Scenic Point at Two Medicine

I had yesterday off, so I decided to go to East Glacier. I decided to leave no later than 8 am, so naturally, I rolled out of West Glacier at around 10:30.

Because of my late start, I figured I’d just make it a scouting trip and see what the area looked like, maybe visit an information center, but definitely no hiking.

DSC02073.JPGMy first stop was at Running Eagle Falls. Pretty neat, and only .3 miles up the trail, so, like, it’s not even a hike.

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Running Eagle Falls, near the Two Medicine entrance to Glacier National Park. It’s a super easy walk.

I proceeded to Two Medicine Lake and ate my lunch at a super windy picnic bench, drove to the end of the road, and turned around to go home.

And then I saw a sign that said “Scenic Point.” Which usually is a pullover spot, maybe a short walk, right? I decided to stop and investigate.

By the time I saw the sign that said it was a 3.1 mile hike to the scenic point, I already had my backpack and boots on. I didn’t want to insult them by turning back, and I still had a few hours before I really needed to turn around, so I went up.

It was awesome. The trail followed a creek through and canyon for a bit before taking switchbacks up above the treeline. There was a section of bleached trees that reminded me of Gondor, and views of Two Medicine Lake and the mountains beyond. You could also look east to see the views beyond the Continental Divide.

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The view east from the top. Someone was quoting the Lion King here. It was me.

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“They guard it because they have hope.”

One of the most fun parts was when I came across a mountain goat. He was eating pine needles near the top of the trail, and continued doing so as I stood a few feet from him for about 5 minutes watching. His neck looked like he’s had a rough spring, but it was still really fun. Here’s a link to a video of him eating if you’re wanting something cute/have kids and want them to sit still for 1.5 minutes:

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Majestic.

I really wanted to make it to the advertised scenic point and figured I was within a few minutes of it, but then I came to a snow patch on a steep scree slope. There were other hikers who had crossed the first portion of it and were clearly trying to decide if they could make the second half without plummeting a half-mile to their doom. I looked at it and thought, “Nah, I like being alive.” Nevertheless, this hike was beautiful much the whole way up, and I completely recommend it to anyone looking to kill a few hours in the Two Medicine area.

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Not a lot of snow, but enough that I didn’t want to risk it.

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My high point for the day. #RiskAssessmentIsStillFun!!

Bicycling the Going to the Sun Road

In the spring, snowplows have already cleared the lower portions of the Going to the Sun Road, the main road that goes through Glacier Park. However, that doesn’t mean they allow cars on it yet. This year in particular, they’re doing a paving project that will keep the road closed through at least June 22. Which is awesome for me, because it means I was able to ride my bike on it without worrying about cars hitting me.

I started around 1 in the afternoon, because laziness. The first four miles only climb 156 feet, which was exciting for me because, honestly, I don’t ride my bike very often and long downhills scare me. It was gorgeous. Basically the whole time I was riding I was laughing and thinking how insane it is that God not only made this place, but he lets me live here.

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I got to Logan Creek after 4 miles and thought, “That was way easier than I thought! I wonder…” So I set off up the road. The next main viewpoint, The Loop, was 4 miles away and about 740 feet of elevation climb. I still did a lot better than I thought I would, but after a while I got super hungry and stopped in the middle of the road–reason number 117 why biking it with no cars is awesome.

As I pulled out some cheese and crackers, a guy rode past me and started laughing. “You’re so close!” he called out. “It’s literally right there!” He pointed up the rode.

“I know, but, food,” I said. I stuffed a cracker in my mouth, got back on my bike, and started crawling up the hill again.

It was indeed right there. The Loop is where the road does a hairpin turn to keep climbing up to Logan Pass. There’s a wide spot where I could eat, and bathrooms, so that was cool. I found a spot and had the rest of my cheese and crackers looking at Heaven’s Peak and the surrounding mountains.

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There was a guy from Newport, OR, who took my picture! Him and his wife travel full time in a campervan, and he was on his third attempt at getting to Logan Pass after having run out of time on his first two tries. 

