Rocky Mountain “High”
The only thing that breaks the horizon in the Midwest are low-lying clouds. I occasionally pretend they are mountains in the distance as I drive toward them on the crowded highways going home from work. Mountains have always amazed me and I like feeling dwarfed by their size. They are just rocks, like any rock you’d walk over or move aside, but the magnitude of them, knowing they’ve been there forever, and that they offer so many views, draw me in. When I was given the opportunity to take an inspiration trip through Origin’s 10th Anniversary celebration, I knew I wanted to head for the actual mountains. My ideal trip involves walking quietly in the woods and climbing to new vantage points, so I decided to head to the Rockies in Glacier National Park, Montana, and follow them up into Canada near Jasper and Banff National Parks. I heard of the beauty they bestowed and I wanted to see for myself.
The landscape was as stunning as people say in all three places. I loved seeing the snow-capped mountains curtained in their own clouds and weather system and peering into the mirrored lakes, and seeing them change into milky aqua pools as I walked around them. Smelling the pine in the forests was an experience that a candle at home can’t accurately recreate. I was entirely in my element.
We were advised to clap our hands and make noise on the trails and because of all of the bear sightings, but instead we bought bear spray and let the forest do the talking. Crackling branches, the squish of mud under foot from melting snow, rushing water in the distance from a waterfall, barking chipmunks, and a rattling woodpecker all harmonized.
The sights and sounds there humbled me, reminding me that we were visitors in a world where nature rules. We spotted elk, moose, mule deer, Clark’s Nutcrackers, Golden Eagles, chipmunks, pikas, and Gray Jays to name a few. By not being vocal and otherwise disrupting their land, we were fully able to listen and take it all in.
One of my favorite trails we hiked was an 11-mile roundtrip hike to Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park, Montana. The first two miles of the hike were in the woods next to two mirror lakes, Swiftcurrent and Josephine. After that, the trail ascended toward the glacier and we began to see the beautiful mountains ahead, Grinnell Lake below, and the landscape around us. We passed several bighorn sheep sunning themselves on the boulders above the path and mountain goats that were grazing higher on the cliffs. A few waterfalls trickled down the side of the mountain along the way and soon the trail was covered in snow. A few switchbacks led to the final view of the glacier and back down the valley we came from. The hike incorporated a wooded path, three beautiful lakes, a glacier, a spectacular payoff of a view at the top, several types of weather, and animals. It was a grand slam of a trail.
I’ve heard it said that as you walk through the woods (even when on an established trail), it is a good idea to occasionally look behind you so you can see how the trail appears from the other direction. That way, when you return you don’t get lost because you are already familiar with what the trail should look like. I like the idea of this…looking back to see where you came from and how you got to be where you are currently. It’s a way to give your mind a fresh perspective and looking at the same thing in two different ways. You’ll never know what’s ahead until you get there, but knowing how you got there will help you along the way.
Over the 10-day trip, we hiked a total of 61.5 miles and gained over 6,580 feet total elevation. The higher I climbed in the Rockies, the more grounded I felt. It’s amazing what those rocks can do to make you appreciate the simple joys in life. My inspiration came from clearing my mind and not being burdened by the mundane tasks of living in a fast moving world. To-do lists vanished. I gave my mind a fresh start and connected to what I love most.