Mile Marker 0781*

☆☆☆☆☆

YELP review for Jen & Kate's home away from home in the woods of Montana: I am sorely disappointed that I did not see a moose (AGAIN) while visiting J &K in Montana.  While I know they are not in charge of what is clearly a conscious campaign of deception about the presence of these animals in this state, I do feel like they should warn people before they show up all hoping to see some crazy mismatched looking animal and shit.  However, the food was really good, so I'm giving them the full five stars anyway.

Like most things in my life, it was more an impulse than a fully formed conscious decision when I made the plan to start off my Epic Adventure with Jen and Kate during their visit to Montana. (Jen said I could write about her so long as I mentioned her by name, so: Jen, Jen, Jen, Jen, JEN.)  The timing was perfect, and I rarely get to see them, but I didn't actually say to myself, "You know what, Cupcake? [Because I call myself Cupcake on occasion.] Time with them would be the ideal way to build up some happiness and momentum before heading off on your own." And yet, that's exactly what happened.  Kate so generously shared her favorite place on the planet with me, and I got to experience a grand old hotel, a beautiful trail, and my first glacier sighting. Jen made me laugh, forced a dangerous number of dried mangos on me, and showed me how a real master skips a rock over the water.  In addition to a glorious 10-mile hike (more on that in a moment), we mocked bear bells, made jokes about giant cats, drank wine on a faux Nordic porch overlooking the lake, ate at the premier Oriental Restaurant in the Valley (according to the Governor, so it MUST be true), and managed to charm the lederhosen right off the poorly dressed bell boys. J&K both fed me (and fed me, and fed me), but they also reminded me that everyone is at his or her best when loving somebody else through a million little gestures toward each other every day, and they made me think that my recent commitment to throwing my arms open wide to give and receive love is the most radical and wonderful thing I can do.

And the park was....incredible. Mind-blowing.  Amazing.  After a day of smoke and a night of howling winds and rain, the morning dawned drizzly but clearer and we set off to at least try to make the Grinnell Glacier.  The trail moved from pine needles to gravel to small boulders, and it offered up one breathtaking vista after another:  lakes of purest blue that changed color as the sun moved over them, mountains receding into the distance each taller and more magnificent than the last, thousands of delicately colored plants and lichens.  Being there puts things into context; that grandiosity reminds me that my life and my problems are really pretty small and manageable in scale.  And it made me happy.  God, but it made me happy.

Today I am on to Yellowstone and then Grand Teton.  Glacier has set the bar pretty high, my friends.

*Total anastasia mileage is higher, but because Kate "Don't You Dare Jump In Front Of This Car" Maserati did all the driving to and from Glacier National Park, those miles are not on the Big Red Truck.