Glaciers, Goals and Goats in Banff National Park

goatsGlaciers, Mountain Goats and Goals

As part of my fiftieth celebration, I created a list of fifty fun firsts for my fiftieth year.  This summer, Pedro and I headed to Alaska to visit Sarah. Along the way, we plan on experiencing as many things from the list as possible. Under the category of ‘Places to Visit,’ Banff National Park topped the list.

We arrived at Banff National Park in between rainstorms on the first day of summer. Ever since I saw a picture of Lake Louise with towering mountains seeming to rise from the shores of the Caribbean-green waters, I’ve wanted to visit. The mountains rose out of green forests and wildflower covered swaths next to the highway like silent fortresses.

We passed Lake Louise without stopping to visit after our foray into Banff to purchase gas. The quaint town sports Swiss-village architecture, narrow streets and corner gas stations built on lots smaller than our not-so-very-big house. Not an ideal place to fuel up whilst towing a trailer—we decided instead to pick a random hike from our Milepost travel guide and wave at Lake Louise as we drove by.

The overlook at Bow Lake looked as beautiful as any photo I’ve ever seen of Lake Louise—unfortunately, the pull out area had already filled up, so we drank in the views as we drove by. Around 1:30 we arrived at the Parker Ridge Trailhead, which our guidebook claimed would take us to the top of a ridge with views of the Saskatchewan Glacier in a three-hour round trip hike.

I managed to keep my camera in my bag until we reached the top of the ridge (not knowing how long the hike would actually take, I didn’t want to spend time photographing every little flower on the way up). We hiked beyond the ridge in order to get better views of the glacier, wildflowers and a see-the-bottom-clear turquoise lake. I hoped to see mountain goats as well, but had to content myself with photos of Columbian ground squirrels and least chipmunks. no goats


On the way down, I snapped photos of the wildflowers and contemplated the Creator who formed beauty for every ecosystem. The highest and lowest points often require the closest observation in order to not overlook the delicate beauty that flourishes in the seemingly hostile environments.

When on mountaintops, we tend to look out over the sweeping vistas and forget to notice the miniscule, in-the-moment blessings at our feet. Likewise, whilst walking through the desert places we focus on the heat, the discomfort and the need to just escape. I’ve learned that the desert floor has beauty and purpose, too.

We made it to the truck right before the skies started spitting. After consulting our Milepost guidebook, we decided that we would only try to make it to Grand Prairie—79 miles short of our morning’s stated goal. The four-mile hike to the top of the world provided a worthwhile trade-off.

As I read through the Milepost, I came across a warning to watch out for stopped motorists at mile 233.7—where drivers often slowed down or stopped to view and photograph mountain goats. For years I’ve wanted to get great photos of mountain goats but never had success. I’ve climbed multiple mountains in Montana in hopes of getting a great shot, but whilst some lucky people have gotten fabulous photos with their cell phones, the mountain goats always stayed out of reach for my telephoto lens.

“What’s that?” Pedro exclaimed. I looked up from my guidebook perusal and there, ahead of us on the side of the road we could see a small herd of mountain goats. He joined the other tourists who pulled over and slowed down whilst I grabbed my camera and snapped away. We counted four adults, three babies and two teenagers munching grass and flowers on the side of the road. The smallest kid still had its dried-up umbilical chord attached.mountaingoat mountaingoat-5 mountaingoat-4

We followed the herd as they ambled towards an area with white cliffs. The smallest goat bleated a time or two as it frolicked in the clover. When the mama stopped to lick the earth for salt, the baby flopped down and started licking the ground, too, content to let remaining close to its mother be its only goal.

We couldn’t stop talking about the experience—a magical moment that required no work on our part. And then it struck me. My journey through life with Jesus leading me requires me to commit to the journey and then allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me and bless me along the way. I don’t have to climb mountains and wear myself out seeking personal perfection—I just have to realize that God will bestow the blessings, gifts, and lessons as I need them.

To cap off the day’s drive, we saw three rainbows hovering beneath the mountains and enjoyed an hour-long sunset show as we drove through the dense forests along the Bighorn Highway.