hooting noises so as not to disturb a bear, especially one that might be sleeping on the path. This was a piece of information provided by Bill. Bears like to sleep in the day time and the ‘crash’ anywhere they want to. Because all animals use the trails the hiker’s do it is not unusual to fond one sleeping on the paths. They don’t like to be surprised or woken out of their sleep – I suppose that’s the same thing. Then they get nasty.

The path out of the canyon to the pass was a zig zag goat uphill trail and it disappeared into snow. some where up the mountain. The climb was a steady slog but the fun part was where small avalanches had wiped out the goat path. One had to clamber over loose rocks and shale. There was absolutely no room for error. If one slipped on the shale it was a thousand foot sheer drop or very steep slope. Managed to navigate over two of those and then the path, which is only one to two feet wide was buried under a series of snow drifts with the snow hanging over the edge of the precipice. The drifts were up to four foot deep and about 10 feet long. The only way to traverse the path at these points was to push ones foot into the snow and deep as it would go and get a balance on one leg and then do the same with the other leg. Any loss of balance would result in tumbling down the mountain. There is no exaggeration in this account. It was with utmost concentration that I had plan and then execute the moves to make it through the drifts. On one side of the path were sheer walls of craggy rocks. Where possible I held ledges to get balance. Because the path was going up and around a mountain the wind would howl as I turned a corner.

I finally made it off the zig zags and found myself in a winter wonderland. Of frozen snow. It festooned the treed and hid the rocks. Other than tiny tufts of grass pocking up here and then it was sheet ice and still going up. I lost the trail a number of time and wasted time and energy backtracking. Snow drifts up to four feet made going slow. I finally decided to follow the running stream up the mountain and came across small glacial ponds. I finally could see where the pass went through to mountain walls and was rewarded once again with a spectacular view of the Livingston Range and many other mountains across a deep valley. I decided head for the Granite Lodge but had to hurry because the climb up had taken me 4 hours. The lodge and a few outbuildings was perched on a cliff and afforded magnificent views.

And lo and behold who should I meet at the Granite Park Chalet, three intrepid travelers Julie, Eric and Russ. And what a warm welcome they gave me. They had hiked in from the Sun Road and traveled just a few miles. A much easier route. They now my route, having done it before and they encouraged me to start heading home soon. So I left them at 4.30PM with about two and a half hours before dark. I definitely had to get into the valley and off the mountain before nightfall. I was going to climb to the Swift Current Lookout Tower but it was a torturous slope and covered in deep snow drifts. I wisely decided to give it a pass. The first part of the climb to the pass was up hill and through the winter wonderland it was flat for a short distance and then the descent. I stopped to eat an orange and there about 6 feet in front of me were 6 White Ptarmigan. They were feeding on the tufts of grasses and flowers pocking through the snow. They looked at me with curiosity but not fear so I was able to get a get photo of them with the valley and lakes thousand of feet below. I also took pictures of a glacier to my left and the reflection of clouds I a glacial pond a few hindered feet below me. I looked up at the Lookout Station hundreds of feet above me on Swift Current Mountain with a small tinge of regret. I would have liked to meet the challenge of climbing up there, but with the drifts if could have taken hours. Julie had mentioned their friend used to be a look out at the tower and was in it when forest fires were raging on the mountain. There was the danger she could be asphyxiated by the smoke. Apparently they didn’t rescue her and she survived.

Friday Oct. 7, 05

Slept in till 8AM even though I lights out had been 10PM night before. Was woken up a number of times through the night by torrential downpours which pounded on the roof of the car like a tin drum. The rain didn’t let up with daylight so I decided to drive to the one horse village of Babb and get a cooked breakfast at the Supper Club. I was greeted by a cherry welcome from the owner, Bob Burns – I was mistaken thinking the owner was the man who had sent me across the street a couple of days before for my hamburger. Bob and a couple of locals were chatting about the problems of the world. Naturally I quickly added my two cents worth and ended recommending they read Noam Chomsky’s literature on treaties and how they establish the basis for world politics. Bob said he and his people were experts on broken treaties and didn’t have much faith in them. I asked Bob about his business. He has been in this location for thirty five year and is very busy in the summer. At this time he does banquets and weddings. The café which is considered a separate business serves breakfast daily and may start to stay open all year round. I brought my laptop in to show Bob what I had written about my earlier experience with one of the staff. He invited me to go upstairs and look around the restaurant. I welcomed the opportunity and took photos of some of the remarkable surroundings including the sculpture of the Indian buffalo jump. The tables were set for a function that evening and looked inviting. Each place setting had a story about Bob’s and his wife’s native family history. Moonshine run by a grandfather provided the seed money for further business development.

The breakfast was superb. I chose the corn beef hash and eggs. Big portions including chunky hash browns (not the stringy kind) which were nicely spiced, and thick slices of toasted wheat bread washed down with unlimited mugs of coffee and real cream. At $7.95 plus coffee. I chatted with Mike the chef and he told me of his love for cooking and experimenting with new ideas. I gave him a written list of some of my favorite cookbooks and food related books and a suggestion that he try making some Borscht soup, something he had not heard of.


Much to do about dinner - Margaret Visser's
Higher taste Hindu (Hare Krishna) cookbook which has a fabulous 5 nut meatloaf recipe.
Smithstonian Institute cookbook that describes many recipes those immigrants brought with them and how they adapted them to North American foods – e.g. baked Raccoon and Sauerkraut,
Wild food cookbooks for locally adapted recipes for a region.

So remember, if you go Bob’s don’t forget to ask for Borscht soup and oh yes their very famous Montana steak with Bob’s own secret recipe sauce.

The drive back to campsite was eventful. A crowd of a dozen or so serious photographers, all had tripods, telephotos and even space telescopes were shooting a big grizzly bear on a slope about a hundred yards above the road. It totally ignored the throng on the road and the coming and going of cars. It was wearing a collar to which was attached a radio signal device so the Rangers could track the bear. Sort of a Martha Stewart renegade no doubt. I wondered what it had done to deserve such an ignominious ‘status’ symbol. Probably raiding the camper ‘stock’ piles.

I chatted with Kelly the hiker I had met before and she let me use her 4 oz. Zeus binoculars. Spectacular clarity. She told me the Ranger’s had fitted a dozen wolverine with radio devices. We chatted about the hike up to Ptarmigan Tunnel and she described the ordeal she gone through in the snow. Due to operations on her hands she was unable to use her hands to support herself from falling in the deep snow and had to use her elbows and body. No wonder she was so wet yesterday after coming down the mountain. She and Rick are camping for a month in this region. I promised her I would send Dick’s list of survival equipment for serious hikers.