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I then started my long descent. I was super worried. But it was awesome. There was wind in my face, which slowed me down a lot, and every quarter mile I’d come to an awesome viewpoint and have to stop anyways. I met a guy from France who was riding his bike from Alaska to South America with a friend, except his friend broke his hand and had to stay in Whitefish for a while.

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There’s a super sweet tunnel on the way that allows a river to go over the road!

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Also the tunnel has 2 balconies. NBD. 

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Many thanks to the random woman who took my picture and also shared my fears of seeing a bear by ourselves. She liked my idea of just singing loud at every corner.

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GAH IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL!!!!

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Red Rocks. You can’t really see it in this picture, but that’s the name of this spot so trust me, they’re red. 

I got back to my car about 4 hours after I started my bike ride. I felt super satisfied with how it went. I would totally recommend this trip to anyone who is in the area! I may or may not already be planning a trip for next week 🙂

Merry Birthday to me!

Tuesday was my birthday. I’m 27. People keep asking if I feel old considering a lot of the people I work with are in their late teens/early 20s, but honestly, not really. They’re all awesome, and I’m not sure my maturity level is hall-of-fame worthy to begin with, and that’s okay. Also they’re all super patient with me when talking about snapchat and whatever gifs are, and I mainly just pretend I understand what Yeet means so we get along great 😊

Anyways, the 4 days surrounding my birthday were awesome. Sunday we had worship services and I got to preach, which was a lot less scary than I thought it would be. Monday I worked and we went on a sweet hike (see my previous post), and Wednesday I had the day off and biked the Going to the Sun road (that post is still coming).

Tuesday itself was awesome. I didn’t start work until 11, which gave me plenty of time to get a to-go order of biscuits and gravy and eat it on the plastic lawn chair outside of my house. That might become a new tradition. Then I rode my bike to work—about 2.5 miles through the woods. I’m still a bit afraid of bears so I sing really loud every time I come to a corner. And, like, I can’t just stop mid-song, so I end up singing on the straight stretches as well.

I walked into work and was greeted with a giant hot chocolate with both Ghirardelli and white chocolate, courtesy of my friend Claire. It was delicious. She’s a genius, nbd. I worked in the café till closing, then rode my bike home.

Working at the ice cream shop

If you’re going to work on your birthday, giving out ice cream and joy is literally the best job to have.

In the evening I went to my friends’/ACMNP team members’ home. We ate popsicles, and Faye got me a huge bag of gummy bears. Also, we discovered that the green gummy bears are supposed to be strawberry-flavored? I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I will still eat them.

When I got home, I found a giant square cookie-cake thing that my roommates had made me, along with a balloon. It was super sweet of them and also super delicious. I absolutely love the people in my life here.

Two trips to Avalanche Lake

One of the things I love about working the day shift in Glacier is that you almost get two days in a 24-hour period. You get the day that you work and get paid for, and then, if you don’t spend too long on dinner, you get a second day to go for a 5-6 mile hike.

Monday, my ACMNP team (almost–sorry you had to work, Claire!), one of their roommates, and a few other friends who work for our company decided to use our second half of the day to hike to Avalanche Lake. It’s one of the more popular hikes in Glacier, in part because the beauty-to-difficulty ratio is astounding.

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Logjam and the Lake

This is from my first trip to the lake.

I had hiked it about a week ago. It was the perfect way to spend my day off. I got to the top and, attempting to escape the 5th-grade field trip on the near side of the lake, circled around it and found quiet refuge on a gravelly beach on the opposite side. It was close enough that you could practically whisper to the mountain above us. There was just me and a few other adults seeking quiet, including a man watching mountain goats with binoculars and two guys fishing. I sat for half an hour listening to the waterfalls ringing down the mountain and the birds calling in the wind.

This time, we found a really peaceful beach at the near edge of the lake. Still, I liked how the other beach was so close to the foot of the mountain and suggested we go to it. Everyone agreed. I fell a bit behind on the way, until I got to the spot where the trail ends and you have to cross a little creek to get to the beach.

