I have returned from three weeks of hiking in Glacier National Park and Yellowstone.
The National Parks are a tool of natural selection, or at least a good locale to win the Darwin Award (given to those whose stupid actions remove them from the gene pool). Despite all the signs warning that all animals in the park are WILD and DANGEROUS and DO NOT APPROACH THEM, many tourists, brought up on Walt Disney, insist in getting as close to the fauna as they can. We saw several people trying to get as close as possible to an elk with a magnificent rack, who could have tossed them in a second. One tourist was gored by a bison when he got too close. Everyone wanted to get close to a bear; two nights ago a grizzly attacked three sleeping campers, killing one and mauling two. Parents sent children to play on slippery rocks above three hundred foot waterfalls. The fatality rate is surprisingly low, although I suspect that guardian angels have to go out for a stiff drink after watching over people in the park. As the saying goes, God watches over children, drunks, and the United States of America – and tourists in the national parks.
Speaking of drinks, I went to a tapas place in Bozeman, Montana, which had sidewalk tables. While waiting for the server to come out, I read the local papers articles on medical marijuana. Montana legalized medical marijuana about five years ago. At first a few hundred patients, almost all elderly with chronic diseases, signed up. Over 95% of doctors would have nothing to do with marijuana. Then someone got the idea for cannabis caravans. Vans with doctors and marijuana travelled the state seeing patients. Doctors spent an average of six minutes seeing a patient before prescribing marijuana. There was an epidemic of back pain among twenty year olds, a pain which could be treated only by marijuana. Now there are over twenty thousand users of medical marijuana. Spoilsports have just shut down the cannabis caravans.
The waiter came out and I ordered my tapas and a glass of wine. The water regretfully replied,” I am sorry, but Montana has an open container law and we any serve wine at the sidewalk café.”
Montana has an appealing ornery streak. In the gift shop at the hotel I found “Speaking Ill of the Dead: Jerks in Montana History.” My favorite in Jacob Thorkelson, a nudist pro-Nazi congressman. This author of this book was inspired by “The Bedside Book of Bastards” which would make an excellent Christmas present.
Returning to the parks:
I hiked up to Iceberg Lake in suitably arctic conditions: cold and very, very windy. I could see why the Blackfeet Indians regarded it as a sacred place.
I battled my way back to the hotel, and came into the central hall.
Around the fireplace and on the hearth families were sitting, chatting, or playing cards and board games. The fire burned brightly and in the corner a violist played sweet, sad waltzes of the West. I went into the gift shop, and the first thing that caught my eye was a t-shirt. On it was a picture of a young man standing on a ledge looking out at the glory of the Rockies, and overprinted were the words: On Earth As It Is In Heaven.” America, like other countries, has its particular sweetness.
In the Canadian section of the park we hiked to the Carthew pass. No photographs can capture the view, but this gives an idea:
On one side of the ridge were four glacial lakes and a dozen waterfalls cascading from snow covered mountains. On the other side one looked for a hundred miles over the Great Plains. As a gazed at this (and ate my lunch) a young women walked by and remarked to me, “I feel I’ve stepped into heaven.” My sentiments exactly.