Yes, I took a little hiatus the last week as I was traveling for vacation. One of my stops was a three-day visit to Glacier National Park in Montana. It was an extraordinary adventure of hiking, exploring, and oohing and aahing. As my husband and I left the park by train, we sat and discussed some of our respective highlights.
For me, this was easy. From the moment I first set foot off the train and looked across to the Glacier Park Lodge, I was wowed by the flora.
This early glimpse was enough to fall in love, but my amazement continued to grow. I think the profusion of vivid color was partly so incredible for me because the snow we played with during our hikes seemed to say “nothing growing here.”
Hardly the case. As you might guess, on every hike we saw wildflowers taking over the well-marked paths and growing out of the rock itself.
And in many cases, perhaps because of that short growing season, the flowers wildly grew taller than the hikers … or the bears …
Speaking of bears (and I’m happy to say I did see one and from within the very safe confines of a park shuttle), one of my favorite flowers covering the mountains this time of year is bear grass. Blueplanetbiomes.org notes that this member of the lily family flowers every five to seven years, and is found in open meadows and forests throughout the western United States. More interestingly, the sites states: “Bear grass is a fire-resistant species that is the first plant to grow after a fire. Beargrass, and many other native plants, need periodic burns to produce strong, new growth. After a fire, beargrass sprouts from its rhizomes which lie just under the surface. Light fires of short duration are best. Intense fires which linger in the same place for a long time will kill the rhizomes under the ground, and prevent the beargrass from growing back.” There was additional evidence of past fires throughout the park, but it never ceases to amaze me how cleverly nature works things out. “More light? Yay – more pretty flowers to fill in until the trees grow back!”
The trails were also crisscrossed with delicate streams that gave life to darkly green ferns and other rich greenery. I’m really coming to appreciate the beauty of monochromatic texture and hope to use leaves more in future arrangements.
The best souvenir of the trip, then, came when my husband spotted the bag of wildflower seeds for sale in the hotel gift shop. He grabbed a pack of 12 (and the separate pack of huckleberry seeds clutched tightly in my hands) and had the total rung up before you could say “Indian paintbrush!” Even knowing I will have to remember to water my seedlings in the spring, and the chance of seeing huckleberries blooming here in Virginia is next to nil, I’m so excited to try my hand at growing my own little Montana garden … although I can’t help but giggle at the idea of working so hard at something Mother Nature manages to create on her own just fine!