Work schedule allows time to appreciate the grandeur of Northwestern AmericaBy JEFF NORTH,
There was no good way to get there, but after visiting the airports of Atlanta, Salt Lake, Kalispell, and then finally a scenic drive to Whitefish, the effort was absolutely worth it. The final destination, Whitefish Mont., was not the place I would normally visit in October without bow or rifle. On this trip however, I was armed only with my laptop and a jump drive loaded with power point presentations. My agenda was to present technical papers on insecticide resistance and new actives in the pipeline for vector control. I was just fortunate the Northwest Mosquito and Vector Control Association meeting this year was held at one of the most scenic and beautiful places I have ever traveled.
I had enough foresight to plan my travels to be there in plenty of time to put the finishing touches on what I was to present. Of course the three extra days I gave myself to practice also allowed time to travel an hour north through the gates of Glacier National Park to experience sights that no camera or canvas could ever re-create. The stone bedded streams fed by melting glaciers can only be described as sacred. Nothing is more natural than watching cutthroat and rainbow trout swim lazily in waters so cold that ice is not far from forming in the still eddies along the shore. I had to take a sip from the pristine Flathead River but I assure you it will never quench my thirst for the high country of the Northern Rockies.
As I journeyed towards Glacier, I stopped along the way to take in what few have ever seen. Aspen were in their peak of color and the shimmering the leaves exhibited from the north breeze explained fully why they are aptly named “Quakies.” The brilliant reds, purples, and yellows from many other species were in the height of their fury. Sadly, their contribution of color and fall “life” is short-lived for they too realize the deep winter snows are just around the corner. Other pauses during my trek offered the opportunity to experience what the term “vast” really means. The snow-capped jagged peaks of the Rockies continued and can only be described as endless. Many of the side roads that would lead to where bighorn sheep and mountain goat reside have been closed for the winter from the first snows. What those mountains hold, have been experienced by very few of us.
The winding Glacier Drive eventually took me to a rustic, country store in the minute community of Polebridge. We think we are smalltown Mississippi, but this store is the community. The hot cocoa and the homemade sticky buns provided me with enough energy to venture farther north. I would turn around when I ran out of road. Eventually I did, rather the road was closed for the winter so any further explorations of this wild country will have to continue at another time before the breath of old man winter changes the landscape.
My journey back brought me past my new favorite country store. I had to stop for a black forest ham sandwich and an otter water, you’ll have to google it.
As I sat on the porch taking in all I had experienced, one of the park rangers stopped to speak. We exchanged pleasantries and I began asking questions. Of course we ended up talking about the wildlife that inhabited this frontier. We talked about the moose I had seen in the meadows along the North Fork of the Flathead. I inquired about the elk in the high country. We compared notes on the whitetail as several does fed nearby the store. Then we talked about what was in the higher elevations, that being the sheep, goats, and the grizzly.
I had almost forgotten I was in the country of what I consider the most fierce, predator of the North American continent. He informed me that each place I had stopped on the way to Polebridge, was frequented by these large carnivores. After telling him I had ventured off the beaten path in several places to get a better view of the country and to reach gravel bars on the river that weren’t frequented quite so often by others, he just nodded and said, “yep, they probably weren’t too far from you.”
I began to realize this country is not like home, and you better pay attention to your surroundings a little bit closer. As we concluded our conversation, he nonchalantly stated, “everyone that comes to this country hopes to see a grizzly, at a distance of course.” Then he began to talk of another inhabitant of this majestic high country that is even more fierce than the grizzly. This creature has been seen by few and is so reclusive that most will never see one. You’ll have to wait for next week’s article but I am already in the stages of writing about it. By the way, it’s not Sasquatch.
When I checked out of Grouse Mountain Lodge to begin the day long process of returning home, I told the gentleman behind the desk that I was going to miss this country. Without looking up from his task at hand and in a subtle voice he stated, “It’ll start snowing here soon, you’ll be glad you’re gone.” Maybe he’s right but for now I miss it terribly. I hope to return soon.
Until next time enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.