Friday, July 17, 2009

Glacier National Park

Lack of internet access (or cell phone reception!) in Montana has gotten me a couple days behind in blogging, but I'm doing my best to catch up now. The highways through Montana are long, winding, desolate, and absolutely breathtaking. They're occasionally punctuated with small towns that seem to be straight out of the 1940s, but mostly just roll and roll and roll over hills and valleys, all hugged by spectacular views of mountains and horizons.

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.

(From top left, clockwise: (1) Indian Paintbrush, which comes in all sorts of vibrant colors, (2) Barbed wire wrapped around trees intended to snag bears' fur as they rub up against the trunk, in order to collect DNA for a bear study, (3) Glacier lily, which is completely edible and flavorful!)

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!


  1. oh, beautiful.

    Wait, Shari is working as a ranger? How did she swing that? I want to work as a ranger.

    You know I was in glacier for a month in 03, right? We almost went up ptarmigan tunnel, but it was closed because of bears. I'd forgotten how pretty it was because the pictures I took were pretty terrible.


  2. These pictures are incredible! And I love the bit about the bear fur!

  3. Yitka!!!!!!!!! This post is so nice :) Man I miss it...and I miss you! I love you!