On the easter side of Glacier NP and the Bob Marshall wilderness, 20 miles out of Choteau Montana, home of my old college roomate Jim Murphy and BTW Woodie Guthrie, there is a “historic point” sign goes like this:
“One of the oldest trails known to mankind.” The Blackfeet called it the “Old North Trail,” following it along the east side of the Rockies from their northern hunting grounds to their southern winter encampments. Approximately 25,000 years ago it extended across the ice bridge from Siberia southward into Mexico. Inquire at Old Trail Museum in Choteau.”
This is where the native americans came down during the ice age. It inspired me to write the following.
THE OLD NORTH ROAD
Westerly winds fall off the Rocky Mountain Front
Whistling thru the winding valleys of the Teton,
Sun, Dearborn, Milk,
and countless other creeks and rivers.
As the never-ending snows came down,
20 Thousand years ago,
Piling up and never melting,
Packing down throughout the centuries,
Getting deeper, ever thickening,
Turn to glaciers to cut the mountains
Killing off the ancient jungle,
Sealing off an empty land,
These everlasting breezes pushed
The thick flakes out unto the east.
Out from the front base,
Clearing a thinner sheet,
Making a sort of path,
Unknown yet to man because
The land was empty then.
The Front Range thrusts abruptly upwards,
Pushed eastward and skyward by colliding plates.
300 million year old sheer face,
Dove grey and glist’ning in silvered sheets.
Thousand foot cliffs, mica flecked mirrors,
Reflecting the morning ‘til midday sun rising
Out unto the utmost plain’s edge,
To melt the wind thinned snow sheets,
and create a new path.
From west across the Bering land bridge,
From west out past the Tien Shan Mountains,
From well beyond the Gobi Deserts,
They came down 13 Thousand years ago.
They walked the melting, ice cleared, sun path
Past Jasper, and Banff, and Lake Louise,
Past Assiniboine, Cleveland, and Chief Mountain
Past Blackfoot, St. Mary, Ear Mountain, and Deep Creek
To rest on the Teton and hunt in Deep Canyon,
Before moving south to the great Yellowstone.
The old people forged on with children and wonder,
To seek a new life with old gods and stories.
From this old stem they spread out, and fanned out, and prospered.
They moved thru the ismuth and crossed the equator,
Down to the Amazon, down to the Andes,
East to Appalachian trails through the Smokies
West to the snow caps of Tyee and Wy’east …..
But, always as they walked the memory was with them,
and of them, and in them, in tales and in song.
The memory of breezes, the memory of sunshine
That melted and cleared out the Old North Road.