Gateway to the West, July 2017

John Muir said, “Everyone needs beauty as much as bread.”  We have just returned from a family vacation in the west visiting four national parks: The Grand Tetons, Yellowstone National Park, Waterton International Peace Park in Canada, and Glacier National Park.  We have always wanted to take our kids out to the west and experience the Big Sky country as a family.  Well, we did it!

The trip took us out to the woods, hiking amongst bears, moose, deer, elk and bison.  We rafted the Snake River, boated in Coulter Bay, both in the Grand Tetons.  We saw a grizzly bear alongside the road in Yellowstone National Park and had the good mind to keep driving!  Our family loved the geysers in the Old Faithful section of Yellowstone, but we loved seeing the Artist’s Point waterfalls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Who knew there was a Grand Canyon of Yellowstone?  We enjoyed a Chuck Wagon Ride and dinner in the hills of Yellowstone, near Roosevelt Lodge.  But the drive through Tower Hill at almost 10,000 feet of elevation and the fields of wildflowers there were, I think, our favorite part of that park! 

Then we hit the road and traveled for 8 hours, with the help of a LOT of American History Trivia and musical theater songs to entertain us all and arrived in Canada at the Waterton International Peace Park.  This was a breathtaking place, lakes surrounded by glaciers, both in Canada and nearby, in the stateside Glacier National Park.  We rested here amongst the beauty of water, sky, and mountains. We hiked, kayaked, and ate some delicious food!  A guided boat trip took us to Goat Haunt in Glacier and Rangers from both Canada and the United States greeted us and took us on a short hike and told us their personal stories. 

Park Rangers are interesting people. They come from all backgrounds, some are young, new to their jobs and some are nearly retired, combining some other career with their ‘summer job’ as a park ranger. There is song brewing here…so stay tuned. We met five different rangers over the course of the trip and they were all fascinating and fun to listen to and hiking was so much more enjoyable with them present!  We did not encounter any bears on our hikes, but one crossed a trail just as we arrived back to our car in the Phelps Lake region of the Grand Tetons!  I thought I sensed something behind me on that trail, and I was right! But thankfully, we never had to use our bear spray!

Glacier National Park was majestic and awe-inspiring. The sunsets lasted until almost 10 pm and the mountains, so massive and almost within reach, reminded me of what a small part of this planet we encompass here in Connecticut.  There are only 25 glaciers remaining of the original 150 first spotted back in 1908.  Climate change is real and the loss of this ice is affecting all of us throughout this great country.  And it is still a great country.  Don’t let the news bring you down for too long. There is hope and love and beauty all around you, just get outside and take a walk.

“You must search for the loveliness of America, it is not obvious, it is scattered, but when you find it, it touches you and binds you to it like a great secret oath taken in silence.”  Struthers Burt, Jackson Hole Dude Rancher, 1934