I drove on a few hundred yards and studied a river basin and spotted a giant brown bear that was a big as a grizzly. He walked in and out of the river and up a slope feeding on the ways. A group of Merganser ducks swimming in the river gave him a wide berth. Got a half a dozen good photographs.

Drove to the Grinnell Glacier trailhead another hundred yards down the road and studied the grassy slopes that rose for miles both high and wide on Apikuni Mountain. 9068 feet. Using my binoculars I spotted an adult grizzly directly in front of me about a hundred yards away. A younger bear came and went but I lost sight of it. Again some good photographs. Then half way up the mountain, just very small shapes with the binoculars and impossible to see without I spotted a herd 30 + of Big Horn sheep, distinct with their white rumps. This was my first real sighting in 1000’s of miles in Bighorn country. This side of the mountain provides shelter and food year round and gets very little snow.

It was now noon and even though there was some sunshine to the east train clouds were still above all the mountains and visibility was be very poor in the valleys so I decided to stay in the car and write and then go wildlife spotting which seemed to be a common activity in this valley. I think most of the people still camping are all serious photographers. The lodges are all closed and the motels in Babb didn’t look as though they had many customers.

Score card now reads 6 grizzlies and two Brown bears plus the assortment of goats and sheep. I am a happy camper, although I must admit seeing the bears in the distance doesn’t have quite the same impact as meeting them on the path. But, I honestly hope that I don’t meet any more on the path having seen the size of them. The words dangerous and unpredictable stay with me. Definitely not worth the risks. A couple I met on the path to St. Mary’s falls had a small dog on a leash – not recommended in all the literature provided by the Park. I told them I had seen the grizzly tracks. The man said, “Oh, it would be fun to see a bear in the wild.” I hope the bear makes a wise choice culinary choice and spares the dog.

The camper animal patrols are out in force. I am parked in a choice viewing spot and the same cars keep going by me but not stopping. My strategy pays off. I read a bit and then scan the mountain slopes. I spot three grizzly bears a few hundred up the slopes. They look similar to the trio that I saw yesterday miles away to the west. So they are now 5 in general vicinity today.
By 3PM the clouds had thickened and all the mountains disappeared and the rain was incessant. I put my big wool jacket and toque on to save running then engine and started office paperwork. I am culling files and making decisions about various types of information we gather over long periods and the best was

I would like to spend a moment talking about my general state. It is good. 11 weeks on the road. At least two of the meals a day cooked on campfire. Out in all weathers. No idea of what is going to happen in the future. Health very good. Not even a sniffle, cough or sore throat. Energy level very high.

While typing a young couple came along and I asked what they were doing walking in the rain. The young lady replied and from her accent I said I know because you are British. Nel and her partner Mat were on a driving tour through Montana and Wyoming. And would you believe that Mat was from my hometown of Eastbourne, England. Went to Cavendish School, I had gone to Ratton. His father is a Professor at Brighton University. I had gone to Brighton Tech. which is now part of that University. Mat works for Norig,,,,,, Insurance. I was in the process of asking where Nel works, she has a degree in Ecology, but she had to get back to their car because her lips were turning blue in the wind. It was so gracious of them to stand out in the cold and exchange stories with me.

As I said, the bear patrol was in full force, and Bill rolled up in a truck and asked me if I had spotted anything. I gave my report and in turn told me about the ‘Bear nuts’ that inhabit the park in addition to the bear. These people are similar to the people who follow tornadoes. They are a fraternity. At this and many other parks they spots bears, the follow them, they report to each other any thing and everything they can about the bears they have sighted. While Bill and I were chatting about bears and his career another regular announced that he had called the Ranger office about a small fire that was giving off a lot of smoke up one the mountains. It may have been a distress signal. Rangers were dispatched to investigate. About 6 weeks ago and father and daughter had been mauled by a grizzly in that area and the bear had not been killed. It was now dark and I left Bill to go and cook my supper. Lovely home made tomato soup with fresh vegetables and meat stew.

Thurs. Oct. 6, 2005

Today was the day. I say this in retrospect because I had no idea it would be such an absolutely brilliant day. Had a long sleep from 9PM to 8AM. Last night I read for an hour from Angela’s Ashes with my new infra red headlamp and was pleased with both the book and its illumination. Breakfast was nutritious and my packed lunch had me longing for that part of the day. My planned hike was a leisurely 10 miler to Iceberg Lake with a possible add on of 5 miles to Ptarmigan Tunnel and pass. I wanted time to use the binoculars and really get to know the terrain without trying to maintain averages. This schedule also meant I could enjoy my breakfast, clean and tidy the car and come home to a nice environment.

The first mile took me through bush and then onto a trail on which one side was rock ledges and great meadows rising up to the bottom of the soaring cliffs. There were clumps of bushes scattered across the meadows and the vast open spaces made it easier to spot animals. However, easy is not the right word because the range of visibility stretched for miles so one had to be vigilant and thorough in scanning the terrain. This meant frequent stops, something that is not consistent with the average hiker’s aims. Most hikers average about 2 MPH. I try and maintain 3 MPH.

About a mile on the trek I met Bob Chinn who looked as though he was going to do a documentary. He had a large professional movie camera, a sort of CBC model and a tripod. I asked if I would see any of his work published. He laughed and said in a year or so on the internet. Bob new the Glacier area very well and said he was on an easy hike that day and focusing on filming. We both scanned the meadows and within seconds Bob picked out three objects which he said could be rocks or bears. I checked with my binoculars and by that time the rocks were moving and we were watching a hug Grizzly bear with 2 year old cubs foraging. They traveled quite quickly and closer to us. Luckily they were a few hundred yards up the mountain slope and a layer of heavy brush separated us. We watched the cubs follow the mother until she stopped by various foods sources. The mother had a huge hump on her back and the body hair around the hump was that of the fall coloured grasses. The babies had similar markings. We watched a while. I took a few shots with the digital on zoom and left Bob to do the serious photography.

The rest of the five mile hike was pleasant and interesting. Sun was shining and temperatures were about 50F. There was day old snow on the trail and a mountain lion had left tracks, as had a Grizzly. I became more fervent in my delivery of “She’ll be coming round the Mountain when she comes.” I could see the mountain lion had been stalking small game and hunter and hunter prints disappeared into the bush. Then the bush opened up onto a mountain side which gave me clear visibility down the slopes. I should mention I was surrounded by peaks of mountains in every direction and I was in the valley. Then on the path were large ‘dumpings’ of partially digested orange berries at about hundred yard intervals. Another sign of bear, but Black Bear cleaning out it’s intestines before hibernation. I could see the berries were being picked on this path. I was vigilant. But nothing appeared and I arrived at Iceberg Lake in a howling snowstorm with clouds swirling over the mountaintops. The snow died down but the wind didn’t and I sat on a rock looking at an amphitheatre of mountains surrounding me. The lake was pretty blue even without sun on the water. My enjoyment of a sandwich was suddenly disrupted by a loud crack like a rifle shot, followed by thunder and an avalanche launched down cliffs to my left. I managed to get a shot of the snow clouds. I didn’t think there was enough snow on these almost vertical cliffs, however, the areas one looks at is so vast that large fir trees look like matchsticks. And because these are glacial deposits the snow can be covering crevices that are hundreds of feet deep. Two more eruptions occurred in the next thirty minutes. Other than the cold, a beautiful spot.

