I can’t believe that I’m sitting here after two great vacation days and I have “writer block.” It must be a little “fibro fatigue.” Fatigue is one of the symptoms that goes with fibromyalgia – sometimes with cause, often not. I think this is with cause.
Yesterday we spent the day traveling the 29 miles of “The Road to the Sun” that are open from the west entrance of Glacier National Park. The road actually runs from east to west across the park and there are about 13 miles on the east side open. The problem is that 9 miles in the middle are closed because part of that section has not yet been plowed. Yes, that’s right, here it is late June and part of the road is unpassable due to snow.
The 29 open miles are spectacular. Snowy peaks at a distance. Waterfalls everywhere! We had a picnic and got great pictures of the ground squirrels who are obviously used to being fed in spite of signs asking you not to feed them. They scurried around the table and our feet. I felt like Scrooge following the rules. Somehow, I doubt they’ll starve because we didn’t feed them. The river was such an incredible blue – it looked like the blue you see around tropical islands, that turquoise color. I don’t know the science behind it, but I do know it was amazing.
I have to give praise to the National Park Service for their efforts to make at least part of every national park handicapped accessible. Because of the fibromyalgia, I am overweight and unfit. But I love the outdoors. Without the NPS, I might never get to see some of the things I love. At Glacier, it was a .8 mile trail called “Trail of the Cedars” – a combination of paved walkway and boardwalks without any significant inclines. The trail went through a forest of 100 ft cedars. There were some small waterfalls, thick moss, Avalanche Creek (which entered the area through a small, narrow, carved canyon on one side of the bridge and became a wide, swift stream on the other side of the bridge), wildflowers and one wonderful young white-tailed deer having lunch within feet of the boardwalk. There were benches at some of the more picturesque spots, very convenient for those of us who may need a rest along the way.
The beauty of the park and the perfect weather (dry, mid 70’s, sunny) made the day one of those painful times. Not physically painful, but painful in the heart and soul. I yearn to be able to hike the other trails, to explore, to see the things along the “path less traveled.” But I can’t. Sometimes I try, but the consequence is always the same – severe physical pain. Any joy I may have had while I was pushing my limits disappears into the fog of pain and pain killers. So I try to strike a balance. But I’m still left with a wistfulness and sadness that my body lets me down so often. It makes me very grateful for the small things, like the accessible trails the NPS creates.
Today we visited the National Bison Refuge in Moiese, MT. It is the first place established by the US government to protect bison (or buffalo) at a time when their millions had dwindled to hundreds due to … well, mostly greed. Bison weren’t killed off by people who needed them for survival. They lost their habitat because people wanted to own it. They lost their lives to those who wanted to sell their meat and hide for a profit. … Okay, stepping down from my soapbox and walking back to today.
The Refuge has a 19 miles gravel road that takes you throughout the hills and valleys. We often stopped and pulled over to allow other vehicles to pass us. So many people go through so fast, looking for the bison, that they fail to see the other inhabitants of the park. We saw and heard our first meadowlark. We enjoyed the wildflowers, saw mule deer, white-tailed deer and pronghorn antelope. We watched a young grizzly “skipping” across a meadow above us, looking like a child at play. We saw a deer with her very small fawn in high grass along a creek. As mom moved along eating, the fawn had to jump over the high grass to follow her. It reminded me of a child playing leap frog.
We did eventually find the bison herd – along both sides of the road and in the middle of it. So we stopped and shut off the car engine. We just watched and listened to these primitive looking animals. We know better than to get out of the car or disturb bison. They are deceptively fast and agile, especially when protecting the calves. There were a lot of calves today, some stretched out in the sun, some getting some lunch. All close to mom.
We’ve parked among bison before – in Yellowstone NP and Custer State Park (South Dakota). It is always a kind of mystical experience for me, to watch their movements carefully and listen to their sounds. I know, it sounds corny, but for me it really is very special. When the female who had been blocking the road (looking for all the world like she was in labor) moved, we started up the car again and reluctantly moved on.
After another picnic lunch, we headed back to Kalispell. It’s now a little after 9 PM, though the sun is just setting and it looks more like early evening. Guess I’d better wrap up for now. Tomorrow is a long driving day, as we head down to West Yellowstone, MT for the next week. I am so looking forward to a week in Yellowstone. We’ve been there before, so we know the places we want to go back to. We don’t need to see everything this time. We can relax and savor the special places and the wildlife that’s so abundant. That’s what I call a vacation!!