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 The Trek: The Journals

•
Team: North
Bob Van Deven
Saturday, August 10
AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!
Dear Everyone,

First let me apologize for not submitting a journal entry before today. I know the public has been scratching their collective noggin, wondering what I've been doing, perhaps even losing sleep as they think to themselves, "Where is Bob? Why hasn't he written? Does he still care?" Let me assure you all, I have not been slacking. Our days are filled with chores, adventures, learning experiences, trips to Kalispell, strong coffee, good food, organizing, agonizing, meeting people, laundry, and general insanity. And yes, I still care.

It's going to be difficult for me to compress the events of the last few weeks into less than a ten volume set, but here goes. It all started in Tooele County, Utah, where the teams and support staff met for training. The folks at Tooele (pronounced two-ella) were the most hospitable people I've ever met. We had free run of the Deseret Peak complex, a fabulous place with a pool, mess hall, dirt bike track, monster water slide (monsters not included), and an impressive Firefighter Museum with meeting rooms where we did most of our training. We had classes on "Leave No Trace", ATV use, knots, media and public relations, Global Positioning Systems, and how to you-know-what in the woods. Doing it properly turns out to be more work than you'd expect. We were busy for about 14 hours a day and at night we stayed in an old army barracks where the soothing sound of freight trains passing within 100 yards as some over-caffeinated engineer waged a tug of war with the horn lulled us to sleep.

Despite our fitful sleep and the long days we all bonded rather well and the two teams parted regretfully with many hugs on the 28th of July. Us northerners drove up to Butte, Montana, where we stayed the night at a KOA. That evening we drove around the town while our medic, Michelle, leaned out the window to take pictures of faded signs for her brother who collects such photos. These are the people of whom the fabric of America is woven. Later we ate dinner at a truck stop with an attached casino. I lost a dollar on video poker but I'm not yet willing to admit I have a problem. At night we were lulled to sleep by the sound of cars screaming by on the interstate in blatant disregard for the posted speed limit.

The next day we drove to the KOA in West Glacier where we are currently staying. In between our arrival here and the present day there's been a lot going on, including several moves to different campgrounds, i.e. the Apgar campground in Glacier National Park, Emery Bay campground on Hungry Horse Reservoir, and Spotted Bear in the Flathead National Forest. Since our job is to support the team we need to be as close to their route as possible, hence the moves. I don't think I can properly describe the amount of work that's gone into this venture, the challenges that arise every day, the planning, the errands, and the amount of stuff we're toting around with us. It is an awesome feat to move four people from Canada to Salt Lake City (and, in the case of the south team, from Mexico to Salt Lake) using only public lands and waterways, something that's never been done before and will likely never be done again. In my spare time--scarce as it is--I still find myself amazed by this venture and proud to be a part of it.

Lest you think it's all work for the support team, let me tell you about my hike yesterday in Glacier National Park. I woke at 4:15 AM along with Paul Bucca, our cook, Bob Ashley, our education coordinator, and Steven Braunlich, our logistics gofer, and after stumbling around in the pre-dawn murk managed to start one of the Hondas and point it toward the park entrance. I'm an ameteur photographer so getting to a location at dawn is important if I want to catch the best light. Thankfully my fellow volunteers are tolerant of my avocation. I did notice that they let me do the driving, though.

We rolled by the deserted park gatehouse and soon began to ascend on the Going to the Sun road, heading for fabled Logan Pass and our trailhead on the other side. Going to the Sun road was completed in 1932 and, spectacular as it may be, was clearly designed for smaller cars and simpler times. Driving it in the dark on only four hours of sleep is a real nail-biter and if I had been more alert I probably would have been incapacitated with fear. The upside, of course, is that there's no traffic at that hour and we were free to stop and gaze at the Macdonald river snaking through it's glacial valley, Bird Woman falls plunging 492 feet to disappear behind the slender crowns of lodgepole pines, a raft of cloud floating above some unnamed cirque, a trio of mountain goats picking their way up an impossible wall of precambrian rock, the morning sun igniting the top of Heavy Runner mountain. Just before our trailhead we stopped to take pictures of a beautiful cascade, just one of dozens in the park. Right by the side of the road Paul, our sharp-eyed cook, spotted a full curl bighorn bedded down on a slope of blooming beargrass. Being a large mammal in a national park he was unfazed by the camera bearing tourist creeping closer and closer; I think I got some great shots of him with the rushing stream in the background. He stayed perfectly still, occasionally turning to show the magnificent profile of his horns. I couldn't have imagined a better subject.

At Siyeh Bend we parked the car and began hiking. On our left Siyeh (pronounced sigh-ee) creek flowed by and even after we began ascending the forested wall of the cirque we could hear the echo of its agitated roar. Almost immediately we began to separate as I paused again and again to take pictures. I took a lot of shots of blooming beargrass, a member of the lily family very similar to the beargrass that grows at middle elevations in the southwest. What makes this particular species unusual, however, is its large cluster of white flowers borne on a stalk about four feet high and its habit of growing in dense fields. There's something hypnotic and sublimely beautiful about these vast meadows crowded with swaying white blossoms. In one valley I stopped to enjoy a creek that tumbled over layers of metamorphic rock like a whipsnake descending the stairs of a Mayan pyramid. I can't decide if that's a good simile or not but I'm sticking to it. Anyway, I spent nearly an hour ranging up and down the creek, setting up the tripod and composing shots, switching lenses, focusing, and counting myself lucky, both for being on this trip and for living in a country that has preserved such broad swaths of landscape for its citizens.

After passing through the valley the trail climbed steeply to Siyeh pass and I hiked faster to catch up with the rest of the gang. We met just on the other side where the view included Sexton glacier, Going to the Sun mountain, and a distant trapezoidal chunk of Saint Mary Lake. Below Sexton glacier were two cascades of meltwater plunging perhaps a thousand feet into Baring creek. We crossed a permanent snowfield and Steven took the opportunity to sled down on his jacket. I took pictures of us all standing on the edge of a precipice, valleys and gleaming white peaks spread out around us. Later we descended into Sunrift Gorge, a narrow passage carved through red layers of rock by the torrent of Baring Creek.

Eventually the trail crossed the road and Paul hitched up to our car and drove back down to get us. There's so much more I want to write, both about yesterday and all the other days we've been on the road, but it's late and I need to get some sleep. Along with drinking water and eating food, doctors recommend sleeping as part of a healthy lifestyle, and I have to stay healthy if I'm going to be doing this for another seven weeks. It's going to be a long, fascinating trip so stay tuned. Take care of yourselves, get out there, stop sitting in front of your computer!

-Bob
for Saturday, August 10
North South Both




Biographical
•
Team: North
Bob Van Deven
Bob Van Deven

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List of All Journal Entries
•
Monday, January 6
Bob Van Deven
Sunny Weather
   >> more...

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Sunday, December 1
Bob Van Deven
   >> more...

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Wednesday, October 9
Bob Van Deven
The End of the Journey
   >> more...

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Friday, September 20
Bob Van Deven
A Little News
   >> more...

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Monday, September 2
Bob Van Deven
Middle Ground
   >> more...

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Wednesday, August 28
Bob Van Deven
Disasters and other fun
   >> more...

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Wednesday, August 21
Bob Van Deven
People
   >> more...

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Saturday, August 17
Bob Van Deven
August 17 or Thereabouts
   >> more...

•
Saturday, August 10
Bob Van Deven
AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!
   >> more...

•
Thursday, August 1
Bob Van Deven
   >> more...








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