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"It is the journey which makes up your life."

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Raisin Toes

I have been running around a lot these past few days... pictures sometime. Really! I got dragged off to a sketchy-ass karaoke bar in Polson Thursday night. It was underneath a chinese restaurant and full of old bearded men wearing ACDC tshirts and smoking. Enter twenty biology students who thought drunken karaoke would be funny. It eventually relaxed and we started playing pool and Jenny (my awesome roommate) and I drank dollar beers and danced to shitty music. We managed pretty well to elbow away the skeevy boys who thought they would try to rub their crotches on us as an excuse for a social interaction. Peter and Eric were not so lucky and got felt up by drunken tooth-missing women. Welcome to Montana, I thought.

After that mild trauma, we went out to a great one on Friday night. It is across the street from an award-winning microbrewery, so we went to the brewery first. Their beer is amazing, and the owner Terry gave us a tour of the brewing room and told us his whole story of starting it before closing. Then across the street to the Raven, which is a colorful little place right on the lake. No smoke in there, and they had a live bluegrass band (they played that Cake song you gave me about the bucket seats with banjo!) and lots of friendly people. I am never going back to Polson!

We had the weekend off, so Jenny and I, and some of the other kids doing research here went up backpacking in Glacier. It had been very cloudy and hard to see out there, and it sprinkled on us yesterday.. but the real damage was to wet all the waist-high plants in the trail so they could wipe on our pants and to fill all the streams. For most of the eight miles, the trail was the stream, so all our toes turned to swollen achey raisins. It was worth it though. We stumbled our tired way into camp at Lincoln lake, and there across the lake is a 1500 foot high waterfall, full to the brim with all the rain and snowmelt, tumbling down blocky sedimentary layers to the east. The next morning it cleared up and we could see a big snow-covered peak behind the falls too. Fucking awesome.

So, for the week I am running off to Canada to take samples on the River. Should be back fridayish. For now, I'm gonna take a much-needed shower and go lay this achey-ass body down.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Got to the station yesterday. I had a great time in Steamboat. Met a bunch of Casey's friends in the big lively house of his. Janna came up from Fort Colins too. She brought her awesome new boyfriend and we all went hiking while Casey was at work. The boy is doing really well for himself. He has a job he likes and a house full of awesome people and he's going to school to become a nurse. I'm so happy to see that.

From Steamboat, the drive up was hellishly long, especially the middle of Wyoming.. just this great flat desolate basin. Once I got to the west, though, I drove past the Wind River range and the Grand Tetons. They're incredible. The kind of mountains that make you want to pee your pants and get out of the car and start running to get into them. I took my time through them for exhilarated ogling.. then got to Yellowstone exhausted from so long driving and too late in the day to get a campsite. Sucked it up and just whizzed through the whole park. It's a shame, but I needed somewhere to sleep, and just parking somewhere in the park was illegal. I would have done it anyway if there weren't so many rangers in cop cars patrolling around. They had sirens and everything. Bastards. Policing around bothering people instead of taking care of the land. I guess there are a lot of dumb tourists. But still.. cop cars? I suppose it's the government's fault, not theirs.

So, anyway, I slept in a campsite just outside Yellowstone and then came up here. It is pretty. It's greener and smaller and closer to civilization than I had expected. I guess I will have to go climb to get up to the real mountain country. This is more of a long, low valley. The station is all on a peninsula in the lake (which is huge and beautiful and very cold). I have a little 15-foot cabin to share with a nice girl named Jenny from South Carolina. There are thirty-some students here total between the research projects and the classes. They seem like cool kids.

