The Daily Walk, Bees and Sky

O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, hasten to help me.

My daily walk the other day took my past a
huge hive of bees
.

Doesn’t that just remind you of the Easter Vigil?

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.

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Bright shall be the glory of wise counsellors, as the radiance of the sky above; starry-bright for ever their glory, who have taught many the right way.
Daniel 12:3

Ciao.

A Pilgrim’s Tale

Camino Sights

El CaminoI typed up this little story about some of my adventures on the Camino de Santiago ,for Steve Skojec’s new site 1 Peter 5.

It’s a much more refined version there, where it first appeared. But, because you asked, here we go…

“In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” Proverbs 3:6

I’m a walker. I walk all over the place.

And, at times in my life, I get the feeling the Lord is calling me to walk a bit off the beaten path, which takes discernment. So I’ve learned to simply wait in my cloud of unknowing, as prayerfully as one might, until all is revealed.

That was certainly the case when I entered Seminary armed with the words, “Thy will be done!” It was also the case in my various travels to South America, because for the life of me traveling to South America alone, no matter who was supposed to meet me where, was always a bit nerve wracking. And while I’m not one to test the Lord, one certainly has to test ideas by fire to fully determine if they are from the Lord.

And so it was, that when the idea came to walk the Camino de Santiago, via a hiking buddy who is also a Priest, that I decided to test the matter prayerfully. I had certainly wanted to walk the great pilgrimage route since I was a child. And I could certainly at least try to carve the time into my schedule. I mentioned it to my parishioners, who all wanted me to go so enthusiastically that I became suspicious.
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But it was in those still moments before the dawn, when the world lies quiet and the mists swirl gently about while the birds start to sing, that I kept feeling the warmth in my heart which I’ve learned to associate with God’s confirmation in my life.

Little did I know what all of this would entail. But isn’t that usually the way when following the Lord’s will?

The Cross of St. James

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My friend, Fr. Jimmy, and I were in two altogether different places physically, spiritually and mentally. He had just turned 50, was about to start a new assignment and, having a long time devotion to St. James, was looking forward to the physicality of a long walk to St. James resting place at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

I have my own devotion to St. James, and even adopted his cross as a reminder to be strong in the Lord at an exceptionally difficult time in my life. (At the time I had no idea it was the Santiago Cross.) Yet I somehow knew that the Lord was bringing closure to that time in my life, and healing to my spirit. The Santiago Cross, the cross of St. James, became a symbol to me; a symbol of triumph.

As for the Camino, I had just celebrated 10 years as a Priest, had thrown my knee out, and was completely sedentary at the time I started praying about the trip. We were to have just under three weeks for the pilgrimage, and were to be walking about 200 miles. I’m a walker! What could go wrong? I had to prepare for the trip.

I watched the movie “The Way”. I joined online discussion groups about the Camino. I researched all things lightweight. What shoes to wear? How much clothing? What should I bring?

I did my best to be very present to our Parishioners in the weeks prior to departure, and prepared as best I might. I spent hours, days, weeks, trying to pack as light as possible… all the time deep in prayer.

And then the day came, and we departed.

In the Beginning…

Casa en Madrid
Being a Priest is challenging at times, but it’s certainly not without it’s perks. We flew into Madrid and stayed at a residence operated by the Spanish Bishop’s Conference, and had a brief tour dubbed “Madrid in Una Tarde”. Later we discovered tapas, and then around 9PM we had dinner. In Spain, late dining is the thing. The sun sets around 11:00pm, so there’s plenty of time for dinner.

The next morning we departed for Gijon, along the northern Coast of Spain, where we would be starting the Camino del Norte. There are many different routes to get to Santiago de Compostela, and the route along the northern coast is a much cooler route than the others in the summertime.

Filled with enthusiasm and armed with preconceptions, we set out early the next morning.

