Steve Madewell

Pedestrian Ramblings

Personally I love winter. Always have. For one thing it enables a different perspective that encourages a seasonal shift in activities. I start doing things that I have put away or put off for some time. A few weeks ago I got a call from my friend Kuma, who rebuilds bamboo fly rods. If you are not familiar with these things, they are remarkable works of art. In a nut shell, a piece of bamboo is split into smaller pieces which are hand planed to the proper dimensions then glued together to form a six sided, tapering fly rod. They are really quite amazing. An old gentleman had given me an armload of broken bamboo rods a few years ago. Bits and pieces that I sorted through and saved the ones that I thought could be salvaged. Slowly I have been having Kuma restore them. We met and I picked up the most recently restored rod and in our conversation he wanted to know if Ihad came across anything of interest. I told him about a rod that I had bought a few years ago that was sort of interesting. I had set it aside and hadn’t even thoroughly cleaned it up after the flood two years ago. It came stored a rod holder that was in a canvas bag. It was a very different storage system and that is one of the reasons I bought it. He encouraged me to take it out and do a little research on its origins and history. Thanks to the Internet, I discovered that the rod it’s self is pretty cool. As it turns out it is an Empire City Rod that was built in 1888 or 89 by a couple fellows that are quite renown in the world of fly-fishing, Thomas and Edwards. But that is not the neat part of the story. On the canvas storage bag there is the name W B Mershon Jr., and a date April 15 1908. On a whim I did a goggle search and found that WB Mershon was not only written up in American Angler and Field and Stream, but he also wrote the first book on the decline of the passenger pigeon. He lived in Saginaw and was actually the mayor there for a year. He made a fortune in the lumber industry and was known for his extensive hunting and fishing trips. The Squire brothers accompanied Mershon, on at least one of his fishing trips. They were from Cleveland and I believe they started the law firm Squire Dempsey and Sanders. So there is a little local connection here too. Now I just have to find out if Jr. was his son and what the significance of April 15th is all about. By the way this rod is in excellent condition and you could take it fishing today…. that is if the stream wasn’t frozen. Needless to say I hold the thing and imagine the stories it could tell. I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to look into this if Kuma and had met in the Spring or summer as opposed to December. As it turned out, I have this lovely little piece of history that I discovered in the heart of the winter.
The Deer gun season in Ohio starts the first Monday after Thanksgiving, so for nearly forty years I have been scurrying around trying to get my warmest and best outdoor clothes together the weekend after the holiday. The first year my cousin Keith and I got to go with my Pop and Uncle Marvin, we were off to the hill country of southeast Ohio. That was a time when most people considered themselves lucky to see a deer in Ohio. Of course the white tail population has grown dramatically since then. We drove two trucks, Dad’s little Toyota and a big pickup with a camper shell and it was quite the adventure. There were several great memories created on that trip but one of the funniest was the unexpected trip to the grocery store. Dad and Uncle Marvin had no idea how much two 13 year olds could eat. We left on a Sunday morning and by Monday afternoon, Keith and I had eaten nearly everything that had been packed. A bit bewildered, Dad and Marv took off to do some more grocery shopping leaving Keith and I alone in the camper. As they were leaving, Keith and I were down to eating the last of the supplies, Hormel potted meat out of little tin cans on Saltines. When the men returned with additional stores, they had bought several more cans of the potted meat because Marv had seen us eating it and thought that we liked it. As you might imagine, that really wasn’t the case, we were just eating it because there was nothing left to eat. At any rate I had the opportunity to hunt with Pop and a growing number of my cousins for several years camping in everything from a shed to tents. We had some great times and experienced nearly every kind of Ohio weather. As I got older, I really notice Dad slowing down. There was a transition from him waiting for and looking after me, to me waiting for and looking after him. Before broke down and got glasses, I remember one time him trying to light a Coleman lantern and not being able to see the port for the match. I lit it for him and he said, “Getting old is no good.” When I moved to northeast Ohio, I started hunting up here because of a number of factors, ample local hunting opportunities and limited time made it seem a bit unreasonable to drive all the way to the other end of the state. In 2000, I drove back down south to surprise the gang and had a great time walking the hills I had spent so many hours walking and hunting in past years. On that trip I also realized that in his mid 70’s tent camping was a bit rough for Pop, so I insisted that he start coming up here to hunt with me. I had the good fortune to have access to a cabin and some pretty nice hunting territory just west of the Ohio/Pa line. So that was the beginning of deer camp as several of us have come to know it along Conneaut Creek. Our little party has grown to include my son Phil, my son in law Sean, my nephew