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Western Park Days August 29, 2012

Posted by KG in Uncategorized.
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Best of Glacier and Yellowstone 2012, a set on Flickr.

The wife and I just returned from two weeks in two of our country’s greatest treasures — Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. We have been planning a trip to Glacier for almost three years, and as our plans came to fruition an opportunity to add on Yellowstone, an amazing place in its own right, presented itself. I’m very glad it did — though with just a week at each, I’d welcome the opportunity to get back to either.

During the last leg of our vacation, fellow travelers asked us to compare the two parks, with the unspoken expectation to describe one as better than the other. But the two are so different that such comparisons ring false. Both are majestic expanses of America, and yet both scratch decidedly different itches.

During our time in Yellowstone, we saw massive herds of bison; a steep walled canyon that looks like a sharper, meaner version of its cousin in Arizona; and innumerable otherwordly landscapes carved by psychedelic hot springs and beautiful, violent geysers. Early one morning, I yelled at the wife to rush out of the shower to witness what was happening just outside our cabin’s rear door — a lone elk buck, eight prongs in velvet, enjoying his morning meal.

Glacier was up where Yellowstone was out, all purple mountains majesty. The craggy peaks changed with each turn of the road, each passing cloud, each degree the sun and moon traveled in the sky. The slopes were blanketed with a rainbow carpet of wildflowers, intersected by twisting mountain streams, manicured by grazing mountain goats. And if Yellowstone was about ever-present bison, Glacier was about elusive bears — and we were blessed to see two, a grizzly and a black.

On the last day of our time in Glacier, I talked the wife into hiking up with me to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook, a trail off of the longer Garden Wall hike that is so steep and precarious it took us an hour to hike six tenths of a mile. After an emotional trudge to the top, we sat upon a ridge literally straddling the continental divide, looking east and west at the world far below us. ”Look at what we did,” I said to her, as I had numerous times earlier in the trip. The feeling summed up my thoughts not just on that hike, but on our entire trip.

“Look at where we are.”

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