The trips I took in 2005, 2006, and 2009 to the National Parks was when my health condition was good. It was before the 4 operations I had in 2010 that would change my life and health condition permanently. During these trips I was able to take long hikes and climb mountains fairly easily, considering the altitude and steepness of the trails. I’m glad I took these trips when I did. If I had put them off until I retired, I wouldn’t have had these amazing experiences. I most probably wouldn’t have seen these extraordinary scenic National Parks.
In October 2005, I flew out west and rented a car in Las Vegas and drove to Utah to explore Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. I fell in love with Bryce Canyon National Park. I think it’s one of my most favorite National Parks. The red rock formations against the blue sky was so spiritual and spectacular.
After spending about 3 or 4 days exploring and hiking Bryce Canyon National Park, I drove to Zion National Park and explored and hiked Zion. These parks are entirely different, even though they are about an hour and a half to two hours apart. Bryce Canyon has lots of rock formations called Hoodoos. They look like spires raised up towards the sky. In Bryce Canyon visitors walk down into the canyon. I can’t even find the proper words to express how magical this National Park is. When I was walking along a trail, I saw a tree that has a different variety of tree growing from the side of the trunk. It was very unusual.
Zion is so massive, visitors hike up many trails up the mountain. The highest point to hike to is Angel’s Landing. I made it to Scout’s Lookout which is half mile before Angel’s Landing. The last half mile is almost straight up the mountain. I didn’t think I would have too much trouble hiking up the last half mile, I had concerns about coming straight down a half mile. Altitude also plays a factor in the hiking. I didn’t have a digital camera during this time period, but I found a CD with a few of my pictures. I don’t know what happened to all of the other pictures. I thought I would share these few pictures of Zion and Bryce Canyon with you.
I timed my trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks to fit in with a Native American Flute Festival in Springdale, which is just outside Zion National Park. What a cool experience listening to flute music while looking at the mountains of Zion. The mountains are so high that it was 10 a.m. before I could see the sun. It was really cold the end of October. I think the temperatures were in the 30’s at night and in the morning until the sun warmed the air.
In October 2006, I flew to Las Vegas, rented a car and drove over the Hoover Dam to Sedona, Arizona, then to the Grand Canyon south rim, and then to the Grand Canyon north rim. I have no idea where the pictures of that trip went so I can’t show any. I can tell you when I arrived at the south rim it had just finished raining and upon entering the park I stopped at the first turnout and saw a rainbow across the Grand Canyon. That was awesome. I did many hikes, including one that went down 1 1/2 miles into the canyon. I took this hike with a ranger and group of others so we learned about vegetation and rock formations. It was really cold and as we hiked we had to take off some layers of clothes. I got up extra early to hike and see the sunrise over the canyon.
The north and south rims are so different. The south rim is has more trees and vegetation. Sitting outside the motel and looking over the canyon we could tell how vast it is. Those of us sitting and looking at the clouds and sky noticed that it didn’t appear that the clouds were moving. I think it’s because the canyon is so large that there is not really a reference point to watch the clouds pass by. They just seem suspended in the sky. Also, my visit to the Grand Canyon was a few months after that catastrophic fire that destroyed miles of trees. I remember driving and looking at the odometer and realizing that I had driven over 16 miles and all that I saw in any direction was burnt trees. It was really sad. I know fires are good and help plants rejuvenate, but catastrophic fire is not as beneficial.
After spending a few days at the south rim of the Grand Canyon, I drove several hours to the north rim. I arrived October 13, and they close on October 15 for the season due to the colder temperatures. The north rim is more desert and not as many trees and plants. Also, there are fewer visitors. When I was taking my suitcase out of the car at the north rim, a mule deer and her fawn came up to me. I enjoyed my time at the north rim, and it was indeed cold, we had snow flurries and some rain during my time there. However, I still really enjoyed walking a few trails and looking at the scenery. I even got up extra early to watch the sunrise.
The end of June and early July 2009, I flew to Missoula, Montana for 10 days. I spent a day with my friend Paula, then I rented a car and drove about 1,000 miles in 5 days. I drove all around Flathead Lake and through many towns and headed towards Glacier National Park. I took lots of pictures as I traveled in Montana. Some of the small towns had lots of interesting shops and galleries, and many had flowers planted outside their buildings. What an incredible experience it was exploring Montana.
Glacier National Park is spectacular. The Pass and Going to the Sun Road opened the day after I arrived which was June 25th. I stayed in a cabin just outside the park in West Glacier. It was in the 30s in the morning and really cold. There was so much snow the end of June that many of the hiking trails were closed, especially in the higher elevations. The lower elevation mountains and the ones that got lots of sun had little or no snow. I bought my digital camera just before I left on this trip so I took lots of pictures and posted an album of the photos I took in Montana including Glacier National Park. At the end of the pictures, there are several videos of a baby black grazing in the grass, a moose grazing in the woods, and other videos. The videos are too large a file to include here, so you have to look at them in the album.