Franklin and a few other friends. Franklin drives up from Tn. and stops in Dayton to pick Dad up on the way. We assemble on Sunday and enjoy each others company till mid day on Tuesday when we all part to return to our regular routines. I have assumed the role of the camp director for lack of a better term and I divy up the work of cooking and cleaning up after meals and making sure everyone’s guns are sighted in and functioning properly and giving everyone instructions on what kind of food to bring. And there is no potted meat! We eat entirely too much and have a good time reliving the past years events. We are normally exhausted and in bed by 9:30. The activities in the evening have often been hilarious. I could go on in great detail about Dad’s homemade marble game and his ever changing rules, or the time I forced the “boys” to eat all the Little Debbie and Hostess snacks that Dad had brought so he wouldn’t think we weren’t appreciative of his offer to the camp. The next year he brought twice as many treats! And I again coaxed them on sharing the story of the potted meat. As time has progressed, it started to become clearer to me that my success wasn’t measured by if I got a deer but rather to who else would get a deer in our party. This year was the first year that I actually assigned people on where to go and who did what in the field. The conditions on Monday were nearly perfect with reasonable temperatures and snow on the ground. And we had remarkable success. But with several missed shots and plenty of material for next year’s stories and good natured teasing. Dad is 84 this year so each and every one of these moments is special. It takes a lot of time and energy to organize everything but then again anything worth doing takes a little bit of effort. At 52 I am critically aware of my bodies own aches and pains, and the very real shift that has occurred to my vision. But as long as I can continue to bring them all together for a day or two of companionship, I will and that is how I will measure my success.
It has been awhile since I have made an entry. I needed a break of sorts but I wanted to post a Happy Thanksgiving note. So I am sitting here in the barn with a bit of time to kill. I have a turkey in the smoker in preparation for tomorrow festivities. Our family tradition of a smoked turkey goes back several decades. Once I introduced smoked turkey to the family feast there was nothing else acceptable. The family is gathering together tomorrow and even though it shouldn’t be required, I get at least two offspring that pop the question, “Are you smoking the turkey?” My older brother Frank got my dad a little chief smoker nearly thirty years ago, and Dad never used it. So I borrowed it, as it turns out permanently. My first ventures in to this culinary realm began with making venison jerky, then smoked fish and then the thanksgiving turkey. I moved on to things like goose jerky, smoked duck, steelhead and pheasant. All of which have been met with rousing approval. So much so that just this week, Unit A, as I called Stephanie when she was little, started lobbing for jerky. You should understand that Stephanie is sort of a “cool hunter” always on the make for the next hip a trendy thing. (You can read all about her on going search on her blog Even Cleveland.) So I guess that is some sort of vote of continued significant approval. She was telling me that I could probably fulfill all of my Christmas obligations with jerky. Not Smoking T’s jerky or Trumbull Locker Jerky, but Steve Jerky. I nomore than hung up the phone when Unit B, code name for Rachel, called putting in a request for a couple smoked steelhead trout. So tomorrow, before Thanksgiving, Stephanie’s husband Sean, Phil and I will be slicing up some of the deer that we were fortunate enough to harvest into little strips in preparation for marinating and subsequent smoking. The steelhead might have to wait a bit but I can’t think of a better way for the “men folk” to spend some time together. Making a simple gift provided by the richness of the world around us. Of course while we are involved with our task, Mj and the girls will be assembling a killer dinner for early afternoon and yet another moment of thankfulness. When Sean, Phil and I take any breaks we will be upstairs in the barn going over our gear for the up coming deer gun season which begins next Monday. Deer Camp takes place at the Conneaut Creek Club, and will be a two and half day gathering of a host of family and friends. My nephew Franklin comes up from Tenn. and stops in Dayton and picks up dad. Pop is 84. And he is always excited to spend some time in the woods with his grand kids. One of the coolest things is also going to occur this year. Rachel tracked down one of his Army Air Corp buddies from the China Burma India portion of WW II. He lives about 15 miles down the road and he and Dad haven’t seen each other in over 60 years. Franklin and Dad plan to stop in a visit with him on the way up. At Deer Camp, I am like the old camp counselor, making sure everyone’s guns get properly sited in and directing who cooks what meals and does what clean up, keeping track of who goes where and who will be near by to help pop out if he gets a deer. It has been a wonderful life progression. When Dad and I started hunting deer together I was 13 and he was always looking out for and slowing down to wait for me. Now it is my turn to do the same for him. It is one of the things that I look forward to each and every year and one of the greatest things that I am truly thankful for. The creation of rich memories for many of the people I care so deeply for. Happy Thanksgiving.

