Sunday, October 01, 2006

Montana, Day One

Zander, who is driving to the airport, is 5 minutes early, and it's 4:40 in the morning. I've been up since 4:15, and Dad's been up since even earlier, but neither of us is what you would call cheery.

Cheery, however, is exactly how you would describe Zander. He's a contractor and a mountain climber, and his joie de vivre—when he's excited and things are going well—is often infectious.

But infectiously cheery is not necessarily what I want at any time before 5 am. Or 6 am. Or 8 am, really. Nonetheless I bite my tongue, stuff the last of my clothes into a duffel bag, and Dad and I climb into the back seat of Zander's pickup, with Wendy, Zander's wife, in front.

We pick up Bob and Dawn a few minutes later, maybe a mile east. I've never met them before, and now we are all crammed together in Zander's truck, speeding down the mostly empty freeway to SFO.


Traveling like this often ends up as a series of boxes—first the cab of the pickup, then the halved and squared off cylinder of the airplane cabin, and now the box of our SUV, which cruises south from Calgary toward Glacier National Park. We're stopping first in the Alberta town of Waterton, the terminus of our trip, to drop off clothes at the Prince of Wales hotel.

The approach from the high plains of Alberta to the Canadian Rockies is nothing short of spectacular. The plains stretch out right to the base of the range—no foothills, no minor ranges, just a flat vista that without warning spikes upward four and five thousand feet.

And so the mountains loom ahead as you approach from the north. Or perhaps loom is the wrong word. No, the mountains lure you from the north, away from the open, domal sky to an environment of shifting aspect, one where, unlike the plains, you can't always see the weather approach, where the weather is not created elsewhere but is instead built right there.


Blogs are odd, and to post this in sequential order, things move out of succession. This is part one; I will post link to the other parts as I post them.