Imagine a pitch-dark curvy road on the side of a high mountain pass with occasional views of a distant red glowing furry allowing for very little between your remodeled Sprinter van and the edge of abyss. Now imagine someone took an ice cream scooper and made large uneven sudden drop offs in the middle of this road in random locations. This is called Hwy 49 and connects Browning, MT with the Southeastern portion of Glacier National Park. Keep in mind this gnarly mountain pass is not the only way to reach Glacier, but late at night after navigating through the decimated construction site dirt guttered roads of Browning you may find yourself somehow being routed through this pass. Ever since the pavement abruptly fell to unmarked dirt paths you have been asking yourself “Am I in a 3rd world country? I swear I’m in the U.S.”
After driving through the desolate flatness of Eastern Montana the Rambler found its way into the Blackfeet Indian Reservation through Browning and onto the high mountain pass of Hwy 49. With feelings of hesitation on parking overnight on Reservation land, no less on the slopes of the heinous pass, I gradually became overruled by exhaustion and Jeremy’s rationale that no one would bother us. Despite all the Hollywood ideas I could muster up on how unhappy the Blackfeet Indians would be by us trespassing on their land, we woke up safe and undisturbed to a gorgeous mountain view and a quick descent into Glacier. Our sights were set on acquiring backcountry permits for a multi-day backpacking trip that would begin as soon as possible. We were feeling excitement to be back West, in the mountains, and away from the general public. As we spoke with the park rangers at Two Medicine Ranger Station it became clear due to August being one of the busiest months in the park it was going to be difficult to obtain the permits we wanted if any at all. Apparently, like us, other people were not deterred by the 200-acre Reynolds Creek fire that shut down the popular Going To The Sun Road. Settling on a self-shuttle 3-night backpack in the most southern portion of the park from Walton to Two Medicine Lake, we began to prepare for our outing with increasing excitement.
Back to Chicago/Ogden Dunes, Indiana
Todd agreed to pick us up at the airport once again as we made our way back to Chicago on Saturday night. Sunday, August 2nd the three of us headed towards Ogden Dunes, Indiana to visit Richard Hallman, a friend of Rachelle’s. Throughout our relationship I had heard a lot about Richard and saw his amazing photos. Richard is a professional photographer out of Hood River, Oregon and be sure to check out his work on Instagram @freelanceimaging. Richard grew up in Ogden Dunes, Indiana on Lake Michigan and was back visiting his family at the time. We spent the entire day on Lake Michigan Jet-Skiing, SUPing, swimming, and Richard went out on his kiteboard. Just as the day seemed perfect an enormous Mammatus cloud began to form towards the west over Chicago. One of the most amazing clouds I had ever seen, Richard was able to catch a superb picture of Rachelle on his iPhone 6 as the Mammatus cloud signaled heavy upcoming weather.
After a full day at Lake Michigan and a thrilling jet ski ride with Richard we made our way back to his parent’s house to start dinner. Dinner was exceptional as we ate on the patio during intermittent power outages making eating somewhat of a challenge. The skies grew heavy and electric as the promised storm began to push its way towards Dunes, Indiana. Even though it was late and we had a long drive back to Todd’s the four of us headed to the beach to watch the storm approach. Lighting lit up the night’s sky as if a sibling had snuck into your pitch-black room and proceed to flip the light switch on and off, on and off. This was no ordinary storm, as lighting hit every 2-3 seconds, continuously for over an hour. All of us just sat there with our invisible bowl of popcorn taking in the power and strength of Mother Nature. With the storm directly above us and lighting all around, I began to spread out from the others anticipating a lighting strike so not all of us would be taken out. It felt as if we were in a firefight as we retreated with heads down to the protection of a solid roof. The sky grew heavy as moisture learned the laws of gravity, rapidly descending towards earth. Just as we gained cover at the Hallman’s house at 1 Beach Ave, sheets of water fell from above instantly flooding the surrounding area. This kind of storm really makes you feel small and powerless against the fury of Nature. As it grew later we decided to brave the calming storm in Todd’s Ford truck dodging down trees on the drive out of Dunes, Indiana in route to Chicago; a truly memorable experience with the beauty and fierceness of Nature.
The date is July 22, 2015 and so far our entire journey has kept an eastern heading on our compass. Nearly two months with the setting sun at our backs, today was the glorious moment when we rotate 180 degrees and turn the Rambler to the West for our long trek back to the mountains. Glacier National Park in northwest Montana is where we are heading…the only problem is Google Maps says it is 33 hours and 2,227 miles from D.C.! 33 hours of straight driving is that even possible?!? Your telling me we could drive for an entire day without stopping and still not be there? This can’t be right…well looks like we are going to be making some stops along the way as we spend the next 19 days slowly making our way back West!
Paragliding Woodstock Tower
The morning of July 22nd we headed off from Meagan’s home in Arlington, VA in route to Ohiopyle, PA in order to meet up with Rachelle’s old friends Brynn, Eric, and their two year old son, Avie. This was the plan until we received a call from Tom, a paraglider in the D.C. area letting us know a group was planning to fly at Woodstock Tower, VA around 1pm. As Rachelle let me know our options we immediately turned the Rambler towards Woodstock Tower in hopes we would get up in the air. So now you might be asking yourself, “Who is this Tom guy and how do you know a paraglider in D.C.?” Tom is a friend of our good friend Laszlo, who retired to Park City after heading up the World Bank in Washington D.C. for many years. Laszlo linked us up with Tom who invited us to go flying while in the area. In any event we were both eager since our paragliders were collecting dust and feeling ignored since we left Utah.