Some miles past Logan’s Pass in Glacier National Park, I saw the most beautiful place I’ve ever witnessed. It was enchanting. Razor sharp peaks carved by the ice swooped down into deep U-shaped valleys. The trees blanketed the mountains and fought their way up the slopes, as high as they could, until they gave way to bare, vertical rock cliffs. I could see Lake McDonald off in the distance, spotting glimmers of turquoise through a window in mountains. As I climbed further, a chain of snow-capped mountains stretched as far as the eye could see. I was never much of an outdoors person growing up, but I knew intuitively that this place was profoundly beautiful. I can’t get the sight out of my head.
It was the summer before my last year at the University of Minnesota; I’d headed out to Montana to see one of the national park system’s crown jewels on a whim. I made the right camping reservations on an impulse decision one late night and decided to go by myself, driving 16 hours from my home in Minneapolis. I wanted to see the mountains. I wanted to see the glaciers that made this park famous. I wanted to see them before they were all gone. It almost felt like a pilgrimage of sorts, to catch a glimpse of what I knew was fading away. I pushed that thought aside on the long drive. I’d heard plenty of bad news and grim outlooks at this point.
I was not disappointed when I arrived, as you can tell, but still this special place is changing, and fast. This remote, seemingly impenetrable mountain chain will not escape a changing climate. The high country in this park is growing hotter and drier. Sadly, the force that made this place what it is, the glaciers, are fast disappearing with this change. And with it, the entire ecosystem that depends on the glaciers are also called into question.
I don’t know what the future holds for this park, but it’s likely that future generations won’t experience this place like I did. It is deeply saddening that this uncertain world is the one my generation will have to inherit. Yet, it won’t stop us from fighting for the hope of a better future than the bleak one we often see today. The picture does not look good, however, I’ve met countless young people like me who strongly believe we must find better ways to live on this planet. I knew I wanted to spend my life holding onto that hope before this trip, but Glacier National Park only gave me more reasons to.