Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Glacier National Park: Iceberg Lake

On day three of the trip, we woke up wondering what had happened to our young and strong 30-year-old-ish bodies.  They didn’t feel quite that young and strong anymore.  No matter, there were trails to hike, mountains to climb, glaciers to explore, and I wasn’t about to let cramping muscles stop us.  Jack didn’t have a choice in the matter.  So upward we went, again, this time on a 10-mile round-trip trail up to what must be the most beautiful lake in the lower-48 States: Iceberg Lake. 

Before arriving at the trailhead for the day, this was the Lake Sherburne scene that greeted us on our entrance into the Many Glacier region.

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Like the Grinnell Glacier trail, the route up to Iceberg Lake included a significant elevation gain.  It felt a whole lot harder than the day before.

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Unlike the Grinnell Glacier trail, however, the trail up to Iceberg Lake didn’t have the same diversity of terrain and views along the way, but the scene at the end made up for that lack.

Iceberg Lake, in all its glory.

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A man of some European variety (simple deduction, folks) throwing an iceberg chunk into the lake.

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Some people were crazy enough to swim out to a floating berg, Jack was brave enough to stand in the water for a few seconds, and I was happy to take pictures from the warmth of the rocks on the shore. 

You decide who’s the smartest of the three.

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Jack’s eyes are the same colour as the water. Some people are just lucky.

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The following day we drove over the Going-to-the-Sun Road from East to West Glacier.  I may or may not have taken this photo while driving on the narrow road with a 1,000’ drop-off on the edge. Ahem.

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And this one…

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Gorgeous views. 

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The mountains were gorgeous, too!

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The water in the rivers at the base of the mountains was as bright and blue and beautiful as it was at the tops.  Glacier National Park definitely has the cleanest water of any National Park I’ve yet seen in my travels.  If only it wasn’t so cold!

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Our time in Glacier was short lived, but I’m glad we included it in the trip.  Next up, Yellowstone and the Coolest Small Town in America!

Glacier National Park: Grinnell Glacier

On day one of the trip we drove 17 hours to Havre, Montana, including a tour through Roosevelt National Park. On day two, I dragged Jack on an 11 mile round-trip trail with a 1,600’ vertical ascent up to Grinnell Glacier.  At the five-mile-mark, having been 5,000’ lower in elevation only the day before, he was reconsidering his decision to join me on the journey.   

Swiftcurrent Lake

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Lower Glacier Lake nestled below the granite peaks.

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Jack the Explorer above Lower Grinnell Lake

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Fireweed.

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A number of waterfalls line the highline trail to the glacier.  This one required a bit of rerouting.

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Lower Grinnell Lake, in all its aqua beauty.

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Indian Paintbrush, the Wyoming State Flower.

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We hiked past a number of Bear Grass patches along the way.

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And, finally, with more than a few heave-ho’s along the way, we finally arrived at Grinnell Glacier…

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… or what’s left of it.  The National Park Service predicts that many of the Glacier National Park glaciers will be nearly completely melted by 2020.  That’s not long, folks.

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The Grinnell Glacier trail was definitely a highlight of the entire trip and one I would gladly do again, with or without a glacier at the summit.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I’m Back!

Per usual, two months have now passed since my last post here.  This time, however, I have a new excuse:  password problems.  Thankfully, they’ve been resolved and I’m back on the blog. I would have hated to think that I’ve strung you along all these years just to drop you this close to the PhD finish line.  We’ve come so far together. 

I’ve been back on U.S. soil for seven weeks now—seven weeks that feel like three.  Since arriving here, I’ve done unsurprisingly little work on the dissertation (don’t tell my supervisor). After this winter/spring, the break was necessary. 

Rather than spending the days thinking of Romans 8 (aka the entire biblical narrative) this month, I’ve spent the days fishing, boating, tubing, canoeing, baking, running, climbing towers, riding tractors, motorcycling, hiking, dancing, watching fireworks, playing at waterparks, exploring towns, chatting with friends, loving on family, learning to crochet and, most importantly, meeting my new nephew, Kashton.

