Saturday, April 23, 2016

Day 35: Somer’s Bay, Montana to Eugene, Oregon via the Columbia River Gorge in a heat wave.

Christ, I’m tired.

Chipotle is on the table, my wife is reading a book, and we are in a hotel room after a lot of hours of driving.  And damn it is hot.

We started the morning by jumping the battery of a fellow cabin member’s car.  The young man and his girlfriend were fairly freaked out and we happily held up our departure and got them on their merry way.  We left Somer’s Bay at around 6:45 in the morning. 

Travelling home is reflective and usually quiet for the first part of the journey.  The GPS takes us through the back roads of western Montana, across Native American reservations, into and out of backwoods towns, and through picturesque forests and rolling hills.  Once we traverse our way to Interstate 90 we head west and progress towards Spokane, Washington.  The path across Idaho was actually quite nice and Spokane seems like an almost cute city to live in.  But one we were past Spokane, ick.  It’s nothing for hours and hours except fields and near desert.  And it was slowly getting hotter and hotter.  We reached Pasco, Washington around early afternoon and stopped for a bite to eat and a hit at the local REI.  We had a coupon and our old Costco camel packs had pretty much lived their life.  We were hoping that a nicer pack from REI might be in order while making us drool for our trip next year.  Finding nothing we continued our journey. 

We hit Interstate 84 and made our way west through the Columbia River Gorge expecting the temperatures to go down.  The reverse happened.  As we got closer the Portland the temperature gauge on the car went higher and higher.  By the time we had hit the outskirts of the Rose City the thermometer read 103 degrees, the hottest we had experienced on the entire trip.  We also experienced Portland’s finest traffic at about 3:30 in the pm, and thus our attempt to get through the city early still resulted in a good 45 minute delay.  We stopped at the Salem REI for another look at gear and found the style but not the size we were looking for.  We then called ahead to the Eugene REI and forged on. 

We found the packs we wanted, probably spent way too much money, nailed down Chipotle, and are now escaping the heat in our hotel room in Eugene, Oregon. 

Yes, Eugene.  Where the temperature is over 100 degrees and I’m wondering if going home might be a mistake. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

A work day at home

I’ve had a lower stomach issue bothering me for a couple of weeks now and this weekend seems to have been the culminating event.  After a Saturday of shopping in Santa Rosa I came home and like a hammer I was hit with a fever.  Not a horrible fever; something around 101ish.  Sunday was miserable.  I kept a fever just enough to make me feel totally lethargic but not enough to think I wasn’t going to work in the morning.  I ate one can of soup and that was it.

I woke up before my alarm this morning and while my fever had dropped from it’s max last night (101.7), I was unwilling to go to school a walking zombie.  I took a sick day.

This is very uncommon since I’m usually going to gut out something minor and I don’t get sick often anways.  It’s been years since my last tangle with the flu (thank you flu shot) and the usual colds don’t slap me enough to keep me out of the classroom.  But today’s fever shall be the exception and I’m taking a rest day to get my body back into some sense of normalcy.

Sick days are also not total relaxation days either.  I ended up out of bed at 5 a.m. (like every morning) except that this morning I spent an hour signing up for my sub and lesson planning.  And before you go all “ohhh poor baby” on me, realize that I actually take what goes on in my class seriously.  I’ve not only booted bad subs from not getting it done in my classroom, I’ve called the principal after getting texts from students and had a sub removed from my class by the second period of the day!  I dive into my plans because I expect them to be followed and I expect kids to get something out of it. 

Technology has made the process of communicating with my students much easier.  I immediately sent out a Remind text to all my students to bring headphones and nailed down the link for Friday’s Newshour summary.  For my Comp Gov classes they could look over a Power Point in Google Drive, then hit up a Newshour Series on Nigeria, and finish by beginning to read Persepolis.  My Economics classes did some text notes and then viewed a video about the controversies surrounding Eminent Domain.  The text and links were posted in Google Classroom, a note was left via the substitute system to the teacher in charge, a couple of e-mails to my colleagues to keep an eye out on my classes, and viola, finished.  Around eleven this afternoon I got a text from a couple of students saying the assignment wasn’t up on Google Classroom and within a minute I had the ability make the changes necessary to get things rolling.  Technology is an amazing tool. 

