Mountain goats are raising babies along purple speckled mountain fields where glacier runoff trickles streams of giant spurts of life.
The sun falls once from our view, behind a mountain which will prove our waypoint as we exchange footsteps and panting breaths for elevation. We’ll see it set two more times tonight, chasing the sun you could say.
The second setting will fall behind Bearhat Mountain, casting its shadow down on the Hidden Lake we’ve come here to see. Something squeals in the woods like a bird stuck singing through a pig’s nostrils.
Heading back down, the stunted lodgepole forest-lined trail framing epic views of layered red and silvery tan mountains traded its emptiness for a brief exhilarating encounter with a mama mountain goat and her baby.
Two black horns stood tall, proud and slightly curved looking at me. “This is my child,” she stood stalwart, “I see you’re with one of your own.”
We instantly understood one another not to be a threat. My oldest boy, Tristan, and my lone companion on this particular voyage, seemed nervous at first but quickly realized the similarities to our own pack in how the bearded white lady was simply saying “Hello, don’t mess with my kid, and otherwise have a nice day.”
As we took the long stride around, leaving her the trail, I noticed two more mountain goats in the thick behind her. Maybe another mama and baby, but the size difference left me hopeful it was the first group’s teenage son and toddler. I’ve often felt our family to be mountain goat-like. Stubborn, hearty enough to weather and willing to hang out in hilly wood.
The last sunset we’d see that day, winding in second gear down Going to the Sun Road, or in our case coming back from its glory, set behind the Lewis Range (I believe) neon pink and willing to bask around that glacial valley just a little longer, dipping halfway behind a peak and then riding east back away before setting as we traveled along.
As we snaked down through the hills I couldn’t help but think of the fifth goat we’d seen. He was thicker of chest, more stalwart. He emerged from a pine grove to stand just leaning over a precipice looking down at us.
“That’s a mountain goat,” Tristan nodded, his lack of inflection in an obvious situation reminding me of his father. I imagine the tussled goat still up there, taking his leave perhaps for the night while his grazing family rolls back into his and their own little slice of the majestic Glacier.