We had found the tourist office, and gotten our credencials in Gijon. The credencial is a small booklet which you present along the route, and have stamped, so that when you arrive in Santiago de Compostela you have some type of proof that you’ve actually walked the walk (or caught busses, trains, cabs, ridden a bike, a horse, etc.) Also, you present it along the route at many different places, which lets people know you are a pilgrim, a peregrino.

In retrospect, it’s not terribly difficult for anyone to tell that you are a peregrino. But the Credencial is an important document, and some of them are truly beautiful.

Heading Out!

Walking out of Gijon we got lost within the hour as we headed towards the next town over, Aviles. The path wasn’t well marked, though someone pointed us in the right direction.

It was then that we first saw the traditional markers of the brass scallop shells in the pavement. In Gijon, and in the Asturias Region of Spain in general, the edge of the shell always points towards Santiago de Compestela. (That changed abruptly mid-trip, which cause a bit of initial confusion.)

We walked and walked, and walked some more. Pilgrims on the way. People said “Buen Camino!” The sun rose gently and smiled upon us. We saw a few other pilgrims and let forth a hardy “Buen Camino!” as well.

The time passed gradually, and we walked on and on. The sun rose ever higher in the sky, and started to be a bit hot. I drank all of my water, got sweaty, and felt a bit faint. I ate a chocolate bar, found some more water at a local tienda, and rested a bit. Life was still good. We were already in Aviles, after all, having walked about 17 miles.
Aviles, Spain
Aviles is a beautiful medieval town, with streets of marble. Many peregrinos stay there; sensibly so. But we were out for mileage. Fr. Jimmy wanted to walk to a little town a bit farther on, San Juan de la Arena, and I fully agreed. And so we went, walking along the beautifully marbled streets of Aviles.

It was walking out of town that we got separated, and then I got lost. I remember exactly where it was. Fr. Jimmy was ahead a few blocks, and I didn’t see the shell which was in the wall along one street. The shells were no longer in the pavement, but had transferred to the walls. At this intersection, for the life of me, I did not see it. But I did see a yellow arrow (another common marker) which led down a different street.

After a good two miles I knew in my soul that I was lost in Spain.

I backtracked and eventually found the trail. I walked through some woods, then some more woods, then some more. There was never any water, and the time stretched on from two, to three, to four, to five, to six pm. Soon it was eight pm. I never passed through a village, never saw a store, never saw a water faucet which was not behind an impressive set of locked gates.

While I was relieved and thankful that walking comes so naturally to the human body, by 9PM I was tired. And so thirsty. I had been scanning the woods, eyeing possible places to camp for the night, but I needed water first. I also needed to get in touch with Fr. Jimmy; my phone was not yet working in Spain yet. And after all, the sun was still up.

I wasn’t quite desperate yet, but I determined finally, that if I saw a hose, a faucet, anything… I was going for it. Jesus I trust in you! If I saw someone I would beg for water. Over and over in my mind I rehearsed a simple Spanish phrase: “Senor/Senora, Por favor, necessito agua.

Soon enough, I saw a man watering his garden. With a garden hose! As casually as I might, exhausted and dehydrated as I was, looking every bit the peregrino, I sauntered over and spoke my carefully rehearsed phrase.

And he said No!

My mind clouded over, and parts of my life flashed before my eyes. I reconsidered everything I had researched about the Camino. I questioned my existence.

Off and on during the day I had gotten caught up in the grand struggle of “Why?” Why are we trying for so much mileage? Why am I here? Why don’t I just go home? Why didn’t I just stay in Aviles, which was so charming? Why? Why? WHY?!

But as the man kept speaking and gesticulating, a dim glimmer of perception started to form in my mind. Amidst my existential crisis, he was pointing me down the road, and from what I could tell, he was saying something about it being not too far away.

“Gracias,” was my reply. I soldiered onward, trying my best to look, and feel, optimistic.

Forty feet later I got my first experience of a communal faucet, just past his house. I sat down, drank my fill, slaked my thirst, and loaded up with about 4 liters of water (which is quite heavy to carry.)
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I rested and rejoiced, and my prayer turned to Thanksgiving.