Driving on Going to the Sun Road was quite an experience. There were some amazing vistas to be seen, also glaciers in the distance. There were goats licking the salt off of the road, and there were so many waterfalls coming down the mountains from the melting snow. Also, the road is very steep and winding. Logan’s Pass at the top of the mountain is breathtaking. Since I was there the day after the Pass opened, on June 26th, it still had lots of snow and the trails there were closed for visitor safety. From Logan’s Pass the Continental Divide was clearly visible. I drove this road several times in the 3 days I spent there and after a few times it was more fun and not so difficult.
Driving by the Weeping Wall was interesting, when driving on the side towards the mountain where the waterfalls came off the mountain, the water poured on the vehicles as we all drove past them. The photo above on the right is Logan Pass and the Continental Divide.
Until 2010, my health was good so I was able to do hiking, even on the long and difficult trails. Hiking Zion and Bryce was challenging, but I feel the trails I hiked in Glacier were more challenging. I did one hike that was 3 1/2 miles that went up in altitude about 2,400 feet, then another day I did a 6 1/2 mile hike that went up about 3,400 feet. Those are distances for 1 way, so I doubled that distance for the round trip. Both of these hikes brought me above the tree lines. Even that high up there were ants, mosquitos, and weeds. The views from the top of the mountains were extraordinary.
The altitude made hiking more of a challenge. On the 3 1/2 mile hike I stopped frequently to take a short rest and to look at the incredible landscapes and to look at plants growing out of the cracks in the rock. This hike contained many switchbacks up the side of the mountain. Mostly, the trail consisted of broken shale which was a bit tricky to walk on since it could slide easily under my feet. Portions of the trail were along the slope of the mountain and very tricky to walk on. It also went up about 2,400 feet from the bottom to the top. A few groups of people were on this trail, so one of the ladies and I walked together. The rest of her group, which were her children, went ahead of us slowpokes. I wasn’t in a hurry, I wanted to enjoy the experience. When I got to the top, I had someone take my picture. We could see 360 degrees around us. Coming down was a bit easier, but I still had to be careful of the loose shale.
After the hike, I drove towards the part of the park where the shops and a ranger station was located. As I was driving into this sort of town, I saw a bear run across the road. I wasn’t able to get a picture of it. So, I prayed and hoped that I would get a chance to see a bear, not up close when I was hiking a trail though. There were lots of warning signs to watch for bears by various trails. One morning, I thought I would take a certain trail so I headed in that direction. I parked in the lot, and found the trailhead and started down the path, then I decided that I wouldn’t take this hike. The vegetation was more than waist high and very narrow. And after seeing a watch for bear sign, I thought walking alone on this trail was not a good idea. So, I headed towards a different area in the park.
It was about 6:30 a.m. and there were only a few cars on the road. As I was driving towards a trailhead, I saw a black bear cub grazing in the grass on the side of the road, I’m guessing about 40 feet away on a hill. So, I stopped the car, rolled down the window and watched. I also took lots of pictures and some video. As the cub moved, I inched the car forward. The cub didn’t seem to mind the car, and there was no mama bear that I could see. Later when I stopped at the ranger station to tell them about the bear cub I saw with no mama visible, the ranger said that the cub was probably about a year old and the mama bear moved on and is starting a new family.
I didn’t notice at the time I took the video, but later on as I was listening to it on my computer, I could hear the sound of the cub eating the grass. It was interesting to watch him/her graze. It would move the grass with its paw towards its mouth. I stayed there about 15 minutes in awe of nature and just watching this adorable cub that was not too far off the road.
Then, I continued my drive towards the trail I was going to hike. After hiking about a half mile on the trail, it split into two different trails. They were only about 1.5 miles difference in length. Since I was not in a hurry to hike that day, I took the longer hike. Looking back, I’m not sure that was a great idea. A mile and a half doesn’t seem like much, but it’s really 3 miles when you consider round trip, which I guess I didn’t think of at the time. So, I started on the 6.5 mile trail that went up about 3,400 feet… It was about 6:45 a.m. when I got on the trail, and I didn’t see another person until 12:30 p.m. when I was on my way down. As I got to the top of the mountain on the trail, it was very strange looking at the tops of these extremely tall trees and seeing many of them at eye level.