I went back on the same path and made lots of noise and there it was, the intestine cleanser. Just about 100 feet ahead of me a few feet down the slop from the path, my path, a big black bear. It had heard my singing and stopped eating and was sniffing the air. It didn’t pick up my scent and by this time I was silent. I took a few pictures as it ambled from bush to bush eating the orange berries. I was stuck. I needed to go past the bear. I risked getting its attention. I hid behind a fir tree and my whooping bear noise. The bear immediately ran up the slope to the path. Now I had to reveal my presence so that it wouldn’t run toward me. By this time the bear was on the path, stood on its hind legs, sniffed, and saw me. I raised my arms and made a V with them to make myself look bigger. The bear bolted along the path away from me. I gave it about a minute and followed. I took pictures of its fresh prints and kept making the whopping noises. I found a stream gulley which was its obvious escape route. Great moment. Both bear and I live to tell the tale. I had been practicing all morning how to draw the pepper spray from its Velcro holster and not get flustered. I was very happy to have seen 4 bears today and still have $35 worth of spray (7 ounces) in the can.

Now who do you think was watching all this? Two familes of goats. One group was brown and the others had fluffy beautiful white fur. The male of the latter group had four prongs coming out of his head. I must avoid getting in front of him. Luckily they stayed on the ledges about 75 feet above the path.

I was doing on my timing and decided to hike another five mile return to Ptarmigan Tunnel. It was steep climb to a lake and there ahead of me was a almost sheer vertical cliff covered in snow. Mountain slopes on either side. A lake at the bottom. Very picturesque by where was the tunnel? At that point to hikers who I had seen earlier (the only two on the trails beside myself) stopped to tell me the conditions were tough, and dangerous. They made it to the tunnel but legs and footwear were soaked and they were freezing and in a desperate rush to get back to camp before getting hypothermia. They were wearing cotton which is suicide in these conditions.

I followed their path and the trail up the cliff face. It was a typical goat track going from left to right across the entire expanse of the cliff face. The snow was up to three feet in place and the wind was howling at about 40-50 MPH. I was quite hot from the climb and decided to change into dry clothing at the tops. There was very small loose shale under the snow and the drops of the path would be unforgiving. I didn’t look down. I just stepped in my predecessor’s foot holes and focused on staying balanced. Half an hour of this and there it was, a tunnel carved through the rock about fifty feet below the crest of the pass. There were large steel doors at either end of the tunnel. I set the camera on automatic and posed for a picture in the tunnel entrance. Great picture – not. A whopping great icicle dropped from the rocks above and bounced off my toque and flattened me. I slipped on the sheer ice floor and thanked my lucky stars I was wearing head gear. I walked to other end of the 50 foot tunnel. Oh my goodness. 10 foot high snowdrift by the exit and then the most amazing view down into the valley below complete with the obligatory aquamarine lake. Breathtaking. I noticed that the way down was by goat track on the edge of a cliff. I didn’t have a map so after anther sandwich I headed back down my side of the mountain. I had stripped down and put on dry clothing under my wind jacket. My new boots and socks were toast and my windbreaker pants were doing their job. I pulled the hood of my jacket over my toque and headed down the slopes. It was not easy. However, having someone else’s footprints helped a lot. I was pleased to back in the valley safe and sound. I stopped to look for mountain lions but no luck. Too early, not quite dusk. A few miles I was back at the campsite and cooked a new stew on the stove while it rained. I can manage to sit in the car and have the stove by the door and keep dry. The car looks like a Chinese laundry with all my wet stuff hanging around being dried by the heater. I leave the air conditioner and heater on at the same time to get rid of the moisture. So pouring rain ends the day. But what a day. 15 miles of hiking in 8.5 hours, three grizzlies, one black bear, mountain goats and a tunnel through a mountain.

Wed. Oct. 5, 2005
Last night I left Browning and headed for East Glacier and went to one of my back woods haunts to sleep. It was very cold overnight and I awoke to the sight of trees laden with snow. A nice hot water shave and wash stripped to the waste started the day. The early morning sun was warning and there was very little wind so I survived the ordeal. Full hot breakfast and I was on the road by 10 AM.

Drove north on the Looking Glass Hiway to St. Mary’s. There was still snow on the winding road that clung to the mountain although plenty of gravel had been put down. Nevertheless, it was a nail biter on a few curves, but the views were worth every bead of sweat. One could see across the valleys and lakes into a cluster of 10,000 foot high mountains. The air was clear and sunny and it made for some great pictures.

At St. Mary’s ranger station I was told that the ‘Going To The Sun Road’ would not be opened again this year. A great pit because it is the focal point of Glacier Park. So I drove up the 14 mile portion that was open and hiked the trails to St. Mary’s Falls and Virginia Falls. Only about 4 miles round trip but very pleasing. Virginia Falls is a couple of hundred feet high and cascades nicely down rock ledges after it leaves the pool. The highlight of the walk was finding fresh Grizzly bear footprints on the trail in the mud and in the fresh snow on the bridge by the falls. A ranger later confirmed they were Grizzly prints from my photos. .

A few more quick stops on the road to admire the mountains. There are about ten visible from this road to where it is closed. Each has a distinct shape and many of the names reflect this. I liked Little Big Chief and Fusillade, although Going To the Sun Mountain was the most impressive with its sheer cliffs and
Pointed peak. Building a road around this mountain was an engineering masterpiece especially in the 1930’s when it was completed. At the end of winter there are numerous avalanches that have to be cleared and up to 70 foot deep snowdrifts. Crews work from both side of the mountain till they meet.

Finished hiking about 4 PM and drove up to the crossroad of Babb. There is a famous Supper Club there that specializes in steak and seafood. The exterior of the building is somewhat non descript but the inside is resplendent in lacquered wood finishes and rock formations. Apparently is was rated as one of the top eatery attractions in one horse towns in USA. The owner was a little miffed when I unwittingly asked for a cheeseburger and fries to go. As I said the outside didn’t do the establishment justice. And perhaps my being sent across the road the Pizza and Burger joint, a giant bar and eatery, was a shame. Had the owner of Babb, s given me a tour of the place, explained its history and the menu specialties, I would have been willing to splurge on one of their famous steaks.

