Glacier Haunted

A cold and wet autumn morning in the Idaho Panhandle…

The snowline and the fogline seemed to be reaching out toward each other.

The defining feature of the Idaho Panhandle is the Purcell Trench, a deep valley running south from Canada, flanked by mountains on either side. Until quite recently, geologically speaking, it was filled with an extended finger of the massive continental ice sheet. By cyclically damming up the watershed of all of western Montana until breaking and releasing titanic floods, this valley and its river of ice long governed the fate of a vast swath of northwestern landscapes in catastrophic fashion, from the Rockies to the Pacific.

The Purcell Trench today is a bucolic and beautiful place of lush forests, winding waters and gentle meadows between steep mountainsides. But on cold wet mornings the valley fills with the pale ghost of its vanished glacier, a foggy vision of a world ruled by ice and water.

10 thoughts on “Glacier Haunted

  1. Jackson, Lovely-you’ve come to own your “new” country. And the thought and poetry of a ghost glacier-I should resign the stage to you. We’re getting some much needed snow-but it makes any will to go out just about zero. Here’s a new poem-bookette is almost finished. Best to you and yours. Susu

  2. I enjoyed this, Jackson – between the outstanding photos and the text, you’ve given me a good understanding of the panhandle region, or at least one important aspect of it. “Pale ghost of its vanished glacier” is an inspired metaphor. I love seeing the treetops peeking out of the fog and the warm sun spreading across the mountaintops.

  3. It’s definitely #5 for me. And the Cabinet Mts. always remind me of this passage from Rick Bass (‘Why I Came West’): ‘During the retreat of the last glaciers, while the Cabinets were stealing the show – grinding, rearing, shouting, creaking, rasping, squeaking amid the thinning islands of going-away ice – the Yaak country…lay sleeping beneath several thousand feet of blue ice, like some mythic princess.’

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