And then, I set out walking again. Soon it seemed I was getting into a village, but the trail snaked back endlessly into the woods. And, and this is always the case on the Camino del Norte, it went up.

Up, up, up and over… I saw a field and considered sleeping there. I saw a large tree and considered sleeping there. I saw another, nicer field and imagined how my little tarp would provide me with such a good shelter as I slept like a true peregrino, a pilgrim roughing it on the Way. I saw an abandoned country school and considered sleeping there, on the porch.

But where was Fr. Jimmy? My phone wasn’t working in Spain and I had to let him know where I was and that I was OK. Was he in the town ahead of me? I just didn’t know and I needed an internet connection.
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Suddenly and without warning, the path swooped down to a roadway. And in about 20 minutes I saw someone working on a car.

Again as casually as I might, as if this were an every day occurrence, because God forbid I should look out of place hiking around after 9PM in Spain, I sauntered over and asked about a hotel.

Ah senor“, Yes there was a hotel close by, but it was “very expensive“.

My heart didn’t sink a bit at this news. I said “No es importante. A donde?” And sure enough, it was “up”. (Everything after an endless walk, is “up”.)

I envisioned $450 being forever lost from my bank account, but figured it would be worth it and I would just have to be frugal for the rest of my life anyway. What difference at this point did it make! I needed some rest, man! I was wiped! And me, a peregrino.

God surely did provide. The hotel was a converted Palaccio. The woman behind the counter said, as I walked in at 9:45 pm wet with sweat, “Ah… you are a peregrino. We have a special rate.”

It was a marvelous place, and cost about $80US. It was an exquisite and surprisingly beautiful ending to the day, and was the first in many lessons that God will provide on the Camino, and that the Camino has lessons for us to learn.

I had a hot bath and soaked my well worn legs. I e-mailed Fr. Jimmy and we made plans to meet up the next day. He had caught a cab and rode around looking for me, even calling the local hospitals as he knew I felt faint in the heat of the day. Thank God for friends. I fell into a deep, blissful, slumber which only broke well after the dawn.

That first day I had walked over 30 miles.

And so it went

And so it went for our walk through Spain. The next day I walked 12 miles, Fr. Jimmy walked 22, and we met in a little town called Soto de Luina. Tired of tapas, and starving, I had my first truly hearty meal in Spain, a dish called Fabada Asturianas; it was to die for.
Church in Ribadeo
The Camino sort of re-forms you as you walk. My preconceptions fell away quickly as the mileage racked up. My twisted knee never once bother me, and hasn’t since. Yet I developed terrible blisters the likes of which I haven’t seen since I was a Tenderfoot in scouting.

There were days when each step was agony. And with each aching step some mortal sin from the past came to mind and I begged for forgiveness. On and off various intentions which people had asked me to pray for came up as well, and I offered them up.

I repented of my sins, examined my ways, and grew in an understanding of simplicity which had never really been quite so clear to me as it became on the Camino. There’s only one goal, which is to walk to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Whatever takes away from that just falls by the wayside. And isn’t that exactly how our journey to Heaven should be, as we work our salvation out, as we strive to live in heroic virtue?

There were days in the middle of things when I wondered why on earth I had ever thought to undertake such an outing. What could the Lord possibly have been thinking? What could I possibly have been thinking?
Camino Sights
How could I have considered that this was a good thing to be doing with my time? My feet were killing me. I had responsibilities at home, obligations to meet, people to support. I have a good strong bed that’s long enough for my tall frame. A good prayer room. A comfortable chair behind my desk. A wonderful Church where I say Mass and pray. A laptop and internet access. What more did I want? Why was I walking through Spain? And not only walking, but walking. And walking and walking. Fr. Jimmy and I, longtime friends and hiking buddies, were up and down in our friendship, passing several days without speaking or wanting to see each other at all.

Yet in all of this, my mind always went back to Scripture and prayer. What was important was the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. And what was important as well were the prayers, the relationships, the friendships, along the way.