I settled into a $6 wilderness campsite at the Many Glacier park campground and got ready for a cold night. There was an enormous snow covered mountain rising right out of the campsite area and a strong wind was blowing up the valley. I picked a campsite sheltered by pines. Only half a dozen of the over 150 sites was occupied. The lodge across the road with hundreds of wooden cabins was already closed for the season. The general store was boarded up. Winter has already arrived here. Remote, wild and unpredictable. Really looking forward to my hike tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Mon. Oct. 3, - 4, 2005. Surviving in the Glaciers, Avalanch Lake hike, snowing, Browning

Tuesday Oct. 4, 2005

Awoken by a diesel truck going by my parking spot just off the lane. The driver didn’t stop; I looked at my watch. 7 AM. Still dark. Must be a logger on his way to work. Sure enough ten minutes later a second truck. By this time I had packed away my sleeping gear and was ready to leave. I didn’t want to get into a discussion as to whether this was a private road or not. The fact that every truck has a shotgun or rifle hanging in its rear window, makes it better to avoid discussion; one should be familiar with each States laws about defending property rights before going up country lanes.

Within minutes of getting onto the Hi way I was driving in three inches of snow. I called the Glacier Park office and they advised me it would snow all day. I decided to head to East Glacier for breakfast and then to the Indian town of Browning and do some paper work and wait for the weather to clear. I wanted to drive the spectacular Looking Glass Hi way and needed clear visibility to make it worthwhile.

I shopped in some of the Indian stores and was surprised at the combination of Indian and regular merchandize in most stores. This is Blackfeet and Plains Indian territory but functions just any other community. The heritage is definitely proudly promoted. I purchased a pair of goatskin gloves ready for my hike in snow.

The Browning Library where I am writing from does not have wireless. It is a concrete block building on a side street. One librarian handles all the tasks. It has an area dedicated to children. No comfy reading area for browsing, just some plastic chairs and arborite tables. There was a tray of free books. “The Reef” by Edith Wharton caught my eye but I need to finish the books in the car first. I spoke to the librarian. I commented on the ‘old’ building. The ceiling tiles circa 50-60’s were brown with nicotine stains from when smoking was permitted. The book selection and section was very small and this is partly because this is the poorest county on Montana. Every now and again a child would come in a pick a book from a selection that would be half of what I have at the cottage. I recalled my child hood days when I visited the local library in my home town of Eastbourne, Sussex in England. It was on the corner of Firle Road and Seaside. It was a handsome building, with numerous sections where one could tuck one’s self away, with massses of choices from favourite topics. Heading to St. Mary later today.

Monday Oct. 3, 2005

I woke to rain, mist and temp. about 40F. It was a peaceful night on the river’s edge, no visitors, and no officials asking my business. There is evidence that this is a spot for lover’s trysts and I had avoided parking in the more lonely section of the parkette so as not to spoil someone’s evening by taking their favourite spot. Perhaps the cool weather was in my favour for a peaceful night. A good solid breakfast took away the lethargy that comes from being cocooned all night in a sleeping bag. The weather was useless for hiking and I decided to return some of the shopping items purchased. I decided to trade up my hiking boots from $29 Wal-Mart pair to the $149 Vasque brand that I had tried on at the Army and Navy store. Significantly more expensive but they could be used as all purpose winter and summer wear. I have never owned a decent par of winter boots and this was an opportunity to make sure that I was well equipped for difficult hiking with a big pack and would also have warm and dry feet during everyday use. The Wal-Mart boot was super value and tough and light bu a bit bulky for everyday use. One wonders how they can sell very good looking footwear for a quater of the price of equivalents in other store. There's a story in there somewhere. Exchange meant driving back to Kanispell, but this time I went via Whitefish and saw the massive ski slopes that are in the Whitefish Mountain Range. Developement everywhere, ski chalet villages etc. Baby boomer retirement time.

Later in the day I drove back to West Glacier. I decided to get a five mile hike in and chose the Avalanche Lake trail at the northern tip of Lake Macdonald. The final part of the drive was interesting because the river gorges were full of deep really fast moving water. The beginning of the trail was a dense growth I heard about visiting here in summer when the rods are clogged with traffic. I drove the “Road to the Sun’ Hi Way but it was still closed beyond the trailhead I had chosen.

The trail rose gradually following the small river that ran as from the lake. I had purchased a can of Bear Spray (pepper spray) earlier in the day as insurance in the event of surprising bear or mountain lions. However, I still whistled, sang and clapped my hands as I walked to warn lurking predators I was on the trail. The woods were quite dense in part and the ground was littered with thousands of fallen tree that had been lying around for hundreds of years, and they were covered in thick mosses. Finally at lake level I entered an amphitheatre a mile or so across with cliff rising many thousands of feet. Some of these were topped snow capped mountains. Waterfalls cascaded from the top to the bottom making this a memorable sight. Light was fading so I limited my shore explorations of the lake to about fifteen minutes. I wish I had a fishing rod so that I could catch my limit of two Cut Throat Trout and fry them up on the shore. I have to decide if I want to make fishing part of my adventures. The place that I have visited present world class fly and lure fishing as is evident by all the people I have seen standing in the stream and lakes in waders. It got dark before I reached the trailhead and this gave me an opportunity to try my new strap on headlight. The red LED lights for night vision were very effective and make reading the rock and wet leaf strewn path easy to decipher. The single white LED light was adequate and the Krypton spotlight bulb was remarkably good for long distance. Good value for about $15. The prices go up to $60 with numerous different bulb options. This one uses three AAA batteries with projected time of 100 plus hours. The bulbs last a lifetime. Good for reading in bed as well. Might look a bit kinky with the headstraps.

I left the park and decided to skip my plan of hiking to Browns Look Out which had been recommended to me. The visibility would be poor for the next couple of days and it was a tough vertical climb and seemed pointless if I couldn’t see anything. I headed onto Hi way 2 found a logging road, drove in for a couple of miles and settled in for the night.
I thought it would be a peaceful spot but during the night I was woken by the most blood curdling screams and cries I have every heard. They lasted a few minutes. I was disoriented at first and didn’t understand what was happening. The noises subsided then rose again. I was up the side of a mountain in a forest and could only think of a Screech Owl and its unfortunate prey making these sounds. I lay awake for a while and then crashed.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Sun.Sept. 25 - Sun Oct. 2, 05 Lewis/Clark, Sulphur Springs, Glacier Park Montana, Polebridge, 28 mile hike and bear!

Sunday Oct. 2, 2005.

