A recent vacation took LJ and I to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. The scenery awed, the wildlife quickened the heartbeat, but images of the people we met linger, too:
1. The locals — as in northwestern Pennsylvanians. On the western end of Going to the Sun Road, a voice behind us at a turnout where our license plate was visible asked, “where in Pennsylvania?” Erie, we said. Girard, he replied. At Old Faithful, we dragged ourselves back to the vehicle for lunch and found a “hello” note under the wiper left by Waterford residents also spending the day in the park.
2. Everyone else. There was the couple from West Lafayette, Ind., spending two gloriously dry, warm nights at Many Glacier Hotel after camping in GNP and at Yellowstone. From our shared balcony, we watched a moose cow feed in the lake below us, soon joined by a massive bull, and finally by a calf. At a construction stop on Going to the Sun Road, all doors opened on a van with a Pennsylvania plate. A rental, it turns out; the four passengers were from Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois and California. I gave it one more try at a fuel station near Mammoth Hot Springs; a car had a Pa. plate, and so I asked. “Rental,” the driver said in a rich brogue. “I’m from the U.K.” I doubt he’s telling stories about the Pennsylvanian he talked to at the pump.
3. The most fun were the young hikers we chanced upon at transcendentally beautiful Bowman Lake in GNP, about 20 miles south of the Canadian border. They were soaked and cold, and one’s otherwise bare feet were patched by duct tape for blister protection. They’d come out of the wilderness hours early after a weeklong through-hike starting near Logan Pass, and wondered if we couldn’t drop them nearer Polebridge, a secluded crossroads where their ride would have to pass on the way to the appointed pickup site. We packed their gear and made room for them in the backseat, and no sooner had we started talking about their adventure than we made room on the tight road for a passing van they were pretty sure was their ride. “I think that’s my dad,” one said. We caught his attention, said hello, transferred the gear and bade them well. “God bless,” the second hiker told us with a smile. It was the same day we saw our first-ever spruce grouse and also met a backcountry rescue type who tried to put us onto a pack of wolves that roamed his valley. We never saw those wolves, but the day was wild in a way that couldn’t have been better.
Who are the memorable people you’ve met in your travels?