Snow near Lake McDonald Lodge in May.
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 second in the series is by Haleigh from Florida.
My seasonal adventure in Glacier National Park began quite suddenly. Within one week of graduating from the University of Florida, I was packing up my things and flying halfway across the country, far away from anything I had known before. Montana, and the western United States, were unfamiliar to me; this trip would be my first time in both Montana and Glacier National Park. Stepping onto the plane to travel to an unknown destination was both exciting and daunting. After a long day of traveling, I was welcomed to Montana by a beautiful sunset over the mountains surrounding the Kalispell airport. My worries melted away at that moment, and I was reassured in my decision to come out here. I was immediately ready for all the adventures ahead.
My first week in Montana was filled with personal “firsts”. For instance, two days after moving in, I completed my first hike in Glacier National Park. I completed a 7-mile hike up to a fire lookout station along the Apgar Lookout trail. I was accompanied by one of my housemates, Christian. Along this first hike, I carried bear spray for the first time and learned about life in grizzly country. The hike itself and the views from the top are two things that I will never forget. After traveling from a place at sea level, I was absolutely blown away by the snow-capped mountain ranges that spanned the park. Though I was exhausted by the end, this hike left me eager and excited to explore the rest of Glacier this season.
Glacier Lilies / NPS
The hike up to Apgar Lookout also opened my eyes to the welcoming nature of the people I was surrounded by. Christian, my housemate who invited me on the hike, was a stranger to me; someone I had only met just two days prior. Yet, he was willing to hike along with me. We really got to know each other over those three hours it took to summit Apgar and hike back down. I’ll never forget when Christian showed me that the Glacier Lilies growing along the trail were edible. Though it didn’t taste like much, that moment was so memorable. I will always be grateful for the welcoming nature Christian and my other housemates have shown me during my time in Glacier so far.
One of the biggest personal firsts came just three days after moving to Montana. At age 22, I saw snow for the first time! Since I spent my entire life in Florida, I had never had the opportunity to see snow. Before moving out here, I knew that May snow in Montana might be possible. To me, the month of May in Florida annually consisted of growing heat and constant rainstorms. The day of my first snow sighting began with my housemates and I deciding to take a trip into the park. The three of us had the day off and decided that now would be the best time to explore this new area together. Once in the park, we headed up the Going-to-the-Sun Road with Lake McDonald Lodge as our final destination. Before reaching the lodge, snow began falling as we drove up the road. The branches of the pine trees that lined the road were all lightly dusted with white snow. The snow began to come down harder as we made our way higher up the road. Yet, it was up at the lodge that I felt like I truly saw snow. Peeking through the car window, I could see the lodge and the surrounding wood cabins blanketed in beautiful snow. As we stepped out of the car, I realized that my Florida wardrobe may have left me a little unprepared. Walking down to Lake McDonald, I felt snow fall on my face for the first time and my hair became dusted with tiny specks of white. Snow continued to fall as we made our way down to the dock extending out on Lake McDonald. I could hear the crunch of snow and ice under my boots and tried my hardest not to slip. Viewing the lodge from the dock made me feel as though I was in a Hallmark movie; everything was just so beautiful! After taking it all in for a moment, we headed back to the car. I was still trying to process what had just happened! I couldn’t contain my happiness as we drove back down the road, headed for Hungry Horse. For this reason, and many others, Glacier will always hold a special place in my heart!