We originally planned a two-week national park excursion to Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Park last spring. I’m very happy that our friends sent us a wedding invitation after our trip was planned. Glacier got cancelled and Yellowstone was cut down to a week as a result. This worked out well for two reasons: One, we got to see our lovely friends get married last July in California (and tack on another trip to Yosemite). Two, wildfires blazed across Glacier last year and closed down most of the area, limited visibility, and disrupted tourism in the area with evacuations. Our trip would have been spoiled by the fires.
One year later, we trekked out west again. Our journey brought us through three states. We flew to Spokane, Washington, drove through Idaho, and on to Montana to West Glacier. We had three surprises on this trip:
- Spokane is an awesome secret. Our trip to Portland, Oregon this spring was a bit disappointing and the city didn’t live up to the hype we expected. Spokane was what we had expected of Portland! Downtown has a waterfall and cable car rides, Riverfront Park, universities, yummy restaurants, and the night we visited–Night Market. Night Market is a mix of a farmers’ market, food truck rodeo, and outdoor concert. Great vendors, food, and people!
- Climate change is now. We all hear about the rapid pace the ice caps and glaciers are melting, which is why I placed Glacier National Park near the top of our travel plans. The severity of the shifting environment was more shocking than I expected. About twenty glaciers remain, four of which are easier to access. The United States Geological Survey has conducted a Repeat Photography Project. Click the prior link for a wake-up call. (The current photo exhibit is on display in the Many Glacier Hotel as of this writing.) You can view images of the glaciers from about the turn of the century to within the past decade. One researcher predicted in the 1990s that all the glaciers will be gone by 2030. The latest melting rates suggest the remaining twenty glaciers will be gone in the next 5-7 years.
- Only 4 percent of visitors get out of their cars. (Or some small similar percentage. This figure is based on our hotel manager’s insight, so don’t quote me on it! Although I found a book about Glacier from 2010 that stated 98 percent of visitors see the park from the road.) Like Yosemite, in Glacier you can see sweeping awe-inspiring views from your car. Going-to-the-Sun Road is an auto-touring experience with lookouts and trailheads along the way. While most of the hikes we went on were fairly high-traffic (and parking was sometimes an issue at the trailhead), it appears the majority of visitors never see the park away from their car. They miss out on all the places below. All photos taken by my husband, except for the bald eagle shot (that’s mine). Take a look and scroll to the bottom for some writing opportunities…
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National Parks Magazine, $1,300 for 1,500-word article
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