St. Mary Valley in the Afternoon, Glacier National Park
In the afternoon I went for a walk in the woods. I took my trusty bear spray and headed west. I hit the trail at a brisk pace and quickly sunk into rough snow. The freeze and thaw had created a hard bit of snow to walk over. But it was comforting that I had snow at all, being that the snow pack is so much less than average this year. I hiked fast over the snow and felt my knees slowly give in to the tenseness of hiking over an uncertain surface. I would probably be sore the next day, and somehow that was comforting. I passed by meadows with dormant flowers, into forests that are nearly 500 years old.
Douglas Fir Cone
I saw many elk paths weave through the forest. I'd never noticed them in that area before...interesting. I continued hiking, calling out "EEEEoooooHH!" and "Cooooomin' Through." The instinct of calling out for bears came back instantly, as did the fear of seeing a bear when I was by myself.
I tromped through forest, prairie, and burned areas. I passed the "Beaver Pond" and for the first time I had seen it, it frozen over. I usually sneak up on this area, preparing myself for viewing Mergansers or Barrow's Golden Eyes. But nothing was stirring and I continued on. At the trail intersection (where I was to turn back on another trail), I inspected the bear "Rub tree." Last year they put up barbed wire to collect the hair samples that would tell us "who was who." I didn't see any bear hair snagged on the wire, but I slowly traced the five scratch marks that adorn the tree...you guessed it, bear claw marks. The bear permanently left it's mark on the tree.
I turned back east and looked down the old road bed. This road bed tells a story, a story about young rugged rangers and fire fighters traveling back and forth. There used to be an old fire tower that sat on an open bald. If you hike out to it, you can still see the foundation blocks. Near the end of the road there were a few cabins. I've heard that you can still find it today, if you know the old trail. At the beginning of this old road was a ranger station. It was one of the first staffed stations on the east side of the park (probably second to East Glacier's Ranger Station). Now called the 1913 Ranger Station, we've decided to dedicate a restoration project to it, as well as exhibits and programs about the Good Ole Ranger days. Days when families were practically on the payroll, and days when horseback was the way to travel.
I turned down that road and headed towards that cabin and saw three white-tailed deer. Their tails went up immediately, but then they paused. One took extra care to watch me as I approached, closer and closer. The others had already run away and it still stared me down.
White Tailed Deer
I walked around a grove of Douglas Fir and spotted them again. This time they didn't mind as much and let me walk by slowly, at a distance of 30 feet. They used caution as they nibbled on grasses and watched the horizons. I used caution not to fall as I took photos, zoomed in. It was interesting to watch them, as they watched me. It was like we had an agreement, an understanding, and we did. I left them alone.
White Tailed Deer
I made it back down to the lake's shore, where I found willows budding out, in all their fuzzy glory. The beautiful red and yellow stems of the water’s edge intrigued me. I took some more photos.
Willows Bursting out with Buds
I completed my loop and made it back to where I had begun, both on the trail and here at Glacier. Full circle, and better for it.
St. Mary Lakeshore, Red Eagle mountain as the most prominent peak.