GLACIER NATIONAL PARK – Sooner or later, we all have rainy days, even at times when we are really hoping to see the sun.
Today I was scheduled to take a four-mile hike around a lake in Glacier National Park with Jan Metzmaker, Director of the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau. The only problem is the weather – there’s a relentless rain outside, from the moment I woke up until we reach the trailhead in the park, and then some. Rain is to be expected around here in mid-May. But the chilly temperatures, around 44 degrees, make the idea of a wet hike pretty unattractive.
Fortunately, Jan is as resourceful as she is experienced. Originally from Connecticut, by way of Missouri, Jan has spent decades of her life in Montana, and most of them inside Glacier National Park. She’s had countless jobs there – cleaning hotel rooms, repairing park equipment, guiding hikes, and fundraising for the park’s future. So she knows Glacier inside and out, and she’s prepared for a rainy day.
We began our day with a stop at a local rafting outfitter, owned by a friend of Jan’s, where we borrow rain gear for the day. Then we spent some time driving through the small towns on the outskirts of the park. Glacier celebrates its centennial next year, and a number of towns, hotels and rail depots in the area are nearly 100 years old as well. Short stops in these places give a bit of a feel for what the area was like in the historic days of rail travel.
Inside the park, the rain continues to fall. But there’s still plenty to see – we drive along the 10-mile shore of Lake McDonald, a beautiful scenic lake that was carved out by the movement of the park’s glaciers. We then visit several sites around the park, such as the visitors center at Apgar, as well as some of Jan’s favorite spots throughout. Along the way, she tells stories about local residents, visitors, park employees and the amazing things she has seen during her years here.
In the end, we decide to make a short hike on a boardwalk that cuts through a densely wooded area of the park, alongside some magnificent trees and a great, rushing waterfall. The waterfall has the deep, crystalline blue glow that is the hallmark of glacial runoff, and it cuts through grand, deep red boulders on either side. It’s as scenic a spot as you’ll find anywhere, and one of the hidden jewels of the park.
The rain is still falling overhead, but I realize that I’m enjoying myself anyway. After all, this is nature at its most natural. And I can’t argue with that.