Saturday, August 27, 2011

Now that will get your blood pumping!

Awe, the joys of nature! Every summer we pack up 82% of our belongings (this usually takes 3 or 4 trips) and head south to West Glacier and Lake Five, where we camp, water ski, fish, water ski and water ski. This year as you may already know from past posts, I also trained for and completed a small triathlon. While in the midst of said triathlon training, I borrowed a very nice and expensive street bike. I made the mistake of saying out loud that said bike was really groovy. So on my 33rd wedding anniversary, Stewart surprised me with a new nice and very expensive street bike of my own. I should say here that I really wasn't all that surprised because this is what always happens in the life of someone related to Stewie. Actually, you don't even need to be related. Close friends have received items they commented on. You say you like it, or you express interest in it, or you play with the toy once and look remotely interested in it, soon it will be yours. My hiking buddies want Stewart to do their shopping and outfit them for the trail as he has done for me, but I keep this to myself because I would have to declare bankruptcy. Example, I commented on another fellow hikers wide mouthed platypus water bottle for hiking, thus allowing for a slice of lemon in the water and the next week I had one, complete with a brush and cleaning supplies. This is how we roll at our house. Stewart is very generous and kind but has a severe shopping addiction. The internet, coupled with thrift stores has amlified this addiction a hundred fold. Oh well, it is what it is, eh! I digress- on with my original story.

Having a new bike required road testing, which I did post haste. I road to the highway and back and then decided to test the uphill gears. Smoooooth! This expensive bike was expensive for a reason! But hey, let's not get carried away, so I turned around. I had gone quite a bit further up hill than normal so thankfully I was able to shift down all the way before it happened. Picture it- I am all alone on a back road with no shoulder in Montana, so just in case a car comes, I am hugging the side of the road like a good responsible biker. I am going pretty fast but thinking in my head, "I better not get too carried away" - because I flew out of the campground without my helmet. Safety first. Just when I am enjoying this ride, I hear some extremely loud crashing noises to my right. I turn my head and there 5 feet from me is the biggest most ginormous very round and huge, large, big BIG bear. I could have run right over his toes-but I swerved like any kind biker would. That would possibly have ticked him off- YA THINK???!!!
I am very ashamed to admit that the first words out of my mouth were not G rated. I did preface those "S" words with a "HOLY", which should count for something...a prayer of sorts, don't you agree? And let me tell you, that expensive bike was worth every penny, because it fairly sprouted wings and flew down that road. I mused as I peddled for my life that I hoped he wasn't running after me because I knew if I turned my head to look and see if he was behind me I would most assuredly crash my new shiny expensive bike, so I just kept peddling and praying my PG rated prayer and soon I was back to the campground, where I did have to slow down to turn. That is when I thankfully saw he hadn't followed me.
I told the family about my encounter. Pffff, big deal Mom. Paige and Eric did give me the satisfaction of making their eyes get a bit bigger, but Kurt's comment was "Mom, God wouldn't save you from the bear with that mouth." hmmm-
You may think this is the end of the story...OH CONTRARE!
