Ski Bums and Cowboys

Authored by Not Wanderlust’s head geologist: Evan Dismukes

Quick Vocabulary 

Quartzite: metamorphosed sandstone.

Slate: metamorphosed shale.

Marble: metamorphosed limestone.

Igneous: volcanic in origin.

Metamorphic: altered in some way. Either by heat, pressure or deformation.

Burgess Shale: a rock layer famous for having some of the best preserved fossils in the world.

Travertine: type of limestone deposited by mineral springs.

Amphibolites: metamorphosed hornblende.
Now that we have reached the highest latitude for our trip, and witnessed Cat failing at using her SheWee for a second time, we begin our move east. We found out that Canada has it’s own Glacier National Park, traveled through the Canadian Rockies and returned to the U.S. despite our Border Patrol’s best efforts to deny natural born citizens access to their homeland.
We finally made it to Glacier, except we had no idea we arrived. Driving along the TransCanada Highway, you pass right through Glacier National Park and, since we didn’t see the sign, we didn’t notice any difference. The mountains along this highway are pretty much the same, but they’re all beautiful regardless. The mountains in western British Columbia are called the Selkirks, and are all heavily metamorphosed. The way I described metamorphosed rock to Cat was “see those sqwiggley lines in the rock? Yea that means mad stuff was going on, and it is super cool!” The “mad stuff” produces really cool structure and colors in the rock. The rocks that you see here are mostly quartzite, slate and marble, but there are also large limestone layers. These limestone layers get dissolved by flowing water and begin to form large cave systems in the area. Seeing as we didn’t go caving, we were unable to learn anything about the local cave snake population in the area.

As you continue east from Glacier, you leave the Selkirks and head into the Canadian Rockies. These are a continuation of the Rockies in the U.S. but with some differences. In Canada they are mostly made up of sedimentary rocks and have a history of being much more glaciated. The Rockies in the U.S. are mostly igneous, metamorphic and shaped more by rivers than glaciers. The Canadian Rockies also have a highway called the Powder Highway because of the unbelievable amounts of snow that area gets. So, if the French had their way you could be getting “tits deep” in the “Big Canadian Breasts.”

The part of the Canadian Rockies that we went there were Yoho and Banff National Parks. I list these together because in addition to their geology, they also share their border which is the Continental Divide (which doubles as the British Columbia/Alberta border). This is the heart of the Canadian Rockies, and, as I said earlier, this is mostly made up of sedimentary rocks and is heavily glaciated. In Yoho, there is an area with the Burgess Shale. This layer is one of the best places in the world to collect fossils. When this layer was forming, it was doing so in a way that preserved fossils more effectively than anywhere else. 

After realizing that all U.S. Border Patrol people are unpleasant, we arrived at Glacier/Waterton Lakes National Park. This Glacier is the one you’re thinking of, and Waterton Lakes is the Canadian extension. This park is still a lot more like the Canadian Rockies than the U.S. Rockies in that it is mostly sedimentary rocks and has been carved out by glaciers more than rivers. What’s really cool is that the top layers of rock are much older than the bottom layers. After the newer rock was deposited, about 140 million years ago, older rock, about 1.5 billion years old, was thrusted up and over the newer rock from almost 50 miles away. However, this wasn’t interesting enough so we went in search of larger breasts.

Despite the lack of interesting female anatomy, we decided to make a stop in Yellowstone. If you remember from earlier, I mentioned that Yellowstone is a 7/7 on the volcano scale. The last time it erupted was around 640,000 years ago so we’re pretty okay for now, but when this place erupts, it explodes bigtime. The caldera of the volcano makes up about half of the park and formed the depression that is now called Yellowstone Lake. All the hot spring activity in the park is a result of water interacting with the magma chambers that still exist under the ground. The super-heated water reacts with the rock around it and picks up different minerals. As the water arrives at the surface it does many different things: it can be a steam vent, a geyser, a mud volcano or just a hot spring. When the water becomes one of these, the minerals it picked up along the way also effect what it looks like. For example, you can get wild colors at Prismatic Hot Springs, sulfur deposits around the park or massive travertine deposits like at Mammoth Hot Springs. You can also witness the Jerrys acting unsafely around thousand pound animals and boiling hot pools of water, all of which could easily end them.