Glacier the final submission The hike out of the Bely River Valley was incredibly muddy. It was a testament to why pack animal and pedestrian trails are not always a good idea. In some spots we were literally slogging along through 6 inches of mud. With a full pack this is a little challenging at times. It required a bit of focus on each and every footfall. Other than that it was a great morning with a high big blue Montana sky. It was a little chilly when we got going and the vegetation was still very wet from the rain and snow that fell earlier so we were hiking in our rain pants, and considering the muddy conditions this was OK. We saw a couple white tail deer in one of the meadows not far from where we camped but other than that we didn’t see any wildlife. I think I mentioned before we got our back country permit that we had to watch the National Park Service video that tells you how to keep from being eaten by a bear, or how to enjoy your last moments alive playing dead before you get eaten by a bear. They suggest making a fair amount of noise and other such measures. This might not seem like such a big deal but after hiking a while, you really are more focused on simple things like breathing, checking out nature, or in our case that morning, not slipping and sliding in the mud. So we weren’t making all that much noise until we came upon a moose trail that crossed our path. I was amazed. I am very familiar with deer trails here in Ohio and so when I came upon what looked like someone had driven a roto-tiller across the trial it took me a little while to recognize what I was looking at. Rachel had continued on down the trail a bit and I called out to her to stop and check this out. So she came back and we took a moment to ogle the moose tracks and how much it had cut up the soil coming off the hillside and going down into the valley. As it turned out it was a good thing I called out. Shortly ahead of us the trail took a hard bend around a hillside. Rachel was hiking ahead of me and I saw her jump like she had nearly stepped on a snake. She turned and pointed at the ground and shouted something like “look and the size of these frikken tracks”. And yes my friends, a grizzly bear had been walking down the trail right toward us. I think when it heard us talking about the moose trail it had turned and headed down toward the river. As we continued to hike out we saw that the bear had also been walking the trail for quite some time, so it is quite likely that he detoured to avoid us. I took a picture of one of the tracks next to Rachel’s hiking boot for perspective. The funny thing about this was after seeing the bear tracks, we were both much more vocal for the remainder of our hike. About 11:00 we heard some folks coming down a series of switchbacks and they were making a lot of noise. We had stopped to take a break and when they passed us they said they had just seen a mother bear and a cub. The cub had climbed a tree and the mother bear had crashed off into the forest. Shortly after that Adam caught up with us. We figured he would catch us before we hit the trailhead as he was about as Rachel and combined and we had to take two and a half steps for every one of his. Anyway, we hiked out the rest of the way together and offered to give him a ride back to the train station. We had enjoyed our conversation with him the night before and it didn’t seem right to leave him sitting at a trailhead waiting for three of four hours for a shuttle. We enjoyed a spectacular drive down the east park boundary and really got a better since of just how big the park is. Something like 1500 square miles. The train station is right by the East Glacier lodge, which I wanted to check out anyway. These big old lodges are the source of great controversy in the park system. The overhead is huge and they need so much work. There is an on going debate about taking them down. When you see them however it is a look back into the grandeur of a different time. After dropping Adam off we continued to drive around the park with intentions of camping near the main gate. We were both looking forward to a shower and greatly disappointed to find out that none of the camp grounds in the center or on the west side of the parks had showers. So we decided we were heading for a dinner and a motel. After checking in at Cheap Sleeps getting a great shower I took my little girl out for a Montana steak dinner. Needless to say we had a good nights cheap sleep. The next day we planned on car touring the western portion of the park. This gave us yet another reason to drive past this coffee shop we had eaten at on our first morning in town. This place had killer breakfasts with wonderful muffins. I have to say that most of the meals I have bought in Montana have been pretty good; couple exceptions being one lunch at some casino near tiger town with Hollister, and a non descript burger in Zortman. That aint odd bad though! The west side of the park is where the big fire was a few years back and is it equally impressive as the east side in a very different way. We drove to a little town called Pole Bridge. Never saw the pole bridge but I am sure it had to be there. Nothing much else was. There is an amazing little mercantile store surrounded by a cluster of little buildings about 2 miles outside of the western park gate. This is at the end of maybe a 20 mile drive on a gravel road. We drove up to a beautiful place, Bowman Lake I believe, and took a hike and had lunch. And there I found one of the things I had hoped to find. Incredible quite. This is something I have only experienced a few times, where the quite is so profound it is stunning. This is something that should be protected just as much as