The Little Creatures

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Watching a webworm as it munched away on leaves was one of the most memorable experiences of my journey. It wasn’t that webworms are an endangered species (because they’re not) or that getting to see them eat a rare phenomenon (it’s not). It was just because seeing a little creature that possessed so few if anything at all, carrying on its business so contently, quite something. I watched as the webworm continued to eat its leaves, then I continued to wander my planet.

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A tiny tint of blue zipped through the air, catching my attention. Ah, a damselfly! The little creature cast a few cautious look around as it settled down next to me under the cool shades of a tree. What an elegant creature I thought as we spent a few minutes together on that calm summer afternoon. Then, it gently took off into the air and drifted away. I remained for a second longer, happy to have had such great company.

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Dashed left and right in the water, tidepool sculpins tried hard to conceal themselves from the curious primate towering over their home. Some hid under rocks, some under seaweeds, but one sculpin chose the right boot of mine as its hideout. I reached down for a photo, hoping that the little fella would not dart away. The sculpin stayed put, but it was very difficult to spot for its skin blended perfectly with the sand around. I thanked the little fella for the picture and we parted ways.

The encounters with these smaller, image (5)more common and less loved creatures of the wild are special. Their unique beauty brings joy to the soul and just like other animals, their simpler way of life is something quite brilliant and admirable. Brilliant because they are so content with the bare minimum. Admirable because the struggle for survival that they go through is no less terrifying or intense compared any other living beings on this planet. All one must do to find them is to stop for a moment, and look around.

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The Glaciated Mountains

Warning: Mild cursing

Day 1:

Tom is a god damned idiot. That’s my conclusion. I’m an idiot!

The first day of my four months wander that will eventually take me to the rain forest of SE Alaska, and I don’t have…………rain pants. I know, laugh at me all you want.

I don’t know if I’d live long enough to joke about the silly things I did or rather, I’ll do if I keep on messing up like this. Well, at least I didn’t die on day 1. That’s a plus!

Let’s see, where should I begin?

I guess I should describe Apgar Lookout Trail, the first hike of my journey! The Apgar Lookout Trail is about 2-3 miles from the West Entrance of Glacier National Park (GNP). There’s a 1/2-mile distance from the entrance to a small dirt road that leads to Glacier Institute. On one side of that road is the Glacier Institute and on the other, a horse stable and two gravel roads. Head toward the horse stable and take the left road. In about 1.5 miles, cross a small bridge atop a river junction. Stop right there and take a look at the great phenomenon right bellow your feet. Crystal clear water merges with silty brown. You don’t see that everywhere. Another 0.5 miles and the trail head should be visible from the small parking lot.

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The trail itself is only 7.1 miles round trip at 1845 ft gain in elevation and averages 520 ft. elevation gain/mile. There’s a 5 miles distance to get to and from the trail. Keep that in mind friends, especially if you are a car-less vagabond. Also, remember that mountain weather can change very rapidly without any warnings. SO ALWAYS PACK RAIN GEAR!!!

The Apgar Lookout Trail is a strenuous trail. Therefore, it is relatively empty. That means solitude, something I crave intensely.  Hence the decision of hiking there.

Trekking steadily up the mountain toward the lookout, I turned a corner that oversees a valley. Two things struck me immediately: The magnificent view that stretches as far as the eyes can see, and a big, stormy cloud that’s heading in my direction.

Whether or not I’ll get caught in the rain is unclear, so I rushed toward the top……or tried to. Unfortunately, I haven’t hiked anywhere with an elevation for years; that’s not to mention the difference in air density from the flat plains of Minnesota to the rugged mountains of Montana. One thing is clear. However, there’s no way I’m giving up before I get to the top. Back to trekking it is! I’m sure it’ll all be worth it even if I get wet. Regardless, I love the rain.

I’m struggling a bit. It is a tough hike, but I shouldn’t struggle so much. Three months went into preparation yet I’m still out of shape. I guess I’m a bit arrogant. I’ve always considered myself to be rather fit and healthy. Therefore, I didn’t exercise as hard as I should. That will be a lesson for the future. Never assume that I’m fit enough just to show up and wing it in nature. That’ll never work in my favor. Instead, respect nature and always prepare as carefully as possible……hey look, a couple of people….jogging up the mountain as if it’s flat. Wow, they’re fit. That’s it; that’s my new aspiration. To jog up mountains as if they’re flat!