With our arrival at the Grand Tetons, we reach the culmination of all my boob jokes courtesy of the French. The French originally named the mountains “The Three Teats” in French, making The Grand the biggest tit. The central Tetons are granite, but these formed as a massive intrusion into the older mountains. The original ones were made up of metamorphic gneiss, schist and amphibolites. These mountains got their shape by being carved out by glaciers, mainly the Yellowstone glacier. And if you visit these, you can confidently say they’re the biggest tits you’ve ever set foot on.

Now that I’m done talking about boobies, we begin to start heading east. We await seeing what the northern central states of the nation are like although we don’t expect anything more than just a colder Kansas. But who knows? Maybe I-90 will surprise us

Big Trip (Days 30-35)

This leg of the trip has truly shown us that we’re not cowboy enough for Montana and Wyoming. Chacos with socks and hiking pants obviously don’t jive with local fashion, so here’s to sticking out like a sore thumb. 
Day 30:

We woke up and headed to Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort. However, being the unemployed vagabonds that we are, we were not willing to pay $60 for the Peak2Peak Gondola. So, we rolled out and started on our long trek to Banff National Park. I was getting very excited about seeing the picturesque Lake Louise (although Evan had something else in mind). 

It sounds like a lazy day since we did nothing but drive. We did stop for ice cream at a farm in the middle of the Canadian boonies which was delicious. We pitched our tent in Revelstoke for the night at a nicer campground which meant showers for the first time in about five days. 

Day 31:

We drove some more…blah blah blah. Exciting part: I probably broke Evan’s eardrum screaming with stoke about seeing big horned sheep and mountain goats on the side of the Canadian highway. 

After Evan nearly slapped me, we showed up to a ski resort. Fancy, I thought, it’s called Lake Louise Ski Resort. So, I turn to Evan and I ask if we’re now going to Lake Louise. “We’re here,” he said. 

We start going back and forth with him saying this is it and me yelling at him for not understanding that there’s a Lake Louise. Finally I yell, “the collection of water, Lake Louise! It’s a lake!” 

Longer story short, I made him realize their was actually a pool of water abutting some mountains. We saw it and it was pretty. You’re welcome, Evan. 

On our drive after viewing the collection of water, we ended up at a restaurant in Fort McLeod. The only other people in the restaurant were two separate couples. Who, as we found out, just happened to be raised in the same town in England as one another. One couple was telling us about their recent road trip to Illinois and Indiana. Evan and I were confused as to why someone would fly all the way over to the states to explore flat corn land. I purposefully didn’t go to the University of Illinois partially because I was bored out of my mind on the drive over. They claimed they wanted to see “normal America” which I don’t believe is a thing to be honest. It was cool they wanted to see the more dull parts of the states to really get a feel for every kind of area we have here. So, yay for exploration. 

Bellies full of garlic bread, we couldn’t seem to find any non-sketchy campground. So, we decided to just continue over the border and snag a campsite in Glacier National Park. The U.S. border patrol guy wasn’t believing us that we didn’t have firewood, and made sure to quadrupole check my face against my passport. After all his questions, though, he was stoked to talk to us since it was late, no one was behind us and he used to live around Pittsburgh. 

We made it to Glacier around midnight, and had a lovely time sleeping in our car again since we got to the campsite so late. 

Day 32:

Apparently not planning well, we decided to hop back over the border into Canada’s park that feeds into Glacier, Waterton National Park. We saw another bear and some red rocks before heading back over the border where we saw another salty U.S. border patroller. She asked us if we had written permission from our parents to use the car they had given us (among other weird/unnecessary questions). I can’t imagine how hard they must be on people when they decide to turn up the scrutiny. However, the Canadian border patrollers were stereotypically Canadian (super nice). 

Excited for a decent hike, we started in on our hike to Grinnell Glacier. It was a beautiful jaunt that was interrupted by a girlish shriek from Evan in front of me. He hopped in the air, and I couldn’t see what had startled him. I thought he’d seen a bear, but in reality he almost had his nuts nipped by some snake that jumped out of the bushes. We made it up alive, though. The view was breathtaking with the glacier and lake, chirping marmots and mountain goats on the distance rock faces. 

