My favorite night happened late into September — I had just fallen asleep when the sound of my roommates whispering down the stairs woke me up. They called my name, telling me to come out onto the porch between fits of giggles. I bundled up as quickly as I could, wrapping myself in a blanket and hustling out to meet them.
Most nights in West Glacier the stars are beautiful. They fill the sky, thousands strong. Some nights, if you’re lucky, you can even see the Milky Way. That particular night, however, was different. Among the stars and the clouds were little wisps dancing in a way I had never seen before.
“Do you see them? I can’t believe it,” one of my roommates asked as I joined her. “I’ve always wanted to see the northern lights.”
Watching the northern lights from the porch
It was hard to tell exactly what I was seeing right away, but as my eyes adjusted to the dark, I caught on to what she was saying. The little wisps dancing in the sky were the aurora borealis — the northern lights. We spent the next hour using our phones to take pictures and uncover the hidden colors we couldn’t see with our own eyes, racing around the house and the backyard to find the best views.
Seeing the northern lights was an experience I’ll always remember, but it was those moments with my roommates that truly left a lasting impact. That giddy feeling like Christmas morning, just being excited to share something so incredible with the people who make it even better.
That feeling has been the core of my experience at GNPC. Our staff is filled with people from all over the country who have come together for one reason or another to experience and support the amazing place that is Glacier National Park. Despite having different backgrounds, experiences and timelines we have formed incredible friendships that I have no doubt will extend beyond our time here in Montana.
Bonfires at the house
It was this community and those friendships, forged over bonfires at the house and Logan Pass carpool karaoke, that made one of my most challenging experiences also my most fulfilling. I graduated from university a year early. All of my friends were still in school, and while I had my degree, I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. All I knew was that I wanted to challenge myself, and that I wanted to explore somewhere I had never been before.
So, a month after graduating, I packed my life into my car, said goodbye to my family and friends, and drove 2,371 miles from Raleigh, North Carolina to West Glacier, Montana.
I was terrified. I’ve been moving around all my life, but this was the first time I was doing it completely on my own. Then, my first night in the new house my roommate Tammi invited me to go looking for mountain goats. I hadn’t known her for more than an hour, but she loaded me into her car and drove me to Goat Lick Overlook. I saw my first mountain goat that night, and then about ten more. We laughed and got to know each other, and when we got back to our house our other roommate Cary cooked me a homemade meal.
I was still scared, but I knew I was going to be okay. I was surrounded by people who were just as excited and mesmerized by this new place as I was.
Working at GNPC has been fulfilling in so many ways. Every day I go to work, I know that what I’m doing serves a greater purpose. I get to see the impact we make every time I go into the park. From the bridge in front of St. Mary Falls to the Native America Speaks presentations at the campground, the Conservancy’s work is everywhere. It means so much to me to know that my time here is giving back to the place that has given me so much.
After a summer full of late night hide and seek, family paint nights, swimming with icebergs, summiting mountains, and so much more I know I’ve grown in so many ways. I’ve hiked almost 200 miles and seen my confidence in the outdoors skyrocket. I’ve gained a better understanding of myself and what I like and dislike — bonfire-roasted starbursts and the Loop Trail on a sunny day, respectively. I know that when I leave here, I’m leaving with skills, friendships, and experiences that will carry me through everywhere I go next.