COLUMN: Looking everywhere for mountain goats
Aug. 6, 2018
I really love mountain goats. I think they are incredible animals. One of my main hopes on our vacation last year to Glacier National Park was to be able to take a picture of one of these elusive creatures, with a majestic mountain in the background.
On our first day of vacation, we drove all day to get there and arrived late in the evening. We set up camp, and I prepared dinner. I cooked Dutch oven potatoes
The sun was barely coming up when I climbed out of bed and started breakfast. I cooked bacon and pancakes so we would have a hearty meal to sustain us through a long day. The aroma of the cooking bacon brought the children sleepily out of their beds.
When we finished eating, we quickly cleaned up. We walked to the bus stop, and, as we stood there, we suddenly remembered that we had forgotten our camera. I ran the half mile back to camp, and then ran the return trip as well. I was feeling very oxygen deficient by the time I turned the last corner and saw the bus loading people at the bus stop. I increased my speed and made it just before the bus pulled out, and just before I passed out.
We rode the park bus up Going-To-The-Sun Road, enjoying the incredible vistas. When we reached Logan Pass, we disembarked and entered the visitors' center to see if there were any reports of mountain goat sightings. We heard of one and headed on our way on that trail.
The trail started out meandering through a meadow, but soon rose steeply up the mountain and then ran for miles along a 200-foot vertical drop. To say that our family has a fear of heights is an understatement. Some of our children began to breathe hard, not from exertion, but from fear. We told them to just keep their eyes on the mountain and not to look down as we pressed on mile after mile. But eventually, everyone was exhausted. In addition, there were complaints of blisters. So we finally decided we could not continue and had to turn back.
We found a small wooded area that hid the view of the steep drop so we could calm our nerves while we ate some lunch. Once we were slightly rested, we started back.
The hike back took even longer, since everyone was tired and sore and we had to rest frequently. Eventually, we arrived at the visitors' center. We were disappointed that, in all of our hours of hiking, we had not seen anything except a few squirrels and some chipmunks. We took pictures of them, but we knew they were not the kind of photography that would make the cover of Wild Life Extraordinaire.
While the others sat down to rest, I limped into the gift shop to hunt for a postcard of a mountain goat. Even if we weren't able to see one on our hike, we were for sure going to have a picture of one to take home with us.
I finally found a suitable picture and bought a postcard for each member of the family. When I walked out, a bus that could take us back to our campground was just pulling in. As sore, tired, and blistered as we were, we hurried as fast as we could push ourselves so we could make it.
As we came around the front of the bus to climb on, there, not 50 feet from us, stood two mountain goats grazing on the hillside. As we stopped and stared at them, I turned to my wife.
“You know what?” I said. “I really hate mountain goats.”
Daris Howard, who grew up on an Idaho farm, is a writer and math professor at BYU Idaho. His website is darishoward.com.
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