We threw together some lunch and headed on our way to Missoula for a night with Evan’s geology friends (they geeked out about geology for a while, naturally). On our way there, though, Evan I stopped in a small town for dinner and the waitress’ first question was “so, where are you guys headed on your trip?” Obviously we’re not cowboy enough. 
Day 33:

Another “lazy” day with an eight hour drive to Jackson, Wyoming. I drove up until we had a half an hour left in the drive because apparently my wall decided to smack me in the face. So, Evan made the last half hour drive with me laughing and crying in the passenger seat. 

Meeting up with friends, we all headed to a chill dinner party. Bonus: I got to sleep in a real bed since they’re adults and have a guest bedroom. Living that cushy life. 

Day 34:

The friend was wonderful and drove Evan and me around Yellowstone for the entire day. We saw Old Faithful explode while surrounded with about 1,000 of our closest friends. We did get to beat the crowds when some rain came through. It didn’t deter us because bison. I absolutely love bison, and I wasn’t about to miss those dudes for rain. (See Evan’s Snapchat about my bison face. Find someone who looks at you like I look at bison).  

Day 35:

We had the chance to borrow a canoe and head toward String and Leigh Lakes at the base of the Teton Mountains in Grand Teton National Park. It was cabrewing at its finest for sure. The mountains were gorgeous and, since there were only two oars, I was sitting in the middle charged with protecting the cooler. 

Some people camping along the lake looked at me and shouted to ask what I was doing. “Drinking a beer,” I told them. The response was simply met with a round of applause. 

However, it wasn’t all just easy hanging out. We did have to portage from String to Leigh Lake. Pics or it didn’t happen you say? Sibling teamwork right before your eyes:

We didn’t stop the excitement there because the rodeo was calling our name. Mostly, Evan wasn’t about to miss the show because he gets stoked on the rodeo. It was a normal, fun rodeo until they called everyone 12 and under to go into the sand pit. They released sheep with towels on them and told the children to get them. Hoards of kids immediately stampeded. It was a madhouse. Pretty wild end of the day. 

Next up: Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the Badlands and Theodore Roosevelt National Parks.

Big Trip (Days 25-29)

We finally had the honor of experiencing the forever drenched feeling of being in the Pacific Northwest. Our tent has had so many close calls with drying out, only to have it downpour in the middle of the night. As amusing as it is to watch Evan’s frustration rise (the crazy eyes get real), he’s got nothing on me when I hit my wall. So, I guess you could say this part of the trip is where we broke.
Day 25:

We finally got the remnants of Evan’s hulk mode fixed at an auto glass place in Portland before we hit up Mount Saint Helens. As soon as we got there, we saw three school buses crowding the parking lot. Kids were screaming, dogs were barking and simply utter chaos surrounded us. Luckily, by the time it took us to find our gear in the thrown-together backseat of our tiny car, the kids were back to school. Evan and I are officially cavers now that we’ve hiked the complete darkness of Ape Caves. It was wonderful how quiet and peaceful it was if you muted Evan talking about the “cave snakes.” 

After a few scrapes on my ungraceful self, we left for Mount Rainier National Park. But as we approached the time to find a campsite, Evan kept having me turn around and backtrack because we couldn’t find the campsite he had seen as we drove in. At that moment, I was deep into the state of hangriness. My stomach was screaming and my face was scowled. To add to my lovely mood of the night, we had wifi that reached to our tent which meant Evan decided to go through all of his Instagram captions. “Can I please just go to bed?” I asked over and over again only to be met with “No! See, this caption here is funny because…” Someone please tell me he’s not as funny as he thinks he is. 

Day 26:

I woke in a good mood, but Evan was brooding while standing out in the rain, staring at the drenched tent. We wadded up the dripping tent and left for Mount Rainier, which happened to be rainy as well. 

So, with Evan being slightly sick (probably of me), we only drove around since the combination of cold and rainy would not be optimal for him. From there, we decided to be civilized humans and head to Seattle to take a look out of the Space Needle, watch the Penguins play and catch up with some local friends. Yes, I have friends–they’re not all Evan’s friends. 