piece of art or any endangered species. I could go on about this and perhaps I will some time, just suffice it to say it was something that I hope I would get to experience on the trip and on the west side of glacier we found it. On our hike out was stopped and took some photos by the lake, watched mayflies hatch off the water, and marveled at the total beauty on the place. While we were walking back to the car, we heard what we thought at first was someone turning a radio on. It was a fellow who had just sat down and strummed his guitar the waterside several hundred yards away. It was as loud as a ghetto blaster. We took our time getting back into town where we sat about preparing for our departure. Clothes to wash, equipment to UPS back home and a few more souvenirs to buy. The last element of the adventure was getting out of town on the last flight from Kalispel and then the last flight out of Chicago. Hurricane Gustave carried us out there and Hurricane Ike welcomed us home.


Me Cold and Wet

hugemntclevelandinglacier.jpgGlacier 4 I finally got up and started poking around about 910:30 in the morning. The biologist’ were already out trying to collect their samples and the other group had packed out. I headed off skirting the edges of the meadows and began collecting dry branches off of standing dead trees. After an hour or so I had a pretty good pile of wood to work with and Rachel and I built a nice fire. The biologists came back about the time we got the fire going. They had decided that they were going to call off their efforts for the day as the rain and snow from the night before would skew their data. So they set about breaking their camp. They were very appreciative of the fire. Evidently they had tried to get one going earlier in the morning with no avail. Once the fire was going we made ourselves some breakfast. It is amazing how good a bowl of oatmeal can taste. To cook on I had bought this MSR rocket from a store near the airport. You really can’t expect to get through airport security with a backpacking stove so I had planned on buying one when I got there. MSR makes great gear and this is a great little stove. We had more cooking equipment than we needed and most of it was left back in the car. What we did take were some of these nifty little squishy bowls and cups, a small teakettle and a small pot and we really didn’t need much else. We had bought a several freeze-dried meals and some of which were marginal and others were really good. For example that evening we had chicken and dumplings for dinner and it was really really good. We wound up taking a few short hikes that day but mostly we just enjoyed tending the fire and drying a few things out. Rachel did take the time to open up an emergency blanket and tape it up to the insides of our tent. She wanted to minimize the drafting we were experiencing. IT worked too! Mid afternoon a solo backpacker joined us. Adam Brown. Adam had hiked across the park starting on the west side and heading east. He had spent the night at a much higher elevation and he said the storm was really interesting. Adam works for the Appalachian Trail and we really enjoyed sitting around the fire and talking with him through the night. Other than a few white tail deer, we didn’t see any big animals in the Belly River valley. We did however have quite the show with some smaller critters. The biologist had warned me to make sure to not leave anything un attended. Evidently the squirrels had gotten into a couple of their packs and made a bit of a mess. And there was no shortage of squirrels in the pine grove where we were camping. At this time of year they are busy collecting pinecones, which they store for later consumption. It is my understanding that grizzly bears will raid their pinecone caches later in the year. We got a big kick out of watching these little guys cut and pitch pine cones to the ground. Thy would rocket up a tree, work their way out to the end of the branch and begin to one by one cut each pine cone from the tree and throw it to make sure it fell to the ground. After working to cut and toss perhaps 10 to 20 pine cones they would come down the tree and scurry them off to their storage areas. They were upset that Rachel and I were just hanging around and clearly interfering with their chores. They didn’t mind us while they were cutting the cones, but when they came down to start collecting them, they were clearly irritated. And they would let us know it by climbing back up a tree, heading out to the end of a branch and then bark and carry on until they gave up and decided they had to get back to work. So they would come back down and start gathering the pinecones in spite of our presence. We also had quite the experience with a coopers hawk. Raptors are migrating this time of year and sometimes you get a chance to see something that is really cool. There was a cooper’s hanging out around our camp area that I had seen several times. Un like the squirrels he didn’t seem to mind up at all, this made me think that he was in migration from points north where he wasn’t familiar with people. He whacked a robbin right behind me while I was sitting on log then flew over to another log a few yards away and began to pluck it. That evening a great horned owl began to call and then I believe a borrowing owl joined in. I fell asleep listening to them calling from the edge of the near by meadow. We woke up to Glaciers very own alarm clock. One of the squirrels had perched right above our tent and was actually bouncing pine cones off of it. When he got ready to gather them up, he let loose such a chatter that I believe he winded himself. With that we got up and began to break camp, and prepare for our walk out.