The next day a few other people came upon this bear and they too commented on how big it was. They were lucky, they were in their cars. Then one day on the beach we look way across the lake and there is a bear in the water. I can tell right away this was not my bear because he wasn't big enough. A few days after that, I have skied once and just finished my swim, the lake has returned to glass so it's time for another ski. I step to the beach infront of the boat, dawn my life jacket, grab my gloves and pick up my ski. Stewart says you better hurry, which he always says lest someone beat us out onto the lake and steal my glass. This time was different though. I start looking around to see who the offensive glass stealer is and there walking right down the beach toward me is a bear. Not my bear mind you, but a pretty sizable bear none the less and he is walking straight toward me. I have one glove on, I throw the other one at the boat and tell Stewart to GO! He says you don't even have your ski on. I don't care just go. He drives the boat out in the water and throws me the rope. I have my ski on my foot but not done up and I don't care. The bear is now where I was standing on the beach. Stewart is enjoying the view- and why shouldn't he? He is out in the water in a boat, but I am laying there like chicken on a string. I yell hit it and manage to hang on with my ski boot flapping and only one ski glove on, but I am up and happy to be away from the bear. I usually ski around the lake twice, but this morning I am opting for maybe six times around. But on the second pass I can't see the bear, so I let go and swim in to find a present from my new friend...a big pile of fresh bear poop complete with five pounds of undigested berries, sitting where my ski usually sits. Thank you very much. I reason berries are better than people parts, especially my own people parts. I think he was miffed because he wanted a turn on the ski. We can see the bushes moving and figure the bear is refilling his system with more berries which is better than filling his system with me. I am safe for now.
Story is still not over.
Later that day, the beach is now packed with people. I am out on my floaty, tied to a buoy, reading my kindle, loving life, wishing I had thought to bring a pop and chips with me. I hear people yelling and screaming and I look up to see my furry friend from this morning walking back down the beach. He is now six feet away from Stewart, Paige and Eric, who sit there calmly watching him. Then the dog barks. The bear runs and finally Stewart gets to have a little adrenaline rush, as he actually got out of his chair and at least turned around to watch where the bear was headed. Paige and Eric just sat there. ??????? How can they just sit there not even phased????
I don't get it. How can they be so calm? I am terrified of bears. Maybe it's because every summer while I was growing up, we went to Yellowstone and the bears were as thick as flies and they were always roaming all over the campground and my dad, being the enthusiastic photographer that he was, would give me and my brothers slices of bread, sit us on the hood of the car and tell us to feed the bears so he could take pictures. SERIOUSLY!!! What the schmeellll was he thinking? Talk about instilling your kid with nightmarish terror!
I have hiked the Glacier and Waterton mountains for 15 years and have only encountered bears two or three times. I actually hiked with a man who had been attacked by a mother grizz. His name is Johan Otter- Look him up!!! He was back 2 years after his attack hiking the same trail with the helicopter crew who rescued him and his daughter, and a National Geographic camera crew. His story was on TV. He showed us his scars and told us his story. His daughter, who was also attacked, had started that day with him and the camera crew, but was too traumatized to continue. It was quite a day!! I have a healthy respect for bears and more than a healthy fear of them, apparently.

