We're hiking to the Granite Park Chalet, where we'll stop for another break and then move on. There's a gradual climb. I note some other trails as we progress, one going up to the top of the Continental Divide--but it's a steep climb (about 900 feet in half a mile), we have a destination and time isn't on our side (especially on this slow hiker's side) so we continue to the chalet.
As I try to keep up with the group, a big horn sheep steps forward just ahead of me to the side of the trail. I must take pictures. I am so focused on this guy I don't notice where I'm standing or how faint my friends' voices are becoming.
Then I realize that, though I'm not exactly alone, my group is far enough ahead of me that I get a little nervous. I hope the sheep doesn't decide to knock me over, and I start moving as fast as I can, thinking, " I'm alone in bear territory." (If you followed my blog for a while you know I have this thing about bears....) I'm trying to remember all I've learned about "bear safety". One was stay with your group (whoops).
Another was make noise, so I start singing loudly, the first song that pops into my head, "Makin' Whoopee'*. So I'm hiking, I'm singing--more like barely tuneful shouting: 'Another bride, Another groom, another sunny honeymoon, another season, another reason.....'*
Imagine the look I get when I reach the guide at the back, who's been going slowly to enable me to catch up. The looks suggests she thinks maybe speed isn't my biggest problem. I stop singing. Onward to the Granite Park Chalet, trying to act normal.
The Great Northern Railway built several accommodations in the early 20th century, but the chalet, built in 1914, is one of the last back country lodgings still in use. The chalet, just below the tree line, is on a ledge of rock that formed millions of years ago, probably as an eruption from an undersea volcano.**
Whatever you think when you hear 'chalet'... forget it. Our guides seem to pronounce it, 'shallee' which helps dispel the image of a castle. Bring your own water (or can buy water there); plan on using a pit toilet (can be better than a tree). Do not plan on room service. Plan to cook your own dinner (you can order food ahead of your arrival but you're the chef). Do not bring stinky food that attracts predators. Do not plan a shower.
Do plan to enjoy the view as you hike, from the immensity of the mountains towering over you to the tiniest flowers forcing their way out of the earth. Once again, this puts everything into perspective,
These flowers bloom just a few short months in the long cold seasons up here... wildflowers (yellow alpine buttercups, purple harebells, red fireweed,)fireweed
As for the Chalet....There are dormitory-like sleeping quarters with bunk beds, and visitors can use their own sleeping bags or arrange in advance to rent linens. Definitely not what you think when you first read 'chalet'. But no one is here for the accommodations--we are all here to enjoy this vast and amazing space, and we're just stopping for a break. I eat a pear saved from lunch, savor the view, and then ask, 'Where do I dispose of the core?'
A new lesson for me... 'Pack it in, pack it out.'
That sounds like simple, logical advice. As I'm wrapping my leftovers up to take with me, I don't yet know the importance of this and the tragedies that led to this policy.# # #
*Published and released in 1928, lyrics by Gus Kahn, music by Walter Donaldson. To appreciate what this song could sound like, hear Dr. John do it http://tinyurl.com/Dr-John-Making-Whoopee.
** Much in this and the following post that led to current policies in the national park came from Night of the Grizzlies, by Jack Olsen, Homestead Publishing (Moose, Wyoming) Coyright 1969 and 1996.
To the Granite Park Chalet
Sep 29, 2016 at 12:01 AM Sep 29, 2016 at 8:33 PM