I set my pillow down on the ground; a perfectly still lake in front of me. The water appeared as glass, the landscape reflecting off the smooth surface. Emerald green pines covered the mountains. Snow white clouds billowed across the royal blue sky, dancing with each other as the wind propelled them in different directions. The sound of a bird screaming in the distance came to my ears. As I looked up, trying to locate it, I saw an eagle soar down and grab up an unexpecting fish for dinner. A thin smile came over my face as a serene feeling of peace came over my being. I was finally back at one of my top three places in America, Glacier National Park.
The last time I was here the world was shut down. I had arrived days before the park shut down for the season and few businesses were open. Going to the Sun Road was already closed due to snow and the only exploring that could be done was on the northwest side of the park. I had thoroughly fallen in love, even with the limits on my mobility but now I was here during the summer. GttSR had just opened and I was excited to see what I had missed previously. Little did I know, a whole world awaited me that was about to blow my mind.
I had arrived late the night before, or more accurately early the morning of. The previous night I had gotten high on the universe, watching Neowise streak across space and then finally pulled into the park at 2:30 am. Luckily for me, Lake McDonald Lodge has a little used Level 2 charger where I was able to plug in and catch a couple hours of zzz’s. I woke up early, wanting to beat the morning crowds to the trails. And let’s be honest, I’m never sure how welcoming people will be if they see me plugged in and sleeping in my car, taking up the only charger, so I didn’t want to stay plugged in too long. At 6am, the world was already waking up and becoming active. I grabbed a cup of joe from the supply depot, and started my journey.
As I headed along Lake McDonald, I almost couldn’t contain my excitement. With each curve, the landscape would open up into a postcard worthy view that would literally make me yell with excitement. Snow covered peaks scraped the sky. Bright blue glacier carved lakes filled the valleys in between. I’d pull out at a pull off, thinking I had found THE spot for the best picture, only to have the next pull off surpass the view. Stop, click, go. Stop, click, go. I seemed to be on an endless rotation.
It was time for me to get out of the car and explore some of this area for myself. I dropped the car of at Sun Point and set off on the nearest path. From here, there was a hike that ranged from beginner to intermediate, depending on how far one wanted to walk, which traversed multiple waterfalls. That sounded like the perfect way to spend the rest of the afternoon. Not half a mile into the hike, the trail opened up into one of the glacier carved lakes that the park is famous for. It’s moments like this that I live for; the crisp clean air, the absence of other humans, the mountains surrounding me, a perfectly glass lake reflecting the landscape around it like a mirror; It’s moments like this that I have to step back and be thankful that I am alive.
The hike didn’t last too long, but for as long as it did, I was filled with an emense feeling of peace and tranquility. Not often do I feel like I am one with the world around me, but Glacier had me feeling exactly that. Sometimes I feel like I come across in an extremely hyperbolic sense when I am writing these entries, but this time every word is reflective of how amazing I felt. Every few minutes, I would have to stop and take it all in; stop and pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t lost in a transcendent meditation. I would go and sit on the edge of the lake and a mountain goat would appear out of the brush, wondering what I was doing. As it munched on the foliage, I would wonder if it felt the same happiness that consumed me. I like to think that it did.
That night, i sat on the edge of a lake and watched the stars rise over the sky. Neowise graced the sky briefly before disappearing behind a mountain. The Milky Way slowly rose to prominence. The lake was perfectly still, reflecting the starts from above on its mirror like surface. I felt completely at peace. I thought to myself about the state of the world, about Covid and the political chaos that was happening in cities. At this moment, it all seemed so far away. I told myself that I had escaped into my own little bubble, but upon further reasoning, I decided that this bubble was actually more representative of the world, even if not necessarily it’s people. We as humans become so arrogant about our importance that we forget how small we are, as well as how vast the wilderness is. With that though, I knew it was time to lay down as the next day would contain even more adventures.