Still raining hard. More snow sprinkled the mountain tops in the valley. A few local people came down to look at the river and said hello as I cooked breakfast beside the car. Hot porridge, boiled eggs, sourdough bread and tea. Each one of my visitors was dressed in camouflage clothing- typical wear in these parts. One man who had moved from the Adirondacks said that Montana was a great physical place to live but one couldn’t earn a decent living here. Although everyone was guaranteed a job the minimum wage was very low. Many of the men here have long hair and or beards. You can tell the outdoor workers or sportsman from their healthy complexions. The vehicles of choice seems to be a truck with a diesel engine.

Completed my laundry and grocery shopping in Columbia Falls. Stocked up for the week as the prices were reasonable after I signed up for the discount card. Caught up on my web banking: put some more money on the credit cards, checked the performance of my portfolio for the past week. I sold my Viceroy gold stock earlier in the week for a $500 profit and now need to reinvest. My guru’s newsletter recommends more energy trusts as the price of oil will stay above $60.

Stopped in at a Montana Coffee House in town which is a franchise that uses Costa Rican coffee (with the laborers getting a fair deal, environmentally responsible, etc.). They have a happy hour with a dollar off an espresso. Because they had not made a fresh pot of regular coffee the waitress gave me an strong espresso at a regular coffee price and the $1 off. Nice bargain but I learned that strong coffee does not agree with me. Too hard on the nervous system. I am going to restrict myself to an early in the day coffee. I had just bought a filter to try and make myself a morning coffee rather than buying it in a restaurant but I think I will have to monitor my caffeine intake.

Wrote this log sitting on a river bank watching fisherman and hunters come and go. Montana obviously attracts the sportsman. Men with guns slung across their back passed the car a few times. The weather is clearing up a bit but the forecast isn’t good. I hope to see the famous “Road to the Sun”, rated as one of the most spectacular highways in the world, but it’s been closed for the past few days due to avalanches. Regardless of the weather I hike tomorrow.
Found another spot to write this blog and sleep by the river. Supper will be a can of locally made stew. Too dark to cook a real meal although I have a good supply of fresh vegetables.

Saturday: Oct. 1, 2005
Hot cinnamon buns and Danish’s with more coffee for breakfast. Deb and her husband (the pastry chef extraordinaire) own and run the operation. They even have apprentices including Sheila. Their granddaughter Daysha joined Dick and I for breakfast in a small nook in the corner of the store.

Dick showed me enlarged colour photos from a small portfolio in his car of some of his previous hikes in Alaska which included close-ups of numerous Grizzly bears feeding and playing. The other notable photos were of him at the peaks of Alaskan mountains in unbelievable snow conditions. I had met a truly remarkable man to take on these challenges on his own. (He climbed some places in Alaska with his brother who lives there. Dick calls his love of adventure ‘personal freedom’ and considers it a rare commodity that most people have relinquished. It ties in with a great respect for the environment and fully appreciating every moment in life.

We said a sad farewell at noon and headed off to our respective destinations. We will keep in touch. Dick publishes his 1000 mile a year hiking itinerary so people can join him part of the way. I promised him I would get ready for back country (overnight) hiking for next year.

It was still raining hard so I headed south about 30 miles out of the Glacier region to the town of Kalispell to shop for gear for my next hike. Purchases included a pair of leather waterproof boots (the price ranges from $40 to $200). I bought mine at Wal-Mart and may rue the day. They were so relatively inexpensive that I could afford to buy better ones if needed. Then at a hunting goods store I bought a basic a headlamp with LED lights, thermal polyester under garments, rain pants, Merino wool socks and a small stash of dehydrated food. E.g Chicken and Rice, two servings for $5.49 US – just add boiling water

I slept on the bank of the Flathead River (which had risen about three feet with the rains) just outside of the village of Columbia Falls. The country roads which led to the river were dotted with modern homes on spacious land. The mountains just a few fields away were snow and cloud covered and were illuminated by occasional moon beams.. Owls hooted around my campsite. Rain pelted down waking me up in the night. This is the life-if you don’t weaken.

Friday. Sept. 30, 2005

Dick and I had breakfast at the store and lashings of good coffee. There was a patio set of willow furniture superbly handcrafted on the store porch and a second round of munchies and coffee helped use up the morning. We chatted with the owners of the store, locals and other tourists that popped in on a regular basis – rather surprising given the remoteness of the place. However, retirees have been buying up properties en masse.

We spent the rest of the day drying out our gear and planning next moves. Dick is going to hike backcountry for 4 days. I am going to try and see the Sun Highway and do day hikes.

Lunch was a beer from the store and another of their great sandwiches. Fochacia cheese, eggplant, mushrooms and other delectable ingredients. I took a photo of the counter display but couldn’t read the ingredients when I processed the pictures, which was a shame because I would like to have tried some home baking when I finally settle down.

I did some self surgery on my heel to relieve the blister and used Uncle Ben’s Bee’s Wax ointment as the salve (contains Zinc). Problem was there were two blisters, one on top of the other and things got a little confusing. I hope the blister doesn’t; infect and trigger off my cellulitis. My poison ivy rash finally subsided this week – almost one month since I picked it up at Devil’s Tower. Other than these two minor irritations I feel very healthy.

Supper at the Saloon next to the grocery store – owned and operated by Heather, I believe related to the store owners.
The saloon was built about 1900. Very small log building (historic site). It survived a fire in the valley in the late 1980’s that destroyed a dozen or so historic buildings. Anna Hoffman was out waitress, the only waitress and she provided superb, highly energetic good service, which included a quick chat showing a genuine interest in her customers. The place was packed (about 20 people) with locals and a few tourists. The menu was a choice of 3 pizzas. Best I have ever tasted. I have a Moose Drool which is a Porter, for libation. The place was cozy, comfortable and will be a special memory. Dick and I sat with Cynda and Richard whom we had met earlier in the day. Cynda teaches rafting on the Glacier rivers. Richard, we were surprised to discover was her father (very young looking) He owns a construction operation in Colorado. I tool pictures of the group and promised to send them on.

We slept in our respective vehicles at the Forks of the Flathead River. It rained hard through the night and temperatures dropped to about 40F.

