When I was 23, I spend the summer working and exploring in Glacier National Park. One tiny post cannot contain the multitudes of awe and wilderness and magic of that season . . . but one story can be told tonight!
All about grizzly bears . . . who lived in the land we were traversing
I figured I hiked several hundred miles that summer—I was in love! On one of my first hikes into the backcountry wilds, I hiked up a long trail with a colleague, a park ranger who knew all about bears—specifically the black bears and grizzly bears of Glacier, the bears who lived in the land we were traversing as we climbed higher and higher, switchback after switchback, until finally—ah!!—we emerged above treeline, and I felt like I’d reached the top of the world!
High glacial lake, a hiking accomplishment! Top of the mountain . . . ?
We had arrived at our destination, a gorgeous glacier-fed lake surrounded by a sharp mountain ridges—each an arete (a narrow ridge created when the mountain was carved away on both sides by glaciers)! It was a hiking accomplishment for this novice hiker. I felt exalted! Wow!
. . . But then, week after week, both with my work in the park and on my (I’ll be forever grateful) 3-day weekends, each filled with long backpacking trips and high mountain hiking, the spirit of adventure kept calling me longer and farther into the deep wild, until . . . one day, toward August, a new friend (who happened to be a triathlete, what was I thinking??) and I decided to do a very ambitious day hike, an 18-mile loop that would lead us up several thousand feet in elevation until we were walking along the Continental Divide (with the prize of Huckleberry milkshakes on the others side!). It was a phenomenal day in so many ways, but especially one special discovery:
What crazy thing happened on the top of the Continental Divide?
When we hiked all the way up to the ridge (Did I mention my friend was a triathlete? It was a crazy-intense hike) . . . well . . . I looked DOWN from our vantage point in the sky, around and around the 360 view toward all the mountain lakes and forests and trails . . . and then, wow! One of the lakes looked especially familiar to me, and I felt a surge of love and recognition and awe. We checked maps and compass to be absolutely sure, but I knew right away! Oh my goodness. THAT lake way, way, way down below? THAT lake was the lake I had first hiked to, with the bear ranger, the lake where I had believed I had reached the top of our mountain! Not at all. 🙂
What may appear solid, lasting, permanent, hopeless, easy, or lost . . .
I type this story tonight not so much to share about an amazing day of adventure (that will be forever etched in my heart), but to share this one discovery . . . Things are not as they seem. What may appear solid, lasting, permanent, hopeless, easy, or lost . . . may not be what you think at all. Maybe so, maybe not. Coming and going. Mountains within lakes within mountains.
Take heart! It is not what you believe to be so.
Things are not as they seem. This is as true on the wilderness trail as it is within systems we see around us, or within us. Take heart! It is not what you believe to be so. Perspective changes everything. Everything is already changing. 💚🌏💙
PHOTO CREDITS (top to bottom): David Wirzba (not Glacier, actually along the road from Banff N.P. and Jasper N.P. in Canada), Michael Hoyt, Brandon Jean on Unsplash.
PHOTO NOTE: Why no photos of my own? Oh, I have photos! I filled 12 rolls of film in my first couple of weeks in Glacier. But then when I received my photos (by snail mail!), I was so surprised and disappointed. “The mountains couldn’t fit in the photos,” I said. But I really wasn’t that sad. It was a beautiful reason to put down the camera and give up the attempt. Instead, I have 1000 full-color (and full-size and fade-proof!) memories in my heart. 💙!!!