Brendan and co-workers volunteering with the Native Plant Nursery.
Every year, the Conservancy welcomes a team of seasonal employees to work in our busy retail stores during the summer season. They travel from all over, and for many, this is their first trip to Montana or Glacier National Park. Their enthusiasm and energy are contagious as they experience many “firsts”. We thought it would be fun to share some of their personal experiences and reflections in a series of blog posts.
Our fourth in the series is by Brendan from Massachusetts.
When I was a kid, I read a lot and spent just as much time outdoors. I attended a Waldorf school for my kindergarten and elementary school years, which cultivated an early appreciation for nature, adventure, and the relationships present in close-knit communities. As I grew older, I switched into the public school system and slowly lost some of that appreciation for the outdoors and that feeling of being a part of a larger, purposeful community. But, my interest in adventuring outdoors continued in my reading interests, as books such as Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer captivated my interests and built a yearning within me to see the western parts of this country.
I found myself drawn to working for the Glacier National Park Conservancy in part due to my broad love for nature, my desire to explore more of this country, and to stretch my own understanding of myself and the world around me. I knew that working for the Conservancy would afford me an opportunity to experience the Park and nearby area in a way that I would never have the chance to if I were just vacationing here. It also didn’t hurt that my long-time girlfriend, Eliza, was planning to work for the retail staff out here as well and that we could undergo this adventure together.
I’m from the Northeast—coastal Massachusetts to be specific. I went to college in central Pennsylvania, graduating this past May with a BA in International Studies and German. Like many others, my life since March 2020 has had me constantly needing to be present indoors and online, whether that was for classes or for work. To be away from my laptop and getting to be outside, as well as to be working in our stores interacting with customers from all over, has been a welcome switch.
I have a deep desire to see and understand how things work, particularly communities and the organizations within them, and I’ve appreciated the chance to learn more about the culture of this park and its surrounding area. In Glacier National Park, the Conservancy has provided opportunities for me to join my coworkers in exploring the park via a Lake McDonald boat tour and a Red Bus tour. The interpretive work of both the boat staff and Red Bus jammer were incredibly helpful in teaching me more of the history of the park and this area, and the views from both tours were stunning. The opportunities to volunteer at the Native Plant Nursery and to work alongside NPS employees checking vehicle reservations have also helped me develop a greater understanding of the park in its present form and to meet more of the people that make and keep this place as great as it is.
Amidst the swaths of deep green trees and below the towering peaks of Montana’s Rocky Mountains, the setting for this job couldn’t get any prettier. I count myself lucky to be surrounded by a staff of people from all over the country, who are all open-minded to new experiences and also all driven to do work that helps others. In learning about my coworkers’ pasts, especially their interests in school and from their work experiences, I’ve enjoyed discovering my coworkers’ varied perspectives on Glacier, the environment, community, and other aspects of life. I still have much to learn from them and, hopefully, many more conversations to have throughout this summer as we work together and spend time with one another outside of work.
On my off-days from the Conservancy, which have been generously matched up with Eliza’s days off, I’ve hiked to Avalanche Lake, around the Many Glacier area of the park, seen mountain goats up on the slopes surrounding Two Medicine Lake, and taken in the views alongside Highway 49 and US Route 89. I’ve driven part of the Inside North Fork Road, eaten the classic Huckleberry Bear Claw pastry from the Polebridge Mercantile, and seen a grizzly bear and numerous deer.
Outside the park, I haven’t yet immersed myself as much in the nearby culture as I want to. With Eliza and some of our fellow coworkers though, I did get to see a local band perform at a bar in nearby Coram. I was amused to observe that my style of ballcap, jeans, and Sperry shoes did not match any of the local, outdoorsy outfits that all the other guys wore. At the same time, I enjoyed seeing how certain drinks on the drink menu were named after different aspects of the local culture.
Further plans for this summer include taking in a rodeo, watching a sunrise and a moonrise in the Park, catching an independent league baseball game in Missoula, going to a county fair, doing more camping and hiking, and learning how to cook the elk burgers that my Montana-raised roommate has stocked the freezer with. And, many more hours of working in the Conservancy stores, including the Logan Pass location. Before driving up Going-to-the-Sun Road for the first time, I resisted Googling images of its views so that I could take it all in without knowing exactly what to expect.
However, my favorite experience of the park so far was seeing the sunset over Lake McDonald during my first week here in mid-June. A canoe containing three people was quite photogenic as it crossed the lake with the sunlit mountain peaks looming in the background.