It’s always in the middle, in the midst of things, that Faith weakens. I made a firm decision to amend my ways and to walk on no matter what. Fr. Jimmy and I mended ways, my feet started to heal.
Up this Way
I prayed the Rosary. Fr. Jimmy and I prayed together often, and at Mass. I delighted in meeting new people who were having their own Camino experiences, learning where they were from, and what had brought them along. The food was delicious, the company grand. And my feet started healing. My spirit lifted, my mind cleared, my soul sang songs of joy. Usually.

Sons of Thunder

Just as I had experienced that with every final destination there was an uphill climb, so it came to be that one of our last long days was a 25 mile walk that seemed to never end. On and on it went, until it eventually came to rest in a small town with one of the worst hotels in Spain. God bless them.It was nothing if not eccentric.

We met there a wonderful group of Scots who were on the final legs of their 5 year long Camino, who completely agreed with us. Walking with them was a pleasure as they sang hymns together along the way.

But the Camino was drawing to a close. And as we drew closer to Santiago de Compestela, and the 0 kilometer marker, each step was a bit lighter. Every face shone a bit more brightly. Every ache and pain less noticeable.

The final walk into Santiago de Compostela was an entirely beautiful thing. We only had 6 miles to walk, and practically breezed in, despite a pouring rain. As we approached the great Cathedral, all pain fell away, every unpleasant experience melted into nothingness, and a remarkable feeling of peace came into my heart.
Cathdral of Santiago de Compostela
We had left around 8:00am, walked through wind and rain, and at Noon we were in the Sanctuary, concelebrating Mass amidst the ancient splendor of the great Cathedral.

After Mass I asked the good Sister who was the Sacristan if we could concelebrate again the next day. She assured me that it was alright, and said that they were going to be using the famed Botafumiero the next day, which would be very exciting. And so it came to be. And before it swung I was actually one of the Priests putting incense into the great and historic thurible.

The Kingdom of Heaven

Arriving in Santiago de Compostela after the long walk through Spain, must be like arriving in Heaven after the long walk through life. The Camino demands a sense of simplicity from you. You have to lighten your burden as you walk (literally, by tossing things or mailing ahead if you’re carrying too much, as I was despite my hours of planning.) You have to accept things as they present themselves, and you have to work through things, situations and relationships. But most of all, you just have to keep going.
La Cathedral

I was struck in many areas by the spirituality along the Camino, or the Way as it is sometimes called. A lot of different spiritual expressions are there. In some places deeply Catholic, in some, new age; in some a hippie vibe, and in others there is just an ‘I want to check out Spain and figure out life’ vibe.

But in all of it, I was struck by what a beautiful opportunity the Catholic Church offers, and has offered for centuries, via the Camino de Santiago. While some say the routes have their origins in pagan walks, research shows that the paths were forged by devout Christians walking to the tomb of St. James the Apostle, in Santiago de Compostela.

Symbols and Shells

Scallop Shell Motif
The greatest symbol of the walk is the scallop shell, which can also be used for scooping up water, and wine (and for baptizing, of course.) But the many lines along the back of the shell converge into the end, symbolizing the many routes which converge from across Spain, and across Europe, into the town of Santiago de Compostela. The lines also symbolize the many different paths which we all walk each day in our lives, and which all lead us to our end in Jesus Christ.

And that’s another thing which struck me along this great and noble route, that so many people are still walking it while seeking to know Jesus Christ more and more, with many devout Catholics along the way.

And yet many simply had a spiritual vagueness. To me they seemed as a line along a scallop shell which had no end: “though they have eyes, they cannot see, and though they have ears, they cannot hear or understand.” The richness of the Catholic spiritual tradition, in all of it’s gruelingly penitential splendor, vibrantly and resoundingly grand all about them, and yet they cannot fully comprehend it.

Still, it touches them. The fragrance of Christ abounds

Settling Down to Earth

I’ve read that it takes awhile to come back down to earth after the Camino. And I’ve found myself taking a bit more time to do things, and being a bit more gentle with myself when papers start collecting on my desk.