Thursday: Sept 29

Destination Browns Pass, a 28 mile round day trip if we were lucky. Up at 6.30AM Dick served hot home brewed coffee and porridge to me through my driver’s window. We were off shortly after 7. It was critical to be on the trail shortly after sunrise so that we would be back before dark if at all possible. The hike was marked at about 28 miles with a difficult final accent. Total elevation change about 3000 feet. However, one other factor the weather. It had started to rain and this could turn into snow at the elevation we were going to just below 7000 feet. Regardless we set of. We followed a relatively level trail along Bowman Lake for seven miles through a very leafy and some times dense trail. Then it the trial began to slope. Again walls of forest on either side but then at about the 11 mark the forest opened into a huge canyon amphitheatre with the cliffs rising thousands of feet. Ribbon like waterfalls cascaded from cliff tops fed by glacial lakes. Great expanses of green meadows spread out at the lower slopes and shale rock created skirts at the base of the cliffs. We looked for goats or bears but saw none. What we did see coming from the valley below, drifting upwards assisted by strong winds were dense rain clouds which soon were dumping sheets of water on us. We still had a few miles of the steep train to finish. Dick pointed out numerous previous avalanche falls that had stripped away section of rock and trees of their path. The climb up was goat path, enhanced by Forest Service employees. The grade was called horse grade which was no steeper than 12%. However, the wind and the rain compounded by sweating from the climb made it an uncomfortable climb. I didn’t have all weather gear so I had brought a golfing umbrella which apart from turning inside out every few minutes protected me from getting drenched.
We found a primitive campsite (bare necessities). Just a note on the campsite. The sleeping areas were set up hundreds of feet from the food preparation areas. The food prep. area was just off the trail.
The idea is that bears wood travel the trail just as humans do and come across the food preparation area first – not the sleeping campers. Now there is not supposed to be any hint of food anywhere and one can be fined if there is.

At the campsite we changed into dry clothes. For those experienced in back country hiking this may be ‘old hat’ however, for me discovering what to wear under these conditions was a great learning experience.
On the good side I had a water and wind proof jacket made by Misty Mountain. Under that I wore a 100% polyester track suit jacket and a 100% polyester long sleeved shirt. A wool toque and the hood jacket kept my head dry. All this top end gear worked very well to keep me snug and warm and dispelled moisture from sweating.

On the bad side I had a nylon tracksuit pant which was not water proof and cotton long pants. Soaking wet legs. And I had finally worn out my running shoes and a blister was developing on my right ankle. No good considering we had to walk 7 miles down the mountain on a path which was now a quagmire of mud and rock. Minor detail.

We had a great lunch. The food tasted amazingly good even though it was mostly peanut butter and jam, cheese, celery and avocado. Dick and I traded his home made trail mix and my apricots. We finished lunch and hiked the remainder of the 0.7 mile until we reached our destination which was the Browns Pass that crosses the Continental Divide. Took pictures of me trying to tame the umbrella. The spectacular views of glaciers that the brochure promised were obscured by clouds, but the sights on the way back down more than made up for this.

When we went back into the canyon from the pass the waterfalls were carrying far more water and the winds were causing enormous bursts of spray. Quite spectacular considering the falls were 1000 or more feet. Now the noise of the rivers had risen considerably and resulted in an unexpected sighting of a bear right on our path. The best way of avoiding confrontation with bears is to make noise while walking. They are usually shy and avoid humans. However, streams make a lot of noise and block the sound us approaching. The bear was medium size (200 pounds) and black. We were about 30 feet away when we saw it on out path. It stood up on its hind legs and sniffed. Dick had begun to raise his arms slowly and spread them out, which makes a human look bigger. There is a different technique for dealing with Grizzly hears. The bear responded by turning and loping back down the path away from us. We followed it’s footprints for a couple of hundred yards before they veered into the bush. We had seen claw marks on some of the trees where the bears had been looking for insects and grubs in rotten wood so we weren’t surprised to have met a bear. It made our day even though there hadn’t been time to take a picture.

We finished the last half hour of the hike in the dark. Dick’s LED headlight worked very well. Next item on my shopping list. My small flashlight was adequate until batteries began to get run down. Back to camp; an overall 12 hour hike. We drove to another camping spot by a meadow a few miles away. This place didn’t cost us a fee and if the weather was good we could start the day with a quick hike. Rain overnight changed the plan. A quick supper of baked beans and sardines and a chunk of bread and my day ended with a good feeling of comfortable exhaustion.

Wed. Sept 28, 05

Decided to do the Numa Peak trail about 6 miles, increase in elevation of 3000 feet. Rated as difficult. I was told by them Ranger snot to hike alone and so when a man pulled up to my car in the parking lot, and he looked very fit, about my age and I asked if he was interested in Numa. He said that’s what he was doing so made introductions and set of. He was indeed experienced. All the right equipment. I led the way and set a good pace and he obviously appreciated the speed we were moving at. We chatted about everything under the sun. He hikes about a 1000 miles in a six month time frame and then works the rest. He was in the military and trained pilots on survival techniques, including bush survival. So within the day I learned a tremendous amount about plants and wildlife, clothing and backcountry hiking. On the track we made lots of noise talking and banging sticks together and making whooping noises so that we would scare the bears away before we reached a spot. It was important to do this especially coming through the thick forest areas and on blinds spots in the path. We arrived at Numa Peak in two and a half hours and reveled in the beauty and the views. Small glacial lakes shone in the mountainsides. Snow covered peaks of granite soared above us. Mount Carter above Bowman Lake was awe inspiring. 3 young and obviously very fit young ladies reached the fire tower at which Dick and I were having lunch. We invited them to join us but they were rangers on a mission and we watched them go round the edge of the mountain as specks in the distance. Their voices carried for enormous distances.
The hike back to camp was uneventful other than stopping to gaze at glaciers and other awe inspiring views.
We got back to camp early – lots of sunlight left and cooked a campfire supper and thoroughly prepared our backs packs for the next days hike. Early to bed, 9PM.

Tues. Sept. 27, 05

Spent quite a b it of time talking Lorie King, Ranger assistant in Glacier Mountain Park. She lives nearby and has traveled through these mountains extensively. She and her husband sound like survivors. They grow their own vegetables and fruit.

Stopped at Goat Lick on Hiway #2. With the railway lines carrying freight trains across a gorge, above a mountain stream, beautiful white fluffy furry goats climbs the bluish grey rock embankment licking the rocks for minerals. An idyllic setting. I cooked breakfast in the parking lot. Tour buses vintage 1930’s from one of the many lodges stopped of with tourists. Many of the persons who came to this spot didn’t read the visitors sign indicating that the better viewing area was down a path about twenty yards to the right and therefore missed the goats.

Drove through beautiful canyons and river trails to West entrance of Glacier Park. Lake was being swept by heavy winds.

Drove to Polerbridge on the west side of the park the most uninhabited place in USA. Rugged scenery. The Flathead River runs close by. Shopped at the store. What an amazing place and food. Has been written up in the National Geographic. World class baked goods on display in a hundred year old store full of dusty displayed mountain artifacts, animal pelts, logging implements, antique snowshoes and so on. A continuous stream of blues and assorted well chosen music comes form a CD player in the back area of the store and various people serve at the counter and bustle around.

Met Zak. Graphic artist from Minnesota. He’s hiking alone. Not good. May never see him again.
Camped, paid the park fee of $6 for the night to save being woken up during the night by a lone/ly Ranger.

