As I left my home and family in central New Jersey over a month ago I had only the slightest impression of what the next year had in store. Filled with romantic ideas of departing my extremely suburban home for the crown of the continent, my heart raced with anticipation and excitement as I packed my jeep for my trek out west.
Upon arriving at one of our nation’s most glorious alpine parks, I knew that I had chosen the right job. The sheer beauty of the Rocky Mountain National Park’s peaks and its majestic wildlife had me entranced. The fact that I would be working in a similar (if not more beautiful) park for a year, facilitating public involvement while enjoying the beauty of our public lands, seemed almost too good to be true.
After about a week in RMNP, I began my trip north for Glacier. Having experienced the surreal nature of life in the Rockies, I was determined to continue along the nations backbone towards my final destination. This meant spending several days enjoying the amazing Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Both parks boast some of our nationals greatest geological feats, being the ecology nerd that I am I could not have been more excited to be there. From my hike to Amphitheater lake in the Tetons to driving and hiking the majority of Yellowstone’s west side (including the Lamar Valley), my experiences while visiting these parks could not have prepared and inspired me more for my new job with the Park Service. Not only would I be able to continue exploring in some of the most beautiful places in North America, I would be able to share and facilitate similar experiences for others.
Leaving Mammoth after almost a week of touring Teton and Yellowstone, I began the final leg of my journey. After about 4.5 hours of driving, passing through Butte, Bozeman, and Missoula, the Crown of the Continent began to come into view. Having seen the grandeur of the Rockies before while in RMNP and the Tetons, I did not expect to be so shocked by the beauty of the mountains that lay ahead. By the time I had reached Flathead Lake I had pulled over almost a dozen times just to take in what was now my new home.
An hour later, forgoing my planned stops in Kalispell and Whitefish, I had reached West Glacier. Expecting to get a glimpse at the parks rumored grandeur, I was shocked to see nothing but trees and the rolling terminal moraines of the once immense glaciers that presided here. Determined to see what I had driven so far to see I rushed for the park entrance. After taking the obligatory National Park sign photo, I headed for the park gates. Upon explaining that I was a new employee and that I would not be moving in for another two days, I was waved through the fee station and told to head to Fish Creek campground (I forgot to mention, in my excitement to get to Glacier, I left Yellowstone early so that I could have a couple days to explore before beginning work and moving into my new house at headquarters). After visiting Apgar village to stock up on some necessities for my two days of camping as well as the long awaited views from the shores of Lake McDonald I headed to the campground.
It has now been over a month since I first entered the Crown of the Continent. My life could not be any more exciting or fulfilling. My weeks are filled with amazing hikes, gratifying service, and overall elation. Monday through Wednesday I work with visiting volunteer groups, conduct citizen science surveys, and prepare for local events. Thursday and Friday (my weekend) are reserved for exploring the seemingly endless 700+ miles of trail housed within the park. It is almost obligatory that one utilize their days off in this fashion. Saturdays are my favorite, visitor center shift. Not only does working the visitor center desk give me the opportunity to wear the incredibly awesome volunteer uniform, but I also get to plan hundreds of visitor’s sojourns at the park. Explaining the excitement behind such responsibility however requires its own post and for such reasons I will not delve into this now.
What I will say, though, is that I could not be more happy and at peace with myself and my new surroundings. Life here in Glacier National Park is remarkably perfect.