With all the negative news flying around its easy to have low expectations. It would be easy to just assume disappointment. Between COVID, protests, melting glaciers, fill in the blank, it would be easy to feel down in the dumps and wonder: ‘What the heck is going on!’ Maybe because of all of this it seems extra special to be pleasantly surprised.
My stepson is visiting us and, living where we do, it was necessary to take him to see Glacier National Park. The Park, called the Crown of the Continent, had over 3 million visitors last year (2019). The great majority of these visits happen in the three summer months. Visitation dwindles to a trickle after September. Something about snow I think.
This year, the Park had been closed for the COVID thing and was only partly opened recently. The Visitor Center is closed. Campgrounds are closed. Roads are closed. You get the idea. The only hikes seemed to be the ones closest to the few open parking lots where all the people would be. I didn’t expect much as I have found anything labeled ‘easy’ probably isn’t really worth much.
We parked the truck in the closed to campers Avalanche Campground and took the, yes you guessed it, Avalanche Trail to Avalanche Lake. Yawn, I thought. A trail for seniors and kids. (For those who know me it is not necessary to point out I am now a senior. I am in denial.)
The parking lot was full and the overflow was parked in all in the now empty camping spots. I thought, ‘Shit, all these people on the same trail.’ The route started on the Trail of the Cedars. This is a handicap access trail that winds through a valley of majestic and mighty cedar trees. Magnificent.
A half-mile later, the Avalanche Trail goes up a gorge filled with mist and the sound of rushing water. It winds through the forest for two miles, moderately uphill most of the way. As you hike, the valley widens and through the trees you can spot soaring cliffs and snow topped crests. Yes there were people, but the trail seemed to take all the hikers and somehow spread them out. Natural social distancing.
Maybe it was the view, the smells of the pines or the accompanying sound of the river. But everyone we passed was smiling. ‘Good mornings’ to strangers were more common than not. It didn’t seem to matter how big someone was, where they were born or what political party they leaned towards. It was a transformation from the day-to-day. The winding trail through a sun dappled forest was having a positive effect on everyone. Once the lake was reached, the overwhelming reaction was awe. The anger and depression we have all felt over the past months seemed, for the moment, to dissolve in a shared awe at mother nature.
How do I bottle this?