Barring a reaccurence of my fever tonight I should be back in the saddle tomorrow bright and early.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Day 34: Somer’s Bay via Logan Pass, and the end.

We left early hoping to avoid the crowds at Logan Pass.  I’m thankful that we did as our 8:30 arrival time found the parking lot already 2/3 full.

Today’s first hike was to an overlook above Hidden Lake, right on the Continental Divide above Logan Pass.  The hike to the overlook was about a mile and third up a series of wooden walkways along alpine meadows and beautiful views of mountains.  Last year we attempted the hike but ended up blocked by snow about half way up the trail and had to turn around because we were ill equipped.  This time we made it up and were greeted by this:

Hidden Lake, Hidden Creek 2015

It was a stunning view that my wife and I took in for about ten minutes.  Even with the throngs of people on the wooden overlook the feeling was quiet and serene.  Almost too quiet.

“Jeff, can you come over here for a second?”

My wife’s calm tone raised my awareness and I headed over to the opposite end of the overlook and looked down into the meadow.

 Grizzly, Hidden Lake Overlook 2015

It was a smaller grizzly bear digging around not that far below us from the deck overlook.  I was oddly not frightened; maybe it was the crowds that were present or maybe it was the fact that the bear didn’t really seem interested in us.  It roamed for awhile and then took off down the trail toward Hidden Lake, which was already posted for a bear activity warning for hikers.  Satisfied with our expedition we began our trek back down.  As we crested the Divide and started down the planks we noticed a ranger looking south into an alpine meadow. 

“Large grizzly”, he said and he pointed down into the meadow and sure enough, probably a good third of a mile away, was a massive bear cavorting in a small stream.  It also seemed totally oblivious to the stream of humans heading down the mountain and was perfectly content taking sprints in the stream while occasionally stopping to tear up the ground.  We watched the bear frolick for a good forty minutes and were witness to the very reason you are told not to run.  That beast of a bear was flying down the valley.  It could easily have caught even a fast runner it moved so effortlessly across the alpine terrain.  It was mesmerizing and terrifying at the same time. 

We moved back to Logan Pass and crossed the Going-to-the-Sun Highway to the Highline Trail, renouned for it’s cliff edge trail and overall beauty looking into the heart of Glacier National Park.  We held up and waited for someone to travel with as to follow the doctrine of grizzly bear smart travel and a young couple that was on a honeymoon from Tennessee showed up.  We chit-chated as we passed the “bear frequenting” warning and slowly made our way along the first half mile cliff face, peering over the side at the road hundreds of feet below.  We managed another third of a mile before we came upon a huge pile of bear scat.  All four of us didn’t want to push our luck and turned back.  We watched a few bighorn sheep roam the cliffs above us before we said our goodbyes (they where heading home tomorrow) and my wife and I began our way back towards Kalispell.  We decided to talk one more look at Avalanche Lake so we stopped at the trailhead and made the trek up to one of our favorite places.  At the parking area we noticed a huge line of cars being stopped from heading up the hill towards Logan Pass.  Thankfully we got up there early enough to avoid the traffic!

Avalanche Lake was not quiet.  Throngs of people had staked claims to various parts of beaches, including a youth group whose minister felt that his voice was going to be much more articulate than the wonderful voice of silence.  Why go to such a place and conduct a sermon? 

We leave tomorrow, sadly, and I’m already missing this trip.     

Trails hiked:  Hidden Lake Overlook, part of the Highline Trail, Avalanche Lake.

Miles hiked:  8.25

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Day 33: Somers Bay via …….nothing.

A full day of doing nothing.  It was nice.

We looked at some gear in Kalispell, grabbed a coffee at a local shop, and then picnicked on Flathead Lake and simply laid around in the sunshine.  We did accomplish something today.  We started planning next year. 

Logan Pass is supposed to open tomorrow and I am thrilled!  The location is at the top of Glacier National Park and two hikes I’d planned a year ago are now back in action; Hidden Lake, and the Highline Trail.  This is the perfect way to end the trip; a hike into alpine country to overlook a beautiful lake known for its grizzly population, and a hike that is considered one of the most beautiful in the entire country.

Today also brought to the forefront that the end is neigh.  Work e-mails for my wife and I have already started and the real world is trying to intrude on our vacation. 

Bummer. 

Miles hiked:  Zero