Monday, Sept. 26, 2005

Oh the joys; a trout stream, sandstone cliffs, fragrances of fall flowers and a hot sunny day. I set of on the road right away and decided to treat myself to a munch in Great Falls later in the morning. The early morning sunshine on the golden grain fields was Van Goghish. I must mention these grain fields. There are no fences; the fields follow the undulating hills as far as the eye can see for literally hundreds of miles. Periodically a few farm building nestled in sheltered valleys attest to farmers who care for the fields. It is quite astounding to see the magnitude of these operations.

Great Falls welcomed me with an avenue of car dealerships with thousands of trucks on display. When you consider the vastness, ruggedness and methods of making a living off this country you realize why trucks are the vehicle of necessity. The fast food restaurant ally was next and then a surprise. The downtown area was very modern and pleasant to walk around. I had a coffee and fabulous muffin in a café on main street. The waitress guaranteed that their coffee was the best and indeed it was. I asked if they could deliver it intravenously and another waitress came over, rolled up her sleeve and showed me a relatively fresh needle hole in her arm. “That’s how I take it all day long” she said. I chose the conventional method of absorption.

Then a visit to the Charles Russell Museum. It was named after a famous artist and cowboy. The museum is a top notch exhibit housed in a well designed modern building. The sculptures and paintings are primarily of cowboys and Indians. The artist captured the essence of Indian and cowboy life in hundreds of paintings which had been collected or donated. I took permitted photographs of some of my favourites. I also visited the log cabin adjacent to the building in which Russell worked and entertained. Well worth a visit.

Continued my drive north of #89 through Choteau and Dupuyer. The French names are because refugees of the Riel Revolution moved here. I picnicked at a rest stop and admired the setting sun on the mountain ranges a few miles west. I would be sleeping in the Rockies tonight. Entered Glacier National Park at the east entrance. It was dark so I found a logging road a few miles into the park drove in another couple of miles into dense woods and set up camp for the night-that is I slept in the car. This is serious Grizzly Bear country. All open food in the car was tightly wrapped in plastic bags and place in the car. My night clothes are kept so that they don’t pick up food odors when I am cooking.
I slept soundly under a starlit sky.

Sunday. Sept. 25,05

I slept Sat. night at a highway rest stop and tried my new sleeping bag. The night temperature dropped to 35F. and my bag is rated at -15F. I almost died of heat prostration. The bag is more bulky that my previous one and wrestling it out of its compression bag was a bit of work. Then getting it into the right position used more effort. Then when I zipped it up with me inside it was an oven. I left the zipper open all night.

I followed a Lewes and Clark Trail north on Hiway 89. Gold and silver mining areas and magnificent farm land. Then stopped of at a motel in White Sulphur Spring to which the public swimming pool is attached. $4.50 for as long as wish in the sulphur spring fed pool. Deliciously warm. Chatted with a few locals and regular visitors who came for a tonic. The water is chemically identical to Baden Baden in Germany. However, the owner of this spring doesn’t want crowds so one economy motel and a couple more motels up the street in a very small community. I lounged in the 100F water for an hour and a half. And came out thoroughly refreshed and relaxed. Little did I know what was in store for me later on. Hiked the memorial waterfall trail – short and pretty. The area has a lot of Neihart Quartz which is one of the hardest rocks in the Rockies. The rocks sparkled in the sunlight. The surrounding woods were dense Lodge Pole Pine. Behind was Big Baldy mountain at 9,000 ft. plus. I wondered if it was possible to climb it. I learned from a store owner in the hamlet of Neihart that one could . HE had a vision up there that god wanted him to build a sanctuary on Big Baldy and a large administration centre in Neihart. He had aerial photographs of the whole region and identified landmarks that looked like heart shapes which had some significance – oh, I remember the love of god. This is where the second coming of Christ is going to take place once Ed gets it ready. ED noticed that Jerusalem contains the letters USA and when he looked at a map of Israel notice that there was a town of Mizrah. It has a namesake just down the street from Neihart, USA. The dots began to connect in Ed’s mind.

I received a very professional pamphlet and DVD disc on the subject. Spread the word is the message. It’s called the Son of Man Project. That’s also the name of the convenience store. Remind me to check the name of stores before I go in for my lima beans. Ed Ellerman is the cofounder of the project. He can be reached at or by Please ask President Bush to donate Big Baldy to the Son of Man Project: write to President of the United States, White House, Washington DC., 2051 or Email: What the heck. If a man has a mission and needs a mountain it’s not too much to ask.

Decide to hike part of the Sluice Boxes Wilderness Park. It follows an old railway track now removed though a pretty canyon for a number of miles. Well I somehow lost the railway bed and had to cross the fast flowing river in bare feet; it was only about thirty feet across but I almost died with the cold. Pain started half way across. The rocks were slippery so I couldn’t rush. No more nice and warm and relaxed. I walked down the valley a little more, eating wild Choke Cherries. Then it started getting dark so I jogged back a bit looking for a crossing. Found some big boulders that would making crossing back easier. The trouble was the water was deeper around the boulders. It was harder to see now and I had to take a chance on how deep the water was, and shortening my time with my feet in the water, versus depth hazard. I lowered myself of a big rock. Waist deep at least. Back to shallow water and another thirty feet of numbing cold. Came across an abandoned lodge and outbuildings on the way back that had been trashed by campers or squatters had lived there. Lovely setting nested in the ravine and now a monument to senselessness.

A hot supper on the camp stove soon warmed me up. Hard to believe that Lewes and Clark probably ate a meal in the very same spot. Taking a chance that a Ranger would wake me up in the middle of the night - it was not a camping area, I crawled into sleeping bag and gazed up at a perfect night sky. Clean air, no city lights. Idyllic.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sept 22, 05 contin. Rawlins, jobs, wildlife, Casper, Billings Montana, Custer's Last Stand, Indian country

Saturday. Sept. 24, 05. Morning off. Writing, posting invoices and thinking about Alberta vs. interviews with oil companies in Wyoming. Tried to send this missive from a restaurant in a Wal Mart store. I checked the wireless connection and got 21 of them. Only one disabled, didn’t work. I wonder what Wal Mart uses all these connections for. RFID ?

Set off for Montana on the old Lewis and Clarke expedition route through Sweetgrass country and home to numerous different Indian tribes, even today; Blackfeet, Crow, Flathead, Assiniboine, Gros Ventre, Sioux, Cheyenne, Salish, Kottenai, Chippewa and Cree.
Crossed the Little Big horn River and visited the Memorial to the Battle of the Little Bighorn - Custer's Last Stand. A lot of research has been done in the area and grave markers are placed where specific Union soldier and Indians artifacts were found. It’s rather depressing to look at the beautiful undulating grass lands, where nothing except the monument and visitors lodge stands, and think of what the reason was for all the fighting? The area is basically grazing land for cattle. My rough quote of what I read in the visitors centre, by the then President Grant, was ‘That we teach the Indians to be Christians and instruct them inthe ways of peace.’ Sort of reminds me of another more recent President and his ways of instructing natives in other countries.