Glacier Cont. The Belly River trail head is located about 300 ft. south of the US/Canada border. We double-checked our gear, threw our packs on and off we went. The hike was about 6.5 miles into where we were going to spend the next two nights. Our intentions were to get to the camping area, set up our camp, knock around for a bit and take it easy for the rest of the day. We would be camping right next to the river and I thought I might fish a bit in the afternoon. The next day we planned to hike up to one of the mountain lakes and see if I could catch some dinner. The initial part of the hike was nearly all down hill. About 750ft of descent into the river valley, and then it was pretty level for the remainder of the walk. It was a beautiful day, although the weather report indicated a small change of showers later in the day. We started off going through mostly pines and fir trees until we got into the river valley and the forest gave way to aspen, cottonwood and large open meadows. As we worked our way into the valley we were afforded wonderful views of the surrounding mountains. It really was spectacular. When we got down to the river side, we took a break, got a bite to eat, and Rachel took a short nap while I fished a little bit. The water was incredibly clear and the silence was total except for the sounds of the stream and the rustle of the aspen leaves. We saw deer and elk track and moose tracks down on the streamside. After forty-five minutes or so of playing around in the water we geared back up and hit the trail. We walked into the camping area about 4:15 and found two other groups there. One group of four guys and a party of five folks who were employees of the park service. They were park biologists who were there to do some inventory and monitoring collecting aquatic insects and doing water chemistry. This kind of base line data is important for documenting changes in the parks’ ecosystem. One fellow from the first group had a University of Dayton shirt and we found out he was from St. Mary’s Ohio. Small world. The temperature was probably in the mid seventies and we were both pretty hot and tired, so we threw up the tent and got the food hung up. The park service provides food poles to hang your supplies from. There is also a food prep and eating area that is several hundred yards away from the sleeping areas. The idea is to avoid any smell of food around your tent incase a bear should happen by. Rachel crawled in the tent to take a nap and I walked down to the stream En route I walked by a rail-fenced pasture and a remote ranger station. The park service and visitors use horses and pack animals alike in the back country and this remote ranger station was used as a staging area for various park operations. (For example we found that the biologists had their field gear brought in and out by pack mules.) The little log house, outbuildings and fenced pasture were incredibly picturesque. And the pasture afforded a great view of Mount Cleveland, which is the highest peak in the park. A little ways down the trail there was a neat suspension bridge across the river. While I was walking down to check it out, I passed a husband and wife from the biologist group who had been swimming I the river. They were a hardy bunch, as that water is coming right off the snowfields on the mountains. I made a comment about how beautiful the day was, and the fellow said something like, yeah that’s gonna change. He obviously knew something I didn't. There was a tiny little clouds working it’s way around one of the mountaintops, but I thought it looks benign enough. I went back to camp and grabbed our water filter and a couple bottles to go get some drinking water. This is where I had what could have been a very bad experience. While I was sitting on the bank assembling the cool little Katadin water purifier, I dropped one of the components into the stream, when I jumped up to get that, I dropped one of the two rubber tubes into the stream and it was instantly swept away. I cut the remaining tube in half and all was well, but that is exactly how trouble starts, some unexpected event that can set a chain reaction in motion. By the time I made the water, the little cloud had expanded into this complete blanket of heavy gray fog that obscured of all of the mountaintops. In a matter of minutes a cold rain began falling and I was scurrying back to our tent to get the rain fly on and get the rest of our gear stored. Rachel got up and helped me get things together and we dashed back to our food supplies, dropped them down and grabbed dinner… a power bar for each of us! The rain was increasing and we could hear what sounded like a high-pitched jet engine off in distance. It was wind coming through the mountaintops and cascading down into the valley. We nestled down in the tent as the rain settled down into a steady downpour. While some folks might think this was a horrible situation, it really was enjoyable. We were both tired from the hike and there was really nothing to do but enjoy the moment. We talked about most everything, the future, the past and most of all, the humorous elements of the trip! The funniest so far, which occurred on the first night that we had stayed in the tent. It was the process I went