Iceberg Lake

Having a Park Ranger friend has its advantages.  With over 700 miles of trails, choosing a hike in Glacier National Park is made easier when Peggy shares her favorite.  Of all the trails we hiked this summer, this was our favorite.

Click on me for a larger panoramic view from the trail.
Click on me for a larger panoramic view from the trail.

Approached from the eastern side of Glacier National Park; Iceberg Lake’s five mile trail starts with a section park rangers affectionately and appropriately call the stair-master.  After huffing and puffing up the stair-master the trail levels and the rest of the hike is filled with stunning panoramic views that accompany each step.

Bears are abundant and hikers are encouraged to be noisy.  Many people wear bells but isn’t that like ringing the dinner bell for those mostly hairless squishy things that are pink and tender in the middle?  In seriousness we were given an informative tip for bear encounters on the trail.  Essentially bears are lazy and use the trails because of the easy walking.  If you encounter a bear you should do two things; make a lot of noise and get off the trail.  Climbing uphill is recommended because you are getting off of the bear’s path and counting on his laziness to continue on the trail leaving you alone.  If they follow you up it’s time to break out the bear spray.

A glimpse of what's to come.
A glimpse of what’s to come.

Glacial fins, ancient sea-beds lifted up into mountains, and finally carved by glaciers ages ago tower above you.  Flowers are blooming and color fills the meadows and valleys.  Cresting over a ridge a small lake comes into view below the flower filled slope.  Yet the trail passes by up another hill and then you see it.  Ice filled turquoise waters surrounded by massive rock walls and the trail leading to the shore’s edge.

Ironically passing clouds photographers normally desire are shading the lake turning the

Spot light on the water.
Spot light on the water.

brilliant colored waters to dark blue.  As we eat lunch we watch patterns of sunlight breaking through the clouds and passing over the lake spot-lighting the brilliant colors only rock flour laden waters can produce.  A large whale shaped block of ice reflects brilliant blue as the sun’s rays pass over.  The frigid water’s siren song calls until

you are compelled to dip a toe into the water.  A teenager creates a memory he’ll never

Spot light on the icy whale.
Spot light on the icy whale.

forget as he jumps into the water.  In a flash he’s out, wrapped in a towel and shivering.

Birds serenade us as we take in the beauty.  Every direction reveals nature’s majesty and we are thankful for the 1910 decision to preserve the land for future generations.

The lake invites you to test the frigid water.
The lake invites you to test the frigid water.
Ice suspended in the water
Ice suspended in the water

Choosing an Image

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what image would you use to promote your blog?  In our travels we’ve met people who wanted our blog’s address so they could follow us.  At Lake Louis in Alberta, Canada, we came to the realization a business card with our blog name would be helpful in these situations.  But the card needed an interesting image to reflect who we are and what we’re trying to do.  Venturing further down the rabbit hole the next question was, “Of the thousands of images we’ve taken, which one captures our essence?”

“So how does one go about defining who they are in a single photo?” we asked as the rabbit hole got deeper.  In a moment of brilliant inspiration Raeski coined the term ‘nomadic retirement’.  Taking it further, because quite frankly we don’t believe retirement is a good definition of who we are, we landed on ‘nomadic adventures’.  This was great until I checked online and found a company with this name.  Not wanting to risk being served a cease and desist order over a name we came to an even better by-line, ‘Nomadic Adventurers’.  Okay, we have some words to work with now.

We plan to live in a new city every year.  Nomads, right?  We want to explore and do fun things.  Adventurers, right?  Now we have to find a photo expressing those words.  That darn rabbit dug a deep hole.  Do you think we’ll meet Alice soon?  The first thought was using a photo of a stamped passport page but that didn’t leave enough space for lettering.  An image must have enough clear space to print what you want on the business card.  Clutter distracts so a different image was needed.

I don’t take many pictures of the two of us which narrowed the field of eligible photos.  Finally we decided on ‘The Photo’.  In it our hair is messed up because of a frigid wind sweeping down the glacier we’re standing on.  Craggy mountains, icy blue colors, clouds on the horizon and we’re smiling.  Yes, it’s cold, who cares?  We’re not sitting in a cubicle staring at a monitor or stuck in a rocking chair.  We are in our element of exploration and discovery.

Ironically neither one of us likes the cold but to experience life sometimes you must move out of your comfort zone.  How else can you truly experience what the world has to offer?  Can you drink ancient waters from a glacier, visit the driest place on earth, walk inside a volcano and smell the pines from a rocking chair?

So without further ado, here’s the essence of Wooly and Raeski.


Isn’t it Dangerous?

But isn’t it Dangerous?  Raeski and I often hear this question when people learn of our plans to move to Chile.  Driving is probably is the most dangerous act we will do in Chile.  If you’ve ever experienced driving in large South American cities you understand.

I believe people’s fears of South American countries are based on events from decades ago.  For years the American press focused on revolutions and dictators which often were a result of foreign governments meddling in their internal affairs.  More recently Columbia and its war with FARC and drugs were vilified by the press starting with the Reagan presidency and ending with the Clinton presidency.  Sadly, the press never returned to Columbia after the war was over (after Americans got over their cocaine addiction) so they missed the drop in Columbian violence.  If they did they would find a vastly different and revitalized country.