Friday Sept 23, 05

Breakfast at the Hungry Cowboy, a cavernous restaurant packed with seniors – good sign of value, although I thought the home fries were a bit on the skimpy side for me let alone a hungry cowboy. As is typical in these parts the walls were decorated in trophy heads of various wild animals including Bob Cats, Badgers, Pronghorn Antelopes, Elk and Deer. I was the only person who paid attention to these ‘appetizers.’

A walk down Rawlins Main Street, Cedar Avenue. Quite a few circa 1900’s buildings. Got a good old fashioned haircut for $11 + tip. The chat with ‘Bob’ (I think), the owner, affirmed that times had changed and good old fashioned work ethics had disappeared among many of the young folk. His father had come to the area from Lancashire as a coal miner. Hard times. I told him how I observe the attention of a retail store cashiers when I shop. Many cashiers are busy chatting with other employees when they scan a purchase. They may stop chatting and greet you, or they may not. I rate them on the amount of attention they give me the customer. It may range from a greeting, an enquiry as to how I am or whether I found everything I was looking for or some general questions in response to my obvious non American accent. This type of engagement will get the cashier a 50% plus engagement rating. However, I have had one cashier who got a zero score. She was talking to another employee at the next register, didn’t look at me or say anything as she scanned in my purchases. She relied on the cash register screen to ‘advise’ me how much my total was and because paying with a credit card is a quick electronic process, she remained unengaged. I walked out of the store with my purchases and she was still talking to the other employee. Zero score. I told Bob that if I was arrested outside the store and brought back to that cashier for identification, or placed in a police line up, she would swear she had never seen me before in her life.
However, I must add that this was a rarity especially in these parts. Most cashiers are down right friendly and attentive.

Then a visit to the local museum which houses the former Wyoming State Penitentiary. It was $5 for a trip through the ‘Pen’ which I declined as there seemed to be a mass of material on the inmates in the general section, including information of Butch Cassidy’s adventures in the immediate area.

I went shopping for a below zero sleeping bag and chatted with Eric who advised to buy an army issue bag. Price for a -20F was $129. I declined to make the purchase in this store. Eric told me there was a lot of work available in the area and that was because of the drug problem. I had noticed noticed billboards targeted at “Meth’ users. Apparently in recent hiring effort only 4 persons out of a 100 applicants passed the mandatory drug test for zero drug use.

I headed to the local employment agency and spoke to the manager, Margaret, who was very helpful in providing me information on jobs I might be qualified for. Margaret arranged for me speak to Colleen on the phone in another office who advised me of the detailed procedures to get a work visa. First you have to find an employer who is willing to do the immigration paperwork. The process takes about three months, costs the employer about a thousand dollars in fees. Prospective employer must posts ads. for the position and submit
Proof to immigration that there is no USA citizen qualified for the job.
A local oil company was looking for a full time employee as an Assistant Manager. I might check with them how long a minimum contract they would be willing to arrange and if they would offer me a contract. The company which didn’t post its name is headquarted on a lone stretch of Hiway 80.

While I mulled over whether I wanted to work in this area I headed north to Casper. Again incredible vistas, highlighted by brilliant sunshine on one side the huge valleys and lightning storms on the other. I passed lush meadows with the biggest hay harvests I have ever seen and desert regions with sand dunes and round rock formation as big Aires rock in Australia. This route is a migratory bird route for north to south and lakes with alkaline edges were designed as safe and breeding grounds for a host of birds. This area was also part of the 4 main routes that early settlers traversed the Midwest and there were many historic signposts that mentioned the various trail and geographic feature and how the settlers related to them.

I stopped at Grandmas Café for a hot tea and chatted with the owner whose name I regret I can’t recall. I think it was Olive. The restaurant was the only building standing in sight in this vast sea of nothingness. I mentioned a sign that I had seen on the Hiway that there was a town of 6, 7000 people around here. She said that was the altitude of the place. I must get some new glasses (my thought not hers). The population sign, before it was torn down, said 3. It cost too much to maintain it so down it came. Olive was one of the three. Her husband and son were the other two inhabitants. 25 years of good service, good food and a love of big spaces kept her business going. Hubby is a consultant in the oil fields. Formerly retired but the oil boom took him back into the trenches.

Devil’s Canyon was notable sight with the Sweetwater River running through a 1500 foot long rift carved deep through the mountains. The Mormon settlers brought their hand wagons through this rift. Also the Pony Express riders found this route useful as it provided water, feed for the horses and a relatively unimpeded route. Note the Pony Express only lasted just over a year as the railways were not far behind and rail replaced the riders. Mid 1800’s.

Bought a minus 15F sleeping bag at an enormous hunting store in Casper, a town of 50,000 plus people (no definitely no the altitude). $69, felt lined. Can’t wait to give a try. Let it snow, let it snow let it snow. Kidding. All the Hiways have barriers preventing access outside of towns because of the snow drifts.
Also the vast wide open spaces and high winds create severe driving hazards.
Did I mention that the speed limits on must large Hiways in Wyoming is 75MPH, an indication of the vast distances.

I donated my previous sleeping bag which has served me well for the past 30 years and is still in great shape, to the local Salvation Army.

Thurs.continued. Sept 22, 05

Left Rock City with a bit of regret because I didn’t visit the fine Arts Centre and it was now dark and I don’t like to drive on these Interstates at night because of the bloodbath of animals being hit. I have to concentrate on looking for eyes reflected from the headlights – they show as tiny red pinpricks. If the animals are facing the wrong way then one is out of luck. It’s a pity someone doesn’t take the initiative of writing a proposal to the Hiway authority and getting a grant to implant all the animals with a glass eye in the you know where. It would reduce the a lot of front end vs. rear end collisions.
When red pinpricks are seen one immediately slams on the brakes and expects the eyes to go anywhere and everywhere and they do, or, they don’t, and you have to zig or zag around them. One wonders why they don’t fence the highways but it has do with the natural travel paths of the animals re: food, water and shelter that building the highway has disrupted.

And while I was thinking about animals what runs right across the road in front of the car, a Bobcat? Yep. He/she knew the risks, and was moving with a little urgency but I had time to admire it. Rather see it on the road than clutching to my back pack on a hike, getting a free ride.

I pull into Rawlins and almost fall asleep at the wheel so a motel with a $28 single sign beckons invitingly. The motel was in good shape and my room was adequate and pleasant and even had a phone.