We arrive at Glacier National Park (technically called "Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park since it is shared with our neighbors in Canada) with it's snowcapped mountains above lush green forests.
Our first stop is at the stunningly blue Saint Mary's lake, filled with crystal clear water from melted glaciers.
At the visitor center, I spot an thought-provoking quote of a Kootenai Indian (whose tribe once occupied the land before it was overtaken): "We are thankful for the preservation of an area that has 500-year-old cedar trees who listened to our ancestors sing and dance long before the Kootenai were aware of Europeans. Yet, we are also aware that this place has not been preserved because of it's significance to us. It is preserved because of the many visitors that come to the area."
We stop at Three Peaks to discuss the unusual geological situation of Glacier Park. Here the older layers of rock (dating back to the Precambrian era) are on the top and younger layers (from the cretaceous period) are underneath. This is a result of the Lewis Overthrust, which caused what was once the bottom layer to slide over the younger layer.
Then we stopped for a brief hike at Sunrift Gorge, where we walked along a low lying river complete with rapids and falls that hissed and sprayed.
My bear sighting curse is lifted! We spot a black bear lunching along a grassy hill beside the road.
Then it was time for horseback riding back at the ranch where we would spend the night. As some of you know, I've developed a nervousness around horses. It's not that I'm scared of the horse--I know they are gentle animals--I've just always felt like I was not good with them. Nonetheless, I was determined to participate in horseback riding with the others and conquer my fear.
It seems my horse, "Cher," decided to test me to see just how determined I really was. I got saddled up with no problem and took her around the circle in the corral a few times as instructed. I noticed that she kept wanting to go away from the other horses and over near the ranchers. I was able to convince her to stay with the others by using the reins as I was told, and soon it was time to hit the trail. As all the horses piled onto the trail, another horse got too close for Cher's liking and next thing I know her back legs are airborne, my butt is inches above the saddle, and she is bucking! I immediately demand to get off the horse, but the ranchers were true cowboys and would not listen to my desperate (and I must admit tear-filled) pleas. Thankfully, after an adjustment of the saddle, which was now very lopsided, Cher and I came to an understanding--we'd keep our distance from the others and do the trail at our own pace. Cher's pace was a bit quicker than I'd like, but I admired her self-preservation and trusted that I could gain control if I really needed to. I came out of the woods an hour later with dry eyes and a grin from ear to ear. I supplied Cher with some timothy hay treats and led her back to the corral, a bit teary-eyed myself as I knew she'd strengthened by confidence far more than any human could.