Exploration

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There’s a small, nameless creek in Glacier we’ve been exploring lately. The first attempts were in winter. One day we turned around because of darkness, the other day we turned around because the snow had grown rotten and we were side-sloping and post-holing with snowshoes on up to our hips.

No fun.

So the other day we tried it again, thinking most of the snow would be gone. It was, at least for a little while.

The creek is in a big, old forest, a forest that surely saw the birth of this nation and then some. It is huge with red cedars, hemlocks, Douglas fir, cottonwood and larch.

Not all of the trees are big, mind you. I suspect that if it was that enchanting it would have had a trail up it long ago.

But there’s just enough big trees to keep you interested. You know how it works. You’re bushwhacking along and then you come up to this giant cedar and you look up and say to yourself, “I bet this tree has some stories to tell.”

It’s the sort of forest that when humanity ends, you feel some comfort knowing that this place will likely go on.

The idea of these journeys has been to find the source of the stream. Does it flatten out and open into a meadow? Does it shrink down and become a spring trickling from a hillside?

I could Google Earth it, I suppose, but what fun would that be? I’ve even been hesitant to look it up on a topo map.

So far we’ve found it does narrow into a small gorge for a bit, and there’s a waterfall of about 10 feet.

There is little large mammal life to speak of. No deer or elk tracks, though some of the faded imprints in the snow suggest bears and it certainly looks like a good place for bears to hole up in the winter. But there’s not a lot of bear food — the forest is so dense the only thing growing on the ground is moss.

On our last excursion we got quite a ways back there, but hit snow up to our knees again and turned around. The cut of the stream is getting tighter and steeper, so I doubt there’s a meadow up ahead, but who knows?

Stranger things have happened and it’s a good enough reason to go back.

Chris Peterson is the editor of the Hungry Horse News.

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