It’s been a fabulously full summer of fun, most of which was spent with this good looking chap:

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But that was all in the first month at home, at the end of which Jack and I departed on a three-week Wild West road trip. We headed West, first to Glacier National Park, then South to Yellowstone, and then to the Coolest Small Town in America: Cooke City, Montana.  Last time I was there I swore that I wouldn’t return unless the ground was blanketed in ten feet of snow.  Minimum.  But some things just can’t be helped.

I realise I’ve been negligent in posting photos this summer, but I’m going to limit my catching-up photos to those from the trip.  Somehow Glacier, Yellowstone, and the Beartooths seem more worthy of display than the Zumbro River or the suckers I’ve pulled out of it.  Only slightly more worthy, though.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

of deadlines reached and dreams at the doorstep

The deed is done. The battle is won. Rest now knocks at my door.

Scratch that…

Summer now knocks at my door. 

How in the world?! has April turned into May, and May into June, with July stealthily encroaching?  I barely remember any of it. For the first time since my one-day outing to the Cairngorms at the beginning of April, but really since my return to Scotland from Minnesota last January, I’m finally coming up for air.

Last Friday I reached my hard-earned goal of submitting my 106,000-word-dissertation draft to Professor Wright for review. Those 106,559 words are 2 3/4 years in the making.  Collectively, they represent the thoughts that have consumed me for at least the last two years; whether in waking, walking to work, working, writing, walking home from work, or wearied from another day, these  thousands of words are representative of my life in Scotland.  (In case you’re unaware, ‘living in Scotland’ does not equal ‘every day’s a new adventure’. On the contrary, ‘living in Scotland’, at least for me, means thinking and re-thinking, examining and re-examining the same thoughts and ideas day after day after day after day after day after day in an incredibly mundane day to day existence. Somehow I feel like I know too-well the cow’s subjection to a monotonous life of chewing its cud. [Part of the subjection of creation (Rom. 8:20), I wonder?]) But, alas, Friday came and ‘SEND’ was clicked; thanks be to God.

Moreover, due to Professor Wright’s intense travel schedule these days, the turn-around time for submission-review-feedback was lighting fast. Yesterday played host to a 3-hour marathon meeting, where we talked through the strengths and weaknesses of the draft as it currently stands. His feedback was highly encouraging, and definitely confirmed my suspicion: there is definitely a light at the end of this long and winding tunnel.  While there are seemingly thousands of bits and pieces to alter here and there, only one chapter (which I already knew) and a handful of smaller chunks of chapters require substantial revision.  This is to say that, while there is a lot of work yet to do, none of it will be particularly difficult.  The so-called ‘hard work’ is done.  My original contributions to scholarship are in place, and my argument is clear and (I think) persuasive. I’m 25,000 words over the limit, but removing words is a whole lot easier than generating new ideas and research. It’s a good place to be.

It feels good to reach a milestone such as this, and even better to know that the work I’ve produced is quality. It also feels good to know that a Minnesota summer is quickly approaching, being at this point exactly one week from knocking at my door. Though I don’t yet dream of humidity and the Minnesota mascot, the Mighty Mosquito, I do anxiously await warmth, sun, and one of mankind’s greatest inventions—the hammock.

Move over mom, I’m coming home!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Springtime…

sky,

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waddle,

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and bloom.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Daffodils

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I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

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The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A Day Away

Last week I decided that it was time for a day away from St Andrews and the computer.  So I decided rather impromptu to check another item off of my Scotland bucket list: Aviemore and its surrounding Scottish Highlands in Winter.  Aviemore is a village nestled in the western Cairngorm Mountains along the corridor that runs from Perth to Inverness.  It is in the Cairngorm National Park, but you wouldn’t know it; there are no Park Entrance stations requiring $20 per car to enter.  Imagine that.

Like most places in Scotland, it takes some maneuvering to get there without a car.  For me it meant a day of leaving home at 5:45am and returning at 11:00pm, with a bus and two train rides each direction.  Nothing beats train travel though, especially on sunny days through beautiful landscapes.   

