Last updated: November 7, 2017
In late August, I had the opportunity to show my parents around Glacier National Park for the second season in a row. Since my family’s first visit to Glacier, nearly ten years ago, my dad was determined to hike to Grinnell Glacier. Our first attempt at reaching the glacier ten years ago was cut short because of hazardous snow halfway up the trail, and his second attempt was also unsuccessful. This year marked his third try reaching the glacier. We headed out early one August morning, loaded down with water and snacks. Having worked in the park for two seasons, I’ve hiked to the glacier numerous times, so I was more concerned about reaching the destination than enjoying the journey to the glacier. However, my dad’s slow but steady pace and his enthusiasm and delight in the scenery around him really made me stop and admire the amazing place that I have the opportunity to work and play in. Seeing the trail through my dad’s eyes gave me a chance to view the park from a whole new perspective. Never before had I noticed in such detail the reflection the mountains cast on Grinnell Lake or the intense color of the wildflowers and rocks contrasting with the blue skies. The highlight of the hike for us that day was reaching the glacier just in time to see and hear a large chunk of ice calve off the terminus of the glacier and drop into the icy blue waters below. After hiking to this glacier many times, I was still amazed by this unique and rare occurrence. Taking the time to slow down and enjoy the scenery gave me a chance to see the park through the eyes of someone hiking this trail for the first time, and encouraged me to notice the beauty that surrounds me every day.
To all of the visitors that traveled to Glacier National Park for the first time, I hope you found a place to reflect and contemplate the beauty of the surrounding scenery, despite the congestion of the summer season. To all of the visitors that came back for your fifth, tenth, or even fiftieth visit, I hope you had a chance to see the park from a new perspective, either by visiting a new area of the park or just taking the time to truly enjoy the scenery around you. While the tangible souvenirs you purchased in the park may become less meaningful as time goes on, I hope the memories that you made and the impressions that you had of Glacier remain with you throughout your lives. Whether you entered the park in West Glacier or Many Glacier, Two Medicine or Saint Mary, I hope you had the opportunity to reflect on the splendor of the mountains and the multitude of plants and wildlife that call this special place home. If you stepped out onto one of the park’s 734 miles of trails, I hope you had the chance to see the impact that wildlife, water, and fire have had on this landscape. From wildlife tracks to fire-burned lodgepole pines, change is easily visible throughout the surrounding scenery, always a reminder that the forces at work in Glacier are beyond our control.
Seasonal changes can also provide a fresh perspective on the wonders and beauty of the park. Winter is quickly approaching, and if you have not yet had a chance to explore Glacier during the colder months, it is a wonderful time to enjoy the quieter side of the park. Starting in January, ranger-led snowshoe hikes will be offered on weekends in the morning and afternoon. During the winter, we have the opportunity to see wildlife tracks left behind on snow covered trails and roads, take in the sights of snowcapped mountains reflecting across the crystal-clear waters of Lake McDonald, or even hear the howl of a wolf in the distance. Visiting Glacier National Park throughout the seasons gives us different impressions of the landscape that stay with us for years to come.
Think back to the first time you visited Glacier. What was your first impression? What memories have stayed with you since your first visit to this wild place? Those memories and impressions can change the way you look at the world and influence how you explore natural areas back in your home state. By looking at a national park site from a new perspective, whether it be Glacier or Gettysburg, you may be able to see a different side to the landscape in front of you. Each site has left us with different impressions that shape how we enjoy our federal lands and how we choose to protect and preserve these lands for future generations. As Lyndon B. Johnson said, “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.” So, I encourage you to think about the kind of impression that you’d like to leave for future generations of visitors to Glacier National Park and other National Park Service lands. The future of these natural places is up to us all.
Tell me more about these snowshoe hikes.
Rangers offer snowshoe walks on Saturdays and Sundays starting in January. Participants should be prepared for a variety of winter conditions by wearing appropriate clothing, dressing in layers, and bringing water and snacks. Use your own snowshoes or rent snowshoes for a nominal fee at the Apgar Visitor Center. Snowshoe rentals are also available in neighboring communities.
Meet at the Apgar Visitor Center every Saturday or Sunday, at 10:30 am & 2:00 pm, from January 13 to March 18, 2018.