I spend a lot of time stretching my legs and back. I try to spend more time with everyone who crosses my path. And is it really true that I don’t have enough time in the morning to squeeze an orange or two into a nice little glass? Or to make a Cafe con Leche? Or to walk a bit more often? I am a walker, after all.

And I pray in Thanksgiving to God for the opportunity to experience the Camino. It was there for all of Christian history prior to my arrival, and God willing it will be there long after I am gone. It demanded much from me, and yet I already find myself wondering how I might do it again one day. I learned things about simplicity, about penance, about beauty, about joy, about friendship, about our Faith. Most of all, I learned even more to trust in the Lord.

The heart of man disposes his way: but the Lord must direct his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

I’m a walker. In all my ways I acknowledge Him; and He directs my paths.

Trust

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I was thinking the other day, that I have major trust issues on some fronts.

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Trust?

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“Just trust me.”

People, friends old, friends new, are wonderful.

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And it’s always an invitation to trust more as we go through life.

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It can bring laughter…

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or stark experiences…

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Beautiful times…

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Beautiful friends.

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Longtime buddies…

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Amazing families….

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And amazing shrimp creole.

So, as I continue to grow in my understanding of trust, I have to remember…

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It’s all good.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Berg Lake – The Rest of the Story

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Not that it’s much of a story… But this is the hut and dishwashing area up at the Berg Lake campground.  It’s actually the back of the hut, and I was usually hesitant to walk in through this door due to the rain and mud, but it turned out to be no big deal.  The inside of the shelter stays pretty dry because everyone is taking care not to get it all wet and muddy. That and you walk in right by the wood burning stove, which dries things out pretty fast.

And it is THE place to hang all of your wet clothes to dry out.  The assorted batch in this view is from the previous night.  At this point many hikers were still heading back in the rain, cold and mist.  And soon this area was completely filled with drying clothes as a warm fire was built in the wood burning stove (which is just outside of the range of this picture!)

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And here’s Fr. Jimmy holding up tonight’s dinner!  It was a freeze dried extravaganza, and every meal was delicious.  While that’s partly due to the fact that almost any meal tastes good on the trail (with some notable exceptions….), it also has to do with the fact that freeze dried meals have come a long way in the last decade.  A lot of them just taste fantastic. And this coconut Cuban rice thing hit the spot after the freezing cold rain fest over at the glacier earlier in the day.

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Fr. Jimmy is convinced he is an introvert.  I’m not quite convinced of that, as he is so out going and popular on the trail. But he does read a lot, and needs his alone time.

The woman in the background is measuring water for dinner.  In this Shangri-La of a campsite, you can literally just walk to the edge of the lawn and dip your container into the clear, briskly flowing stream for water.  It was beautiful. Many campers especially the Canadians, do that alone.  But we southerners, jaded by the muddy Mississippi and the Gulf Oil Spill no doubt, used Steripens if we weren’t cooking with it.

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The glacier makes huge groaning noises throughout the day and night, which are often mistaken for thunder.  While we were looking at it the evening prior to this, a chunk fell off into the lake while we oohed and aah’d in complete wonder.  It looked like a puff of snow falling gently into the lake.

A few seconds later there was a huge boom, which was the delayed sound reaching us … truly amazing!

But later that night, as the soft rain fell, the glacier groaned for what seemed several minutes, with a terrific rumbling sound as well.  Some campers saw large chunks of ice fall into the water, and the ranger who passed by the next morning called it a “significant event”.

That led me to use the term “significant event” throughout the day, to anyone and everyone who commented upon the amount of ice in the lake.

It was a significant event.

A significant event I tell you.  The Ranger said so.

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And the lake was filled with a significant amount of ice.  But these small ice bergs are what give the lake it’s name, after all.

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Which for whatever reason led me to try artistic shots with my little Nikon Coolpix. And at the base of the mountain and the glacier, you can make out a significant line of ice.