Except it wasn’t a little creek. The snow melt from the mountain has increased significantly in the last week, and there was no way we could pass.

But, we were undeterred. A small path ran just past the “End of Trail” sign along the edge of the creek, so we followed it through the woods until we found an opening. It was perfection. At least six waterfalls tumbled off the mountainside, splitting up as they hit what looked like a staircase for giants. There was a rainbow caught in one waterfall, and I sat on a log with my friend, Faye, and watched it inch higher and higher as the sun started its descent. It was the perfect way to spend my last night as a 26-year-old.

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Team photo!

Me and three members of my ACMNP team. Camden to the left, Jackie to the right, and Ethan floating on the log in the middle of the lake.

Avalanche of waterfalls

I really couldn’t decide if I liked watching the rainbow or the stairstep waterfalls more.

Photo cred: Faye Rogers 🙂

On the way down the trail we passed within a few feet of a doe and her baby. Also a bunch of the girls jumped into the lake. I was tempted, but I also love not being cold, so I stayed dry and lame, but man, I’m proud of them 🙂

Surprise! I’m becoming a barista?

I started work Monday, setting up children’s clothes and the Christmas section. We have super cute ornaments, if anyone was wondering.

Our gift shop also has a coffee shop in it, but the barista won’t be here until the middle of June. Because of that, our manager asked me and my friend, Claire, to learn how to make coffee.

I’ve never actually had a cup of coffee. The closest thing I can remember was when my sister took me to Starbucks in high school and got me a caramel frappecino. “There’s no coffee in it,” she assured me.

I took two sips before saying, “I think they forgot to clean the blender, because this tastes awful.” Thus her malevolent plans to trick me into liking coffee were thwarted.

Anyways, turns out making coffee is kind of hard, but also pretty fascinating. Our trainer went into a bit of the science behind it, and how the milk temperature needs to be about 160 degrees if it’s cow milk but 145 if it’s soy or almond, and the water is forced through the grounds at an exact pressure (9psi) (jk, actually 9 bar, which is more like 350 psi. Thanks to my friend and co-coffee-maker Claire for straightening me out 😉 ) and humidity and weather can make it so you need to change the coarseness of the grounds. A lot of it went over my head, but he left a cool manual showing how to make espresso so I’ve been reading that a lot.

So far I’ve worked 2 shifts. I always seem to be throwing out half the milk I steam, even though I swear I start with the same amount that our trainer told us to. Yesterday a guy ordered a 16 ounces chai and I ended up giving him an extra 8 ounce cup because I didn’t realize how much I poured in. I’ve been watching YouTube tutorials all morning to figure out what I’m doing wrong. Pretty sure I’m getting over-excited about the foam part of the drink. Kind of like how today I forgot to turn off the steam wand before taking it out of the pitcher of half and half I was heating up. I ended up wearing half and half all day. There are worse fashion trends. By the time the summer crowds start coming in, I should be competent at it!Also, while I may be the least qualified barista ever, the shop also has an ice cream stand with 12 flavors. I’m extremely qualified at loving ice cream and handing out samples, so it balances out.

A Tale of Two Airbnbs

I’m on my way to Montana!! After a long drive made bearable by a Burgerville milkshake and 2 naps, I got to Spokane at about 8 last night. My best friend just had a baby about 2 weeks ago, so I stopped and visited for a while. He’s adorable, nbd.

I got to my airbnb around 10 and was surprised at how nice it was. I only paid $30 for it, and there was Wi-Fi, my own bathroom, a zillion pillows on the bed, and complementary gift cards to a local salon. The only weird thing was that, on the welcome board, it said “Billy.” I double checked my email to confirm I was at the right address, and when I saw the key was still in the door I showered and got ready for bed.

