For nearly every summer I’ve been living in the Flathead (since 2011) I’ve made a list of the things I want to do, based upon a list of “places I need to see” that a friend helped me come up with (thanks Corrie). Slowly I have ticked away the items on the original list, while adding other items along the way. With so much to do here, a list deemed itself necessary.
However, after a few summers I realized that while the list helped in achieving a few of my “goals”, I’d find myself a little disappointed, even cheated, by not accomplishing more. Then last summer I tried something different. I did not make a list. Letting go of those expectations allowed me to be more spontaneous, and allowed me to just BE. To relax and savor the moments of summer, rather than stressing out about how fast it was going by.
Here we are in a new and strange summer and some of us are a little afraid to venture too far from home. I have an easily achievable recommendation: climb your nearest mountain.
Even for a few hours you can escape it all with a trip to the mountain. The further you climb up it the better you will feel.
Last week I rode the Scenic Lift to the summit on a perfect sunny day. Floating above the mountainside instantly delivered a sense of calm, absorbing the natural environs and finally the views. I breathed a sigh upon my first glimpse of the snowcapped peaks of Glacier National Park, leaving the worries of the world behind.
In the winter chairlifts are a means to our end goal of skiing and snowboarding however, the summer Scenic Lift is all about the ride, the journey. Yet the destination is pretty cool too, and cooler, which I learned from the whiteboard at the “Pop-up Nature Center” table. (New for summer 2020—the US Forest Service has brought the Summit Nature Center outside Thursday-Monday.) While the thermometer approached 80 degrees in town, the summit was a pleasant 61 degrees.
With two Forest Rangers on duty they have at least one available to answer questions, and they offer Nature Discovery Walks at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. While hikers will be encouraged to remain socially distanced, the discovery walk is a chance to learn more about the mountain’s flora up close and personal. The rangers love sharing their breadth of knowledge about our region’s unique ecosystem, so unique in fact it has a really cool name—The Crown of the Continent—and encompasses more than 10-million acres (28,000 square miles) of intact wildland stretching along the Rocky Mountains from northwest Montana across the border into Canadian provinces British Columbia and Alberta.
In addition to plant, flower and tree identification, the rangers can also help you to identify the mountain ranges and even specific peaks visible from the summit. For those who have not been to Glacier National Park yet this summer, being on the summit is the next best thing. Although we cannot yet visit Canada right now, at least we can see it and give our neighbors a (very) socially-distanced wave.
Our Forest Rangers also are on the move—roving the Danny On Memorial Trail at least three times a week. If you encounter them they are pleased to answer questions, or even play a game. Normally, kids love visiting the Nature Center on the lower level of the Summit House however, it is closed this summer due to COVID-19 precautions which is why they have taken it outside. If you have kids along, ask the rangers about scavenger hunts, or play a guessing game—both fun ways to learn. They will even teach you how to keep a nature journal—something we can all enjoy.
If you are an avid hiker, the Danny On should be a goal each summer. Hiking up or down (3.8 miles point to point) is a rewarding experience. The trail is now open top to bottom, although the optional Flower Point Loop (additional 2.8 miles) is still closed due to snow yet should be clear by mid-July.
I’m looking forward to a day off hiking up the Danny On to the summit where I can reward myself with a cold beer (there are 10, count ‘em! TEN on tap, including eight from Montana) and hearty sandwich, like the Montana Turkey Sandwich with huckleberry sauce, cucumber, Romaine lettuce and Swiss, or my new favorite, the Chipotle Chicken Bacon Ranch Wrap with its zesty ranch dressing. (Pro tip: while eating the wrap, the dressing may pool at the bottom of the wrap—try inverting the wrap half-way through eating to allow the dressing to be absorbed for an even zestier experience.)
The next time you feel like you need something uplifting to do, head to the summit. Whether you hike up and ride down, or ride the lift just to enjoy a cool beverage on the deck, I promise you will not regret your decision.