Although Glacier National Park continues to reign as a popular summer destination, it is still possible to spot locals on hiking trails. Over the past few years, the odds of seeing a grizzly were starting to outpace the people I knew on a trail. Until last weekend, when my family kicked off summer break with a weekend spent in Many Glacier. Much to my surprise, I saw both grizzly bears and locals. Luckily, the bears were spotted from a very safe distance, whereas the friends whom I didn’t know would also be in the park were within close range that sweaty hugs were more than appropriate.
Along with my streak of gray hair and over-40 grumblings about backaches and always being tired, I’m also a bit of a grouch when it comes to crowded trailheads and crowded slopes. Well, crowds in general. I’m a bit like my 3-year-old when it comes to northwest Montana, I think it’s mine. I won’t share it with anyone else.
Admittedly, I was tetchy that we had to plan in the depths of winter a camping trip to Many, but luckily my spouse is more mature, so he logged online and scored us two nights in a place that we adore so much. And, because of the pandemic and life craziness, our daughter, the one who shares my “mine” stance, hadn’t yet been to Many Glacier. We were failing as parents! She needs to see Many, dip her toes in Swiftcurrent Lake, and have a snack on the best deck in the world at the historic hotel.
With the necessary advanced reservation system needed for Glacier to manage crowds and access, I expected that once we got to Many Glacier we wouldn’t recognize anyone. We’d be the only “locals” among the crowds, and once again my assumptions made me, well, you know how the saying goes. I was falling prey to the regional assumption that it took some sort of wizardry (truthfully, internet access) to get into the places that not long ago were much more accessible.
When my kids reached the shore of Redrock Lake, they were ready for a break. The trail leading to the falls wasn’t too busy, and we easily found a spot off the trail to refuel. After digging into the snack sack, my son looked up and said, “Hi Sally!” Walking down the trail were two of his teachers and their spouses. We spent a few minutes chatting, happy that school was out, and that the rain held off, before they continued down the trail. Once rested and satiated with a combo of gummy bears, beef jerky and nuts, our kids raced up the trail to the falls, with its plume of water spraying high above the vegetation. A mile or so later, we saw a pack of kids leaping over rocks, hooting and hollering as all good trail kids do, and I quickly realized the kids belonged to two other Kalispell families.
It was a pack of at least 10 locals in the wild! In Glacier. In June. Of course, there were folks from Kalispell on these trails because so many of us have made our home near Glacier because it’s the most beautiful place on the planet. And we’ll do all those acrobatics to get our kids here, which are considerably less onerous than flying from India just to glimpse Glacier for one week like a man I met on the deck of the Many Glacier Hotel. where
Millions of people, mostly visiting in the summer months, flock to Glacier, but there’s still enough room for us locals, even the slightly cranky ones like me, to find their heart and their friends on the trail.
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