Picking up “hitchhikers” in Glacier

We’re starting our national parks trip at Glacier National Park in northern Montana. We’re so far north in the U.S. that we’re literally just miles away from the Canadian border. Glacier actually spans both Canada and the U.S., just that once you cross the border and go through Customs, it’s called Waterton Lake National Park (of Canada). Glacier is the pristineĀ and much overlooked little sister of Yellowstone, since most of the time when tourists are coming out to Montana and are not local or coming from neighboring states, they are primarily going to see Yellowstone, as it is the first and oldest national park of the national park system, and because of that one of the most famous. When we decided to go to Yellowstone, I knew I wanted us to at minimum also visit Glacier, especially since based on photos I’d seen of it, it would have much in common with what stunned me about Banff in Canada, which was the sparkling turquoise lakes and the endless snow-capped mountains and glaciers. The saddest part about Glacier is that it is slowly dying; in the early 1900s, 100 glaciers existed here. Today, we have only 30 left. I hope more and more people will visit (and not cause harm) to this place of beauty. What’s this place going to be called once the last glacier permanently melts due to global warming?

What I didn’t expect us to do during this day visit to Glacier was pick up some hitchhikers while in the park. Granted, we weren’t on some random road in the middle of nowhere and were already in the park, and it was a married couple with serious hiking gear plus their friend, who happened to be a missionary spreading the gospel through China, but visiting. We were walking back from some lake overlook, and they made some friendly conversation with us and explained that they mistook the timing for the free (and severely unreliable) national park shuttle buses, and asked if we could drive them to Logan Pass, which was where we were headed already. Otherwise, they’d have to walk all the way to Logan Pass, which was quite a long distance from where we were at that moment. We relented, cleared the backseat of the car, and in exchange, they gave us all their tips about Glacier. The couple met and fell in love as summer workers right here in the park 12 years ago, and though both not from nearby, moved here and have decided to settle here. They are regular day hikers in the park and literally know it like the backs of their hand (they were able to recite exact heights of mountains to us and tell us all the little nuances of each, plus the hiking trails, which were helpful for us to know given our limited time).

Walking around the park with the bits of hiking we had time to do, all I could think was… wow. They loved this place so much after meeting and working here that they both decided to uproot, move, and settle here. And now they have a five-year-old child at home (with his parents who even decided to move here, too!). That is true love for a place, no doubt. It reminded me of the story I recently read on my college travel Facebook group’s page, where one woman grew up going to Glacier for one week every single summer for about 15 years as a child, and once she and her siblings left for college, her parents relocated to a small town right outside of Glacier so that they could enjoy the national park year-round.

And this place smells so good. I kept thinking about that beautiful, fresh forest scent as the day went on. Places like this have the power to really change people and their life decisions. That is just so magical.

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