Mr. bear walked across the beach three more times that day until the beach was pretty much empty. The fish and game guy was called. He wanted to set up a trap. Hmmm... maybe not right in the campground, ya think? He would have had 13 kids in that trap. But Ron, the man who owns the campground, took his German Shepherd dog and herded Mr. bear out of the campground and far down the road. I don't know if the bear came back. We came home. But we are headed back down to retrieve now 89% of our belongings and cart it all home. I guess we will find out if he's still lurking about. Maybe this time he'll want to wake board.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Have you missed me?

Long time no see from me-eh! So much has been going on. Who ever said summer is a time to rest? It's been non-stop action around here. SO I will make a list and you can all say WHEEW at the end.
1. At the beginning of May we all went up to Edmonton for a trip to the West Ed mall and indoor water slide and amusement park. It was amusing. Roman went on every ride, Finn not so much. We did coax him onto the train, but he was very serious. We had also gone to attend Paige's graduation. Poor Paigie pooh (heavy on the pooh part) got food poisoning and ended up in the hospital, so she and Eric missed the water park. The waterslides were a blast. Finn liked it a bit more than the roller coaster stuff. Paige actually pulled it together enough to go to her graduation. She was in a 2 year, very intense court reporting and closed captioning course which only 5 of the 24 people finished in the 2 years. Paige was the 5th to finish- on her last testing she passed her last speed on the LAST day! Nothing like cutting it close! She said her new motto is just enough just in time. I like it!
2. Two weeks before we went to the Lake(you will hear me talk about "the lake" alot so explanation's are in order: Lake Five is where we have camped and water skied all summer for about 16 years. It's by West Glacier National Park so if you are in that area, drop by!) Anyway- 2 weeks before we went for the first time I was madly trying to get as much work done as possible so I could play all summer. I got a request from an art licenser to illustrate a children's Christmas music book- piece of cake...NOT. Well I actually did it and had the files sent to them the morning we left for the lake- just enough just in time again! Unfortunately, it rained for 8 days straight! I skied but man it was chilly! We had 2 good days and then the rain came back. I called it quits and we came home because.......
3. Eric got baptized! Huzzah and hurray! On Stewart's birthday, we got an email from Paige and Eric . They had drawn a picture of Eric in a blue box and Paige at the side clapping her hands and saying hallelujah. I didn't get it at first but Stewart did. You could hear us scream all the way to West Glacier! We attended Eric's baptism, then helped move and clean Eric and Paige's apartment. They will be living with us for the summer and then moving to Vancouver BC where Paige has a job(or 2 or 4 )lined up. She is quite in demand there!
4. We went back to the lake in July and played there for 2 weeks. I also trained for the super sprint Raymond Triathlon, which I actually finished on July 30. Hurray for me! Whitney and I did it together and it was really fun(except the run part) How a former soccer player could let herself get so far gone is a mystery to me...I am talking about myself. Whitney kicked my trash! I did quite well in the swim and on the bike but oh my grock, the run about killed me. I was out of gas! But I have a nifty tee shirt to prove I did it and I won my age division...there were only two of us old fogies, but hey, a win is a win!
5. I have been working the last 2 weeks and on Thursday last, I almost died....for real. I am happy to report I am still alive but just barely. My hiking club-The Mountain Mamas- well I should explain us. We have been hiking every Thursday for 15 years. These 15 or so women are my closest, dearest friends. We have drug each other up and down mountains, through many of the hardest storms life can throw at you: cancer, wayward children, weddings, church callings, bike crashes, aging parents and death, stupid children, grand children and yes, rain, hail, snow, dark, wind, bears, moose, sun and heat. We have laughed, cried and panted across Waterton peeks and Glacier trails. If I did not have these women in my life, I would not be a happy person, and I think I may not have made it through life's most challenging times. We are famous in these parts, and impressive in our own minds! But sometimes we take on a bit more than we can last Thursday. We thought we would toddle our way up Sofa Mountain. The word Mountain should have tipped us off- I can honestly say this is the scariest thing I have ever done in my life and the only thing that got me up that rock cliff was fear. I only went UP because down was even worse! I will try to post some pictures- you know me and technology- but the pictures do not do it justice. Suffice it to say that when I showed the pictures to my son Kurt, his eyes got big, he paused for a moment and then said "Mom, you guys are so stupid!" YUP!
This is just a part of the mountain- the part we had to come down...

This is the part we had to go up!

I look happy, eh! NOT! I freely admit I was soooo scared that when I got to a spot where I could stop clinging to the rocks, I was almost in tears and shaking so bad that Norma made me eat a chocolate mint bar. I said I am not hungry, she said eat it anyway- it will calm your nerves. Bear in mind that we have already climbed 2000 feet up to this point and there is nothing below us but air...and sharp rocks...and fear of having to look down!

This is not the top- there were 3 more sets of this stuff to climb. You can just make out the river clear down there in the top corner of the picture. hhhmmm Kurt was right, very prophetic of him. BUT you should see what we had to come DOWN!

ummmhummm this is down. A good time was had by...none. Well some of these silly women liked this stuff, but we have all decided that walking the next day was almost more painful than the actual hike, and going down stairs...forget it! See that rock lump in the top left hand corner- that was the up cliff.

One last picture to stop your heart. What goes up must come down, dang it!

Well enough of that. We are headed back to the Lake tomorrow for the rest of the summer. We will all be there for 8 days. My entire family together. It just doesn't get any better than that. The summer of 2011 will be one of the most memorable in my life. Great family, great adventures, great times. I LOVE MY LIFE...and I love it even more since I almost lost it on that mountain.

A fond farewell from all of us on top of the world!

side note: It took us a few minutes to actually stand up after this picture. OOOOOF!