Forever day

A few times in my lifetime, I knew, when it was happening, that a day would be etched in my mind forever. I just had a forever day at the Nez Perce Bear Paw Battlefield with Jim Magera, the foremost expert on the site.

Jim retired after 47 years as a high school history teacher and he shared his love for Native American culture and local history with thousands of students during his career. And if you visit the Bear Paw Battlefield in Chinook, Montana, in the morning, there is a good chance that you will find him there teaching visitors about the love of his life.

Jim first became interested in this battlefield in 1955 and first visited it in 1963. Throughout his life, Jim has consistently read about the Nez Perce and their flight of over 1,100 miles in 1877. The Nez Perce were attempting to make it to Canada so they would not be forced onto a reservation.

They almost made it. On October 5, 1877, Chief Joseph surrendered only 40 miles from the Canadian border.

This is his famous surrender speech:

“What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Too-hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are, perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”

I hope you enjoy the short video I made of Jim Magera explaining why Chief Joseph surrendered and his heart-wrenching speech.

Jim is one in a million.

sigjb

Did you learn about buffalo jumps in school?

Watch my new video about buffalo jumps!

Since I’m from Ohio, I have the double whammy when it comes to hiking in Montana: I’m used to low altitude and flat lands. Luckily, I’m living near a nice trail in Montana this summer with some altitude gain so I can practice some uphill hiking.

Not only is it a hiking trail, it is full of ancient history. And if that weren’t enough, it is a sacred place where the real world and spirit world seem to intersect.

It’s called the First Peoples Buffalo Jump in Ulm, Montana. I’m very intrigued by the human ingenuity required to trick a herd of buffalo to jump from a cliff.  I’d like to share this ancient story with you. Watch the video now.

Sorry for the huffing and puffing, but I really did just walk to the top of the butte!

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Nature’s Wisdom

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Before I left Ohio to spend the summer in Montana and the Canadian Rockies, Sister Julie Myers, OSF, told me to connect with nature and to listen closely to what nature would tell me. Since Franciscans are known for their nature wisdom, I took her advice and have spent many joyful hours outdoors this summer.

But, I wouldn’t say my nature playtime had organized into any consistent themes until yesterday.

I met Blanche, a wise Blackfoot woman, in Lethbridge, Alberta. Each Friday, since she is legally blind, Blanche takes a cab to Fort Whoop-Up and spends the afternoon sharing her Blackfoot wisdom with the tourists. Blackfoot culture and religion are based on a long and intimate relationship with the land.

Last Friday was a slow afternoon and I had Blanche almost to myself. Here are some of the stories Blanche shared with me.

Time

“Back then they had time. It’s not like we have time today. Noon, midnight, noon—that’s 24 hours. That’s one day.

In my ancestors’ time, day started when the sun came up over the horizon and ended with the sun setting in the west behind the mountains. Whether it was a few hours, like in the winter, or long days like we have in the summer. That was day.

Once the sun set, it was not time for humans to go hunting, go wood collecting, or go berry picking, it was time for human beings to come into their homes. It is time to close the outside world out.

We didn’t have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. (Yeah, it’s the weekend!) Saturday, Sunday. (Ugh, time for another week.)

We didn’t have those kind of days. We had the daylight. That was our day. We didn’t have months like January, February, March. We had moon cycles. Each of those moon cycles would tell my people you are able to do this now… the duck moon, the frog cycle.

Today, we go to the calendar and decide what we need to do at which hour. Back then, there was no hour, minute, second, month or year. It was daylight and nighttime. It was completely in balance.”

Connect with nature

“Once a year when I was still able, I would drive into the foothills to a special spot that I used to visit with my mom and dad when I was a small girl. I would go back to that same place and spend the night. I would look at the colors. There are colors there that no artist can imitate. I experienced this place through my eyesight, through my hearing, through my sense of smell. I loved that serenity I would feel when I went up to the mountains. Sometimes I would see elk. If you listen closely, there might be six elk bugling and each had his own song. And I could hear the birds that inhabit the mountain foothills. Nature is so beautiful.”

Blanche’s advice to us

“Go sit in your backyard and let the smells and the textures flow through you. It is a cleansing. It renews you.

Again and again and again, connect with nature. If you sit quietly with nature, you will receive the gifts of peace of mind, calmness, tranquility, relaxation. You won’t need to sedate yourself to relax. The foundation of our lives is mother earth.”

So now I have a Franciscan nun and a Blackfoot elder telling me the same thing. I think I better pay attention!

sigjb

Shhhhh…. 3 Family Secrets about Glacier National Park

Last weekend, on a drive home after a weekend in Glacier National Park, we were remembering dozens of past Glacier trips.

We laughed about the lodging mistakes we had made in the past—like staying near the middle of the park on US 2 to “split the difference” between the park’s two main entrances. We didn’t understand that the West Glacier and St. Mary entrances are 70 miles apart so we spent most of that weekend driving back and forth on US 2.

We also reveled in some of the little secrets we have uncovered over the years—the kind you don’t find in the guide books. Here are our three family secrets about Glacier National Park. Maybe they will make your next visit to the park more enjoyable.

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If you’re on the east side of the park, World Famous Johnson’s of St. Mary can solve most of your problems.

