What does Fourth of July mean to me?
A day off.
And a day off is simply destined to be a road trip day.
It just is.
Because I’m a tourist in my own state, I wanted to see the Glass Mountains, AKA the Gloss Mountains. Lore calls it both, seemingly because a British gentleman said “glass” like “glaws,” because…he was British.
Which, frankly, led to all kinds of questions, like, “Why was a British dude in the middle of the prairie in the middle of the upper half of the middle of the state in the middle of the US??”
But no marker answered that burning question.
Has no one else pondered that anomaly?
I wanted to see these mountains because for years I’ve seen them pictured beautifully within the pages of promotional dental office calendars.
And, as per the pics, when the mountains are shiny with sun-setting light, they are truly lovely; striations of coloration all over the place. Ask any dentist, they’ll tell you that, “Yeah, those hills look like plateaus of stained glass panels atop the prairie. Now, rinse.”
I might paraphrase, but I had to see those hills for myself, right?
So I pointed myself northwest and I darn near missed my target.
The entire Glass/Gloss Mountain State Park is book ended by signs saying “Welcome” and “Thanks for Visiting,” within a half mile distance to each other.
Circling back to the parking lot, I parked and prepared to scale the less-than-ominous looking butte of a “mountain,” elevation 200 feet, according to Wikipedia.
Scale we did, and do you know, proper foot wear is a must when climbing the side of anything rising to the sky at a 70 degree angle? My toes clung to the plastic sole of my flip-flops, while I kept telling myself their lack of tread was a point in my favor. Goats don’t have corrugated plastic soles on their feet, so boom, I win.
Fortunately, the short distance was equipped with a metal handrail presumably re-purposed from a ship from the 1880’s, it was so rusted and bent — scoliosis of metal, nearly curly, I tell you — and I clung to that bad boy as though it were a lifeline, because it was. For the last fifteen feet or so, I was no longer walking across pieces of ladder laid over the rock face and instead climbed upon boulders, white ones that looked like chunks of quartz. The all-rock terrain tested my toes, lungs, and gratitude equally.
But I made it.
I made it.
When I pivoted to see how far I’d traveled, well, I got a little woozy. See the above photo. Notice how the “trail” seems not to exist but was instead carved by millions of furry-bodied lemmings who sloughed away any edges as they fell to their doom? I did not Photoshop this, folks.
Needless to say, I was willing to sit a while and enjoy the valley view before tumbling to a painful lemming-like death.
Up top, I followed a “Trail” marker for the twenty feet necessary to reach the “End of Trail” marker, which stopped abruptly at the edge of an equally high precipice.
I had hoped for an elevator.
I thought there was no good way down.
And after psyching myself up for a good long while, I literally tiptoed my way down the side of the hillock, across those ladders, nearly bounding with over confidence at the end, telling fellow “hikers”, “Aw, shoot, it’s not as bad as it looks,” as I hustled back to the car.
Because, hey, over-and-down-on-foot was the only way down.
Except it wasn’t. Look at this guy who literally jumped! What a show-off.
I swoon at heights, truly, and yet I considered, “If I’d had a parachute, would I have preferred its twenty second ride to the laborious ten minute stalk-of-terror it took to return to prairie civilization?”
I nodded sagely to myself and answered Me honestly when I replied, “Hell, no.”
By the way, from experience I’ve learned that the Glass/Gloss of the mountains looks Red/Rouge, with a Matte/Anti-gloss finish on cloudy days.
Which means I need to gear up with my camera and return to the mountains on a sunny day. I’ll stay at the bottom, too, I believe.
No parachute requested, thank you.
Happy Fourth, everyone!