My mom and I are in Glacier National Park here in Montana, staying at a KOA positioned right at the mouth of the park. The KOA is essentially the 4 seasons of campgrounds. The other campers are mostly in RV’s and the wide range of sizes seems an obvious metaphor for a dick-measuring contest. Clearly, the man with the Winnebago Diplomat has the biggest dick for miles, but as for the young couple in the mini Casita, well, it’s clear why they both looked a little grumpy and dissatisfied this morning as they hitched their little cabin to their truck. Luckily, mom and I are exempt from this contest not only because we are women but because we are staying in a cabin.
The cabin is very nice and smells like a lake, which i a nice nostalgia but unexplainable, since the campground isn’t actually on a lake. There are lakes nearby, though, but they aren’t exactly the warm and fuzzy swimming kind of lakes. The lakes in Glacier are made from glacial melt that pours from the continental divide, down the sides of several terrifying mountains, and then pools into a valley. So they don’t make for the most comfortable swimming conditions, these lakes, though this doesn’t stop one crazy person from jumping into a wetsuit and racing a little row boat out towards a booie.
I was grateful that a park sign warned me of the nature of the lake, as I was a mere 3 beers away from jumping in naked. The water was such an alluring aquamarine you could see right down to the bottom, making it appear harmless and refreshing. But jumping naked into glacial downpour is bound to be bad for you somehow. Maybe my heart would stop or my pubes would freeze and turn into icicles. Either way, the health risks seem far too great.
We spend the day weaving in and out of breath taking nature scenes and throngs of gift shops, scattered around the park in equal proportions to waterfalls and daisies. We learn quickly to shop around, as every shop sells the same junk but at varying prices. Shop A has coon hats for $7 but Shop C charges $9. I buy a pair of polarized lenses and then find a better pair at another shop for $4 less. Jokes on me.
I steal the camera and go snap crazy at every daisy, towering mountain, rushing river, and fallen cedar trunk. Afraid of “wasting” batteries, mom confiscates the camera, keeping it around her neck as she drives. I twiddle my thumbs anxiously until at last I remember the disposable camera stowed in the dash. I wind it up and snap away victoriously, cackling all the while, “Can’t stop me now!” I blow through the camera in under an hour, capturing virtually the same image of the same terrifying mountain, plus one mountain goat, 27 times over.
We drove up the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is a rickety little road carved on the edge of a mountain. There’s a wall of water that pours down right next to the tiny road and cars swerve to catch the downpour. Like being in a car wash, only with glacial downpour coming down over the windshield instead of that pink foamy crap. Only bummer was that there wasn’t any sun at the end of the road- just melting glaciers and snow blocks and intolerably cold winds.
We hang around in the refuge of yet another gift shop, this one with slightly more sophisticated paraphernalia. Lots of educational books about the tragedy of the melting glaciers. Ironic, since we all drove in bumper-to-bumper traffic to get here, watching the glaciers melt from our car windows.
Hungry and cold, we retreat back to our morning grub spot- a cute little cafe near the park entrance that serves home made pie. We eat huckleberry pie, a wonder only available around these northern parts where huckleberries grow wild. They are small, pellet-shaped berries that a reasonable cross between the blue and black berry, only more purple.
Everyone is nuts about the huckleberry up here. There is huckleberry beer, licorice, fudge, and pancakes. Certainly, there is huckleberry ice cream. I looked everywhere for the sight of a real huckleberry, growing somewhere on a bush, free from syrup and food coloring, but I was not so lucky.
We also had the same misfortune in seeing bears. I made a point to read all of the “if you see a bear do this…” literature posted around the park on plaques and brochures but, alas, I never got the chance to use any of this useless advice.
That night, we drank beers and made s’mores over our little camp fire, melting reeses cups on the grill and then smearing them on graham crackers instead of hersheys. A genius idea. As the sky darkened, more and more stars came out until no particular constellation was visible among the freckle-spray.
Just as we were settling into our sleeping bags, the flashlights turned off, I heard a little noise, like the clicking of two fingernails together, only a little more moist and disturbing.
“What are doing?” I asked my mom.
“Nothing, I thought it was you.”
And at that we were both on our feet with the flashlight, searching out the culprit. We discovered the noise must be coming from the ceiling but after several failed attempts to find the critter that must be munching on the roof shingles, we resorted to banging the roof top with the mag light, a temporary solution that left us restlessly sleeping beneath the creepy noise of a hungry critter, or perhaps a starving zombie, scraping away at the roof with a single fingernail.
Either way, we were alive in the morning.
Sunday morning, I thought I’d finally had my chance to confront the wild beast when, walking down a dead-end road near the KOA, still half asleep, I spotted a figure in the distance. I stopped to strain my eyes and thought instantly that it must be a bear, sitting on his haunches in that lazy way that bears do. I walked on, cautiously, until I realized I had no camera to document this encounter. Quickly, I began talking myself out of pursuing the thing. I ran back to the cabin and, on my way, ran into a lady from Chicago, snapping close-ups of the daisies. She admitted that she had walked down this same road yesterday and wimped out just as I had. Now that she saw me doing it, she had planned to follow me down the road. I didn’t tell her about the bear but ran back to the cabin to snatch the camera. I took the car and drove slow and steady. Amazingly enough, the shape was still there and as I approached it didn’t move. I rolled up the windows and braced myself.
Alas, it was only a tree stump nailed into the ground. “No Trespassing,” it read.
On our last morning we were in a hurrying to get out of dodge so we packed up our business in a matter of seconds, hugged the tall trees goodbye, and drove the six hours home, quietly longing for a real cabin by the lake, where we could hole up until we die.
Of course, the homecoming was equal parts sweet and bitter. Jerry put together a whole dinner for us but, unfortunately, we had stuffed ourselves silly with cheeseburgers over the last few days that the char grilled burgers he cooked up weren’t really appealing. We choked them down anyways, with some pie, and mom had a nervous breakdown trying to clean the house up from three days’ worth of boy-life. The dog, meanwhile, was being just as annoying as ever, nipping at her ankles and attacking the cat while simultaneously eating food from the table and peeing on the floor.
I will never get a puppy.
The stress of reality had gotten the best of us but it wasn’t anything another beer couldn’t fix.