through when I had gotten up in the middle of the night to relieve myself. Remember that I had taken my ultra lite sleeping bag and wound up sleeping in a liner, the bag and also a fleece bag. I had tried to get up without making a big stir. The process of finding all the zippers and struggling out of the many layers I was sleeping in was too much. Then after getting out of my sleeping arrangement finding the right zippers on the tent, crawling out of the tent on tired wobbly legs and standing up only to catch the rain fly on my back. This subsequently released a torrent of icy cold water right down my neck causing me to release a number of explicative phrases. Rachel confessed she was awake for it all and was afraid to laugh out loud for fear I might punch her. She said she had wanted to cry out camping nerd alert. We talked and told stories to each other until we finally fell asleep well after dark. I was awakened during the night by intense lighting and thunder. The lightening was incredible. You could hear the lightening strikes, and then the thunder. The lightening was like explosions followed by the rumble of the thunder. Occasionally there was the sound of the jet engine and then a great blast of wind would come up through the valley and shake the tent so severely that I wasn’t sure it would remain standing up. In the middle of the night, actually early morning, I remember thinking great! At last it has stopped raining! There was however a slow plop, plop plopping going on and I realized that, yes it had stopped raining, the rain however had turned to snow and snow was falling off of the trees onto the tent. I got up and looked outside to discover that we had perhaps three of more inches of snow on the ground and it was snowing quite hard. When I started to get back into my bag Rachel said “Dad there is something going on with this side of the tent.” I told her I had debated waking her up to tell her it was snowing. The tent was actually collapsing under the weight of the snow. So we began knocking the snow off of the tent. We did that two or three more times before sunrise. Between the rain and snow there was some form of precipitation for a total of 16 hours. It was perhaps the best part of the trip!

Glacier Continued That evening after our hike and back to Grinnell Glacier, I jumped in a little stream to do a bit of fishing. While I had all the gear that we might need, fishing was really an afterthought for this trip. I did not want to be consumed with anything besides just being there. Sometime activities can help you enjoy a place, but I find they often keep me from truly taking everything in and they become a distraction unto themselves. That being said, I took off wading down this little stream in my Tevas in pursuit of a trout. Buy the way that water is cold! Generally speaking there are a number of trout located in this park. Cutthroat and Bull Trout are the native fish, and Rainbow and Eastern Brook Trout were introduced by stocking long ago. It is a little different to fly fish in grizzly territory. For one thing you have to be quite focused on the fishing and you really need to maintain some focus on what is going on around you. I have gotten myself into a jam one time in the Bahamas not paying attention to the tide while chasing a permit (fish) and found myself in the presence of bull sharks in water that was entirely too deep. But that is another story. Let’s just say I really didn’t want to look up out of my fishing zone and find a bear standing behind me. I was trying to do this multi-tasking kind of thing, casting, watching the fly line and drift, looking around when the sky opened up and a cold driving rain started falling. So I trundled off toward the camp site on my stiff cold feet. The rain didn’t last long and we fixed up a great meal of fresh local produce and hit the tent. After our hike up the mountain and back we were pretty well wiped out, but not too tired to notice that the temperature was rapidly falling and it was spitting rain again. Now Rachel is one of those people that get cold sitting in the shade of a tree on a 90 degree day and generally speaking I am not cold. However with her heavy sleeping bag and me with my light one I think we were evenly matched in the chill factor! When we got up in the morning, there were frozen half drops all over the tent like those little sheets of colored penny candy. Quite pretty. We spent a good part of the day and evening getting ready for the back packing portion of our trip and checking out bears on one side of the valley and mountain goats on the other. We even had a white tail deer and fawn come into our camp while Rachle was getting ready to cook dinner. That day we took it easy and recovered from our big hike the day before. I have really bad ankles that are prone to getting very stiff if I don’t eat a steady diet of anti-inflamatory drugs of one kind or another. So it was a good thing to rest up a bit. The hike up to the glacier was a sort of test to see how we would do with the altitude, the climb and descent and for me, the weight of the pack and my fussy ankles. In addition to the local weather forecast this test was important to determine where we were going to go into the back-country. We had tentatively chosen