I was just about to throw all the pillows from the bed when I thought, “I should look at the check out instructions.” That’s when I saw a follow up message to my original, telling me that she’d given me the wrong address initially and I needed to be in the house next door. I was sorely tempted to sleep there anyways, but then i thought of poor Billy coming in after midnight and finding his room locked–I sent an apology message and moved. (Also, there was no sign ghat anyone was still staying there. No luggage, and all the towels were folded still–I’m 98% sure he’d already checked out 🙂 )

The new place was better than the old. No Wi-Fi, but it was warmer and smaller, with a heated mattress and not as many nooks that my imagination could have monsters into. I slept great. Moral of the story: read all messages thoroughly before checking into your room. Even so, I would totally stay there again, or recommend it to anyone going through Spokane. Adventure!!

To Glacier I go!!

Wednesday I leave for the summer, so I figured I should write a blog post about it instead of clean my car or pack. Here’s a direct transcript of every conversion I’ve had for the last couple weeks:

Wow, Glacier?! Where’s that at?

Montana, right where the Rocky Mountains meet Canada.

How far of a drive is that?

According to Google, 11 hours. But I feel like I remember it being more like 16. In any case, I plan to stretch it out over 2 days.

And you’ll be a ranger, building trails and doing other…rangery… stuff?

Actually, I’ll be selling souvenirs at the Cedar Tree Gift Shop. I’ll also be volunteering with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks.

How did you find that job?

About 7 years ago I found out about the ministry and thought, “Wow, I’d love to do that.” I’ve actually filled out the application several times, but due to student loans, being in wedding parties, and other family things, it’s just never been the right time. Then I quit my job in January for my New Zealand trip, I figured I’d do this this summer as well.

*Interested sound* That sounds cool. So you’re not getting paid?

I will be getting some mula, no worries. The ministry will be volunteer work. My team of 5 people will host 5 worship services (I’ll be at 3 of them) every Sunday in the campgrounds of West Glacier. I’ll be playing the violin and doing some preaching as well. They seem like awesome people and I am so excited to get to know and serve with them this summer!! However, ACMNP partners with concessionaires in the park to help us get jobs. I’ll be working in the gift shop, for which I will be paid.

Where are you going to live?

They have employee housing there for us. I don’t know what it looks like–dorms, cabins, other–but since I just spent 2 months living out of a van, tent, or hostels, I think I’ll be able to survive 😉

What hours are you working?

No idea. I’ll find out when I’m there.

Have you been to Glacier before?

Yep! I was there July 6 and 7, 2015. I’m sooo excited to go back and hike the trails there!

How long will you be gone?

I’ll leave May 8 and return September 23ish.

What does your boyfriend think of this?

He’s the best ever. He’s okay with it and even plans to visit me a few times 🙂

Well, cool. Have a great summer!

Thanks, you too!!

Tongariro Northern Circuit: 3 days on Mt Doom

It’s been a while since I posted. To refresh: Before setting out on a 3 day circuit that crosses the shoulder of what is known in Nerdom as Mt. Doom, I had high tea at the Chateau Tongariro. It was delicious, made it so I could pack one less meal, and also made me slightly nauseous because apparently hiking an hour after you’ve had enough sugar for 4 people isn’t the best. #WorthIt.

Day one was glorious. I was the only person I saw on trail until I hit the Mangatepopo Hut and Campsite. There were moments when I was literally crying because I was so in love with life, and also probably all of the sugar loosened my leash on my emotions.

164.JPGI met a Canadian named Kate, and we nerded out a bit over the fact that we were camping at the base of Mt. Doom. The Hut Warden was also from Canada, and told us a bit about her job.

“In North America, my job in conservation is to save the animals. Here, if it’s a mammal, I’m pretty much trying to kill it.” She asked us to please pack out our trash, “Unless it’s an apple core. We’ll roll those in a cinnamon-poison mix and it will make a possum very happy for their last meal.”

So that was cool.

I woke up early the next morning to try to beat the 2,000 people who do the Tongariro Crossing each day. The Crossing is a 5 hour-ish long section that crosses some of the lava fields and craters of Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom) and doesn’t require a permit. Because of its popularity, there were many times when I could have reached out my arms and formed a conga line with the people in front of me. But I try not to get mad at other people who are enjoying the same thing that I do, and in the end, it was still a fun day.