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Despite the ongoing rain and mist and fog and the damp and the cold, (I kept trying to explain to the Canadians that  this was like winter in New Orleans…) the shelter remained a haven of warmth and dryness.  The wood burning stove inside was kept well tended, and people were hanging clothes out to dry until there was barely any room left, and one had to search high and low for an extra inch of hang space.

And speaking of dry, the Marmot Limelight 3p tent kept us high, dry and warm throughout this wet and rainy first week of backpacking and hiking.  I was initially concerned about it’s weight, but between two relatively large men, (one of which there is nothing relative in the least about largeness… I am just a big guy,) the weight was entirely manageable, and the tent roomy enough so that you almost don’t even remember there’s another person in the tent at times.

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The Steripen Ultra, in action.

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Low lying clouds scudding by in the evening light.

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A Canadian Stand Around.  Bob and his family were celebrating some major birthdays by taking some trail time together then hitting Jasper over the weekend. The amount of families on the trail was both amazing and inspiring.

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Cloudy Mist, with a glint of twilight, begging to be photographed.

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We fixed breakfast inside the shelter the next morning as we prepared to leave.  Despite the heights of complexity and deliciousness that freeze dried meals have obtained,  we stuck to a fairly penitential breakfast regimen of gruel … granola with hot water added, and coffee.

And actually we  just brought all of our gear up to the shelter to pack it up since we were leaving fairly early and it was starting to rain. Again.

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But then the sun came out and everyone shouted Hallelujah!  Bradley showed up and fetched some water during this brief appearance of the sun.  And from the looks of this picture, my little Nikon didn’t know how to respond to the sudden appearance of sunlight. Especially with random raindrops falling…

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The walk out was as beautiful as the walk in… shrouded in glory.

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Between the last picture and this one, a huge rain squall erupted, with cold winds blowing at what must have been at least Tropical Storm force.  We had to lean into the wind, and the rain hit us in the face, feeling like sleet or, at times, hail.  I felt like I was in a National Geographic special.   Fr. Jimmy noted, over the wind, that this was the back country at it’s roughest.

At the height of this storm, a man and woman walked around a bend with packs on, holding an umbrella impossibly against the wind and the rain.  It was absurd and yet somehow delightful.  It reminded me what I had come to love about the Berg Lake Trail in these few short days… that everything and everyone on it was so unique and so strange and so beautiful.

After a few moments, we descended off of the plain and began the intense 4K descent back to Whitehorn and the rest of the trail out.   The weather cleared, and we stopped and prayed morning prayer, giving thanks for such a beautiful and wonderful stay at Berg Lake.

 

 

 

 

At Berg Lake

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Hiking along Berg Lake affords incredible, soul-stirring views.  This glacier coming off of Mount Robson feeds into a small damned lake which is viewable via Google Earth, but which I had zero energy to attempt once I had arrived on site.  Aside from the fact that it’s not the most attractive hike on the planet,  let alone at Lake Berg, one would also have to ford the raging river…  or just hike in from the other side.  And that certainly wasn’t going to be happening anytime soon.

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Lots of little bridges like this one to help ford the streams.  Usually when they’re there, they are quite necessary and helpful. (Admittedly, there are a few superfluous bridges, though this is not one of them.)

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Ah.  Que magnifico!

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One hikes along Berg Lake for what seems a small eternity.  Having just flown in and not having my trail legs yet (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it,)  I was ready to set up camp and fix dinner, then settle into reading the book I had brought with me.    But with views like this, who doesn’t mind walking another mile or two to get to camp?  Certainly not me!  (That’s my story and again I’m sticking to it.)

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At last we arrived at the Berg Lake campground, where the view more or less looks like this, at least when it’s cloudy. It reminded me of the Old Testament stories of the clouds around the mountains, around the temple…

To make a long story short, we set up camp, met a lot of great people, ate dinner, visited, read books, and had a peaceful night’s sleep at the well made camp grounds.

