PURSUING PHOTOS AND PROSE
Bert Gildart: In part this is a story about a six year-old girl named Emma who may be one of the toughest little girls I’ve ever met. Emma is the daughter of Rich and Eleanor Luhr, and Rich is the publisher of Airstream Life Magazine. Currently, the Luhrs are parked in our driveway along with several other Airstream adventurers. They’re all friends that we’ve met in the course of our RV adventures and Janie and I had offered to show them the Flathead Valley.
Obviously one of the areas in the Flathead that everyone wanted to see was Glacier National Park, and because I once worked as a ranger in the park and have also written extensively about the park, they left it up to me to pick a trail that would be workable for everyone. My choice was the Highline Trail, a trail that leaves from Logan Pass, proceeds along a gorgeous segment of an area so lofty biologists describe it as the park’s Arctic Alpine region.
For the first 3 miles the trail is fairly level, and Emma was adventure charged, stopping at small water falls to wet her face, at snow banks to laugh at goats lazing in the sun; and at all the rock outcroppings where marmots and ground squirrels scampered yesterday during our hike. We also looked for pika, a tiny member of the rabbit family that has become an indicator of global warming. We found one near the base of haystack butte, just before we began our ascent.
Ascending haystack was a challenge for us grown people, and here is one place Emma asked how far we’d come—and how far we had to go. And here is where I began to worry that the 8-mile figure I’d quoted earlier might not be correct. In fact, it was here my memory kicked back in, and I now remembered exactly how far we had to go. Rather then 8 miles, the distance to the West Side Loop was 12.1 miles, four miles farther then what I’d originally quoted.
And Emma was but six!
Quietly I mentioned my mistake to Rich, and he said, well, that’s twice the distance she’s ever covered, but maybe all the new things we’re seeing will help her forget.
Emma chugged up Haystack Butte without further comment, and at the saddle we took a lunch break and a breather. Then we proceed on, stopping for another look at two male marmots engaged in what can only be described as “boxing matches.” In this high arctic environment, marmots hibernate longer than any other mammal, and they must use summer to accomplish all that marmots need to accomplish to perpetuate their kind. “Boxing” is one way of selecting the most genetically fit specimen to mate with the females. But that was one lesson I didn’t provide Emma, leaving sex education to Rich and Eleanor.
Eight miles from Logan Pass we arrived at Granite Park Chalet, which provided a welcome stop on the Highline. The Chalet was built shortly after Glacier was established as a park in 1910. In those days, visitors to Glacier would disembark from the train at East Glacier, mount horses and tour the park, stopping overnight at the many chalets that then existed. Granite Park is one of the two that still remain. Here, we bought bottled water, and rested up for the final four mile leg of our hike.
By this time, Emma was beginning to tire, but she seemed to forget her tiredness when Adam diverted her attention to stories that seem to come to him so naturally. The tactic worked and that was all this six-year old seemed to need. The trip was all downhill and passed through the massive burn that occurred several years ago. Undergrowth is abundant and we all talked about how the green growth against the blackened trees really was not aesthetically displeasing at all. I stopped to take a number of photographs of Heaven’s peak (a mountain I climbed years ago), now back dropping the blackened forest. Shortly thereafter, we returned to our shuttle car, completing the 12.1-mile hike.
Surprisingly Emma still seemed full of energy, whereas I have to admit, that I for one was beginning to wear down.