But you’re probably asking what about our destination?  Is Chile safe?  Is the government stable?  If you are reading this in an American city you are in more danger than if you were in Chile.  Crime in the U.S. is four times higher than Chile.  Economic prosperity is a stabilizing factor in Chile.  With a positive trade surplus and a debt that’s less than 5% of its GDP, Chile is doing well and the middle class is growing.  Chile is a country with a bright future.

But statistics don’t tell anything about a country’s people, culture or attitudes.  To get a feel for those one must visit the country to gain clarity.  For both Raeski and I, our experience in Viña del Mar on New Year’s Eve left a lasting impact.  When I think of Chile my memories take me back to that night.

Viña del Mar time
Viña del Mar time

The coastal town of Viña del Mar, a short drive from Santiago, is located on a crescent shaped bay shared by Valparaiso on the south, Reñaca and Cón Cón on the north.  It’s the site of a fantastic fireworks show that draws people from all around South America.  For New Year’s Eve, eight barges of fireworks lie offshore guarded only by red hazard flags.  That’s all that’s necessary in this law abiding country even though there are between 500,000 and 750,000 people gathering for the festivities.  During the day we watched kayaks paddle around the fireworks barges and ships from the Valparaiso docks line up on the other side for the show.

Fireworks Respect

After dinner we sat in the hotel bar watching a parade of people streaming by on their way to the beach.  Minutes before the show started we asked the bartender if it was okay if he refilled our champagne glasses before we went out.  With a, “Sure, it’s holiday!” he reached under the bar and handed us an unopened bottle of bubbles to take with us.  Outside, with our viewing spot secure, we popped the cork and were met with smiles from those around us.  And then the show began.

Fireworks from two of the barges
Fireworks from two of the barges
Wooly's head explodes
Wooly’s head explodes

After 15 minutes of almost non-stop synchronized fireworks from the eight barges, my inner thought was, “This sure beats watching a crystal ball drop.”  After 20 minutes I’m asking myself how long the show will continue.  Finally, after 25 minutes, the unmistakably finale began.  Then the crowd moved to their parties that lasted into the early morning.

Reflecting back on the evening I was struck by the sounds I didn’t hear.  Absent were sounds of gunshots, fighting, sirens and firecrackers.  However, oohs and aahs seem to be universal.  As the mass of humanity walked back to their rooms and parties I realized we weren’t being jostled about as we walked.  Wow, talk about everyone respecting everyone’s space.  And into the early morning all we heard were people having a good time.  What we experienced spoke volumes about the Chilean people.

Reinventing a Life

Big changes are on the horizon for Wooly and Raeski.  The origin of the changes date back to a singular question Wooly asked during one of those internal conversions we all worry about afterwards.  After experiencing a couple of life altering changes, Wooly was thinking of a ways to salvage being able to travel the world extensively in retirement with less money.  Although the intention was to start after we retired; life has a way of disrupting the best laid plans.

Have you ever worn a pair of golden handcuffs?  The job related kind?  My work-life has blessed me with jobs I loved and those that taught me to appreciate the good ones.  Last year I was mired in a situation I knew I needed to change.  The pay and bonuses were great but I was not a good fit for the position.  After a discussion with my boss I was given a couple of months to find a position within the company.  Unfortunately I couldn’t secure a position so my employment ended February 4th this year.

This has also been a year of change for Raeski.  Last year she chose to retire and subsequently struggled with reduced demands on her schedule.  Yes, she’s one of ‘those’ people who like work and being a productive member of society.  Her solution was to return to the teaching profession as a mentor.  It was a short contract that left our summer open for travels which I will share in future posts.

But back to the curve ball tossed at Wooly.  Everyone has their own way of coping with change.  Mine is to move forward and don’t look back.  After my agenda was unceremoniously cleared I returned to school and earned a Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification.

Inspiration sometimes comes from unexpected sources.  While I was in school I was asked by a friend if I missed work.  My immediate answer was, “I haven’t missed one second!” which that evening, as I laid in bed, led to another one of those internal conversations accompanied by loss of sleep.  If I haven’t missed work for one second, why would I ever consider returning to a similar position in the future?  And that my friends, was my question of the year that led to ‘The Decision’.

If I didn’t like what I used to do, then do something else!  While a simple concept, the execution isn’t always quite as simple.  However that TEFL certificate was about to open some doors and maybe straighten that curve ball life tossed at me.  It was simple!  Why not move our retirement plans forward a few years and travel the world as English teachers.  Raeski, a highly credentialed and respected teacher in her own right, and the brains of the family, probably would land a teaching position very easily.  And so a plan was set into motion to move forward as English teachers in foreign lands.

Teaching English will provide a way for us to travel the world learning, seeing and experiencing it from the eyes of a resident, not a tourist.  It will allow us to become immersed in the local culture while providing a valuable service to others.  Raeski can continue to be a productive member of society, albeit not the one she grew up in.

So how does all this affect you, readers of our travel blog?  For one, I will be able to write about destinations in more detail.  I will also include snippets from our new expat life.  Hopefully our experiences can inspire others to evaluate themselves and live life with more passion and in more meaningful ways.

So stay tuned as Wooly and Raeski move forward with a move to South America in February.  And there will also be photos and posts of our travels this summer.  We will share our adventures and misadventures as we traveled to more than a dozen national parks and monuments in Canada and the U.S.