an 18 mile loop for a three day two night hike, but all the camp sites were pretty high in elevation and subject to much cooler weather and the change in elevation was over 2,000 ft. After looking at out literature and talking with a couple of the staff we decided to go to option two which was the Belly River Drainage. We would be camping at a lower elevation and there was only a 740 ft decent at the very beginning of the hike. And with that in mind we secured our back country-packing permit for later in the week. Before they give you one, by the way, the rangers ask you several questions about your gear and they make you watch a video on how to avoid being attacked by a bear and what to do if you are. I did have some bear spray, which is this of high-octane pepper spray in a canister that reminded me of a small fire extinguisher. I have been “maced” and pepper sprayed in training situations and I figured was enough pepper spray in that canister to knock about fifty people to the ground. I couldn’t help but think they should tell everyone, Christ if you have to spray a bear, your are going to get sprayed yourself!” I didn’t see anything in the video about what you are supposed to do after you use the pepper spray and you have incapacitated yourself with the back draft. I suppose while you are flopping around on the ground you are easy prey for Cougars. I also found out from the video that should you be attacked by a black bear or a cougar, you are supposed to fight, (unless you have pepper sprayed yourself) If it is a grizzly you are supposed to play dead, unless you think the bear was planning to eat you. Then you are supposed to fight like hell!!! Yeah right! I had already thought this through in my head, and my plan was to trip Rachel should she try to out run me. Actually I knew all this stuff already and I had decided that if needed I was going to trip Rachel even before she started going to the personal trainer. Later that evening we went to a very informative park program at the Many Glacier Lodge. This is one of three rather mammoth wooden structures in the park that was built years ago. It is a big controversy in the park service to keep 'em or tear em down. Huge overhead. The place gets shut down at the end of September and there is one care taker in the whole valley. Kind of like the “Shining”! Actually the general history of the park, of how all the lodges were built, the road to the sun, the story of the Native Americans of the region just added to our ability to enjoy the majesty of the place. While the temps were in the thirties that night I think we had gotten our sleeping gear adjusted because we both slept very well. We woke up to a heavy frost. After breaking camp, we were off to the Belly. This trail-head is right south of the Canadian border. I pretty good poke from Many Glacier. We stopped at this little general store at Babb, and had an absolutely great breakfast at the Babb Press then drove the 15 or so remaining miles to the trail-head.

It is a funny thing, the objects we surround ourselves with. I have these matches in my drawer, two books, one from the Baldwin Creek Motel, the other from the Adirondack League Club. Both souvenirs from fishing trips from many years ago. I touch them and I think of a time from the past. Each book brings up a memory rich in visions and recollections from that moment in time. One has no matches left, but the striker is good, the other still has several matches, but the striker was fouled from getting wet in my fishing vest. Together they are still serviceable, but separately they are worthless, except for the memories they bring to me. That is what I am writing about memories. Together I used them to light a cheap cigar as I settle in to write this little epistle. To help out, I also cracked open a bottle of Pinot Noir from Conneaut Cellars. This happens to be a very good wine from a family vineyard located in western Pennsylvania where I have performed at their patron appreciation picnic for every year since 1998, until this year, 2008. This year I opted out instead to take a trip with my daughter Rachel to Glacier National Park, and to create some new memories. I normally write a lot in the fall and winter in my barn, and this is really the first, introductory if you will effort for 2008. I couldn’t find a crock screw for the Pinot, so I used my Hatachi power drill and a deck screw to get the bottle opened. And I am drinking the wine from a martini glass….I have a few things to get in order in the barn to be ship shape for the winter! So now with the bottle opened and a Swisher Sweet smoldering in the tray I can begin to proceed with my entry of the evening. That is… the summary of our trip to Glacier. My children are dear and special people. They make me think of who I am and sometimes how I might have been or might be a better person. I think that is the value of children. Rachel is my middle child. Middle children, in case you don’t know always seem to vie for attention. Not the youngest, not the oldest, they are in the middle and they work hard for some special attention to call individuality unto them. Rachel is this way. So when she told me several months ago she wanted to do another trip with me, I noticed. She has always been