Sunday, September 05, 2010

First snow

Thank you for the kind words and thoughts about my grandfather. As I reflect on his life and what he meant to me, the more peace I feel about his passing. He went gracefully, in his own home, with his wife and three daughters at his side. It was the way he would have wanted to go, in peace and on his own terms - not imprisoned in a hopeless battle with his pain. And next weekend, I will have an opportunity to attend his funeral and share memories with the scores of people who loved him.

As for me, I am in the midst of a fantastic Labor Day weekend in northern Montana. I drove up with my friend Dave from Missoula and we met up with Danni and Brad from Kalispell, then the four of us headed to the east side of Glacier National Park. We spent an incredible 10 hours traversing a high ridge, walking the tundra, scrambling up and down cliff bands and sliding through scree as we were blasted by 60 mph wind gusts. Sometimes cold, sometimes fending off dizzying bouts of vertigo, often giddy, and always in awe of the big world surrounding us. We ended up clocking 11,800 feet of vertical gain over 23 to 25 miles. I have a slew of pictures I'll have to sort through in time.

Today we decided to take it "easy" with an eight to nine-mile lollipop loop in the Swan Mountains, in Jewel Basin. I think the spirit of my grandfather was smiling down on me because we were met with what is one of my favorite events of the year - the first time I get caught outside in the snow.

Can you find the mountain goat in this photo?

Snow made our mellow hike giddily dramatic, one the fog moved through and the snow-dusted cliffs of the Bob Marshall wilderness rose into view.

Climbing high above the Flathead Valley.

Descending toward "The Bob."

First snows are most special when they happen in the summertime, in a world still alive with bright colors and brilliant greens. An early-season powder-coat paints it all with a kind of frosty softness, whitewashed edges and splashes of silver.

And you know these first snows won't last, which makes them that much more unique ... and palatable. After all, we want to relish these last days of summer. It won't be long now 'til it's fall.