Sunday, August 5, 2012

Goodbye, Glacier, we're heading east.

It was a bit hard to pack up the tent at Glacier this morning, though our sadness at leaving this gorgeous park was tempered by our eagerness to get home and reconnect with the cat, the house, and our friends.

We made good use of yesterday by taking the shuttle up Going To The Sun Road to Logan Pass and hiking part of the Highline Trail. This was a personal challenge for me, since the trail is cut into the side of a mountain and features some narrow parts with slippery, loose rock above sheer dropoffs. There's a safety line, which I made good use of, and soon the trail mellowed out and became quite lovely. It was bordered with tons of wildflowers and looked out over many snowy peaks. We were treated to up close views of a marmot and a group of bighorn sheep (who let us know that we were a bit too close for their comfort).

Back at the campsite, we put together our last big cookstove dinner. This one featured a product we found in a supermarket along the way and couldn't resist. It was Loma Linda/Worthington Foods Vegetarian Burger in a can! We opened it up, sliced it into burgers, and fried them up in a skillet. Surprisingly, it was a thumbs up all around. It's tastier than other fake burger products I've tried, and I'm kind of hoping to find it back home so I can experiment with making a fake meatloaf.

I think the high point of our campsite cooking was Friday night, when I made a soup/stew that used up our fresh veggies and canned products. I sauteed onions and garlic, added a diced potato, canned tomatoes, veggie stock, canned green beans, canned corn, white beans, and some quinoa. It all simmered together until everything was tender, and I liked it well enough to make it again at home (though strictly with fresh vegetables).

One night, as we ate around the picnic table, the boys talked about how much they miss the convenience of microwaving foods, and we decided that, on our next hotel night, we'd have a microwave meal. Sounds kind of weird, I know, but we kind of got into the idea, and tonight was the night. We got some microwave mac-n-cheese for the boys, along with some vegetarian nuggets. They were deliriously excited. Armin and I went for some healthier choices: microwave rice and a couple of packets of Indian food (tofu/corn masala and kashmiri spinach). Delicious! It was perfect comfort food after a long drive.

Speaking of long drives, today's was actually much less horrid than we'd feared. The boys were in good spirits, and we listened to an excellent audiobook that ended just as we reached our destination. The book was Ruth White's The Search for Belle Prater, and we all thought it was terrific. We've listened to a fair amount of sci-fi and fantasy on this trip, and this historical novel (set in rural Virginia in the 1950s) was a change of pace.  (On a side note, Armin wants me to make sure to mention that we passed the Oscar Meyer Weiner-mobile at one point in our drive. He was so excited we nearly kissed the guard rail.)

Anyway, as we drove and listened, I thought about one of the things I've most appreciated about this trip. As we've gone to different parks, we've made a point to seek out evening ranger programs as well as ranger-led hikes and activities. Last night we listened to a presentation about ravens, and Ranger Lee was a terrific speaker. The rangers we've encountered have uniformly done an excellent job teaching about different aspects of their parks--I think I've learned a ton about teaching from watching them. They have all been extremely sincere and enthusiastic, without a trace of self-consciousness about their passion (whether it's ravens, the pine beetle, or the preservation of resources like Arches National Park). I think that, as a teacher, I need to let more of my geeky, earnest enthusiasm show through. I've got some good plans brewing for the next school year.

Tonight, though, we're enjoying the Olympics and some comfy beds before we drive to the Badlands tomorrow. It'll be hot (100 degrees!), but the boys can score one more Junior Ranger badge. Then on Tuesday we'll push eastward. I think some cooler weather is heading to Ithaca ahead of our arrival!

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