Day 27:

We drove up to Olympic National Park and stopped at a visitor’s center. A nice old couple running the place gave us a list of all their favorite spots. They also nonchalantly dropped in the fact that the husband had once flung a woman over his back potato sack style on the beach to show her around. Ok. 

We drove up to Hurricane Ridge and were socked in with fog, but we got snowed on. You could see Evan jumping around just like a husky does in snow. Moving on to more pop-culture relevant moments in our trip, we stayed in La Push that evening. Hello, Twilight fans. I know you’re still out there. As you enter the town, they had a sign mentioning the treaty line and that there was a vampire threat. Quaking in our boots for sure. 

Hearing no werewolf howls, we figured we were safe to camp on Second Beach in La Push. Evan scrambled up a rock to get a better view after we set up the tent. I didn’t see how he had gotten up, so I asked and trusted him when he pointed to the almost completely vertical, crumbly looking rock face. I’m carefully placing my hands and feet all the way up to the top. As soon as I let a breath out and take in the view, Evan goes, “I didn’t go that way.” He then showed me the side that was basically a ramp. He didn’t even have to use his hands. He said, “I figured where you went would be doable.”  Thanks, Evan. 

We watched the sun set behind the large rock formations on the beach and retreated to our now nearly dry tent. As we were being lulled to sleep by the sound of crashing waves, we heard the slow start to an eventually steady rain. I promise that with each drip, Evan’s eye twitched. 

Day 28:

When we arose from our tent in the morning, we found that high tide was much higher than expected. We were lucky to not have been dragged out to sea like a raft. 

This day was slightly uneventful with merely a short stroll through the Hoh Rainforest (which was cool), eating at a restaurant called Restaurant and attempting to refill medication at the CVS with a woman who definitely had too much coffee that morning. All good and easy until I hit my wall. Usually I do tend to get slaphappy and laugh a bit when I’m tired, but this was another level. 

It all started with finding our dinner place for the evening that tooted its horn for having “great vegarian” food. Intrigued yet confused, we waltzed into the restaurant. There was some tasty food, but all of a sudden I couldn’t stop thinking about how the sign said “great vegarian.” I was almost immediately crying from laughter, and I couldn’t contain myself for the entire span of dinner. I could barely see out of my eyes. Luckily, Evan was the designated driver for the evening. He tried telling me I should have a beer to calm myself down, but I figured I was under enough of my own influence that I shouldn’t stir the pot. 

Day 29:

Waking up in North Cascades National Park, we got the chance to check it out. We hit up Diablo lake which was a gorgeous view of “The American Alps.” 

From there, we drove up to Vancouver, British Columbia and found a bar to watch the Penguins win the Stanley Cup. After their win, the bartender said “I knew they’d do it, but two in a row is excessive.” I don’t know how being awesome can get old, but we’ll go with it. 

At the bar, Evan and I looked up campsites nearby. There were very few, so we hit up the first one we found. It ended up being on a hill in the suburbs of Vancouver. It also happened to just be a parking lot with two other people sleeping in their cars. As we rolled up, we spotted a bear right next to our car. Not feeling like being torn apart by baby bear in the dark of night, we slept in our car and tried not to venture outside. Since we were nervous about the bear and it was getting late, I used my GoGirl for only the second time (it meant I wouldn’t have to be cheeks out and vulnerable in the bear’s lair). Not a great idea if you’re nervous about bears apparently. I guess since I was looking around to check for predators (hello, cat-like instincts), I didn’t fully have the GoGirl in the “locked position.” In my rush, I dribbled all over my pants like a four year old in a diaper. Evan was dying laughing at me, but it’s not like I’ve had years of experience with the thing! I quickly threw off my pants, took a baby wipe shower and snuggled into my sweats. 

Mosquito update: that night, Evan swore he heard a mosquito buzzing in our car, and was trying to find and kill it like he was a head hunter on a mission. I think he’s definitely cracking. 

Clearly our mental stability is a bit nonexistent right now, but neither of us has yet to throw the other out of the car. I think that’s a win in my book right now–that silver lining is key. Check back in a bit for what’s next: weird coincidences, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone and the Tetons.