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177.JPGThe descent is about a quarter-mile of volcanic sand covering a steep slope. It took a long time and I was passed by a lot of people, so I was grateful to reach the turn-off where the Crossing splits from the Circuit.

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I descended into a plain covered with dozens of fins of black pumice. The trail wound through these, so I ate lunch in the filming site of the Emyn Muil. By the end of the day, I was feeling very sorry for the hobbits, as it was hot and I was tired even without the great burden of the One Ring. Luckily, when I reached my campsite, I found a spot just feet away from a little creek that had been dammed enough for a bath.

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I was just beginning to be sad that I only had a few days left in New Zealand, when I woke up on day three and found my whole view shrouded in gray clouds. I hiked out, waved goodbye to where I thought the mountains must be, and headed north for one last adventure before my plane took off.

Two Months at Home

In the immortal words of Samwise Gamgee, “Well, I’m back.”

I’ve actually been back almost a month, but have been so busy getting used to the fact that YouTube now puts ads at the end of videos (among other tiny changes in the world) that I haven’t gotten around to writing a blog. Also, I wasn’t sure what to write. I came home almost 2 weeks earlier than I’d originally intended. I had a great time those two weeks at home and honestly wouldn’t have traded them for another 12 days of getting rained on in New Zealand, but I think I still felt a bit of fear that I would be perceived as a failure, even though I don’t feel like one. You feel me? (Sorry, had to get the word feel in there one more time. #writing.)

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Anyways, any posts you see from here on out about New Zealand are actually being written from the comfort of my room. Or possibly the library. It depends on whether I want to channel my inner hobbit or inner Hermione that day.

What now? Glad you asked. Until May 8, I’ll be hanging out mostly at home, doing freelance editing and writing work. (If you have a project you would like help with, let me know!) On May 8, I’ll be driving to Glacier National Park, where I’ll spend the summer working in a gift shop, helping lead worship services, and maybe doing a bit of hiking. If I feel like it 😉

Tea Party for One

The next few posts may be a but jumbled as far as their chronology. I did name my rental car the TARDIS, so let’s use that as an excuse, okay?

I got to Tongariro National Park late, set up my tent in the dark, made some pretty awful rice, and went to bed. The next morning I decided to go to the visitor center to see about hiking the Tongariro Crossing. It’s a trail that runs over the shoulder of Mt Doom, so it felt like a necessity.

As I drove to the visitor center, though, I was enthralled with how gorgeous the area was. There were two main mountains–the black cinder cone used in Lord of the Rings, and also a mountain with a long, jagged peak that reminded me a lot of Mt. St. Helens. They were glorious.

As I came up the road, I caught sight of a huge brick hotel with a blue rooftop. I love beautiful old buildings, and the Chateau Tongariro instantly caught my imagination. Perhaps it was the blue roof, or the fact that they use the word chateau in the movie, but it reminded me so much of Cinderella. I decided to have hot chocolate there if they didn’t mind a somewhat smelly camper.

Looking around, it became obvious that I wasn’t going to be okay with just one day in that park. I thought of the other things I had tentatively planned for the next few days, and decided none of them sounded at all as fun as getting one more backpacking trip in. I managed to get the last set of permits for campsites, and spent the day getting supplies and doing short hikes in the park.

I also saw a sign advertising high tea at the Cinderella Chateau. I found myself asking, if the hobbits had been able to have high tea this close to Oroduin, wouldn’t the last half of the Two Towers have been a mite easier to read? That settled it. The next morning, I wiped the mud from my face (most of it), put on the only dress I brought, and had high tea at a table facing Mt. Doom. There were 2 scones, five tiny sandwiches, a bunch of desserts, and enough sugar to propel me through the first stage of my hike. Also, they let me substitute hot chocolate for tea, so I didn’t even miss out on that. It’s officially my favorite way to start a backpacking trip.