Not your average travel blog
Let me directly, with my opinion, shoot passionately from the hip: Glacier National Park is the most impressive, most mawkish, grand and most romantic, mountainous setting I have ever been humbled enough to visit. Of the dozen or so refrigerated regions on the globe which I have taken in, Glacier was the least populated (at least while I was there) and was able to easily emphasise its natural beauty without man’s incorporated stamp on the landscape (other than a few footpaths). It is quite simply a kingdom of magnified, imposing and towering grandiose. It is sublime.
The fluctuations in scope of environmental panoramas are inspiring. The seasonal changes allow for breathtaking variability and the volatile conditions create the most dramatic and unpredictable scenery. Being alone in the predator-rich mountains was lonely, yet it quickly became a haven for curiosity, of reflection, of self discovery, of finding ways to entertain oneself, and of song!
In the garden of the grizzlies, it is important not to surprise any locals, not to stroll up to them and interrupt a picnic, not to disturb an afternoon nap and most of all, not to find a baby without its mother (because it won’t be without a concerned and over protective mother for long)! It is therefore customary to sing to the birds and the bees so they know you are there. The majority of predators should be so unimpressed with your singing that they make themselves scarce before you find yourself in full flow karaoke mode, in the face of a bear.
As if things couldn’t get any worse for the locals, I vocally broke out into a few Spandau Ballet numbers, mixed in a burst of Duran Duran and did my very best at remembering all of the Oliver Twist show tunes. I was also blessed, for it was also too early for other tourists and I was neither interrupting a teddy bear’s picnic, nor any holidaying, New Romantics fans.
Rambling through miles of humanless landscape, I felt like I was trespassing through nature’s garden. I definitely felt far from home, yet I wasn’t so alone with the river running by, with sightings of raptors in the sky, deer on the skirts of the woods, weasels and grouse scuttling around in the spring sunshine and also giant, white bottomed elk. Attempting to be respectful of the possibility of annoying an American native, I toned down the 80’s tracks to enjoy a few wild and intimate moments.
At my camp, possibly the most beautiful and remote place I have found myself in while in America, it was hard not to feel alone. The nearest people were the Canadian border officials, ten miles north, across wilderness. The nearest road was impossible to reach, over the lake and the mountain to the east. There would be no phone call, no vehicle, no help or search for me should I have any accidents. At least a day would pass before anyone might come looking for me should I not turn up at my agreed checkpoint on exiting the park. I soon became accustomed to the isolation. Loneliness quickly manifests itself when I stop moving.
When I sit and think, when I can shout or sing without disturbing anyone, when there’s nobody to talk with or listen to, or more poignantly, when I see or experience a wonder that nobody else can be a part of; loneliness is a sad and unfortunate part of travelling by myself. It is something to get used to, but it never quite sits comfortably on my social shoulders that love to be warmed by others. More importantly, loneliness reminds me how much I wish I could share the majority of my experiences on my adventure (and not just through some manipulation of words on a computer screen).
My trip has been likened to that of Christopher McCandless and his story in the book, “Into the Wild”. I do repeatedly tell people that my trip is one of constant travel and I don’t have a desire to disappear alone into the Alaskan wilderness, at least not forever anyway. However, the lone star did make one statement that rung true within me ever since I saw the film, and spending time alone on this trip, contemplating many things has reminded me of his words, “Happiness only real when shared”.
Time alone has been common on my journey, something which I was expecting, something which I was nervous about. Loneliness has been an emotional experience, both good and bad. Knowing that a coping mechanism can and normally does kick in, to keep the mind active is comforting. It stretches to curiosity, to problem solving, to education and to self exploration. However, it also delves into a pretty sad place. Not being able to share or discover together, not being able to discuss another point of view or an alternative idea, not have someone challenge me or to confirm what I think is right, and not having someone to understand anxieties, fears or relief is a constant misfortune.
When it is cold, and you’re alone, it is painful. It is hard to stop a raw feeling of numb nothingness creep through every part of your soul, and because of the cold, no amount of reading, writing, bird spotting or solitaire helps lose the feeling of loneliness, or the chilling effect of the weather!
Listening to bears growl at each other not far from camp and overhearing coyotes discuss their next victim does however, seem to help change the mood…
Walking out in to a seemingly flat meadow, only to find large, dry, water-carved scars in the ground interests me. They become home to all kinds of creatures, and to my delight, on this occasion, a family of baby coyotes were out playing above their den. Invisible from forty yards away, three baby coyotes rolled around, growling and play fighting as their mother was away, hunting for dinner. I sat and watched the three cubs for half an hour, with a watchful eye over my shoulder in case mum thought I was a healthy snack as she approached from downwind.
The cubs knew the rules, because as soon as one of them sensed my voyeurism and clicking camera, they scuffled underground. They didn’t even poke their noses out for a cheeky check. They waited for mum to come home. This kind of experience makes time away from home, away from people, less lonely and it also reminds me of the many reasons of why I’m on this journey.