McDonald Creek, Glacier National Park

The Cheapest Medicine

 McDonald Creek, Glacier National ParkThis morning, with trepidation, I prepared to embark on our first hike of the season. I needed to break in my new hiking boots (always a scary event). With the snow pack in the higher elevations we would be confined to the low ground, without the incentive of grand vistas. We would be trapped taking a boring walk in the woods. Would everyone complain that I ruined their day? Would my feet hurt? As it was, we headed out to Glacier Park.


Arriving at Lake McDonald Lodge (still closed for the season), we found the weather to be pleasant, temperatures in the 30’s. The parking lot had many vehicles filled with people, who would take advantage of the day to cycle on the Going to the Sun Road. Our intention was otherwise. We were going to leave the trail and explore the forest. For information on the hike, read E’s Mystery in the Rainforest.


Spring, like all seasons, is a special time in Glacier. At lower elevations snow is patchy and the forest floor is covered in a thick spongy mat of moss. The dampness seems to absorb all sound. The silence is interrupted only by the honking of geese, the tapping of the woodpecker, and the occasional songbird. This makes one feel as though they have found a new unexplored world.


Last year, at this time, I climbed the Lincoln Lake Trail up to the snowline. Pausing for a while on this trail, I experienced, perhaps for the only time, silence. It was an absolute lack of sound, an experience of just being.


Back to today. Arriving at McDonald Creek, a raging torrent fueled by the melting snow pack, we watched a lone Harlequin Duck in the rapids. Floating and then diving in the, as M would say, deadly powerful water, it was oblivious to the danger. It just lived where and did what it did because it was a Harlequin Duck.


I am reminded of a trip to the Smokies, taken when I was five years old. My family kept saying, “Look at the rapids.” I looked and looked for the rabbits. Finally I could see them quickly surfacing and diving in the deadly powerful water. I can see whatever I want to see!


Arriving back at the trailhead, we removed our packs and headed back home. My Italian hiking boots (not from China) had performed well. Our legs felt used, and we were all falling asleep on the way home. The outing was a success after all.


Last night I read an article on the benefits and abundant opportunities we are fortunate to have of hiking in the grandeur of the Rockies. The article referenced a quote that said exercise was the Cheapest Medicine. Today we medicated ourselves both physically and mentally.



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