(Continuing on from Part I, previous post)
Meanwhile, Steve had been instructing his boys on the use of their ski pole walking sticks. He kept commenting on the sticks’ amazing usefulness to Mom as if trying to convince himself. To me, the sticks seemed just like one more thing to have to carry. My nephew Jesse, whose nickname has been “Cece” (pronounced “Seesee”) ever since he was a toddler, was walking in front of me. His walking stick seemed useful only for whacking all wildflowers within reach and poking any goat or sheep poop that we came across.
Steve & Jesse near some bear grass
Pretty soon, though it seemed like an eternity, we rounded a bend and came upon a change in terrain. Here the drop-off wasn’t quite so steep and I was able to look down to view a meadow area filled with a beautiful mixture of Indian paintbrush, bear grass, yellow cinquefoil, fireweed, and purple asters.
Steve took on the responsibility of searching for bears with his trusty binoculars that were slung around his neck. He was also constantly whistling for “peeps” (ground squirrels) which, here in the Park, seemed to be larger than usual. One tourist we met on the trail claimed they were hoary marmots, but we knew better. We’ve all seen plenty of marmots on the Hidden Lake trail and these peeps, though large, were nowhere near the size of those.
Large “peep” on the trail
A small herd of snow-white mountain goats lounged above us on the rocky cliffs, grazing on some sparse glacier grass. Mom sized up the bunch and announced that one appeared be a baby. But the two teenagers, who enjoy needling Grandma relentlessly, scoffed at that. When we edged up to a waterfall that tumbled off the Garden Wall and were better able to see that it was indeed a mother and baby goat resting on some rocks, smart aleck Austin, still refusing to admit defeat, claimed that the goat was “not a baby–only a miniature!”
Goats under the Garden Wall
Jesse (aka “Cece”)
(Notice the mountain goat up above?)
Mother goat & baby (“miniature”)
By this time my stomach was beginning to growl. Of course, not being a complainer I didn’t want to say anything, but I knew that if I didn’t get some nourishment soon there was a chance I’d faint and fall down the mountain. The boys seemed to be just as hungry and began whining about lunch. Also for some reason, Wyatt kept blurting out a loud “MMMahh!” noise with a kind of smacking sound, trying to be funny I am sure, making one of those odd noises the Maw family is famous for. (At one point, I asked him if he was calling for his daddy, but Mr. Maw did not seem to get it.)
Jesse, Wyatt & Austin looking at something interesting
I was disheartened to look up and notice a set of switchbacks looming up ahead. This did not deter “Lightfoot,” however. By the time we reached the top of the switchbacks, she had barely broken a sweat. I, on the other hand, feared a major case of dehydration. Poor Mom had long since begun to wane and couldn’t seem to catch her breath. I kept trying to convince her it was just the elevation and certainly not the fact that she was seventy years old. After all, she’s usually more spry than a forty-six-year-old (i.e. me).
Dallas, Phyllis & Steve with the other side of Mt. Reynolds in the background
(You can see part of Going-to-the-Sun Road on the left & center.)
Finally, after having hiked almost seven miles (not the four promised earlier), we reached the scenic overlook area which, to me, seemed just like any other area in the Park–they were all scenic. This particular place, which was near Haystack Butte, happened to have some large flat-topped rocks which made for a good picnic area and, thank goodness, we pulled out the lunches. I handed Austin his sack and was hoping he wouldn’t complain too loudly about the meagreness of it, especially when he saw all the goodies that Susan had packed for her family. Luckily, he and Wyatt moved off far enough that we couldn’t hear a thing they said.
Austin & Wyatt
We all bolted down our lunches with a good deal of relish but couldn’t rest for too long, as the frigidity of the rocks quickly seeped up through our thin clothes. It also looked to me as if some large clouds were forming in the sky. It was here that we were to decide whether to go back the way we had come or hike further down the trail all the way to the Loop.
Susan said that the trail from here on was “mostly downhill” (we had heard that before) and she tried to assure me that there were no more steep drop-offs. I had to admit that I would prefer not to revisit that sheer cliff face again any time soon, but I did have to wonder how much farther this trail actually led. As we all stood to put on our packs, Jesse maintained that we should go back.
Before we could come to a final decision however, I felt someone come up from behind me and jostle my arm. “You’re not going to throw in the towel now, are you?” he asked with a wide smile, as if he had known me for years. I quickly concluded that I had never seen this lanky, bespectacled, red-haired man before in my life.
“The trail gets really easy after this. It’s all downhill and not very far at all,” offered Mr. Friendly.
At that pronouncement, Susan, Steve, Wyatt, and Austin began to move ahead. Mom, Jesse and I now had no choice but to follow. The problem was, Mr. Friendly and his young son had already maneuvered themselves in front of us on the trail. This might not have been quite so bad, except that the guy was very talkative and was talking faster than he was walking. He had heard us referring to “Cece” earlier, and proceeded to introduce “Cecil” to his son who was about the same size as Jesse but who, shuffling along with both of his shoelaces untied, seemed much younger.
I asked the man how many times he had hiked this trail. “Zero! “ he answered. “I’m from Oklahoma!” He claimed that his sister, who lived somewhere in the area, had told him all about it. Funny, though, he couldn’t seem to get her to join them.
Plodding along behind the two of them, watching out that the boy didn’t trip over his shoelaces and hearing much more than we had ever cared to hear about Oklahoma, we kept falling further and further behind the rest of our group. Finally, Mom had the gumption to say, “You know, you’re going to have to let us get around you pretty soon. We’re getting too far behind.”
Mr. Friendly Okie didn’t seem to be too pleased at this turn of events. Reluctantly, though still talking, he and his son did allow us to pass, and we quickly left them in the dust.
Wyatt, Austin, Jesse, & Steve