Our days often start with us contemplating which awesome Turtle Fur hat to wear. It seems that there has been an appropriate hat for every adventure we’ve been on. Jason had his “Trail Blazer” American flag hat in Nashville, he pulled out the “Picture This Trucker” Bison as soon as we saw our first wild bison in South Dakota, and obviously the “Picture This Trucker” snowy space mountains for Glacier National Park! As road trippers living out of our Subaru, our precious hat collection has definitely been smushed by the continuous shoving of our tent and camping gear back in the car. Our hats still look tip top! They bounce back really well.
This day started just like any other. I pulled out the “First Ink” rose trucker, was a little sad about the crease in it, but quickly got over it knowing that it would smooth out while on my head! There was no time to worry about a temporarily crinkled hat. I was about to see my old college friend in Glacier National Park and get hiking!
This park is meant to be viewed from the trail. The network of hiking paths was mind-blowing. Many of which were first created by the daily routines of animals, and further developed by the Native Americans.
We decided to embark on the 6.2-mile Sperry Chalet hike, evaluate how we felt, and then possibly venture another 3.8 miles to Sperry Glacier. We decided to go for it, a 20-mile roundtrip trek. Sperry Chalet, located, east of Lake McDonald, was opened in 1914 by the Great Northern Railway. It was an unfortunate victim of the 2017 Sprague Fire. This meant that the route was framed by burnt trees, creating a trail very exposed to the sun. Don’t worry, there is a hat for that! If I had wanted to protect my face further I would have worn a Totally Tubular. However, I was working on my tan this day.
We followed rock cairns through warped rock, steep and narrow stairs carved through mountains, crossed waterfalls over tiny bridges, and massive mineral stained snowfields. It was next level.
Sperry Glacier was once one of the largest glaciers in the park. Sadly, the glaciers that shaped the magnificent landscape known as Glacier National Park are vanishing. Scientists believe that by 2030 there will no longer be any glaciers left in Glacier. What used to be insanely massive ice forms are now easily confused with leftover snowfields. The surface area of Sperry Glacier has retreated 75 percent since the mid-19th century. 2005 measurements estimate Sperry Glacier to be around 216 acres. In comparison, the glacier is estimated to have covered an area of 930 acres at the end of the Little Ice Age in the mid-19th century.
The wildlife we encountered on the journey down from the glacier was equally surreal. Marmots popping in and out of their holes put smiles on our faces. We were blessed with an extraordinary encounter with two pairs of mama and baby mountain goats. It was the equivalent of stumbling across a unicorn. Twenty miles (almost) felt like nothing. Everywhere I looked I couldn’t help but want more. The landscape was like a drug. It was simply that remarkable.
For those short on time to go for a long hike, Going-to-the-Sun Road offers a similarly epic experience. The St. Mary Visitor Center has stellar exhibits featuring the original tribes that inhabited the area. A member of the Blackfeet tribe said, “There is a presence here.” Furthermore, there is very clear evidence of climate change as the glaciers melt before our eyes. A very fine balance is needed to properly conserve this special place. On one end we want humans to enjoy these natural spaces, on the flipside, the human footprint can be horrifically destructive.
See this magical place while the glaciers still exist. We need to do what we can as a PLANET to preserve the natural world around us.
Photo credit: Jason Gerhart @fresh_world_press & Kristin King @doubleking89