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'Torso Incident' can't dampen first family road trip

by: PHIL HAWKINS - Slow and steady glacial erosion has turned the landscape in Glacier National Park into a breathtaking site that must truly be seen in person.So I ran over a torso on my first day of vacation.

Literally — it was a headless, limbless torso, and I absolutely crushed it with my Subaru going 60 miles per hour in western Montana. Granted, it used to belong to a deer at one point, but I hardly had time to process that when a brown-and-red mass of flesh whipped under my car in the blink of an eye at 10 p.m. on the highway south of Kalispell.

I had maybe two seconds to react when I saw the body pop out from under the chassis of the car I was following, and the only message my brain could relay to my mouth was, “Torso!”

My wife screamed.

My parents in the back seat were panicked.

My 4-year-old son sat there stoically, as if thinking, “So what? Welcome to Montana.”

It was a jarring introduction to Big Sky Country. The psychological harm was brief, but the real damage was discovered the next day on our trip to the mountain.

We got out of the car and were immediately greeted with the overwhelming stench of hot, fetid garbage.

“Do all mountain resort towns smell this ghastly?” I asked my wife.

When we got home later that afternoon, I was once again besieged with the smell. I finally recognized it as the unmistakable aroma of humid carrion radiating from the undercarriage of our car. I got down on my hands and knees to peer underneath and saw a charred piece of deer that was stripped off the torso and wedged firmly beneath my car.

by: MAUREEN MCGEE - Beauty awaits just off the roadside underneath the tree canopy surrounding the mountains at Glacier National Park.For the next week, every time we drove the Subaru for more than 15 minutes, the smell of charred, rotting deer enveloped the vehicle in an invisible cloud of reek.

But let me be clear — outside of the Torso Incident, I’m proud to announce that the inaugural Hawkins-McGee Family Vacation was a success. I don’t mean to linger too much on the deer, because my wife thinks I complain too much in my columns, and I come off sounding like a bitter, old crank — a kind of bearded composite of Andy Rooney and Waldorf and Statler from The Muppets.

The trip began as a weekend destination wedding for my cousin in Whitefish. We opted to turn the event into a week-long wilderness adventure, since the tourist-trap resort town is located just outside the west entrance of Glacier National Park.

After a weekend of hobnobbing with family and friends, my family exchanged our dress clothes for jeans and bug repellent and scaled the mountains for four days of camping.

And let me tell you, it’s hard to put into words the kind of majestic beauty that constantly surrounds you in the deep mountains of Montana. Even with all the trappings of being a heavily visited tourist attraction, Glacier offers an absolutely breathtaking view around almost every corner.

Just the sheer size of the landscape that surrounds the scenic roads and campsites we traveled upon was something I’ll take with me for a long time.

By far, the most memorable part of the trip was scaling the cliffs of the park on the 50-mile Going-To-The-Sun Road. I’m typically not the tourist type, preferring seclusion and quiet to the hustle of overly visited attractions, but even I couldn’t resist my inner Clark Griswold in pulling the car aside at each turnoff to take pictures of the deep ravines cut thousands of feet deep via glacial erosion.

Sadly, Glacier National Park will soon be an erroneous name, as the last glaciers are scheduled to melt away to oblivion sometime in the next 25 years. But the landscape they leave behind was worth the 13-hour drive there, the pungent deer aroma at every stop, the bugs, the crowds, the heat and the encroaching smoke haze from the wildfires that were burning just across the mountains in Washington.

Even I was able to shed my curmudgeonly demeanor for a few moments and take in everything the land was offering, and that alone made the trip a rousing success.



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