“I’m sick of all this wilderness”: A Day at Glacier National Park

Being a full time traveler has many advantages and for me personally the pros far outweigh the cons, for one I get to skip out of a lot of the mundane chores and tasks.  I’m happy to avoid grocery shopping at all costs since I don’t have a kitchen to stock, and since I don’t have a house, I haven’t cleaned a toilet in god knows how long.  Oh, the extra perks of constant travel.

This can all seem pretty glamorous from an outsiders perspective as I’m out exploring the world while others are at their desks working in a cubicle.  But when you wake up sick, you can call out of work, cozy up in your own bed, put on some trashy television show in your own house and go into recovery mode.  When I’m on the road, I don’t have that option and thankfully I’ve been healthy throughout the past few years with the exception of a recent trip I took to Glacier National Park in Montana.

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“Crown of the Continent” 

Glacier National Park is in the northwest corner of Montana, this massive acreage of preserved land includes sub ranges of the Rocky Mountains, pristine lakes, abundant wildlife and hundreds of miles of trails, and I was beyond excited to go explore.

My friend and I left from Great Falls in the early morning, it would take us a few hours to get there and we wanted a full day at the park with plans of a midday hike.  I woke up feeling pretty queasy but we had been camping the past few days and I thought it was a mix of post tent sleeping and late night campfire drinking.  We grabbed breakfast and headed out.  It was my first visit to Montana and the scenery is unique to anything I’ve seen before.  I realize now why they call it Big Sky, the clouds float along feeling just out of arms reach they bob above the surface of the outstretched farm land, swimming off into the distance.  At times we were the only ones on the road for miles, flat golden plains stretching out far past where your eye can see, barely making out the enormous mountain ranges in distance and then suddenly, without warning, they go from being seemingly unreachable to having to outstretch your neck, peering out the windshield to get a view of their tops.

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We pulled up to the visitor’s center and that is when I realized my hope for a fleeting stomach ache was gone and this was going to be more than a passing thing.  We self diagnosed that it could be either motion sickness from the car ride or possibly from the change in altitude so I went into the little convenience store purchasing all sorts of remedies to cure car sickness hoping it would dissipate and we could enjoy the day.

Shortly thereafter I got sick.  Violently ill in fact, and I proceeded to be sick all through the park for the rest of the day.  As a child in Girl Scouts I learned a little saying about nature and “leaving it better than you found it”.  I have to say I “left it” alright, I left it all over the park.  We talked about turning around and going home but I stubbornly and stupidly thought I could potentially still hike later in the day if I let this little bug run its course.  So I zippered up my sweatshirt, reclined the passenger side chair and gazed out the window snapping pictures while fighting the waves of nausea.

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We took the Going-to-the-Sun Road which weaves up to Logan’s Pass, the highest point of the road and over the Continental Divide.  They have small turn offs on the side of the road where you can stop and take in the scenery.  My friend was amazingly patient, stopping and taking pictures, hanging out as I hid from other park tourists in the corner of the gravel lot, retching over the edge trying not to call attention to myself.  I was determined to try and see as much of Glacier as I could even though I felt like death, I didn’t know when I’ll be back so I felt like I should try and soldier on.

By the time we got to Logans Pass where we had thought to go hiking I was completely beat and probably would have ended up passing out on the side of a trail to be eaten by mountain lions if I would have attempted anything that remotely resembled physical activity.  After poking around the visitor’s center (vomiting for the umpteenth time) we decided that the further we get in only means the longer we have to back track on the return trip home and so I surrendered to the idea of going on, feeling tired and defeated but knowing it was the best idea.

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This is me pretending to be sick at the Continental Divide… even though I feel like shit it’s hard for me to not have some sense of humor.  We made jokes throughout the day about how all this beautiful scenery just makes me sick.

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In all honestly however, this is what I really looked like most of the time.  I was a complete invalid.

montana7I Just couldn’t bring myself to pass up seeing these views, the enormity is something that is hard to depict in photographs.

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With a backdrop this stunning it’s hard to say the day was completely ruined.  I’m also notoriously unlucky for seeing wildlife in places where animals are practically jumping into cars so the day was made better when we did spot a couple of cute little critters.

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Out of the 66 plus mammal species throughout the park we saw mostly Columbian Ground Squirrels (pictured above).  The large, fluffy, white Mountain Goats are often spotted and they are the symbol of the park however there are more bears in Glacier than almost any other of the states.  As we walked back to the car to head home my friend snapped a shot of a coyote that crossed right in front of us and darted up the hill into the trees.

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I’m always impressed with how diverse my own country is.  It’s so easy to want plan exotic trips to foreign countries but I’m never disappointed when I make a point to explore a part of the US that I haven’t seen before.

I’ll take this as a “sick day” over any other any day of the week.  However for the healthy visitor, there are endless activities to make your trip FAR more enjoyable than the one I experienced.  Hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, and fishing are available.  Not feeling like being too active?   There are these great open roof Jeeps that have informative guided tours through the park allowing you to see the sights without having to drive yourself.

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The Jeep drivers lovingly nicknamed them “Red Jammers” because the old models use to jam gears as they drove through the hilly terrain.

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Check out Glacier for yourself HERE to promote our National Parks and plan your next trip.

Also I’d recommend reading an interesting article HERE that talks about how the glaciers in Glacier are disappearing due to climate change.  It is important that these areas of conservation and education are preserved!

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