  • Since 1915, the Johnson’s have been serving up some incredible home cooking at the seasonal restaurant. This food will put your grandma’s best cooking to shame. And if you happen to be in the neighborhood on a Sunday, the family-style fried chicken dinner is heavenly!
  • You can also find a clean quiet campground, RV park, and rustic camping cabins at Johnson’s of St. Mary. The staff is polite and the views are stunning. Best of all, you will less than two miles from the St. Mary entrance to Glacier National Park—the beginning of the Going to the Sun road.

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No summer visit to Glacier National Park is complete without a whitewater rafting trip on the glacial-fed Flathead River. In West Glacier, we learned the hard way that not all river guiding companies are the same.

If you want your day on the river to be a special memory to last a lifetime, book your reservations with Glacier Guides and Montana Raft Company. Just remember, they are the team in the blue boats. Those will be the boats that aren’t overstuffed! And the guides who are well-trained and polite. Trust me on this one.

many glacier 2017

If you are looking for a beautiful view, away from the crowds, and near many trailheads, spend an afternoon or evening at Many Glacier Lodge. Its front deck overlooks Swiftcurrent Lake. We have seen bears, moose, sheep, and eagles from the deck.

  • There are several eating options at the lodge: the Ptarmigan Dining Room, the Swiss Lounge, and also Heidi’s Snack Shop.
  • On a cool day, just grab a book and curl up on a leather couch in the spacious lobby.
  • On nice days, grab a seat on the front deck. You will hear exciting hiking stories every afternoon as tired trekkers return from a day on the trail.

We hope our best kept secrets about Glacier National Park make your visit to the park more fun.

Do you have any tips to share with us?

sigjb

#ProTips for Montana’s Next Quake

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When I decided to put my career on hiatus and spend a summer seeking adventure in Montana, an earthquake was not on my to-do list.

Last night, I was jolted from a deep sleep to the largest earthquake in western Montana in nearly 60 years, according to the USGS. The epicenter of the 5.8 magnitude quake was 90 miles away in Lincoln, Montana.

My biggest surprise was the sound. I never knew that earthquakes were so loud.

The quake occurred just after midnight leaving many slumbering Montanans bewildered. This morning, people in Great Falls reported they thought their house had been hit by a car, a plane had crashed, or a speeding train was outside their bedroom window.

After the first quake, #MontanaEarthquake began to trend on Twitter. While Montanans laid awake waiting on the next aftershock, many tweeted gallows humor about the Yellowstone supervolcano erupting.

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Most Montanans, nor this Ohioan, have been trained in what to do in an earthquake. I could teach a class on tornado safety, but at 12:33 a.m. it became painfully clear that I had no idea what to do during an earthquake.

So today, I asked my earthquake savvy California friends for earthquake #protips. They can recite them by heart.

If you are outside, stay there and move away from buildings and wires.

If you are driving, pull over and stop. Stay in your car with your seatbelt on.

If you are inside,

  • Stay where you are. Do not run outside.
  • Drop down onto your hands and knees.
  • Cover your head and neck to protect yourself from falling debris.
  • Hold onto something sturdy.
  • If you are in bed, cover your head with your pillow and stay there.

Please note that these #protips will be irrelevant when the Yellowstone supervolcano does erupt.

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P.S. That might be the next time that #Montana will be trending on Twitter.

Athabasca Glacier Hike: Four Thumbs Up

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If a drive along the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper isn’t on your bucket list, add it now!

For 144 miles, the parkway straddles the Continental Divide on a journey through the heart of the Columbia Icefield—the largest ice field in the Rocky Mountains.

The highlight of the drive is the massive Athabasca Glacier. Many visitors choose to ride an ice bus on to the glacier, but we found a far more exciting option to explore it.

We hiked on to the glacier through a three-hour guided tour with IceWalks. Our experienced guide, Peter, first visited the Athabascan Glacier as a small boy in 1964. He was able to explain how the glacier had receded during his lifetime.

Honestly, I had a few (or maybe more than a few) fears prior to taking the hike.

  • Would I be warm enough? Even though we happened to catch an extra chilly summer day, IceWalks provided wind pants and jackets, hats, and gloves to keep us warm.
  • Would it be too slippery? IceWalks provided crampons that worked perfectly on the glacier.
  • Would I be fit enough to walk up the moraine to begin the glacier hike? Our tour group spanned the ages of 10 to 85 and Peter, our guide, made sure that everyone was comfortable and enjoyed the hike.

At the conclusion of our Canadian Rockies vacation, we each shared the highlight of our trip and the IceWalks hike was the top choice for all four members of our family! Definitely a memory that will last a lifetime!

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Not all who wander are lost

My retirement bucket list is extensive. Trails to hike. Mountains to climb. New friends to meet. My husband and I are busy working our plan to create the best retirement possible.

But it all changed this spring when I read one line from a Mary Oliver poem.

“Listen — are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”

Just one sentence re-ordered my life.

So here’s the new plan. I’m going to spend a few months hiking those trails and climbing those mountains while I still can. Best of all, I’m going to be making new friends on the Montana Hi-line and collecting their oral histories.

No job. No family responsibilities. No financial retirement plan. And probably not very many showers.

You can come along for the adventure too! Follow this blog and my Instagram account @the.open.gate.

We’re going to live this summer like someone left the gate open!

sigjb

P.S. Just in case you’re wondering, here are the answers to the three questions that my friends are asking.

  1.  No — I’m not getting divorced.
  2.  No — I’m not sick.
  3.  No — I didn’t get fired.