What money can’t buy

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Had a bad week in my basement den for writing columns. After only 45 years of service, the big fluorescent lights on the ceiling gave out completely. Had to get a handyman to replace them.

Good excuse to rerun a column done in August of 1996. It is not my typical output but is a recount of an unforgettable experience about sharing Glacier Park with visitors, and is tied directly to my first book of “Glacier’s Secrets.” A hike that inspires a best-selling book is surely worth revisiting, and it starts here, just as it did 21 years ago, Aug. 29, 1996.

Although I’m still not able to resume strenuous mountain climbing there was a splendid adventure last Thursday. Left my car at the Loop and rode to Logan Pass with other Over the Hillers to set out on the popular Highline Trail for Granite Park with Gene Jacobsen and his daughter Karen.

Not far along we were watching bighorn rams when a young couple from Indiana stopped and asked if it was OK for them to walk with us. Said it was their first trip and they were only going out “a couple of miles,” but they stuck with us to the pass between Haystack Butte and Mt. Gould.

While taking a breather there, I overheard the man say to his wife with deep feeling, “It is difficult to believe there is a place this beautiful, and I can’t believe we are here.”

That did it. I said, “Look at you folks! This is just the wonderful beginning. If you would like to make the full circle to Granite Park and down to the Loop, I’ll get you back to your car at Logan Pass.”

They were overwhelmed. You’d have thought I’d just given them the world.

No use trying to explain the wonder I feel in Glacier Park. Heaven knows I’ve miserably failed many times. But! if there is anything I love even more than being there myself, it is sharing with those who feel the same way, especially if it’s their first trip.

Jim Edwards and his wife Christie oohed and aahed the entire 11 miles. They were constantly and sincerely ecstatic. The wildflowers were riotous, almost blinding, in their brilliant colors. Beargrass was still blooming, and the usual alpine critters were busy everywhere.

While we were soaking up the views of the Garden Wall and the Livingston Range from Granite Park Chalet, a beautifully-colored grizzly wandered out into a meadow below the chalet with two darker yearling cubs. The big female’s golden fur absolutely glowed in the afternoon sun, rippling across her shoulders as she strode through the deep green grass. Although we could watch the bears with naked eyes, binoculars were better, and the chalet’s telescopes put them right in our lap.

The descent to the Loop showed its standard beauty, with entirely different kinds of plants, the deep-ferned woods near the end, and then the mandatory soaking of tired hot feet in the ice water under the last trail bridge as the sun set over Heaven’s Peak.

When we got back to Logan Pass, it had been such a fine day with new friends that parting was tough. They didn’t quite know how to thank me. I was deeply touched by how happy they were. Jim knew the answer, but he asked if he could pay me for “the wonderful day you have given us.”

Told him my pay came with every step of those miles we walked together along one of the most fantastic nature hikes on the face of this earth.

Glacier Park proves there are things money cannot buy.

G. George Ostrom is an award-winning columnist. He lives in Kalispell.

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