Our very tired and irritable group was deposited in the West Glacier depot a whopping 22 hours later. 22 hours on a train is a lot like 22 hours in a theme park. At first, it’s a thrill, but by the twelfth hour, your stomach is flipping queasily, rather than in excitement. Don’t get me wrong though, as flat and open as the landscape of North Dakota and Montana are, they’re surprisingly beautiful- especially in the summer. Fields of wild grass stretching as far as the eye can see, and the expanse of the horizon dotted by an occasional herd of buffalo or decorated with the pale frosting of the clouds. However, nothing stands up to the natural glory of Glacier National Park. When compared to its much more publicized counterpart in Montana, Glacier beats Yellowstone hands down.
If I had my own travel show, I’d advertise Glacier as one of America’s least well known natural treasures, because the majority of people who know about it are the ones who go backpacking through the untouched wilderness of northern Montana. My family, we’re not the most outdoorsy folk, but we’re not completely incapable of physical activity, so we did our fair share of hiking on the trip. My personal favorites include most of the waterfall hikes. This might seem a little crazy, but Glacier National Park actually has glaciers. Some of the clearest, most frigid, fresh water I’ve ever seen is plunging down the waterfalls in Glacier. The physical toil of hiking a few miles into the forests of the park was compensated completely by the amazing views we were rewarded with. Literally, we could walk right up to the roaring falls, and dip our toes in. One afternoon, after hiking to a waterfall whose description somehow neglected to mention the 700ft elevation gain in a less than half a mile’s trail, we decided to kick back and go for a dip in Lake McDonald. By dip in the glacier-fed lake, I mean me, and by kick back, I mean my parents. The brilliant glow of the sunset cast on the lake and the reflection of the trees onto the glassy surface is something I don’t need a picture to relive. If I close my eyes and think back to that day, I can practically lose the feeling in my toes.
Even if I was a bit of a stick in the mud for our family vacation to Glacier, I still had fun spending some time hanging out with my parents. They’re cooler than they seem. Most importantly though, is the passion my parents sparked inside me on that vacation- a passion for travel. A passion for new experiences around the globe. Because, weird as the experience might seem at the moment, I will eventually look back on the trip and smile.
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