I checked an item off of my bucket list last week: I saw a glacier up close while visiting Glacier National Park. All of the national parks are on my bucket list, but Glacier National Park shot to the top these past few years when I started learning about the disappearing glaciers. I knew that every passing year would make the glaciers less and less accessible, so I had to act soon and I’m glad I did. I hiked 7.8 strenuous miles round trip to be right up close to Grinnell Glacier, the most accessible one in the park.
I had a few opportunities during my trip to hear and read about the effects of global warming on the glaciers. Most of the park signage refers to how the glaciers will likely all be gone by 2030, maybe even sooner. It was hard not to feel sad while staring out at these amazing ice formations and knowing that they won’t be around for much longer. That’s why it’s so important for those who haven’t experienced national parks, especially this one, to be able to explore them now.
Another special moment of my trip was attending the Centennial celebration hosted by the Glacier National Park Service and the Glacier National Park Conservancy. It gave a peek into the human element behind the parks. Even though I work for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and I know all of the hard work that goes into protecting the parks and open spaces for everyone to enjoy, it's been a while since I've seen it from an outsider’s perspective. To Glacier’s credit, they do a phenomenal job of running the park and putting on programs.
As part of the birthday celebration, the park was hosting an Instameet. This was a perfect example of how the parks are trying to attract new visitors, especially younger generations, through social media. As a millennial myself, the thought of having my picture on an Instagram account that has 334 thousand followers is very enticing (though not as enticing as dinner, seeing as I didn’t stay long enough for the photo). It also helped that they had cake.
What I learned from my trip and what I hope others will learn is that these parks aren’t just pretty places; they are places for people to interact, share their stories, and make new friends. Parks bring people together, physically and emotionally to care about the same things, like open spaces. Parks help create friendships, form new bonds and strengthen existing ones, and can change peoples’ perspectives. Glacier National Park is the most awe-inspiring natural wonder I’ve ever experienced, and I hope everyone has a chance to visit it soon before all of the glaciers are going, going, gone.