The next day we had decided to hike up to the traditional 12 mile day hike from Lake Berg, which is to Snowbird Pass.  But the weather was windy, rainy, and ultra misty and cloudy.   We opted to visit the glacier (which was only 6 miles…) and everyone who attempted Snowbird that day, except for a hardy few, turned back due to the weather.  So, I didn’t feel like a total failure;  I’m usually vindicated in these low mileage decisions.

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For some reason in photos I am always clutching my hiking poles for dear life.  I will have to get to the bottom of this issue.

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The trail to Snowbird Pass, passes along this glacier.  It was rainy, windy and cold and I was convinced I was going to die from hypothermia before the day was out despite my many layers of polar-tec.

Still, this glacier beckoned us forward.

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The trail leads safely around this boulder field (you can see Fr. Jimmy who is now a tiny red speck to the left…) and we safely bypassed it to the glacier.  But, coming away from the glacier we trod right through it and I just have to add here that it’s a completely tedious task to pick one’s way through a boulder field.  They slip, they roll over, the fall downhill after you… entirely doable, but so is hiking back up to the trail and simply walking down.

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The bottom of the glacier is fascinating, with these amazing caves underneath it.  The river flows out from under it with an amazing force.

Er… that’s a warning sign to the right, warning about the dangers of going off trail, most likely. I’m pretty sure it just says “Be Careful!”

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Another glacial view, with caves on the bottom right.

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And yet another view….  there are rain drops on the camera lens at this point because it was raining pretty steadily.  And the closer we got to this huge chunk of ice, the colder it got.  I had my hat, gloves, wool sweater, rain jacket, polar-tec shirts…  it was freezing cold and I loved it.

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At the base of the glacier with the river flowing from underneath…

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There’s a beach of sorts composed entirely of mud so that it reminded me of Grand Isle except a thousand degrees cooler.

The mud gets all over everything, and the stones can be slippery.  Still, we opted to have lunch in this odd environment.  As we did, the rain poured down even harder.    We dined on packaged chicken, cheese crackers, and, my personal trail favorite, M&M’s.   This was also the 8th anniversary of Katrina, so somehow the rain did not bother me, nor the cool temperatures.  I was so thankful to be out of the heat, taking good exercise and seeing amazing new sites….

That lasted for a good twenty minutes before I decided that if I did not get out of there I would freeze to death within the hour and what good would that do anyone? Fr. Jimmy agreed and we packed up and left.

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You can kind of see the rain in this pic of one of the berg caves.

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Fr. Jimmy felt compelled to drink some of this ‘pure glacial water’, which I found odd.  It looks incredibly muddy to me, and the water in the streams flowing from it didn’t carry all of the sediment, so was much purer.  Still, he’ll probably outlive me so who am I to question drinking glacial runoff?  It’s evidently quite popular at Lake Berg.

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Cold, freezing, rained out…   Life belongs to the rugged!

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Heading back, after successfully traversing the boulder field, there’s a placid lake, which runs deep;  it feeds into the streams running to Lake Berg.

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These tiny baby Christmas Trees dot the landscape all over the place.  I love them!

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Looking back towards the glacier, thinking about drying out in the shelter at Lake Berg campground…

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The glacial runoff is pretty impressive…

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And, the glacier in 1911 reached up to this point.  But I still don’t believe in anthropogenic global warming.  Can’t we focus on curbing pollution and the use of plastics instead of creating a hysterical movement which is questioned, credibly, by science itself?

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And this is why I was completely fine with the weather up at Lake Berg… Who needs sunshine every day when life can be so beautiful without it? It’s the way the clouds roll in, the way the mist clings to things, the way the light transfuses into everything… it can be altogether lovely.

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After the hike, and admiring the misty vistas, we headed into the Shelter, where someone built a roaring fire in the wood stove, clothes and gear were dried out, and everyone who had attempted Snowbird Pass eventually returned to proclaim in dismay why they had turned back due to the wind, the clouds and mist and the rain.

I read my book in peace that night, and had a wonderful night’s sleep amidst the chill, the damp and the rain. It was a wonderful day.