I didn’t know what to expect they next day when I set off on my hike to Hidden Lake. Having been surprised by the crowds the previous day, I knew that I would have to get an early start. While hugging each turn as I drove slightly too fast, I laughed at myself for that surprisal. Of course there would be crowds. If I was out exploring, why wouldn’t other people be? I had faith that the one constant of National Parks was still in full swing though; if you hike more than a mile and a half, the crowds will have dispersed. Not much later, I pulled into Logans Pass Visitor Center to find the parking lot already full, even though it was only 7am. An “early start” can always be earlier when you’re going hiking. I found a parking spot a bit down the road and hiked back eager to get out of the crowd and into the wilderness.
I really don’t know where to start when talking about this hike. Out of the many I have been on throughout my voyage, this one sticks out. What seemed to be an overcrowded path quickly cleared as snow (in July) made the trail muddy and difficult to climb. The sound of little children both laughing and crying filled the air. The sight of frustrated parents not really knowing how to handle the realization that they had bit of a little more than they could chew brought a chuckle to my lips. I quickly broke off and followed a path that looked more like it was made for mountain goats than humans, and escaped the chaos.
Once again, I was at peace as I climbed higher and higher. My tennis shoes slipped in the slick snow as I felt like a sheep jumping from rock to rock. Looking down at the people in the distance, I laughed at how prepared some of them seemed, equipped with winter coats and hiking poles. “Too much for me” I thought. I like being caught unprepared, needing to think on the fly and figure out the puzzles the world threw in front of me. I turned my attention to some cross country skiers that were traversing a cliff down the horizon. Cross country skiing in July… could this place get any more amazing?
I eventually reached an overlook where the intermediate trail ended and the advanced started. Hidden Lake opened up beneath the cliffs, perfectly still, reflecting the surrounding cliffs off of its surface. I sat down on the edge and thought to myself about how perfect the world seemed at the moment. There is something magical about Glacier. Something almost spiritual. It’s escapes like this that keep me traveling, keep me exploring, keep me pushing on. I glanced to my right and saw a goat on a cliff in the distance enjoying the same view as I was. You know, we are not all that different in the end. We all evolved from the same things originally, and in these moments, those connections show.
The next couple of hours were spent traversing switchbacks down to the lake below. What would normally be precarious trails on their own were snow covered and slick. An ever repeating path of snow, mud, snow, mud. I thought about evolution and the hooves that mountain dwelling animals, about how they can hop from rock to rock, seemingly without issue, always running in full stride over what seems to be impossible paths. Yet we as humans so arrogantly think we’ve got it all, that our technology puts us above all other things. I love moments like this, when my mind wanders on these subjects. It truly brings out a feeling of humility. How can one be surrounded by nature like this and not feel humble?
Reaching the bottom, a wonderland was waiting for me. Trout jumped out of the lake, marmots ran from bush to bush, goats darted wherever they wanted, seemingly unconcerned about the couple of people that they encountered. Pure magic had taken over the world. This was peace. This was tranquility. I never wanted to leave. I followed a stream branching off from the lake until it culminated in a waterfall flowing over a cliff. It was time to turn back as what comes down to the lake must eventually walk back up, and my legs were not looking forward to it.
As I hiked back up the switchbacks, I felt so alive. This park has a tendency to make me feel that way and I’ve only scratched the surface of exploring it. There is still so much to see. The Highline Trail is was closed because of too much snow. In July. Too much snow! That still blows my mind. It is supposed to be one of the top trails in the nation so I know that I must see it one day. 12 miles of wonder. 12 miles of magic. Half of the park is a part of the Blackfeet Reservation which had closed its borders to non-tribal people because of Covid. I can only imagine what adventures await me there.
I spent the rest of the afternoon cruising around the Going to the Sun Road. My mind was in pure bliss. The next thing I knew, the crowds had thinned out and the sun was beginning to set. A thick blanket of clouds covered the sky, inviting the setting sun rays to break through in amazing streaks of red and pink. I’ll be back and I’ll be back soon. Until then, I smiled and drove into the sunset.
Closest Charger Lake McDonald Lodge 0 mi
Closest Supercharger (coming from south) Missoula MT 137 mi
5280 Grant Creek Rd, Missoula, MT 59808
Closest Supercharger if coming from east Montana: Great Falls MT 146 mi
2301 14th St SW Great Falls, MT 59404
Glacier National Park
64 Grinnell Dr, West Glacier, MT 59936