Taking this longer hike, although difficult and walking many switchbacks, some level, some steep, was a great hike leading to the Chalet, which was still closed due to the snow. I hiked 6 miles and when I got to the last half mile, I encountered snow that was about 2 feet deep, see pictures above of this hike. I was wearing sneakers, and I started to walk through the deep snow, then thought that would not be a good idea for two reasons. One, if my feet got wet it would be really uncomfortable to walk 6 miles back down the mountain, also, walking in deep snow would be almost impossible to find the trailmarkers and my way back. So, I started back down the mountain and I would stop often to take in the breathtaking views, listening to the water coming down from the melting snow, and looking at flowers that were coming up in strange places. I also had to continually swat the mosquitos, bug repellant did not work. Even this high up, above the tree line, the bugs were plentiful.
As I walked down the mountain I found that my feet and legs were really feeling strained. I kept thinking I walked farther than I did. When I started seeing people, I felt like asking them to go down the mountain and having someone sent up to get me. The last mile or two was almost impossible physically. I’m not used to walking these distances, especially in the mountains and in this altitude. The day before I walked the 3.5 mile hike, which was one way, so it was 7 miles total. Now, the next day, I am doing a 6 mile each way hike, which is 12 miles. I finally made it to the bottom of the mountain near my car at 4 p.m. It was a long, difficult, hike, but after I rested and let my feet relax, I was really happy I did the hike. It was spectacular and a challenge that I accomplished.
Another afternoon, I was on a shorter hike and I saw a moose in the brush grazing, walking through the woods in the not too far distance. There were 2 other hikers nearby and they saw the moose too. We kept our distance and just watched him graze. I took some videos which are at the end of the photos in my Glacier National Park album. When I was driving down a road through the park on my way home, I saw cars stopped along the road near a bog. I stopped too, and there was a cow moose in the bog eating whatever was below the water. She would put her head in the water, her whole head, and eat something and then come up for air, and do it again. I did get a video of her too, it’s also at the end of the album. Also, in another part of the park near a hotel, there were sheep walking through the village. That also was very interesting and my first time seeing these animals up close .
One of the hikes a ranger told me to do was in northern Glacier Park, towards the Canadian Border, is Polebridge. This is a small town that has a motel and it also has a little grocery store/bakery. Their baked items were absolutely delicious so I bought several treats and then continued on what they call a road towards a lovely lake. The road was one that was definitely a challenge. This so called road, was a bumpy dirt road, with potholes, about 1 1/2 lanes across. If anyone came the other way, someone would have to back up until there was a little bit of clearing so one could pass the other. Brush was up to the edge of this so called road. Thankfully, I only encountered one vehicle. After getting up the road and getting to the lake, I was so happy I made this trip, even though it was far from where I started in the morning, and it’s difficulty. The stillness and quiet around this lake was unlike anything I have ever seen. There were not any other visitors so I could really take in the scenery and quiet. I walked a good way around the lake, it was too far to walk the entire distance. Then I just sat and took in the scene and listened to the birds and wind.
After spending 5 days traveling through Montana, driving around the entire distance of Flathead Lake, and hiking Glacier National Park for 3 days, I drove back to Missoula and went to my friend Paula’s house to see her and her husband Jim, and to spend the night.
The next day, which was about July 2nd, my friend Bear picked me up at Paula’s house and took me with him to the July 4th pow wow on his reservation in Arlee, Montana. This tribe is the Flathead Nation. This event runs for 5 days, and it has hundreds of dancers. It was incredible to watch and experience. There are videos of the dancing at the end of the photo album. The last day there was a brief rainstorm, when it was over there was a double full arc rainbow in front of the mountain. What a way to end the evening. Then after the 5 days at the pow wow, I went to the airport and flew back to Florida. When I got to the airport, I saw a painting that was very spiritual of hands with the Earth in the palm of it. What an incredible 10 day experience I had. I’m so blessed and happy that I was able to have this trip which turned out to be way beyond anything I could have imagined.
As I was typing this story, and remembering the date in 2009 when I made this trip, I realized how grateful I am that I didn’t postpone this trip and the ones I took in 2005 and 2006. Six months after going to Montana, driving around the state, and hiking Glacier National Park, I had what turned out to be the first of 4 major operations in 2010. I had no idea that I would be needing to have any more operations, let alone 4 of them in one year. I was feeling fine, I didn’t have any health issues at that time, no restrictions on my activities. All of a sudden… changes happened in January 2010 and afterward that would change my life forever, and make me reconsider my life options and plans. Live in the now… Live Your Dreams.
God is still in charge. God’s plans for my life is different than what I would have chosen. Looking at the big picture and the blessings that have happened because of the change of direction, as a result of the operations and complications from them, has truly changed me, my life, and others lives in ways we could not have imagined. It’s been an extraordinary journey and the experiences and blessings are beyond anything I could have imagined or dreamed of.