Everyone is pretty friendly. I'm not sure how to describe the vibe. I'm definitely one of the only ones from the west coast, but it's a little more relaxed and less pretentious than the east coast feeling like I had with the students in Costa Rica. Not that that was bad - just different. Does that make it midwest? I dunno. Looks like I will be doing a research project on diatoms.. putting together an index of biotic integrity for the north fork of the flathead river. Apparently the Canadians have permitted a coal mine upstream, so there is a big project trying to figure out what the chemicals and sedimentation is going to do to the river. It seems pretty exciting. I will be spending lots of time looking at little blobs with a microscope. Woot.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


I left for Montana the day after my twentyfirst birthday. It was drunken-floor-tastic. I managed to get home that night, and then even to wake up at 7 am to say goodbye to my brothers. Then went right back to sleep till noon before getting on the road.

Road tripping is awesome. I wish I had someone else to share the driving, but I still really like seeing so much of the country. And cruise control is my friend. I got myself all the way to Utah and then up a hill just outside of Zion by sunset that day. I was going to go camp in the park, but I figured, why pay? so I threw down a sleeping bag on a flat spot on top of the hill and slept out. It makes me so happy to be out in high country again. I was starting to get antsy out in the city.. and I didn't really get to much time in the mountains last summer. It's been so long since I just laid myself down on the ground like that. It's delicious.

Mmm.. so next morning I went to Zion. The park is amazing. It really looks like all the pictures... just thousands of feet of vertical sandstone, with twisted pines growing in all the cracks and a turquoise river at the bottom of the canyon. They've banned cars, so even though there were lots of people it didn't feel crowded. I didn't get to stay long, but I did a hike that morning up angel's landing. You climb about a thousand feet up a slot canyon, then it opens out onto a 20-some foot wide
ridge with thousand foot drops on either side. Follow the ridge out towards the middle of the valley and there is a little peak with views for miles. God damn. I didn't want to leave.

The scenic route out of there is very pretty, but it took four hours where my map said one. The rest of Utah went by in gorgeous sweeping deserty blurs as I did 80 down the interstate. Who know it was so damn big. Past dark and ten hours into a supposedly 8 hour drive I gave up on making it to Steamboat and found a dirt road to park and sleep for the night. Just got to Steamboat this morning. I got about half an hour of Casey during his lunch break, so now it's just bumming around town for me. It's gone even more upscale in the last two years. But there are good memories here. And cool people. I'm glad I came to visit.

Oh.. I have an address.
Write me letters! Send Me Cookies! YUM.
Jessica Thompson
300 Bio Station Lane
Polson MT 59860-9659

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Mt. Baldy

Hey Kids! Despite all appearances, I haven't fallen off the planet yet. Life at school has been slightly more boring than Egypt. I did have the incredible luck to go to AMSTERDAM!! over spring break.. more on that somewhere else.. anyway, I've been at home back in Irvine these last couple weeks catching up on sleep and seeing people and preparing to drive out to Montana. I got a job through the University of Montana doing field research on river ecology this summer. I should be putzing around the backcountry of Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes (the Canadian park that connects to Glacier) all summer. On the drive up I'm stopping by Steamboat Springs again to go see Casey and some other RMYC folks, maybe Janna if she drives up. It looks like I can camp a night in Zion and a night in Yellowstone between marathon 13-hour drives. I'll try to post drool-worthy pictures.

Other awesomeness.. I climbed Mt. Baldy at sunrise with Kibler and Martin last Sunday. In true alpine fashion we woke up hella early and got to the trailhead by 4:30 am. It was beautiful, climbing in the dark high above Riverside county's spread of lights. The sunrise hit the upper atmosphere before anything else, and from up there we could see the layers of color descending slowly down to light the valley. We crested a ridge just as the sun started hitting it, then just stood staring east over the desert for the better part of an hour, shadows and colors shifting on receding lines of ridges. We followed up what turned out to be a fire break, then cut over to the actual trail, which switchbacked up and ran along a razorback ridge to the base of the summit. There were mountain goats there. A pair of slim shaggy bucks that came skittering up one side of the ridge and stood, looking picturesque, a moment before disappearing down the other side. I've never seen them wild before. The whole mountain is just absolutely beautiful.