drawn to the gadgetry of backpacking and the sense of adventure that comes with such trips. She told me she wanted to do a backpacking trip. Without a moments hesitation I committed. We discussed the possibility of Yellowstone, and then Rocky Mountain National Park. Rocky Mountain seemed especially promising as we know people who live near the park and it seemed like a natural choice. I thought the discussion was over when she called one day and said, “Dad, I think we should do Glacier. You always said you wanted to go to Glacier and that is where I think we should go.” I went along instantly, but I did tell her that Glacier has a lot of grizzly bears and that I had never had a good nights sleep when camping in bear country. She of course chided me for being afraid of bears. In a matter of a few weeks she was signed up with a personal trainer and I asked her if she was getting in shape with the thought of taking on a grizz. Of course she said no but she definitely wanted to be able to out run me. Smart kid! We set up a schedule where we were getting together nearly every week and hiking in local parks. The idea was to get an idea on what we felt comfortable in hiking on a reasonable day hike. The intention was good but our commitment was a little lacking… or should I say my commitment was a little lacking. I mean I walk a lot and I didn’t feel motivated to go out walking every weekend just to prove to myself that I can walk. We had a lot of fun going over gear selection, including food and figuring out what we needed, what we had and what we were taking. It seemed like no time until I was making travel arrangements. At first we wanted to take the train to the Glacier Apgar park gate, but the bus shuttles were questionable and the 26 hours on the train seemed a bit much. I opted for flying and renting a car. We were to leave Cleveland on Thursday Sept. the 4th, but the departing jets were jammed up due to hurricane Gustav so we lost day there. We didn’t leave until Friday. We flew to the airport in Kalispell, Montana late on Friday, picked up our car and drove straight away to the park. As Rachel would say, “The Majesty of it all!” was upon us. We got our week entrance pass to the park and returned to town to find a hotel. The next day we stopped at several local establishments to buy some essential gear, like a stove and some local produce, had a killer Montana breakfast, drove the Road to the Sun, and went up to Swift Current campground and threw up our tent. We took a day hike up to some waterfall, and on the way back to the campground saw the first of the several grizzly bears we would see on the trip. It was a sow and a cub, and they were on the talus slope behind the Swift Current Motel. We didn’t know it at the time but later we determined that the bears were pretty focused on eating huckle berries and the entire side of this slope was covered in them. As a matter of fact I am not so sure that you couldn’t have walked right up on the bears. Over the course of the next two days, we saw several bears in this area and it was really remarkable how intent they were on eating these berries. The bears would take their head and push the whole bush to one side, then wrap their tongue around a branch and strip the berries off as the bush returned to it’s normal position. This observation was made possible through the use of several spotting scopes that were set up by bear observers in the parking lot of the motel. Just a little side note about the motel. The Swift Current Camp Ground and the Swift Current Motel are at the end of a 12 mile road that closes down around the end of September. While these aren’t luxury accommodations, we discovered that the best public showers in the park are located here. Now considering that the park is 1500 square miles this is a pretty big deal. That night we nearly froze. We discovered that weather in Glacier is more fickle than fancy. It really depends on what side of the park you are on, how high you are and what funny little local condition may come to pass. While the weather forecast predicted highs in the mid 70’s and lows in the mid 40’s, ice on the tent in the morning seemed to indicated things were a bit cooler. I had taken a super light down bag rated to 40 degrees and had liner for it, so that gave me a few more degrees, and a fleece bag for wrapping up in around the fire at night…. I wound up sleeping in all of them. Consequently getting in and out of my sleeping arrangement was an act Houdini would have been proud of! (Rachel has more comments on this) The next day we took a really challenging day hike up toward Grinnel Glacier. It was about a 1600 foot climb and descent in elevation and was a good thing to do before securing our back country camping permit. I took my backpack on this hike just to see what it would feel like. The views were absolutely spectacular. In addition to glaciers we saw mountain goats, big horn Sheep, mule deer, moose, marmot, and just missed a wolverine. We walked through several piles of bear scat. That is a polite scientific way of saying there was bear shit all over the trail. The moose however stole the show, two cows and a calf cavorting in an alpine lake was pretty special. This is the end of installment Number One

RSS feed