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There’s nothing particularly special about Aviemore itself, unless you have an insatiable desire to spend countless hours wandering in and out of stores selling ski and snowboard gear to those largely uninitiated to winter sports.  But I wanted to see the mountains Highlands in their white robes of winter snow at least once while here, and Aviemore is the perfect location to do so.  The village is surrounded by the Cairngorms and features a ‘ski resort’ of sorts about ten miles out of town. 

Unfortunately for me, the mild winter, combined with the fact that it was the end of March (another reason I can’t bring myself to call them ‘mountains’), meant that the majority of the snow had already melted around the town. 

Fortunately for me, though, that meant I could hike along the eastern ridge and take  in the views.  Here is a view of Aviemore from mid-way up the ridge.

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And here’s a shot from 3/4 of the way up the ridge.  Across the valley you can see the hills that still wear their wintery robe.  If you look along that ridge to about an inch from the right side of the picture you will notice a black line that seems to run from the top of the ridge to the bottom.  That line is what they call the vernicular, a rail-tramway that replaced the chair life about ten years back.  That hillside was my afternoon destination.

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Hello!

(It was super windy!  This was the one selfie of many that didn’t have my curly locks completely shrouding my face.)

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Not wanting to be blown off the ridge by the wind, I made my way back to Aviemore.  Once there I caught the once-per-hour bus to the ski chalet.  The bus ride to the top was quite nice.  At one point I even thought to myself, ‘Wow, this is slightly like the Beartooths’.  Mostly when I saw this scene through the window at the front of the bus.

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And this scene was nice too, but just a wee bit too dense to be Beartooth-like.  It does a perfect job being Scottish Highland-like though, does it not?

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Once at the ski chalet I jumped off the bus, making sure to ask the driver what time the bus collected people for the downward journey.  ‘Four hours from now’ was the reply, and not the most welcome one.  Besides riding the vernicular to the top and taking in the view, perhaps with a coffee in-hand from the summit coffee shop, there wasn’t much else for a non-skier to do.  I figured I was good at sitting and staring at wide open views, and this would be such an occasion for doing just that.  Four hours would probably go by too fast once at the top… (said my puny brain).

I  purchased my vernicular ticket and rode it to the top.  This was the view I encountered.

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And, as I was there for the view, the clouds were not a welcome feature—by me, and I doubt if the clouds were welcomed by the skiers and boarders either.  For those on skis and boards, at least, the cloud only enveloped the hill at the summit.  They were soon out of the cloud on their downward descent.  I, on the other hand, had 3.5 more hours of it.

Thankfully, there was coffee at the top.  And I had a book.  And every now and then, the fierce Scotland wind would push the clouds away for the briefest of interludes, revealing the distant hills of the Cairngorm National Park.  The clouds would lift for no more than 20 seconds, at which point I would race outside with my camera.  This would happen once every thirty minutes or so… for 3.5 hours.

But, hey, I got some work done (on holiday… how American of me) and saw the view throughout the afternoon.

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Here’s the view from the vernicular on the way back down.  It had a very- slow-rollercoaster-feel to it.  Many of you will quickly notice the serious lack of snow.  The skiers and boarders basically had snow paths they had to follow.  In March.  And that’s when I knew for sure… these were anything but mountains.  They are beautiful High-Lands, but they are not mountains.  Not my kind of mountains, anyway.

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Back at the chalet I discovered a path leading into the wilds of the Cairngorms.  Not wanting to miss the bus (the last bus of the day) I hesitated to wander too far, but wished that I had discovered it sooner. 

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Oh well.  Live and learn. 

I caught my bus back down the hill to Aviemore, and then my train to Perth, another train to Dundee, and a bus to St Andrews where my rusty-trusty bike was waiting to take me home at 11pm.  It was a great day away, and time well-spent checking-off another item on my Scotland Bucket List.  See what you’re missing by not visiting?