After a long drive in from SLC, I arrived at Glacier National Park - a (literal) million acres of mountains, glacial valleys, lakes, and national forest - to visit my friend Shari, who's working there this summer as a ranger. Getting to hike with her and a couple of the other rangers, including their resident wildflower expert, was a real treat. I'm not usually a huge flower/plant person, but stopping to learn about them, as well as other small bits of insider info about the park, was fascinating.
The first day, we hiked up to Ptarmigan tunnel, which goes through a mountain pass to offer stunning views of two separate valleys for the price of just one hike - granted, a steep, treacherous, and once at the top, extremely cold, hike - but entirely worth it.
The next day, we took a shuttle to the opposite side of the park to hike from one trailhead to an old-fashioned and still-operational mountain chalet, and onward to a trailhead about 12 miles away from our starting place. We saw tons of wildlife, including a grizzly cub from just a few feet away (fortunately from behind the window of our shuttle), a black bear, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and marmots...Glacier has an edgier feel to it, in many ways, than Rocky Mountain National Park, or other parks I've visited.
Perhaps it was the total nothingness surrounding it, the hours and hours of driving through desolate landscape it took to get there, or perhaps it was that there was a mass power outage my second night, and my temporarily-heavenly shower turned to ice water in about 15 seconds flat, or perhaps it was just the sweat and grit and lactic acid of hiking 25 miles in two days...but something about Montana felt distinctly alive and rugged. Well worth the three nights spent there!