lost, for a little while

interlude: glacier national park
July 11, 2011, 3:40 pm
Filed under: trips

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

While I was in Glacier National Park, I almost ran into a deer. And no, I wasn’t driving.

Let me back up: There was a hike to Avalanche Lake that one of the other park guests had told me about—one of the top five most gorgeous sights in the park, he promised.

“Even in the rain?” I asked, pulling my hood up as the drops fell heavier around us.

Even in the rain, he assured me.

By the time I drove to the trailhead, the weather had let up a bit, and I started my way up the two-mile path. I passed by people in ponchos as they returned from the lake, and thought that maybe I really had missed the worst of the rain.

As I got further down the trail, the water rushing next to the path in the creek soon turned into water rushing through the path. The recent snowmelt and all the day’s rain had combined to wash out the trail, covering it in water and surrounding it with thick, sucking mud. I did my best to inch along fallen tree trunks and hop from rock to rock in order to avoid the mess, but halfway to the lake, I was feeling soggy and not too kind toward my hike advisor.

The rain was a steady presence, just bordering ‘downpour,’ but the forest canopy held off enough of it that I was willing to keep going as long as there were no more insta-rivers in my way.

When I first saw bits of the lake through the trees, all I could think was This had better be worth it.

It was.

Avalanche Lake

I stood on the beach a couple hundred yards from the handful of other people admiring the view. We didn’t speak, and they hadn’t acknowledged me when I first stumbled into their serene bubble. This wasn’t a place to make small talk, like so many places in national parks are.

After I’d tried to capture the beauty of the lake from every angle possible with my camera, and stared in awe for an acceptable amount of time, I checked the time: it was getting late.

As if to reinforce the idea, the raindrops thickened and started to soak my hair. Time to go.

The trail

The way back was mostly downhill, and while I’d passed a lot of people on my way out, there was no one around as I walked back. The decline increased in severity, and with the rain still coming down, I was more than happy to let the momentum carry me into a jog. I kept my eyes on the ground, watching for rocks or slippery patches that would send me flying.

I didn’t see the deer until I was almost on top of it.

It was standing half on the path, munching on some greens, and I stumbled to a stop a couple feet away from it, sure that it would bolt in a second. It didn’t. It didn’t even seem to notice me, really, though every once in a while its head would dart up and it would stare in a different direction, listening carefully for intruders.

Um, yeah, hi? Think you’re forgetting about something?

When I couldn’t stay put any longer, I made to start walking, and it did, too. I followed it down the path, about five feet behind it, stopping whenever it did. But even though I wasn’t trying to approach it or touch it, I wasn’t being inconspicuous. It just…didn’t care.

I was tempted to test just how much it could ignore me, but resisted, and after about ten minutes of watching and waiting for it to suddenly see me and freak out, I began jogging again down the path.

Later, when I would spot a bull moose and a mama bear and her cub from afar while on a hike, I would realize how lucky it was that a dopey deer was all I crossed paths with.

(The park itself, by the way? Amazing. Completely worth the northern detour. I was already planning a return trip before I’d even left.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Deer Encounter, posted with vodpod

3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

my dear lisa, so glad to hear your latest park
adventure and you were not swept away by torrents
of water. the deer story was sweet! we have them
in our backyard, they frolic and play like kids.
stand and look at us, not afraid, this is my yard! Be safe on your journey home. lots of love
Aunt rosie and uncle ray

Comment by Anonymous

I TOLD you you’d love Glacier. Did you check out any of the lodges?

Comment by Anonymous

It rained when I was hiking to avalanche lake 29 years ago, too. but it stayed foggy … thanks for the beautiful picture of what I only glimpsed at during a brief foggy repreive!

Comment by BARBARA

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