Almost there…………c’mon Tom, you can do it……….almost……….. the lookout is insight now!!!…..home stretch…….Yes! I’ve made it to the top

……………………… (Silence) ……………………….

Woah, the view is breathtaking up here. Lake McDonald stretches across the valley to the glaciated mountains! How beautiful. Scorch marks left behind by the Robert fire are unmistakable from up here. Vast expanse of forest burned. I wonder how many poor animals died from that terrifying heat. A moment of silence for all the suffering souls everywhere.Apgar-1

……………………… (Silence)  ……………………….

Weather seems bipolar up here. Just this morning there weren’t even any clouds. 20 minutes ago it was sunny and windless. Now the wind’s blowing furiously and rain’s falling.

Time to head back down. There’s no way I’ll make it back to camp dry. I have no rain gear with me remember? Even if I have my rain gear, I’ll still be wet from the waist down. That’s ok, though. I’ve always loved rain. The wind does seem a bit intense though.

AHAH! There’s the trail head. I made it! The first hike of my journey and I’ve made it out alive! What an enjoyable excursion. Tough, but enjoyable. I’m elated even though I’m wet, cold, and tired. I’ve hiked over 12 miles today, a big chunk of it uphill. There’s still three miles to go before I get back to camp……….what the hell, let’s hitchhike instead. Oh hey! The couple that jogged up the hill. My new inspirations to get in shape! Thank you guys for the ride back to Apgar campground. I appreciate it greatly.

After an exhausting first day, I’m finally back at camp! I am soaking wet, hungry and tired, but I feel great. It feels great to ramble about, exploring and enjoying the great out of doors. I’ll reward myself with instant mash potatoes and summer sausage. I’ve earned it.

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Today’s just the first day, however. Who knows how many more rainy days are ahead, who knows what kind of challenges there will be, I do know that I enjoy every second amidst nature, breathing fresh air and rambling around. Let’s just bring proper gear next time!

I’m tired, but happy!

Where The Wild Things Begin (Glacier National Park Pt.1)

Sitting in the Amtrak Empire Builder, I glanced at the silhouette of St. Paul, MN for the last time as the city sinks into the horizon. Taking with it the rules, routines, and expectations that have been my life. For 19 years, I have been living someone else’s life, someone else’s dream. I have tried to live up to someone else’s expectations. I have planned for a future that simply is not mine. As the city sinks into the horizon, it took away everything that’s not me.

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My imagination wandered into the clouds. Lost there, I see my future more vividly than ever before. Instead of college, a car, a house, a spouse, a child. I see adventures, the wild, free souls, life. Lost in my dreams, I found myself for the first time, I found a happy BAM!……….OW, face planted on the window*%$#….the train passed through a rough stretch of rails, and it brought me back to reality. 22 hours aboard the Amtrak Empire Builder before my adventure begins. All I can do now is look out the window. All I can do now is wait.

As the train crept toward the highland of Montana, a different picture slowly unveiled itself. It is an image of mighty mountains reaching high into the sky. It is an image of vast green forests stretching across the land. It is a picture of crystal clear water gracing down the slopes, nourishing all that is alive. It is a picture of beauty and serenity. It is a picture that sends shivers down your spine and urges you to jump out of the train onto the ground and just start exploring.

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Trapped inside the metal boxcar, I gazed hungrily at this charming view for this is a welcoming change from the mountains of concrete and rivers of cars. Trapped inside the metal boxcar, I grew impatient to explore nature.
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Crunch, Crunch, Crunch, Skreeeeetch………..Bomp! It stopped! The train finally stopped! Rushing out of the train, I filled my lungs with the sweetness of fresh air. A light breeze brushes against me as the rain falls gently on my skin. Such little things that bring endless joy to your soul. I had no time to waste, however. It was late in the afternoon, and I was then in bear country (still am now). I must set up my tent before dark. I hitchhiked to Apgar campground and that my friends were where the wild things begin.


Into the wild world of blogging!

Leaving home on my odyssey Hello, friends! I’m Thomas Nguyen, and I’m a traveler from nowhere in particular. As I wander the earth, she struck me with her mesmerizing beauty. I’d like to share my travel with you and maybe inspire you to quit your boring 9-5 job and embark on an epic journey as well. Since this is my first-hand experience with blogging, please feel free to drop advice! Thank you, my dear friends!